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Questions of Survival, Chosenness
The Reachable/Teachable vs. the Unreachable/Unteachable Paradox
This is how one Judeo/Christian goy sees it.
We can visualize Deity as an infinitely persistent transmitter of the moral code, Source of the Great Signal, if you will.
When Deity hovered over the dark abyss, not a stirring of receptive intelligence occupied the formless deep. Billions of years later, human minds emerged, endowed with the potential for moral reasoning. Deity’s transmissions have only dimly been detected in the last few millennia. Even then, they are rarely received and even more rarely have they been authentically and intelligently decoded.
Chosenness is the human condition that arises when a person or a people receives and decodes enough of the Great Signal to initialize moral obligation. The prime directive of humankind is to acquire then act on moral knowledge.
The Great Signal decodes as follows:
- You have been chosen to receive the gift of Moral Awareness;
- I Am the Source;
- Do not mess with the Source.
- Moral Awareness is Moral Obligation.
- You are directed to keep this channel open at all costs.
- You are directed to Honor the Moral Law and the Source;
- Follow, Preserve and Teach it,
- Tune in at least once a week.
Given that eternally operating Divine transmitter, and the gradual evolution of receptiveness to the Great Signal among humankind, the emergence of a first chosen people was a matter of time. It was a question of receptivity, not electivity.
Chosenness is never a one-off event. None of us can ever close the door to the Source, nor shut down the reception, nor end the necessity of ongoing listening and intelligent decoding. Once the first Great Signal is received, the heavy lifting begins. It never stops.
Enter the Prophetic tradition. This was the collision of understood aspects and implications of the Great Signal as directed at powerful, flawed human institutions. Irritation was the minimum blowback; decapitation is not out of the question.
This explains why the life of a Prophet tends to be turbulent and brief.
The Jewish people were caught in the prophetic trap. Many have tried to escape via Diaspora, secular disengagement, amnesia or assimilation.
None of these strategies work all the time. Jewish humor is the survival mechanism of an innately intelligent people, clinging to their core humanity under duress. It is a gift to the world.
The very skill set that made the earliest Jewish people uniquely receptive (for the time) to the Great Signal, has been preserved over several millennia and within their culture and lines of familial continuity. Not coincidentally, the same skill set has helped many Jewish men and women achieve secular success. But success was followed by reactive jealously, leading to defensive specialization (as in banking and lending, for example), then more success, followed as night follows day, by pogroms, then still more success under duress – then, in the dark theological irony of our era, an age of serial holocausts has followed.
The appropriate response to all this – supported by the post WWII American and European governments – was the reconstitution of Israel as a refuge state. Israel was established to be the One Safe Place for an admirable, persecuted people who were to live securely in a modern setting. Israel was founded as a progressive, refuge state; her immediate founders (as David Ben-Gurion) were secular socialists committed to a secular state that protected religious freedom.
Israel prospered. Once again, Jews are being punished for success. Such is the perversity of the PGS human condition (Pre-Great-Signal).
The Prophet’s legacy of persecution has followed the Jewish people everywhere, but is nowhere more evident and virulent than where their successes are most evident.
One thing is bright-line evident to me: The moral and juridical legitimacy of the Jewish state is an indisputable given, except for those twisted souls for whom the 20th century’s holocaust was a bit of unfinished business.
However we parse the practical questions surrounding modern Israel, a Western democracy floating in an atavistic sea, they all vector back to the bedrock question that you would have thought was conclusively settled by those who defeated the Axis powers in WWII: The right of the first chosen people to live in and protect their traditional refuge and home is sacrosanct.
Yet that which seemed settled is unsettled. As the poet Yeats prophetically wrote in the aftermath of WWI, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
In my personal experience, all of the manifold religious, political and ideological differences I’ve encountered in my life have tended to operate in one of two kinds of minds: those that are reachable and teachable; or those that are unreachable and unteachable.
Modern Israel was started by progressive secular socialists. In another example of the many dark ironies generated in the last century, a loathsome subset of progressive, secular socialists have turned against Israel, rejecting the core premise – her right to exist as a nation state. Worse still, many of these minds have substituted a malign version of the “progressive” ethos for religion, adopting it with such unreasonable fervor that they now inhabit the world of the unreachable and unteachable.
I strongly suspect that there is a point at which the unreachable and unteachable simply have to be worked around. Too many of such minds cannot be changed after they are frozen (rare exceptions acknowledged). It follows that practical progress against frozen minds is to be made through the magic of a generational shift.
For Israel, this means a practical policy of survival, relentlessly pursuing it success as an engine of creative civilization in the region and the world, a model of prosperity that will remain open to cooperative engagement and partnership for new generations of the post-jihad neighbors. The bloody minded old guard simply need to be contained and, as necessary, defeated, and their grip on the future forever loosened.
This requires tough minded line drawing and the willingness to defend the Jewish state in extremis, whatever that requires in real world terms. We need the virtues and moral awareness that formed the baseline norm, say, for our parents who served in the war against the Axis powers and Hitler’s National Socialism.
In other writings I have emphasized the importance of the intergenerational moral transmission belt. We will continue to need the armor of our greatest moral legacy. The continuity of healthy, creative, freedom-friendly civilization crucially depends on our ability to transmit the essential memories, lesson and virtues to the succeeding generations.
Not all virtues are mild.
The teachings of Jesus, Moses and Hillel converge in the life of a certain Lutheran minister imprisoned by the Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), whose moral sensibilities led him to actively seek Hitler’s assassination. He was hanged three weeks before the Nazi surrender.
Jay B Gaskill