Archive for the ‘Humanity’ Category
It took a while, but I have finally found the original source behind Elissa Ely’s “Bridging the abyss – if only briefly” thoughtful contribution to the IHT.
It’s from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik‘s “Confrontation“, and appeared in “Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Thought“, 1964 volume 6, #2. Quote only very slightly modifed, from the Boston College’s website:
It is paradoxical yet nonetheless true that each human being lives both in an existential community, surrounded by friends, and in a state of existential loneliness and tension, confronted by strangers. In each to whom I relate as a human being, I find a friend, for we have many things in common, as well as a stranger, for each of us is unique and wholly other.
This otherness stands in the way of complete mutual understanding. The gap of uniqueness is too wide to be bridged. Indeed, it is not a gap, it is an abyss. Of course, there prevails, quite often, a harmony of interests, – economic, political, social – upon which two individuals focus their attention. However, two people glancing at the same object may continue to lead isolated, closed-in existences. Coordination of interest does not spell an existential union.
We frequently engage in common enterprise and we prudently pursue common goals, traveling temporarily along parallel roads, yet our destinations are not the same. We are, in the words of the Torah, a helpmeet to each other, yet at the same time, we experience the state of remaining different and opposed to each other. We think, feel and respond to events not in unison but singly, each one in his individual fashion.
Man is a social being, yearning for a together-existence in which services are exchanged and experiences shared, and a lonely creature, shy and reticent, fearful of the intruding cynical glance of his next-door neighbor. In spite of our sociability and outer-directed nature, we remain strangers to each other.
Our feelings of sympathy and love for our confronter are rooted in the surface personality and they do not reach into the inner recesses of our depth personality which never leaves its ontological seclusion and never becomes involved in a communal existence.
Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):
David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.
This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”
As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.
I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.
True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.
But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.
Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.
Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.
That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.
In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930’s, China famine in the 1950’s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.
Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.
As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).
Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.
I am not saying that I disagree (and I don’t) with David Brooks’ definition of how to find a meaning in each Israeli-Palestinian act of terrorism or war (“The confidence war“, IHT, January 7, 2009). But what is missing from Mr Brooks’ analysis is the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli Governments, the PLO and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.
This has been true especially in the last decade or so, with one side casually bombing crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical “sorry” press releases afterwards; and the other either sending youths to suicide missions or armed with stones against armored tanks, or proclaiming without a second thought that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists”.
As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local Government is clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that until negotiations get centered around politicking rather than the basic rights of individual human beings, Palestinians (and Somalis, and Darfuris, etc etc) can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.
Millions of gallons of ink must have been consumed in the neverending discussions about the “disaster” represented by the US Government’s decision to let Lehman Brothers fail and disappear. Andrew Ross Sorkin on today’s IHT agrees:
With hindsight, many in the financial industry blame a deepening of the global financial crisis on the government’s decision to let Lehman crumble
I disagree with that analysis, for two very simple reasons. When Lehman was allowed to go bankrupt, a signal was sent to all, saying that not everybody will be rescued. This was in direct contrast with the Japanese Government’s decadal efforts to prop up every financial institution under its watch (that’s why those efforts lasted for a decade or even more).
More importantly, the failure of Lehman Brothers showed everybody what the failure of “just a bank” may mean, with innumerable, overwhelmingly negative consequences propping up even in unlikely places. And this was good: because it is in the human nature to seriously question people advising that something bad may be happening in the near future, and to need a direct experience of that “something bad” before properly reacting.
You can spend every last molecule of your breath explaining a child that eating too many sweets can be painful. But there is nothing like going through a “tummy ache” that will convince the child of changing their way.
And you could transfer yourself back to January 1939 and explain all the reasons for the upcoming Nazi continent-wide monstruosity, but I am sure nobody in the UK or France (or the USA) will agree to go to war until forced to by the pain of circumstance.
And so, had Lehman Brothers been rescued alongside the other relatively large institutions, we would still be discussing the pro’s and con’s of rescue packages. And we would have never known that it takes just a bank to fail, to see a run on money-market funds.
Hindsight will fuel further commentaries on now-defunct Lehman Brothers: and hindsight can be useful to make sense of the world, but only works when there is something to look back at…
From “The Most Evil Emperor” by Max Hastings, New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 16 · October 23, 2008, reviewing “Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe” by Mark Mazower, Penguin, 726 pp., $39.95
Mazower’s conclusion is that Hitler’s vision for Europe was doomed by the fact that it offered nothing save subjection to the nations beneath its sway […] In truth, membership in the German empire promised benefits only to Germans. All successful empires in history have exploited the support of at least some of their subject peoples. Berlin did not offer even lip service to international cooperation or mutual benefit.
Hitler offered only servitude to the occupied nations, in most places on the most brutal terms. […[ Hitler missed important opportunities to rouse the Arab world and India against the British, because such a notion clashed with his convictions of racial superiority. […] Berlin made no serious attempt to exploit the aid of occupied peoples hostile to Stalin.
From this point of view, Hitler’s Nazism does look like occupying a special place in history, as having no concern whatsoever on anybody else but the Master Race.
And yet…isn’t that what Europeans did in many of their colonies?
Personally I find the following statements bordering on the obvious. For some reason, many people think otherwise, in one sense or another…and unbelievably, abortion is still somehow an issue in US politics.
From the Methodist Church’s “Abortion and Contraception” web page:
- abortion is always an evil
- there will be circumstances where the termination of pregnancy may be the lesser of evils
And in particular:
- the mother should be told clearly of the alternatives to termination
- abortion should be avoided if at all possible by offering care to single mothers during pregnancy, and the adoption of their children if, at full term, the mother cannot offer a home
- the result of the coming together of human sperm and ovum is obviously human
- the right of the embryo to full respect […] increases throughout a pregnancy
- it would be strongly preferable that, through advances in medical science and social welfare, all abortions should become unnecessary
- late abortions should be very rare exceptions
- if abortion were made a criminal offence again, there would be increased risks of ill-health and death as a result of botched ‘back-street’ abortions
- to refuse to countenance abortion in any circumstances is to condemn some women and their babies to gross suffering and a cruel death in the name of an absolutism which nature itself does not observe