My writings seek to deconstruct the narration of current affairs as distributed to the public. By taking a linguistic hermeneutic path I attempt to reveal the rhetorical devices grounded within the techno-scientific calculative culture that is characteristic of liberal democracies. I relate particularly to the self-contradictions in the Zionist discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its mutual interaction with world politics.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

A Diary of a Bad Decade: Mosaic monotheism and ‘Political Correct’ censors.

Ariella Atzmon©

Inspired by J.M. Coetzee’s book ‘A Diary of a Bad Year’, I entitled my paper “A Diary of a Bad Decade. It is his skill of infusing a provocative meta-message into a flow of narrated messages that I seek to highlight in my presentation. This quasi-fiction that encounters a poetic insightful meditative writer with an insidious calculative rival refers to the two main roads of human thought. The plot shows how much can be achieved by coupling literature with philosophical self-interrogation. In a brilliant originality Coetzee presents us with a literary work that agitates politics from the outside. Under the title of a novel we are seduced into listening to the author’s ‘Strong Opinions’. By juxtaposing fiction with non-fiction the author reveals an ‘edition’ of his subjective reality, devised in three parallel tracks. Each section deals with a separate dimension of the author's life; - In the first section of each page, Coetzee the author portrays his ‘viewpoints’ regarding ‘world affairs’. Then, the two following more earthy sections proceed with interlinked plots that are evoked by the first section. Apparently Coetzee endorses the spiritually unbound mode of thought that dovetails with the Romanticist perception as threatened by technological intrusiveness. In a quasi-fictional fable concerning the author’s autobiography followed by a love story, Coetzee plots an allegory about ethics and morality as being beaten by hostile cynicism and materialistic greed. It reminds us of the Upstairs Downstairs TV series, where the upper level is packed with provocative themes regarding human conditions, and the Downstairs ‘fictional diary’ is inhabited by a practical intriguer who undermines the highbrow compartment. Right from the beginning the non-fiction ‘upstairs’, is tracked by the author’s relationships with Anya, a young woman, a neighbor to whom the author is attracted and whom he tries to hire to do his secretarial work. Anya who lives with Allan an investment contractor, and a skillful computer junkie, finds herself sucked into an ethical swirl. She is buffled between the author’s self absorbed morality, and her partner who installs a spyware in the author's computer in order to take over the author’s finances. Hence, Allan, greedy and cold-hearted, is provoked by Anya that is nominated by Coetzee to stagger through the convoluted dynamics plotted for the reader by the author. While Allan’s voice is not heard, Anya is supposed to annunciate her decision. Actually she represents US… she is the reader.
There is a temptation to undermine Coetzee’s coercing style, to flip ahead reading each dimension separately: but then the message/meta-message interplay might lapse. Coetzee guides the reader through a maze haunted by the spectres of sinuous cynicism, drawing attention to the ethical crash of western culture. The vicious plot against the protagonist (the author himself) is a witty metaphor reminiscent of liberal democracies which in the name of progress and economic growth rob Third world’s countries of their natural resources. Allan’s justification for his treacherous plan, recalls the Neo-cons’ ideology inspired by Bernard Lewis’s supremacist doctrine which plunged countless human beings into unending bloodshed and wars.
Coetzee points to a latent threat concealed in the core of liberalism;- while the liberal state (the commonwealth) represents reason, peace, security, civil society, science and good taste, outside this political entity are war, fear, poverty, barbarity, ignorance and savagery. It is reminiscent of the Israeli seperation wall that is aimed at defending Israelis from Palestinian terror but actually resurrected for the Jews the ghetto mentality. Neo-cons ideology that shifted after 9/11 from the threat of Communism to the threat of Islam, adopted Israel's strategies. But, no sooner had they started attacking Muslim countries then the west was forced to shield itself inside the walls of security barriers.
On this matter Coetzee asks: “why should our rulers react with sudden hysteria to the pin-pricks of terrorism when for decades they were able to go about their everyday business unruffled, in full awareness that in a deep bunker in the Urals an enemy watched and waited with a finger on a button, ready if provoked to wipe them and their cities from the face of earth.” so why are they panicked by a possible nuclear power in the hands of Iran? The past old Soviet foes might have been regarded astute but were considered rational. But while they kept playing the nuclear diplomatic negotiations game, such a global chess match does not work in the Islamic world; Islamic culture known for its scientific wisdom medicine, and astronomy never employed mathematics for applied needs. For Muslims the object of science is beauty rather than a means for accumulating wealth. Thus, they could not join the enlightenment scientific revolution!
One should remember that Judaism refers to beauty as sin, science and arts are forbidden, theater and epics are banned; so we should ask: how did Judaic antagonism against Islam turn out to be the torch of western thought? A possible answer is that the new irrational threat is inflicted by the selfsame irrational morbidity.
After discussing liberalism and its failures, Coetzee proceeds to question the truisms guaranteed by means of PC. The last decade provides us with fulsome examples of false truisms preserved by PC censors. Wherever the deity of liberal democracy is challenged it strikes back using the political correctness hammer. By means of PC Jewish fate generates Europeans’ bad conscience, even reshaping Europeans’ own past history. I contend that by interlinking Jewish traumatic past with the west’s threatened future, the support of Israel is guaranteed.
It is since WW2 that the fear of romanticism as inciting fascism is ingrained. Hence, all levels of educational systems are buffered against romanticist poisoning inducement. In the compulsion to confine reality within ‘rational’ models, spiritual elements of German Romanticism are shadowed, as if it might revive the spectre of a haunted past. What started as the threat of religious fundamentalism grew into hysteria. The westerners’ new foe is a sinister ‘Irrational’ enemy who terrorizes the rational order.
While science as relating to Being opens the sign to the sublime, technology confines the sign within binary terminology. The ecstatic playful game of hermeneutics grasped in science cannot be applied to either technology or to legalism due to their prescriptive nature. Scientific contra-factual concepts are ingenious poetic metaphors that resist signalization. The false conjunction between science and technology is misleading just as identifying legalism with morality and ethics. The allegorical clash between Allan the computer expert and the poetic writer, points to the uncompromising rivalry between computerization as a binary device and hermeneutics. Oddly enough, Judaic hermeneutics coincide with formal legalism, both threatened by subversive interpretations. In ascertaining the meaning as possessed by the last word, Judaism preserves the formal status of its Law. Justifiably Lyotard asks: if deconstruction is about something badly constructed, how can deconstruction deconstruct a text which cannot be amended? So, Judaic attraction to legal formalism, ends in the lack of ethics.
The triumph of legal formalism is enshrined in the Old Testament which legitimizes Judaic lack of ethics. ”Your God will bring you into the land which he swore to Abraham, , Isaac, and Jacob that he would give you a land of great and fine cities which you did not build, houses full of good things which you did not provide, cistern which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive-groves which you did not plant. When you eat your fill there, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. Jewish religion, when not inspired by ideas, is where ethics is conceived in legal terms. Any attempt to highlight the gulf between Judaism, Hellenism, and the other monotheist religions is immediately denounced as anti-Semitism. Since liberal democracy is safeguarded by legal formalism founded on evidential corroboration, recent laundering of governmental actions by legal maneuvers exposes the democratic free choice game as a deceit. The more we are trapped by legal formalism and its rhetorical devices the more we decline the realm of ethics. Inspired by Heidegger, Lyotard spots the problem with the Jews: “that instead of being the ‘Guardians of Being’, they turned into the guardians of ‘not-forgetting-the-forgotten’, distorting justice in the name of ‘The Law’. Only in grasping the future by anxiety and care can one grow to be a ‘Guardian of Beings.
In light of Coetzee’s observations as linked to Mosaic ethical impact on western thought, Heidegger’s notion of time as temporality is particularly insightful. Temporality invigorates the priority of the future in terms of care and responsibility. It refrains from approaching the present from a ‘distressed past’ perspective, leading to an incessant urge for retaliation, evoked by merciless overtones. “Remember what the Amalekites did to you on your way out of Egypt….. you shall not fail to blot out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven”. It is the Mosaic, jealously unforgiving God who refuses repentance and punishes children for the sins of their fathers to the third and forth generations. Thus with no repentance, no forgiveness, and no remorse, where vengeful drives take over, the care for Being will atrophy.
Time as continuity is artificially digitalized into decades, centuries and millennia. It is in the arbitrariness of time punctuation, that the analogue and the digital are cheating each other in a complementary way. Cultural hegemonies arrange chronologies around ‘sacred’ focal events. Lacking a sense of history, time in Judaism is a succession of sacred ‘Grand’ events which befall the ‘chosen people’. For instance, the holocaust is sanctified as an apocalyptic focal event. But while pinpointing the holocaust as a crucial event, the Holodomor genocide where millions Ukrainians were murdered by starvation is denied and suppressed. I would ask why when scrutinized ‘denials’ are encountered, ‘rightist’ historians are silenced while leftist are mostly left on the safe side?
Viewing time in terms of ‘temporality’ challenges the traditional conception of time as a container in which events are arranged in chronological linear order. Temporality is marked by its ecstatic character, where present moments that emerge from a projected future, immediately swirl back into our past. Hence, still being agonized by the 9/11 earthquake, present day vindictive brainwashed political attitudes prevail, while manifesting indifference towards the future. Kant reminds us that temporality is essential for the ‘universality’ of the moral law: “viewing time as ‘mere correspondence’ with ideological selection of events contaminates morality with interest”. The 'war against terror’, triggered by Neo-cons' murderous urge for retaliation, have lots in common with the Judaic credo.
Hegemonic ideological punctuation of time weaves imaginary beginnings, resulting in racial and cultural hierarchies, justifying imperialism and colonialism under the guise of legalism and rationality. Being cautious towards editorial censors of time punctuation, we should remember that ‘first was the Word’!; and facts are merely presented by meaning in use. But questioning the ‘truth value’ of facts undermines the superiority of scientific rationality over moral intuitions and ethical whirling. Actually, Positivism and Constructivism prevail thanks to PC censors that avert a serious engagement with pre-war anti-calculative philosophies; - such as Heidegger foreseeing western universities turning from being spiritual temples of wisdom into bureaucratic vortexes for professionalization.
Mark Juergensmeyer's book ‘Terror in the eye of God’ written in 2000, convincingly reveals how PC ideological censors elevate events in a mere manipulation. From Juergensmeyer’s portrayal of the succession of events from 1993-2000 we get the impression that the 9/11 was just one sequential event among others. Before 9/11 Israeli cities were already under assault by suicide bombers; in 1999 there were the ethnic shootings in California and Illinois, in 1998 the American embassy in Africa, on 1996 the destruction of a US military complex in Daharan, in 1995 the destruction of a federal building in Oklohoma city, and in 1994 the explosion at the world trade center in N.Y. The French dealt with Algerian Islamic activists, the British with exploding buses in Ireland, nerve gas struck the Tokyo subway. All attacks were committed by religious extremism. On the question: how to define those violent instances? Juergensmeyer answers: “The definition of the event is provided by those who are terrified….,and not by those who committed the act” It is defined by the media, rhetoricians, politicians, but those who committed the acts do not leave a note, they leave us with our own reality editions. By concentrating on the term ‘Terrorism’ we can tell that if the issue is the scale of killings, then the 9/11 is magnified in comparison with US atrocities in Hiroshima, Iraq or Afghanistan. Isn’t 9/11 one more example of a sacred focal point?
The Israeli Palestinian conflict provides us with another example of selecting explicit events for an ideological purpose. In the Israeli-Arab conflict, two different time axes are inlaid. For most Israeli Jews, the (1967) ‘six days war’ punctuates an Archimedean point. In order to legitimize the occupation, the holocaust secular religion is designed. The fact that both rightists and leftists share this view is a conceptual barrier militating against resolving the conflict. The naked truth that Jaffa, Acre, and many other towns and villages within the heart of Israel were indisputably Palestinian Arab’s habitats before 1948 is ignored. Referring to 1967 as the departure point for negotiating the states solution overlooks the refugees' right of return. For the Palestinians who in 1948 were brutally expelled from their homes, the ‘green line’ is not ‘sacrosanct’, and the ‘two states solution can’t be negotiated while ignoring the refugees ‘right of return’. Barak a former Prime minister and present minister of defense, complained in 2009: “ I went to Arafat to find out that he is not willing to solve the 1967 problem but rather wants to focus on1947…” [i]
In the spirit of temporality, stretching present events backward and forward, we must realize that the conflict did not start either in 1967 or in 1948 but originates in the Balfour declaration from 1917. Re-visiting the debate in the British Parliament regarding the Balfour declaration proves that the Palestinian ethnic cleansing was clearly foreseen: On 16.8.1917, Edwin Montague warned that “you’ll find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants, taking all the best in the country”; and Lord Islington: “ …the Jews will not be satisfied with a national home under a British mandate, they will strive for an independent state, self governing, a strong army, that will cause an ethnic cleansing of the Arab population.” Balfour’s cynical response was: Zionism may fail, this is an adventure, are we never to have adventures? It was possible for this debate to take place before WW2, before PC censorship had acquired its inexorable power. Nowadays, despite Israeli society manifesting deep rooted irrational inclinations which overshadow any ethical concerns, due to PC censors Israel is treated with excessive cautiousness, reflecting European irrational twinges of bad conscience. Only an awareness of the PC factor can rescue the west from its neurosis.
During this decade two nightmares have confronted us: religious fundamentalism and apocalyptic forecasts involving a collapse of global economy. Both point to the same fallacy in liberal democracy: its blind trust in the predictive power of calculative culture. Since the legal and financial systems subsist due to evidential proofs supported by factual data, politics of fear locks the human subject between WMD forensic lucidity and an inexpressible fright of ‘terror to come’. People are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, westerners are losing their jobs, homes and faith in their rational decision making. In this fear of irrational disasters, where Mosaic footprints can be easily traced, what an irony that Judaism where science and art are forbidden disguise itself as a defender of rationality. Israeli democracy supported by the most fundamentalist ultra orthodox parties, should be the last to frighten us with Islamist regimes. We should bear in mind that under the guise of supporting German philosophy Jewish thinkers subverted Heidegger’s ‘dwelling’ philosophy into globalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism controlling the world by proxy.
In confronting the spiritual with the cynical calculative materialism, Coetzee draws our attention to the Clash between the forensic rhetorics and approaching the unapproachable essence of Being. It is the fear of the latter that turned the west into a hostage of Judaic Political Correctness.

[i] Y. Shenhav (2010), The time of the green Line.

This paper was presented at the “new Europe at the Cross Roads” conference (sponsored by Loyola College in Baltimore). Vienna summer 2010.