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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Insanities

Albert Einstein is supposed to have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I want to talk about two instances of this kind of insanity that have possibly been overlooked by those who think there will ever be a peace with the Arabs that doesn't involve beating them completely.


Today, Mahmoud Abbas / Abu Mazen (the chairman of the PLO, and the warlord ruling the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria) said that Jews won't be allowed on the Arab side of any Palestinian state that might, God forbid, be created. Which isn't much of a surprise, but it is one more in a series of repeating events that we should be aware of.

In 1922, the Mandate for Palestine was split into two areas called Transjordan and Palestine. Transjordan was to be for the Arabs and Palestine was to be for the Jews. Following the partition, the Transjordanian Arabs kicked all the Jews out. But the Palestinian Arabs in Cisjordan remained there and began working to take it over and kick the Jews out.

In 1926, Syria was partitioned into two states called Syria and Lebanon. Syria was to be for the Muslims, and Lebanon was to be for the Christians. Following the partition, the Syrian Arabs kicked all the Christians out. But the Lebanese Muslims remained in Lebanon, and began working to take it over. Which they have essentially done.

In 1947, India was partitioned into two states called India and Pakistan. India was to be for the Hindus, and Pakistan was to be for the Muslims. Following the partition, the Hindus left Pakistan, but most Muslims remained in India, and began working to take it over. The Hindu-Muslim strife in India continues to this day. There's no Hindu problem in Pakistan, of course.

Also in 1947, the 21% of Palestine that had been set aside for the Jews was further partitioned into seven cantons. Three of them were to be for the Arabs, three of them were to be for the Jews, and Jerusalem was to be under international control. In this case, the Arabs figured they'd cut to the chase and take it all over, but they failed. However, at the end of the 1948-49 war, all the Jews were kicked out of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, while all the Arabs in the Jewish part remained there. Which is where we are today.

And now the head of the PLO terrorist group (which is more widely known today by its Arabic name: Fatah) says that if they get Judea and Samaria, they'll kick all the Jews out. But the sad sack government of Israel has no intention of making the Arabs leave the 11% of the original Mandate for Palestine that would be left to Israel, and so the story will continue to repeat.

Arabs have been a majority in the Galilee for decades now. And yes, they are agitating for independence as well. There's a common dark humor joke that says we aren't talking about a peace process so much as we are a pieces process. The insanity lies in thinking that it'll be different this time.

No Do-Overs

I was living in Israel in the early days of the Oslo nightmare. I remember arguing with leftist friends when the started talking about creating a "Palestinian Authority" in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. My leftist friends, as well as countless leftists in the media, told us we were being paranoid about things, and that if the PA were to ever to be used as a base for attacks against Israel within the Green Line (which of course it won't), we would simply end the experiment and go back to the way things had been

Right. I told them it doesn't work that way, and that we wouldn't be able to do that, and they laughed at me. "Israel is so much stronger than a Palestinian Authority would be! We could just roll back in and they wouldn't be able to stop us." Hmm.

Next, the Israeli government decided to help arm the PA Police Force. It was actually the PA Army, but the leftists denied this. They also called us paranoid for thinking that these guns would be used against Jews. There was a big campaign with the slogan "Don't Give Them Rifles!" Some of my leftist friends, once again, called me paranoid. "If they were ever to use those rifles against us (which of course they won't), we would just go in and take them back. We're so much stronger than them."

And when PLO terrorists from the PA (remember, PLO is the English for Fatah) killed Jews with the very rifles we'd given them, nothing happened. How about that.

When Ariel Sharon decided to expel 9,000 innocent Jewish men, women and children from their homes in Gush Katif, we again screamed bloody murder. "The Arabs will just use the vacated land as a staging ground for attacks, which will be able to reach much further into Israel," we remonstrated with Sharon and his supporters. And once again, we were called paranoid, and enemies of peace. We were assured that this pessimistic forecast was nothing to worry about. "The Arabs -- and the whole world -- will see that we're willing to do anything for peace," they said. Even commit war crimes against our own people, they didn't say. "This will change things, you'll see. And if the Arabs of Gaza were ever to use it as a staging ground for attacks inside the Green Line (which of course they won't), how hard do you think it would be to take it back? The Gaza Strip is tiny, and Israel would simply roll back in."

How did that work out for us?

There are no "experiments" with the Arabs. Any "test situation" we create with them will be permanent. We gave them autonomy, and they used it to kill us. We gave them rifles, and they used them to kill us. We gave them the homes of 9,000 of our own people, and they used that opportunity to kill us as well. When is the insanity going to stop? An infant can learn that touching a hot oven hurts without needing to try it half a dozen times. Why can't we learn?

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Noble Vision

Ayn Rand died in 1982. She was probably better known for her novels than she was for her philosophy, Objectivism, but what she wrote, both fiction and non-fiction, has affected millions.

One of the more persistant criticisms I've heard of Rand as a writer is that her characters aren't like the people you'd meet in real life. There are people who have a problem with that. Or maybe more accurately, they tend to feel that if the characters don't seem like real life people, the ideas in the book can't reflect real life.

Superman, for example, isn't real, and he doesn't really act like anyone you know. But he's a comic book character, and no one expects reality from comic books. But a novel about ideas is supposed to (according to some) have realistic characters espousing or portraying those ideas.

Rand herself referred to the genre of her fiction as "Romantic Realism". To those who see the romantic and the realistic as diametrically opposed, Romantic Realism sounds like a contradiction in terms. But that view comes from a philosophical position which says that we can't reasonably aspire to something better. Rand defined Romantic Realism as "a portrayal of life as it could be and should be."

While The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged aren't the only novels Rand wrote (We, The Living is a magnificent, though depressing, story of the changes in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution), they are both her most well known work, and the two novels which really put her philosophy on display. No one is as absolute and pure as Howard Roark in real life. No one is as consciously evil as Elswood Toohey. No one is as brilliant and unconflicted as John Galt. These are archetypes. Distillations of elements which exist within many people to some or other degree. By portraying these archetypes as actual people and making us care about them, Rand was able to make philosophical points and tell a fascinating story without either compromising the other.

The Fountainhead dealt with the issues of truth and justice and honesty (as opposed to compromise and fairness and pragmatism) in the arena of architecture and journalism. Atlas Shrugged dealt with the same issues in the arena of industry and productivity and wealth. Had Rand lived long enough to tackle the subject of medicine and bureacracy in a novel, it would probably have looked a lot like Noble Vision, by Genevieve (Gen) La Greco.

Here is the synopsis of the book, taken from the dustjacket:

Ballerina Nicole Hudson has overcome a childhood of neglect and abandonment to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a famous dancer on the Broadway stage. For months she has been receiving flowers and love letters from a secret admirer who attends her performances. His writings hint at a great aspiration in his life and at his despair at obstacles that prevent him from attaining it. He tells her how she inspires him to continue his struggle. Nicole is stirred by the tender words of her anonymous suitor.

Her secret admirer is Manhattan neurosurgeon David Lang. He believes that he has discovered a way of regrowing injured nerve tissue to cure paralysis and other neurological disorders. His revolutionary treatment requires the consent of CareFree, New York State's new health care system. Because of budget overruns, regulatory red tape, and other priorities, CareFree does not approve the new procedure. David feels a growing frustration in his career and in his marriage to a model CareFree doctor who urges him to give up his research and play by the rules. His unsigned letters to the lovely Nicole become his way to escape his problems and express his deepest thoughts and cherished dreams.

In a terrible accident, Nicole suffers a nerve injury that will leave her permanently disabled. Her career is destroyed, and her life in shambles. She is a perfect candidate for David's treatment. Although his procedure uses drugs and surgeries that CareFree will not authorize, David believes it safe to test on a human. Gaining approval through the system will take years, but the ballerina's condition must be treated immediately. She does not know that the young neurosurgeon whose experiments offer her only chance of recovery is also her secret admirer.

CareFree's refusal to allow David's new procedure brings the surgeon into a heated conflict with the state's secretary of medicine. The politically ambitious secretary aspires to be the governor's running mate in an upcoming bid for reelection. With the governor determined to keep the financially troubled CareFree afloat and to demonstrate its benefits to the voters, decisions about the care that the system will provide seem contingent on what will garner the most votes--which excludes new, expensive procedures needed by only a few. David is faced with an imossible choice: to treat Nicole with the ineffective methods of the past, which will leave her permanently disabled, or to defy the law and try his new procedure, which will cause him to lose his license.

I don't know if there's any real way I can communicate to you how good this book is, both in the sense of an enjoyable read and in the sense of the goodness it expresses. This is a book that makes you look upwards, aspire, be free and true. And alive. Go and read it. You won't be sorry.

I lost a considerable amount of sleep over the weekend, because I could not put this book down until I finished it. And then I had to force myself to go on to another book rather than turn back to the beginning and read it again.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Who do I write like?

Okay, so there's a site called Who Do I Write Like that takes a sample of your writing and analyzes it to see who you write like. I decided to input a number of my blog posts and see what it said. The results were kind of interesting. Apparently, I write like an awful lot of different people. It makes me wonder, when believers in the Documentary Hypothesis use literary analysis to conclude that the Torah had multiple authors, whether they've ever tried analyzing their own writing.

(It also makes me wonder whether I should actually try reading something by James Joyce.)

The Sad Truth and Glee is really getting on my nerves

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Peace, as opposed to Peace, Appropriate pluralism, and The Morality of Flattery and Christian Zionists

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

The Tragedy of JOFA and Feiglin vs Bibi: Lessons to be Learned

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Health Care

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

The State of Judaea: A Retraction

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Israel and Amalek, Gratuitous fanaticism, Hammurabi and the Torah, Asei lecha rav (deleted), Modern vs. Ultra: A False Dichotomy, History Repeating Itself, Crackpottery: The Good and the Bad, Why cancelling your Likud membership is a Very Bad Idea

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Spelling Reform or Grammar Reform?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

One-Handed Receipt and Change -- The Anti-Customer Service

I write like
Charles Dickens

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Getting Solicited

I write like
Isaac Asimov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

The Real Tragedy

I write like
Margaret Mitchell

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Jumping on the FairTax bandwagon

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

The Deportation of Jews

I write like
Mario Puzo

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!