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Why There Will Always Be War

January 8th, 2009
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During hard times such as these, we tend to relinquish our individual opinions to those of our respective hiveminds.  I am posting this short essay to remind each of us to remember to think for ourselves.  I also want to emphasize that this post is in no way meant to provide a rationale for what is going on in Israel and the Gaza Strip right now – think of it as more of a…lament.

We can convince ourselves of anything.  Let me explain.  Humans think by analogy.  In more logical thinkers, the analogies become less ambiguous, but in all human thinkers, the emotions and the concepts our minds employ are generalizations; abstractions that ignore particulars.  Analogies are false to pure fact; they are comparative matters of judgment.  Thus, we are able to apply our thinking inconsistently.  For example, we may have one standard related to scientific theories, and another for religious theories; one standard for ourselves, and another for the rest of the world.  This system of thought allows us to ignore errors in chains of logic.  We can make ourselves unaware of the implications of our thoughts, or ignore the true meaning, context, and consequences of our actions.  Our ability to formulate rationalizations to justify and obscure the true causes and conclusions of our cognition from ourselves can be a blessing and a curse.

What is the true nature of human evil?  Is it the complete disregard for empathetic compassion – a twisted psyche predisposed for performing malice without semblance of emotional attachment – or is it illustrated by people like David Lewis Rice, who, believing he was a patriot engaged in a secret war against covert communists, murdered an innocent family of four in 1985?  Is the true nature of human evil demonstrated by people who are willing to do anything and everything for whatever cause they may champion?  All people of such fervent conviction are not dangerous.  However, people that deem it necessary to impress their views upon others at all costs are.

People kill other people for two reasons:  survival of self, or survival of ideology.  More people have been killed and persecuted in the name of a higher ideal than for any other reason in human history.  Racial purity, religious intolerance, and fanatical jingoism come to mind immediately when examining genocidal motivation throughout history.  Mass violence has existed since the dawn of man.  The Torah chronicles the Jewish massacre of the Amelekites and Midianites.  Before that, the Assyrians and Egyptians derooted entire civilizations for enslavement, their version of deterrence.  The Greeks of Athens annihilated the nations for their own self-interests.  The Punic Wars ended with Rome wiping Carthage and its citizens from history.  Genghis Khan left half the world burning in his turbulent wake.  The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the colonization of the Americas, the Salem Witch Trials, the inevitable collapse and displacement of the American Indian tribes, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, the Stolen Generation of Australia, the Hutus and Tutsis, Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan – the list could go on and on – are some of our most grievous examples.  Outlying reasons may have varied, but the rationale at the heart of each matter has remained remarkably single-minded, even as the human mind supposedly evolves and betters itself.  Cynicism would dictate that only the methods with which we use for killing, and the methods with which we use to justify killing have evolved over the ages.  Every shred of information we receive is tainted by a generational loss, each source polluted by an inherent human bias or deliberate rhetoric designed to sway us this way or that.

Why do we kill each other?  Human psychology seems as if it depends upon the existence, whether real or fabrication, of an evil enemy to reaffirm its own goodness and sanity.  It is as if we are resigned to the perceived reality that separate entities must have conflicting ideals and motives, thrusting each side into competition.  The ultimate goal in competition is elimination of the opposition.  Since recognizance of humanity evokes human compassion, elimination is facilitated by regarding the opposing entity as an abstraction.  In our attempts to create this disjointed feeling of distant hatred, we demonize and dehumanize our enemies, using the media to perpetuate these perceptions.  Such dehumanization is aided by the simple fact that people from different parts of the world look and act different from one another.  It’s absolutely shocking to me that many political cartoonists oftentimes depict people of different races stripped to their most stereotypical characteristics and later rationalize that stereotyping is necessary for mass recognition.  We latch on to a pronoun mentality of “they want to kill us,” appealing to our most primal instincts, and compelling “us” to believe that “we” fight for “our” very survival.  As a result, entire societies come together as one to fight the perceived enemy.  There are no ambiguities in war – it is simple.  We unite in a single cause and work to achieve our goals.  We benefit socially from newfound camaraderie.  Health increases and suicide rates decrease.  New technologies emerge from rapid industrial development.  Privateering provides employment and boosts the economy.

Does human progress depend largely on human suffering?  One of the principle debates concerning civilization’s origins asks if humans were first driven together by war.  Recent archaeological finds in Peru have uncovered relics of a 3,000 year old military civilization composed of several nomadic tribes forced to unite in order to survive then overcome neighboring competition.  Such logical reasoning still appeals to our sensitivities today.  Alliances are made, broken, re-formed, and revised in accordance with a society’s priorities.  What is the true nature of human evil?  The human faculty for the rationalization of the irrational is an integral component of humanity.  Perhaps then, the true nature of human evil is being human.  Thomas Hobbes stated in Leviathan that “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Sometimes it can be difficult to disagree with him.

Categories: My 2 Agurot

The Hazards of Walking in Tel Aviv

December 15th, 2008
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Guest Blogger: Steve Miller

There’s Iran and the nukes.
There’s the Tel Aviv mafia which blow things (and people) up.
There’s the rockets from Gaza.
We had bombs and rockets from the North not too long ago.

But living in Tel Aviv, the most dangerous part of my day is walking.

Have you walked the sidewalks of Tel Aviv recently?

First, Israel was founded before motorcycles were the thing in Tel Aviv. So everyone has the motorcycles slash beefed up scooters…let’s call them motor scooters. Israeli drivers are crazy so it makes sense that these drivers use their skinny vehicles to swerve in and out of lanes, past cars, through red lights etc. Safe right? But the worst part is the guy who sells these motor scooters:

“And the best part for you,” the sketchy Israeli car salesman explains, “is that when you own a motor scooter you can drive WHEREVER THE FUCK YOU WANT!”

“Sold”

I’m convinced this conversation happens because walking on the sidewalks of Tel Aviv is swimming through a sea of motorcycles/beefed up scooters…motor scooters They drive everywhere. Why?! The road extends to the sidewalk for them.

Second, bicycles. Not nearly as dangerous as the motor scooters, but everyone rides a bicycle on the sidewalk. If it was just 6 year old Shmulik it’d be fine, but everyone rides bicycles on the sidewalk. So now you’ve got motorscooters and bicycles with those annoying little ching-ching-I’m-about-to-pass-you-even-though-I-shouldn’t-be-here-get-out-of-my-way bells. And have you ever seen ONE person in Tel Aviv wear a helmet while on a bicycle? Nada – I hear you have to go to Cypress just to buy one.

***Note there is an exception to the bicycles – there is a growing number of beautiful shanti-esque girls driving old school bicycles. Totally cool to ride on the sidewalk***

Then the least dangerous but biggest day-ruiners while walking in Tel Aviv are the dogs and dog owners. You walk your dogs with complete disregard to everyone else. You endanger the lives of your dogs by walking them on the sidewalk where motor scooters and bicycles swerve all over. But I like dogs, in fact I love dogs. So it’s not the dogs, it’s the dog owners who leave their dog’s shit everywhere.

Everywhere.

Today I walked by the dog park on King George between Dizengoff and Allenby…a DOG PARK with little ramps and things for the dogs to play with…and watched some dog owner let his dog shit OUTSIDE the dog park literally 15 feet away from the entrance…and then leave the shit there. Couldn’t he hold it in? Please? For the sake of my shoes!

Bicycles and motorscooters, and then little landmines of dog shit everywhere – maybe in Tel Aviv it’s safer to walk in the street?

[editors note: The article is over, but this picture was too funny not to include]

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Categories: My 2 Agurot

cheeseburgers – thumbs down, cancer – thumbs up?

December 7th, 2008
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Guest Blogger: Steve Miller

No little hasids were harmed in this blog rant

No little hasids were harmed in this blog rant

I like the black hat Jews. I think they’re good for Israel and I think they’re good for Judaism. I’m glad that some of my taxes go to supporting their livelihood. I don’t study the Torah or keep Shabbat to the extent they do, but I respect their decisions immensely. I’m glad buses don’t run on Shabbat and malls close. This is a Jewish state and all Jews should feel comfortable here.

But all you ultra-orthodox Jews out there reading a Tel Aviv blog made by two rappers, listen up. Many of you do two things every day that make me furious, make G-d furious, and embarrass your entire religious community.

You smoke cigarettes and then you throw the buttes on the ground.

It just doesn’t make sense. How can you follow century old Jewish laws, and then light up a joe? Your wife can’t show her hair, but you can kill yourself and those around you ever so slowly with cancer?

un-kosher goodness

Today I saw two ultra-orthodox Jews standing outside a synagogue with kids running around smoking cigarettes. How on earth can they dress in all black, grow the beards and payesses, and I imagine follow hundreds of other laws and in the same smokey breath justify smoking cigarettes…let alone outside of a synagogue with kids around. I’m no scholar, but there’s no way the Torah says cheeseburgers – thumbs down, cancer – thumbs up.

The image of an ultra-orthodox Jew smoking is a walking oxymoron. It’s Barack Obama picking Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense. It’s Prigat making chocolate milk and Elite making mango juice. It’s Olmert giving back the money he stole and Bibi having a cigar with Ahmadinejad. It’s an ultra-orthodox Jew reading this blog!

It’s an image this country doesn’t need.

Categories: My 2 Agurot