Gilad Atzmon

jazz artist-world music-live dates-author-thoughts-Jewish Identity-Politics-Athens & Jerusalem-The Wandering Who?

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The Banality of Good pt. 7: Global Tribes vs. National Pride

If global capitalism is a problem, we may have to consider the idea that equality within borders is a possible answer.

If global capitalism is a problem, we may have to consider the idea that equality within borders is a possible answer.

Global Tribes vs. National Pride

Clara:   I have just been reading a Canadian Jewish news bulletin and all the tribal features are there: the community life with kosher catering, the private Sunday schools with their curriculum of Jewish culture, Judaism and the Holocaust, the comment on why we shouldn’t sympathize with Palestinian children and the trip for adolescents to Israel where each of them is supposed to find out ‘what Israel means to me’.

In my opinion one of the flaws of biologically oriented identity politics is the belief that ‘the differences between the respective identity groups are bigger than the differences within the group’ as the ‘Saker’ defines ‘racism’. I am not sure that supporting Israel’s politics is really in the best interests of all the Canadian (US-American, British or German) Jews or even in the best interests of the Israelis themselves. But as members of the tribe they are all on board of the same ship.

Is that what you mean when you argue that identity politics are a tool of globalization and that  the ‘identitarian tribes’ are used to support Neocon / Zionist policies?

Gilad: It is actually simpler than that. The emergence of more and more ghetto walls between us the people dismantles our ability to fight for our universal needs, let alone see the universal for what it is. In the name of diversity, we create a fragmented human landscape that is blinded to its fragments.  This tribal construct is indeed ideal environment for Neocons, mammonites as well as our compromised politicians.

Clara:   In ‘The wandering who’ you write that compassion has evaporated in Jewish thinking. I often feel it is the same in Germany: we do not sympathise with the Greek people and their poverty in connection with the introduction of the Euro, we think they ought to be punished for ‘being lazy, living above their means and not doing their homework’. The same goes for the poor in our country. And we mourn the victims of terrorism in Germany and France but we are not really interested in the terror victims in St Petersburg, Beirut or the terrible suffering in Yemen. And the one time our politicians seemed to show compassion by opening the borders for refugees, the many Germans who, like myself, welcomed that chance had to realize the double standards which were behind it: supporting the wars and economic policies that caused people to leave their homes and not adequately addressing the social and security problems the influx of refugees caused at home.  

Does this lack of compassion have to do with the ‘incapability of mourning one’s own fate’ we mentioned in the beginning of our conversation and which seems to be a common feature in Jewish and German mainstream thinking?

Gilad: The lack of compassion is a symptom of chosenness and exceptionalism . Chosenness and exceptionalism are indeed attached to Jewishness but not only. It is hardly a secret that the selfish manner of thinking is embedded in capitalist thinking. The next question you may want to ask yourself is what is the connection between Jewish culture and capitalism. This is obviously a loaded question that has many answers. Marx believed that the two were intrinsically tied. Werner Sombart agreed with Marx. Max Weber didn’t.  My point, as always, is that we must be able to discuss these matters in the open. 

Clara:   I agree, and it is actually a kind of selective compassion with double standards. But there is also the aspect of collectively getting stuck in the victimized self-image connected with identitarian world views.
 

Anyway, let’s be a bit more specific here. In a talk you gave in Berlin you said that for example the international feminist movement was used to promote wars for the rights of Muslim women. And just recently Angela Jolie posed for NATO exactly for that reason. You also gave the example of gay rights. When it comes to attacking Russia, gay activists from many countries show their concern about gay rights there. So we are led from one fragmented campaign to the other and forget about more important issues.


But what is the alternative? In that talk you seemed to argue that we should return to think in terms of national interests instead. You seem to want to replace the concept of ‘identitarian tribes’ by returning to the idea of strong national states and fixed borders. Isn’t that a very dangerous right-wing concept? Doesn’t that lead to new chauvinism, the persecution of ethnic minorities and more?

Gilad:  This is a good question. To start with, I am not a political activist. I do not offer solutions or alternatives. As mentioned before, I am a philosopher, I am refining questions rather than repeating readymade answers.  I indeed often argue that if global capitalism is a problem (and it is a problem), we may have to consider the idea that equality within borders is a possible answer. Now, let’s talk about Nationalism and National States. I contend that Nationalism isn’t necessarily a problem unless celebrated on the expense of others. In the 1940’s people and nations were minced in the name of lebensraum, in the Neocon dominated global universe we do the same in the name of Coca-Cola, Gay-Rights and fake democracy. I argue, therefore that ethical thinking which is basically an Athenian aspired domain is the remedy.   

Clara:   If there is a definition of left wing, it is concern for social issues and anti-imperialism. Many people argue that politics addressing these issues need a strong national state, i.e. Bill Mitchell  (fiscal policies), Paul Steinhardt (social welfare policies - paywall) and Professor Michael Hartman (national elites are still strong). While others advocate ‘more EU’ to address social issues on an international level, these people claim that such a project is bound to fail, even if tried which currently is not really the case; the EU is not a social project. The right wing parties want ‘less EU’ as well, but tend to support neo-liberal policies.
But again – slippery grounds – people quickly ‘stone you’ when you start talking about the role of the national state. When Sarah Wagenknecht from the Left Party criticized Merkel’s open-border policy, she was accused of socializing with the right-wingers from AfD.

Often accusations of working together with right-wing people (Nazis!) replace an open exchange of argument. I think this is a dangerous development.

Gilad: Again, you are pointing at the Jerusalemite tendency, that tyranny of correctness that dictates a manner of speech, a pattern of ‘correct’ thinking, newspeak. Orwell recognized that that tendency is inherent to Left politics which is fascinating considering the Athenian dialectic nature of Marx thinking. We are living in an upside down world --The anti Fascist are often intrinsically fascists. The anti Zionists are mostly AZZ (Anti Zionist Zionists) and the Athenians who see it all are castigated subject to constant abuse. Yet, the people are not buying into that reality. Brexit proves that Brits want to see a change. Trump won because Americans are frustrated (surely, they are more frustrated now).  Far from being surprising the popularity of Corbyn in Britain and Sanders in the USA can be realised as a similar symptom of frustration with the current identitarian dystopia. Both leaders are nostalgic anti identiatrian characters.  The meaning of it is simple. We are moving into a realm that transcends beyond left/right banal binary. To be in time is to grasp the post political condition.

If they want to burn it, you want to read it ...

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