Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jews and Wasps...

A balck and white photo of Walter Russel Mead

Read an interesting article the other day. I am not sure if it was interesting reading per se, but what the article spoke about or even how the author spoke about the subject struck me as being interesting.

The article was called Jews and Wasps and was written By WALTER RUSSELL MEAD for the New York Sun. The original article can be found HERE.

The article starts out by quoting Osama Bin Laden, goes into a mild history of how anti-Semitism is intertwined with the rise of the merchant classes in the late 1600's and then connects this history to current anti-Semites such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Ahmadinejad. He then concludes by explaining how the European courts were "corrupted" by wealthy Jews but that (if I read this correctly) this corruption has had a generally positive effect because it has sparked a growth in technology and a global redistribution of the population away from the agrarian open spaces towards the big cities.

Mr. Mead associates also himself with the issue personally. We see this in the third paragraph when he uses the phrase "our enemies" and somewhat apologetically he does so again in the seventh:

    Jews and Wasps have their differences, but the rest of the world saw us as fighting on the same side long before America's support of Israel became a major world issue.
He also seems rather content with his world view and with his own position in that world; he is on top and therefore all is as it should be.

I might be slipping, but even after having read this piece several times, I still fail to see Mr. Mead's
point. I know he is trying to say something about an inherent cultural connection between Jews and White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (both have "managed to negotiate the challenges of liberal modernity relatively smoothly" and both are "at home in the same kind of (modern) world") but I am not sure exactly what that something is or, more importantly, why there needs to be such a racial division.

Why exactly do we need to see the world along such racial lines? It is my understanding that the world is divided primarily by political and geographic lines. I know in some cases there is a predominant culture which matches a country's borders (Belarus screams to be one of these or at least that they are Russian) but I am not sure that all countries or even that many really which represent single cultures or, as Mr. Mead states things, a single ethnic identity.

A premier example of an eclectic populace and, I am not speaking here about race at all, is the United States. To my mind there is not one single, unified United States but rather there are five major natural and cultural divisions to be found on the territory. The Upper Northeast which consists of the territory from the appellations to the sea is one. The South-Eastern Green States from say Washington DC to the end of Florida over to the middle of Texas is another. The Brown South from the other half of Texas over to Los Angeles, The Upper West coast from say Carmel or at least San Jose to Seattle and all the way out to the mountains and the Upper Midwest Farmlands which sit between the mountains and North of the southern deserts are the last two. The reason for these divisions are that economy and general purpose to these sections are all basically the same; The upper east cast does its business with the same people and even have the same accents. The southwest all have similar ways f seeing the world. The upper Midwest is about farming, etc. The populations of these areas are all basically the same (about 60 million) and therefore the manor of local governance would more specifically fit their local needs much better than relying on a central government.

Now far from advocating the break up of the good old US of A into more these sorts of manageable and responsible pieces, what I am saying is that racial identities have a lot less to do with cultural histories and adaptation to environment than they do to any pre-ordained predilections.

I mean would it make more sense or add to the weight of the text if I stated that that this article was incredibly British? Why not? Mr. Mead speaks of huge numbers of people and their actions absolutely dismissively. He cares not one lick of any pervading philosophies of others and especially not of those he perceives as his enemies so long as he is protected from harm. And obviously he is less interested in making a valid point than he is defining his own status as being amongst the leaders. Frankly, if this is not British, I don't know what is. Therefore, because I, along with the Irish, the Scotts and the Welsh and most probably India, China, Africa and the USA, do not like the British, I have decided to dismiss all of what Mr. Mead has to say as complete hogwash on the grounds that he himself is a wanker.

    …the rise of a global system of power, commerce, finance, culture, and ideology resting first on the power of Britain and now on that of America. As horrified Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Soviets looked on, since 1688 the British have been on the winning side in every great power conflict in which they have fought — with the single exception of the American Revolution. In other words, the two great English speaking powers have either separately or together won every major war since the 17th century, and the global system resting on their military and commercial prowess remains the foundation of international order today.

    Those who have fought and opposed this system attacked both its geopolitical ambitions and its ideological foundations. Where the Anglophones considered themselves to be fighting for freedom and tolerance, their enemies saw an economic and social system based on exploitation, greed, and a ruthless will to power. European suspicion of the allegedly harsh and inhuman character of the dreaded "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism echoes these concerns.
He also doesn't know anything of his own history which is also, you know, so bloody like them.

Is this fair? No it is not. In fact it is complete bullshit and that's the point.

But the real problem lies in the fact that it is not that simple because there is actually something compelling in Mr. Mead's argument. The problem is that we can all see that there are differences between people. Of course we are different; there are different colors of skin, different languages and different ways of seeing the world and because of this, it would seem to be a very easy choice simply to decide that this is sufficient reason to rob, cheat and steal from each other.

Benjamin Disraeli, who Mr. Mead quoted in this article, once said that race was the only thing that mattered. Certainly this has been at the root of British empire building and most probably, Mr. Mead believes that his lot in life was granted to him largely on the basis of his familial lineage. And most probably this is true. But what is also true is that if this is really the truth, there are hundred and thousands of others with at least an equal capacity for thought and understanding as Mr. Mead who will not receive the same chances because of not have the "right" genes and THIS is exactly the sort of thing that makes people angry. And of course perfect examples of this are exactly the people who Mr. Mead mentions above.

Maybe Mr. Mead thinks that blacks make better runners and probably, he is right. But I happen to know for a fact that that the winner of the women's 100 meters in the last Olympics, the fastest woman in the world, was a white Belarusian woman named Yuliya Nesterenko. This is just one example but I think that the point is made that you cannot really define people in such simple ways. There are good and bad, smart and slow, pretty and ugly in all corners of the world. I am sorry, you can't say it is about race. It is just not as simple as that.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Dietwald Claus said...

?
Not particularly original... That Protestantism is the spiritual cousin of Judaism should be obvious, and the Protestant/Jewish Spirit as the foundation of Capitalism is not new, either. The similarities between anti-Americanism and modern anti-Semitism (Arendt pointed out the difference to the anti-Semitism of yore) are overwhelming...

There's really nothing novel in the article -- "Spengler" over at www.atimes.com does the same job with far more verve and originality.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous Pete Beatroot said...

I don t know where to start with this.

Besides the fact the bin Laden is indeed parroting the dumb anti-Americanism of many western liberals (note not 'anti-Bush', who can be perfectly reasonable people, when not just being anti-American, and there are a few of them) this is a very strange article.

Firstly, equating English speaking countries with 'Anglo-saxon' model of capitalism.

If he means Thatcherite free market stuff, then UK only turned to this 20 or so years ago. Before it was very much 'European' model welfare state stuff.

Then there is this idea on the article that free market model is synonymous with 'freedom and democracy'.

Since when? Hong Kong under the British empire was the most free market economy in the world √ but the British never thought it was worth having elections there (until they had to hand it back to China, that is...).

Empires √ which UK power was built on √ are not good bedfellows with 'freedom and democracy'.

So the guy is a little confuse, I think.

And just because Britain was on the winning side, does not mean they contributed to winning the conflict. If it wasn't for the US and USSR then UK would be in deep, deep doo-doo...

And tagging along Israel is just weird. What were the British and Israelis doing almost 60 years ago? Trying to kill each other. And that was another fine mess the great British Empire made, Stanley.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous j said...

Everyone has always hated the Jews........why? Because they are God's people and when they inhabit Israel, it is closer to the Second Coming of Christ or Messiah................. so Israel being in the Promised Land is an indiction of this great truth. Some people believe some do not, but I do and Jewish people and their welfare are on the top of my welfare list. I love them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous The divine dem said...

"...with the single exception of the American Revolution. In other words, the two great English speaking powers have either separately or together won every major war since the 17th century, and the global system resting on their military and commercial prowess remains the foundation of international order today."

What about Viet Nam? Korean War? Grenada? Is this guy forgetting part of his history?

To be honest, I do believe that there is an impression of incredible greed in the U.S. as seen from around the world and I understand why. The media discusses those who are rich and famous and those who are working day by day or hardly making ends meet are rarely seen or written about. Hollywood shows "the average American family" living in a home that would cost up to a million dollars or more. They show teenagers all living the 90210 lifestyle. The reality is, many Americans are homeless, starving, and without health care. There is greed, and it comes at the hands of corporate America and they have all the power they want thanks to George Bush.

Not all Americans are Joe Lieberman's either. They don't want to go to war with Iran, in fact, I'm sure you know that a very large percentage don't want to go to war and they want us out of Iraq. They don't see all Muslims or anyone from the Middle East as evil.

Then you have those who are in power in the Middle East who hate Americans for no other reason than they are hateful, spiteful theocrats. They torture and murder gays, lesbians, women, or anyone they choose-all in the name of Allah. If they will do that to their own people, why not expect them to want to do it to anyone else who will not follow their convoluted ideologies?

My solution, lock up all the leaders all around the world and put women in charge.

Mary Ellen

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous politiques usa said...

Hi Adam;
I am a socialist first and foremost, but I've never seen capitalism as a threat. In the US under Bush we are not anymore in a capitalist model but rather in a neoliberalist one, a more dangerous model that does not take into account social aspects (labor laws, human dignity ...etc) and only money is the main motivation of their foreign policy. I think it is rather stupid from the author to make a statement that people are jealous of a system. For sure nothing replaced yet capitalism and people work on other alternatives. Capitalism is also very intertwened with culture in the anglo-saxon model, it is this model that allowed other countries to succeed culturally (Japan after WW2, or China during the 21st century).
Cuturally the US dominated this world since WW2 through their movies and fast cash receipes (Mac Donald's, Starbucks) and the hegemony of the dollar in the rest of the world. But the demise of the dollar is coming anytime soon I beleive: there are too many worldwide actors that do want to get rid of the dollar which would allow them to get rid of the hegemony of the US as well (Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China) and they may dump the dollar and switch to other currencies. For sure, the US will lose its hegemony and it won't be able anymore to take a unilateral approach and maybe, "maybe" the world will be a more peaceful place.
PS: there is a part of cultural dishonesty from the author. The jewish people from Europe in the XVIth century were not allowed to occupy some jobs, as a result they were among the best traders or bankers that took place before the capitalist model.

How are you doing?

Cheers!!

Stephan

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous Liz said...

Interesting comments below the op-ed (of the riginal article)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007  

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