Thursday, April 17, 2008

Positive Thinking, The little engine that could, and IngSoc

evanstonjew commenting on XGH:(my comments in red)
The religion of the Jews and the political aspirations of the Jews are not easily separable. [Except all the Zionists that founded the State were areligious Socialists]When in time you get around to talking about what is it to be committed to being Jewish you might not want to frame it in terms of why we should be committed to falsity.

Second, the outcome of an enterprise depends not just on the provable facts but also on expectations which are colored by emotions, dreams and attitudes. If you are a stock trader you know that 2 companies can have the exact same quants and one trades at 30PE and the other at 10PE. Enterprises are facts (financials) under a description, the latter being determined by perceptions, framing attitudes, and creative imaginings. But these 'dreams' are very real, create hard facts and are very costly if disregarded. Bear Stearns on the way down and Google on the way up are good examples.[ And this is why the markets have long stopped trading on fundamentals and are all trading on herd mentality. It is a fancy pyramid scheme]

If the Zionists had used your notions of reality they never would have fought in 1948 and would today leave en masse. [They probably said that about Bar Kokhba back in the day. Up until Betar fell and the rivers of blood drained into the Sea.]If the Jews during our long galus had been realistic about their chances for coming back as a major power most would have converted. Jews live by a romantic swerving from the hard reality, sometimes even constructing myths as we go along. The creativity of these myths might even serve false grandiose ideals...we can fly, we are special, we will prevail no matter what. Many times these 'falsehoods' make all the difference to the success of the enterprise and when they shatter it is straight downhill. But if they succeed they give new meaning to what constitutes truth.

This last pair of sentences truly bothers me. As I replied to EJ on XGH's blog, the notion of using falsehoods for the common good is ancient, starting with Plato's noble lie, and continuing to all the major 'isms' of the 20th century, including Zionism. It is effective, but is it right?

And there is something chilling about the detached way EJ reveals this sentiment, though I am sure it was not meant that way. He reminds me of O'Brien in Room 101.


Blogger dbs said...

It bothers me too. People are free to believe what they want, but to subvert the entire definition of what is true and what is not is disturbing.

April 17, 2008 10:47 AM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

Humans lie all the time. It is the only way they can have nice things.

If they told the truth every single time, they'd offend and frighten and annoy each other into total anarchic mutual slaughter.

If a woman asked what you thought of how she looked, and you had to tell the total truth, you'd mention the sexually provocative things, the things you wish you could do to her. These thoughts are common in us, nothing wrong with thoughts. But if we had to share what we were really thinking, we'd be in a state of total chaos.

It all starts from there. The challenge and worth of man is proven in the ability to separate needful lying from destructive lying. From lying to keep the mutual peace and lying to aggrandize.

You're right to be bothered. It shows you have a conscience. But don't let yourself be bothered more than you should. That upset more than is necessary is another weakness in us leaving us open to those who would take advantage of our guilt to further their own ends.

Isn't the complexity of human interaction and human nature fun?

April 17, 2008 12:27 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


You're playing games here. Telling your wife she looks good is not the same thing as the CEO of a corporation lying about their earnings or the president of a country lying about justifications for a war.

April 17, 2008 12:46 PM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

My response:

Religion and politics of Jews...I was thinking of tanach and was being my secular best considering the environment and all. A naturalist reading of tanach is that it is the intersection of two epic stories, the history of God and an epic depicting the rise and fall of the Jewish state. From the beginning God spoke of the descendants of Abraham becoming a great nation and having a land of their own. And certainly politics is the topic of the prophets. Only yeshiva people think of tanach as Leviticus plus some extra stories.

Write a full post on markets and I’ll comment.

The conception of truth I was alluding to is making something come true by internalizing ideas that may have been false as a description of 'reality' but were believed and enabled people to keep the faith.

As you know, on the DH these scrolls were found at different times, cut and pasted at later times and canonized centuries afterwards. There never was a ruler telling noble lies. At worst different scrolls projected back onto the desert individual stories that gave one political party or kingdom a slight edge,(e.g. the golden calf, the Joseph-Benjamin stories.) Only after hundreds of years and many Talmudists do we get the full religion we have today. Most of the post Ezra people honestly thought the stories true.

As to whether it is a good idea to have a theology that fosters a sense of being special, I think the exceptional history of the Jews shows without a doubt they know how to create talented and creative people. I further maintain that a state of enchantment in Weber's sense, the naive wonder of a child is precious. A religion that can keep that alive and still enable its members to be sufficiently street smart that they can flourish in the major cities of the world is something special.

April 17, 2008 4:51 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Only yeshiva people think of tanach as Leviticus plus some extra stories.

What, you're discounting the entire world of shtrenge Calvinistim?

Most frumme Dutch Reformed churchmembers that I know can quote reams of Torah, but fall flat on everything else except for the LSD influenced sections of the Book of Revelations.

The father of one of my acquaintances back in the Netherlands had the Torah in Hebrew memorized (especially including all those rules - those were his favourite parts), had also read Nach, but frankly confessed that the NT was all Greek to him.
And yet his falling out with his own brother was based on a minor difference of interpretation of church-practice..... which, of course, was based on something new-testamentarian and hence mostly irrelevant.

And yes, to the Calvinists, the history of the Netherlands evokes the history of the Jewish people. Pharaoh was Philip of Spain, Babylon was Rome, and for the Boers, Britain was Persia, Greece, and Rome rolled into one. But the key image is always Egypt - everything else merely subsequentia.

So you can understand that the thought of hard-nosed Dutchmen being "yeshivish" brings a smile to my face. You have, inadvertently, humanized them.

I did not think that quite possible.

April 17, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

BOTH, I think you're a bit harsh on the Dutch. I mean, these people chose to live on a swamp. That takes a non-trivial amount of tenacity and gumption.

Kinda reminds me of the Quest for the Holy Grail...

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

April 17, 2008 7:39 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


I have a lot to say in response to your response, but not quite sure if I can do it tonite without getting divorced. Must go chop charoseth!

Chag kasher v'sameach to both your secular and non-secular halves.

April 17, 2008 7:42 PM  

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