Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

On the night of November 9th/10th, the Nazi Sturmtruppen, acting on Herr Gobbels mandate that every Synagogue in Germany and Austria be burned, destroyed Jewish homes and businesses, as well as almost every synagogue in those countries. Often these“Stormtroopers” wore civilian clothes to make it look like this was just a spontaneous anti-Jewish uprising. It was really the first of many well planned and well executed acts of horror perpetuated by the National Socialist regime.

On than night, nearly 400 Jews were murdered and about 30,000 were imprisoned. By Christmas of 1938 over 2000 of  those imprisoned were dead. In an equally vicious showing of bullshit, the Nazi bastards ordered the Jews themselves to pay for the destroyed property and imposed fines on those who had been attacked.

This, my friends, was Kristallnacht. It was a sign of things to come on a scale so massive that European Judaism virtually disappeared in the ashes of six million corpses. By the end of the war in 1945, tens of thousands of human beings were being incinerated DAILY in an intricate network of murder factories. Every one of those murdered humans was an individual soul who felt individual fear, individual pain, and individual emotional anguish. Every one of those murdered humans had individual loves, individual hopes, individual dreams, and individual relationships. Everyone of those individual murders (by individual murderers) affected the families and future families of the individual victims; reaching down through the generations such that we, today, still bear the scars.

This night is “the night of broken glass”. As always, this night I write in memory of six million of my people. As always, I want to share some thoughts.

For a long time my “holocaust belief system” was based on Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem“. I used to believe in the concept of “the banality of evil”; that evil can be an artifact of a bureaucracy so massive that individuals were not necessarily accountable for their actions. I no longer believe this and I think Arendt’s premise is nonsense. In my opinion it does not matter how big a bureaucracy is; it does not matter if all one is doing is to “make the trains run on schedule”; no mater the political or environmental factors, every human being is a living, breathing, THINKING, SELF-AWARE, INDEPENDENT actor. We CHOOSE and, even when forced to choose evil over death, we must be accountable. We often have little or no influence on the systems that govern us. Still, once we have made our choice to comply with evil, we must be held to account: COMPLIANCE IS COMPLICITY. My belief in the ultimate supremacy of individual human action leaves me no choice but to place blame on every single person who “just did what they were told”, who “just followed orders”, who COMPLIED. Arendt was wrong.

While I’m pondering Arendt, I must say that I always contextualize her with Heidegger. Heidegger saddens me more deeply than almost any of the Nazis. There were lots of evil people in Germany during the Shoah. There were lots of people who did what they were told. But Heidegger! Heidegger, the genius who wrote “Being and Time” was so far the intellectual superior of almost everyone else, that he had no business utterly forsaking his intellect and his profoundly rational gift of reason to even join the Nazi party, let alone to be among its public spokesmen. As long as the National Socialist party existed, Heidegger paid his annual membership dues. Never, even after the war, did he forsake the party. He complied with the political norms and, in doing so, forsook his human reason. As far as we know, only humans are self-aware, rational animals. To be a genius and to forsake reason entirely is to be inhuman. I must set aside everything I learned from “Being and Time” because I must set aside Heidegger’s humanity. As for Hannah Arendt, I suppose having sexual relations with Heidegger is its own sort of bestiality. That said, she and I do have one thing in common: I too enjoy thinking “screw Heidegger”.

And speaking of German Intellectuals, who can forget the theologians. I did not know this until I recently read Suzannah Heschel’s latest book, “The Aryan Jesus“, but Germany actually had an institute for the eradication of Judaism from the New Testament. There were “intellectual” papers written to deny the Jewish Heritage of Jesus. There were more than one edition of the New Testament that actually removed any positive references to Judaism and the lineage of Jesus but left in all the negative references . I’d find it funny that one could edit the New Testament to remove the entire premise for Jesus being the Messiah from the book about Jesus being the Messiah, if it weren’t that the purpose of doing so was to make a religion of “love” into a justification for mass murder. It seems that even the highest of academic traditions can be bastardized by politics and transformed into a tool of terror.

So, on this night of broken glass I want you to consider a couple things.

First, always stand against hatred, inequality, sexism, racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. Those thoughts and actions ARE evil. Doing nothing is complicity and as an individual, rational actor in the world, YOU ARE accountable.

Second, always question. Genius can be as evil – or more so – than stupidity.

Third, judge for yourself. The high priests of academia have as many ulterior motives as anyone else. “Rational” argumentation can be used for good or evil. You have individual reason and the ability to make your own decisions.

So, tonight, in memory of Kristallnacht, I pray for a world of tolerance, accountability, individual decision-making, and free rational thought. Baruch Hashem.

This post is based on my opinions about a CNN AC360 program discussing a fundamentalist Christian view on discipline. I use the word “a” not “the” because I well know that this is not the normal view of decent people. The following 2 paragraphs are based on the CNN story. Everything after that is my personal commentary and should not be attributed to CNN.

Michael and Debbie Pearl have written a popular book called “To Train Up a Child”. It advocates what they call “biblical discipline” for children. The Pearl’s run an organization called “No Greater Joy” ministries and they get their biblical foundation from a number of sources. Specifically, in the King James Version of the bible, Proverbs 13:24 says: “He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him” and Proverbs 23:13 – 14 says: “Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” Mr. Pearl interprets that to mean: “If you spare the rod, you hate your child… Spanking must cause pain”. Among their approved tools of discipline are Belts, switches, plumbing supply lines and spatulas. Since we have a “free exercise clause” in the constitution, the Pearls are free to preach whatever they want, irrespective of whether or not I find it appalling. But, there needs to be somewhere that a line is drawn and I propose that it has been found in the loving Christian fundamentalist couple Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz.

Start from the publication of the Pearl’s book and leap forward to Paradise, California in 2010. Our new protagonists are Mr. and Mrs. Schatz. Both are now in prison for beating 2 adopted daughters. Their “discipline” was so severe, causing injuries of such magnitude, that one of the two little girls died.  The now deceased 7-year-old is named Lydia and she reportedly died of injuries so severe that Gary Tuchman of CNN said that they are “usually associated with earthquakes and bombings”.  This poor little, beautiful, child was “disciplined” for “seven consecutive hours, interrupted by short prayer breaks”, on the day that she died.  The DA in Paradise stated, on the CNN segment, that he believes Mr. and Mrs. Schatz had been strongly influenced by the Pearls’ book.

It will be interesting to see if the Pearl’s are blamed for this tragedy. In some way’s they should be. But, like I said, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise clause in the US constitution permit them to hold whatever religious views they wish. To me, the more important questions are ones of personal responsibility and rational child rearing.

With regard to the first, I will give some credit to the Schatzes. After all, at least they plead guilty. But that is only a tiny part of the personal responsibility one must take as a parent. The greater responsibility comes, not in admitting guilt for doing something irrational, violent, and unequivocally stupid; but in taking the responsibility to consider your actions from a rational, intelligent, non-dogmatic perspective BEFORE doing harm to another human life. From THAT perspective, I cut the Schatzes no slack whatsoever. These people take, as their sole guidebook, an arcane English translation of an inaccurate Greek translation, of something that was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic using proto-Hebrew source material. Then they make a CONSCIOUS CHOICE to apply that reading verbatim to the rearing of a child in a 21st century society where educational strategy is grounded in Piaget and decades of subsequent neuroscience. In making that CHOICE, the responsibility they must take is not just for criminal guilt but, instead, for murder by irrational dogmatic idiocy.

With respect to my second point – the one about rational child rearing, I will say this:  They could have chosen the love, benevolence, and compassion which most. modern psychologists and neuroscientists would advocate. Their child would be alive today. They did not. They chose, instead, to follow a dogmatic misreading of scripture and, in doing so, they murdered their own child. Rationality did not happen. What happened is that they allowed biblical interpretation to trump rationality and dogma to trump science. In my humble opinion, whenever you do that, you are forsaking the one thing that most distinguishes you from other animals – your capacity to reason. When you do that, you are no better that any other beast of the wild. Some people call that “faith”. But how you express your faith is a CHOICE. In CHOOSING to ignore all rational discourse on child development and to instead defer to their biblical interpretation, the responsibility they must take is, once again, not just admission of guilt but admission that dogmatic CHOICES have cause immoral behavior.

So, who knows what the future holds for the Pearls. But, as for the Schatzes, the future holds a long period of time to consider what it means to take responsibility for helping a life to flourish. I only hope that some day they understand that using their human trait of reason could have saved the most precious thing on Earth – the life of a child.