Saturday, May 13, 2017

The progressive right to self invention

This is apparently a universal, not particularly Jewish, topic. Except that the Jewish tradition is a leading example of those mentioned in the conclusion, that have survived for millennia and have every hope of enduring for millennia still.

I’ve extracted the following from two essays* by David P. Goldman (also known as “Spengler”). The excerpts distil, for me, the essence of Goldman’s thesis, which, as usual, I find most illuminating and thought provoking. 

In these essays, he conflates the concept of a search for meaning with that of inventing one’s own identity, which could be a distraction from my primary focus: on the notion on self-invention. When Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, refers to the notion of "man's search for meaning", I believe that he meant for us to search for, and discover, the bedrock meaning inherent to our individual being, as a result of our heritage or circumstance.  I don’t think, as Goldman apparently does, that Frankl was referring to a search for a meaning that is ultimately invented by the individual, in isolation. 

So here goes, in Goldman’s words, with the focus on the notion of self-invention…

...One big idea unifies all of Nietzsche's [intellectual] offspring -- the Marxists, the Freudians, the French Existentialists, the critical theorists, the Deconstructionists, the queer theorists -- and that is the right to self-invention. That is the cruellest hoax ever perpetrated on human beings, for we are not clever or strong enough to reinvent ourselves. To the extent we succeed, we become monsters.

In the Judeo-Christian past, human beings had a destiny… People knew that their impulses must be subordinated to the requirements of God and nature. 

Since the French Revolution, progressives have sought to overthrow the regime of obligation in favour of the right to self-definition...

If you choose your identity at whim, your life has no meaning. That is true in the most parsimonious sense of the word: if you can arbitrarily decide to be a gender-fluid bestialist as well as a F to M to F trans-entity, then your life can "mean" any number of different things, all of them equally arbitrary.

…In the brave new progressive world, life means whatever you want it to mean. It is up to you to invent a meaning that suits you, which you may change whenever it occurs to you to do so.

… If you need to invent [meaning] for yourself, you must first reject what previous generations handed down to you…

There is something perverse in [inventing] the meaning of life. It implies that we don't like our lives and want to [invent] something different. If we don't like living to begin with, we are in deep trouble.

…People have a good reason to look at life cross-eyed, because it contains a glaring flaw - that we are going to die, and we probably will become old and sick and frail before we do so. All the bric-a-brac we accumulate during our lifetimes will accrue to other people, if it doesn't go right into the trash, and all the little touches of self-improvement we added to our personality will disappear - the golf stance, the macrame skills, the ability to play the ukulele and the familiarity with the filmography of Sam Pekinpah.

…[to invent our own identity] is the great pastime of the past century's intellectuals. Jean-Paul Sartre, the sage and eventual self-caricature of Existentialism, instructed us that man's existence precedes his essence, and therefore can invent his own essence more or less as he pleases. That was a silly argument, but enormously influential.

Sartre reacted to the advice of Martin Heidegger (the German existentialist from whom Jean-Paul Sartre cribbed most of his metaphysics). Heidegger told us that our "being" really was being-unto-death, for our life would end, and therefore is shaped by how we deal with the certainty of death. (Franz Kafka put the same thing better: "The meaning of life is that it ends.") Heidegger (1889-1976) thought that to be "authentic" mean to submerge ourselves into the specific conditions of our time, which for him meant joining the Nazi party. That didn't work out too well, and after the war it became every existentialist for himself. Everyone had the chance to invent his own identity according to taste.

Few of us actually read Sartre (and most of us who do regret it), and even fewer read the impenetrable Heidegger… But most of us remain the intellectual slaves of 20th century existentialism notwithstanding.

We want to invent our own identities, which implies doing something unique.

…Most people who make heroic efforts at originality learn eventually that they are destined for no such thing. If they are lucky, they content themselves with … small joys, for example tenure at a university.

But no destiny is more depressing than that of the artist who truly manages to invent a new style and achieve recognition for it. ...The inventor of a truly new style has cut himself off from the past, and will in turn be cut off from the future by the next entrant who invents a unique and individual style. …That is why our image of the artist is a young rebel rather than an elderly sage. If our rebel artists cannot manage to die young, they do the next best thing, namely disappear from public view…

If we set out to invent our own identities, then by definition we must abominate the identities of our parents and our teachers. Our children, should we trouble to bring any into the world, also will abominate ours. 

If self-invention is the path to the meaning of life, it makes the messy job of bearing and raising children a superfluous burden, for we can raise our children by no other means than to teach them contempt for us, both by instruction, and by the example of set in showing contempt to our own parents. 

That is why humanity has found no other way to perpetuate itself than by the continuity of tradition. A life that is worthwhile is one that is worthwhile in all its phases, from youth to old age. 

Of what use are the elderly? In a viable culture they are the transmitters of the accumulated wisdom of the generations. We will take the trouble to have children of our own only when we anticipate that they will respect us in our declining years, not merely because they tolerate us, but because we will have something yet to offer to the young. 

In that case, we do not [invent] the meaning of life. We accept it, rather, as it is handed down to us. 

Tradition by itself is no guarantee of cultural viability. Half of the world's 6,700 languages today are spoken by small tribes in New Guinea, whose rate of extinction is frightful. Traditions perfected over centuries of isolated existence in Neolithic society can disappear in a few years in the clash with modernity. But there are some traditions ...that have survived for millennia and have every hope of enduring for millennia still... 

*To read the original essays in full, see:
The Existential Roots of Trump Derangement Syndrome” in PJ Media, 12 May 2017; and
Why you won't find the meaning of life” in the Asia Times, 11 August 2011.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Entire platoon calls commander who claims he beat Palestinians a 'liar'

From Israel Hayom, 7 May 2017, by Yair Altman:

Spokesman for NGO Breaking the Silence Dean Issacharoff alleges that when ordered to arrest a Palestinian suspect, he beat him while comrades watched

Issacharoff's former commander, comrades and subordinates: We were there, it never happened.

Former members of a platoon in the IDF's Nahal Brigade who served with Dean Issacharoff, spokesman for the nongovernmental organization Breaking the Silence, which publicly and often anonymously criticizes IDF conduct in Judea and Samaria, are furious with their former comrade over public claims that while serving in the army, he beat a Palestinian he had been sent to arrest while his fellow platoon members watched.

Issacharoff made the allegation on camera at an event hosted by Breaking the Silence, a group whose aim is to collect recorded testimonies of IDF misconduct in Judea and Samaria.

Issacharoff 's former platoon comrades went on record calling his "testimony" an outright lie, and are even threatening to sue him for slander.

On Thursday, the Reservists at the Front organization, which is devoted to countering false or distorted narratives about IDF conduct, posted a video on its Facebook page in which 11 former members of Issacharoff 's platoon, as well as company commander Omri Synar, face the camera -- their full names appearing on screen -- and deny his claims. The video went viral, racking up about 270,000 views and thousands of likes and shares. The post was also translated into English.

"When I saw his testimony, I was just astonished," Synar told Israel Hayom.

"I talked to the war room, the command center, and all the soldiers. Maybe there had been something I hadn't seen. No one understood what he was talking about. I'm willing to take any lie detector test. It never happened. It's a completely made-up story," the company commander said.

Issacharoff 's former platoon mates and his former company commander are threatening to sue him for slander and want the Military Advocate General to launch an investigation into his testimony.

"These are serious allegations. He is attacking my good name, and the [good] name of the soldiers," Synar said. "So we'll go on to take legal action against him. Either he's a liar or we're criminals. Either he apologizes and says, 'I lied for one reason or another,' or we'll see him in court."

Chairman of Reservists at the Front, Maj. (ret.) Amit Deri, highlighted the harm caused by Breaking the Silence. "When we visit campuses in the U.S., we hear Breaking the Silence's lies quoted over and over by the biggest anti-Semites and anti-Israel groups. Reservists at the Front will keep on exposing the lies of Breaking the Silence."

Breaking the Silence said sarcastically in response: "These events didn't take place, just like the occupation doesn't exist."

Iran gives $600 million to Hezbollah

From Arutz Sheva, 6/5/17, by Danit Halevy:

Hezbollah has created an independent economy within Lebanon, which includes institutions, education, and businesses - from $600 million worth of Iranian aid, Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Youm reported on April 25.

The Obama Iran deal provided over $1 billion in cash to Iran, of which $600 million has found its way to Hezbollah

Hezbollah terrorists
Hezbollah terrorists (Reuters)

...the aid was transferred almost completely in hard cash, and is being used for the terror group's institutions and salaries paid to its terrorists and their families...