Dymphna writes at GofV:
Jerry Gordon’s new book, The West Speaks, is a collection of his interviews with some of “the watchers on the ramparts of the West”, brave individuals who have stepped forward since 9/11 to counter the particularly specious form of global “community” as laid out by Islam in its tenets on the Ummah. An Islamic international “community” would be the death knell for any form of authentic, vibrant community as Western civilization understands that term. One has only to look at all the polities in which Islamic Law dominates to know they are but the Ummah writ small: murderous, tyrannical, and without that spontaneous creativity which is the hallmark of any genuine community. For the most part Islamic countries, except those awash in petrol wealth, are backward, poverty-stricken hellholes. Even the wealthy ones aren’t places a person who values free speech would want to live in. Turkey could be considered on exception at the moment, although as it moves back and peels away from its Western veneer, it too will sink further into persecution of minority groups within its borders, more widespread poverty, creeping superstitions, and growing numbers of illiterate women. When women can’t read or write, the family founders.
It is not just Islam which is pushing for this fantasy global community. Fashioned from the leftovers of Marxism, political elites in the EU and camp-followers in American academia and media have their own half-baked pie-in-the-sky fantasies about immigration and outmoded economic policies as the solutions to our problems of endemic debt, economic “unfairness”, and mind-numbing poverty. For these intractable issues, the answer offered by the politically naïve is often a sickly sea, a universal solvent which would erase those ugly nation-state borders.
This free lunch comes at a terrible cost to civilization. One of the “observers” Jerry Gordon interviewed has lived long enough to see why a nation’s sovereignty is foundational to its continued existence.
Richard Rubenstein grew up in the then-German enclave in New York City. In the 1930s he saw the Nazi flags flying from the windows. And he discovered that he was indelibly Jewish. His family were secular Jews. As a boy Dr. Rubenstein thought this was a fungible thing, that he could become something else instead. He ended up in the Unitarian Church and was considering the ministry, having come to feel that religion was important. And then it happened: he ran into the wall:
One day, I got a letter from somebody I had met whose father was the executive secretary of the American Unitarian Association. He said, “You are going to make a fine minister, but you need to change your name from Rubenstein to one that is less Jewish, more Anglo-Saxon.” That sort of hit me like a lightning bolt. I went home and thought about it and said to myself, “I’m not going to do this, change my name.” First of all, I would have spent the rest of my life worrying about being found out. Secondly, all of a sudden, I began to worry about ancestry and I thought, “I can’t rat on my background.”
That must’ve been a painful realization back then, but he’s had many decades to absorb it since, so his story sounds matter-of-fact. I doubt that it was so at the time.
Gordon leads Dr. Rubenstein through the retelling of the steps that led him to Judaism — he says he’s a Conservative rabbi but a Reform Jew at heart. Eventually, Dr. Rubenstein got his Master’s Degree in Christian Theology from Harvard and went on to receive his Doctorate in the History of Religion from Harvard’s graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The thesis he wrote became Religious Imagination: Study in Psychoanalysis and Jewish Theology
(Brown classics in Judaica), which was translated into French and won an Italian literature prize in 1977.
I chose Dr. Rubenstein’s interview because his political philosophy partially reflects my own. He derides the idea of an “international community”. So do I.
When Jerry Gordon asked him about his political philosophy, Rubenstein said:
In the world of politics, I’m a Hobbesian.
Thomas Hobbes believed that originally men lived in a state of nature in which there were no rules. Inevitably, the very strongest prevailed and the weakest served them or fell by the wayside. Finally, in order to protect themselves, men agreed to delegate whatever powers they had to one sovereign who would protect them and who would prevent them from behaving towards each other as if they were in a state of nature.
For example, if my neighbor and I have a dispute over where my property line ends and his begins, we don’t take out guns and settle it that way. We believe that, through the sovereign state, there are impartial institutions which will decide whether my claim or his is right. However, Hobbes also says something else. He says, “Sovereigns always live in a state of nature with regard to each other.” That is, between nations, there are no permanent, fixed rules. Nations may agree on rules, because it is within their interest to do so, but the same nation that makes a rule can break a rule. There is no such thing as an international community. There are only states with different interests which sometimes conflict…
That is not a traditionally Jewish view. At least not a liberal American Jewish view. But Rubenstein blames that blindness on the long history of the powerlessness of Jews in Europe. They had no living experience of sovereignty.
When Gordon asks him about his own “core Jewish values”, he counters with this:
I think the idea of Jewish values can be a trap because for 2,000 years Jews had no experience being the masters of their own destiny and had no experience with what that meant, what its responsibilities were. As Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren said in an Azure article, “They had no experience with sovereignty.” If you have an army, if you have enemies you know are out to destroy you, then having abstract values that are unrelated to the actual context of danger in which you live does yourself a disservice and one which is potentially suicidal.
Well, there you have one person’s opinion about the phenomenon Americans have learned to call “the suicidal Jew”. They vote for policies which endanger their safety because they’re stuck with those ageless, abstract values.
Now, I believe that Jews should practice justice, but what I mean by justice is to give each man and each group its proper due. This is fundamental.
That means that if you have an enemy who is out to kill you, you don’t necessarily have to kill him, but you have to do whatever is necessary to defang his power so that he cannot kill you.
Nevertheless, I do not believe, for example, in doing more than you have to against an enemy. I don’t believe in gratuitous killing or torture.
In that same article, Oren describes how David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, sat by himself on Israel’s first Independence Day, wondering whether the people understood what they were getting themselves into, whether they understood what sovereignty meant. He was afraid that they didn’t. He knew that neither Martin Buber nor the German-Jewish professors at the Hebrew University understood sovereignty. Sovereignty means that you possess an army and, as the German sociologist Max Weber put it, “The sovereign state is that human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Ben Gurion understood that insight when he forcibly disarmed the Irgun militia at the start of the new State of Israel in 1948. Ultimately, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is over the question of who possesses a sovereign monopoly of the use of force. Such a monopoly cannot be shared. [my emphasis — D]
To me, the most basic Jewish value is to survive with dignity as an individual and as part of a people. However, learning from tradition can be a trap…
Make no mistake about it. I have enormous respect for Jews who exercised restraint under conditions of powerlessness. They had no other choice then. The way I used to put it to my students in class was, “If a person comes along and says, ‘You dirty Jew boy,’ I’m going to go after him, but if five people come and surround me and say that, I’m going to have to learn to hold my temper.” That was the situation of Jews for almost 2000 years.
What he is describing here I have heard some people term “underdogma” — the almost knee-jerk response to root for the underdogs. Anyone who has stuck with the New York Mets through thick and thin has experienced this phenomenon, underdogma.
You can see it, too, in the cultures which penalize individuals for standing out too much, for striving. In Scandinavian countries it’s a kind of mindset, janteloven
Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Scandinavia, the term refers to a mentality which de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. The Cultural Theory of Risk defines egalitarianism, prevalent in Scandinavia, as a mindset aversive towards rules but benign towards group unity.
No wonder we have such communication problems. That mindset is the antithesis of Americans’ most obvious characteristic, being “ornery”. The Gadsden flag
, “Don’t Tread on Me” is an early symbol of this attitude. You see it displayed often at Tea Party rallies. Come to think of it, I wonder if the Tea Party has a Jewish division yet? I doubt it: there’s not an Irish division, either.
As Jerry Gordon leaves Dr. Rubenstein, he asks about the latter’s legacy. At the age of 86 (in 2010), he wasn’t willing to settle for a legacy, saying he was too busy to consider it. Like many of us, he worries about Islam’s supremacist ideology.
It is good to meet someone whose ideas on sovereignty are based on the vivid experience of its absence. It is those who have been threatened with losing it who most value what many socialists would throw away in the name of a failed ideology.