The Debate that is Pointless

It’s quite fascinating to see the hilarious debate that the west has with Palestinians and their Arab representatives in media. Everything from Diana Buttu utter denial of Jake Tapper’s obvious observations about Islamic martyrdom culture…

…to Munayyer’s refusal to have a real discussion with Sean Hannity

… to Ed Husain’s refusal to even talk about the rocket attacks with Bennett:

In each situation there’s a level of stonewalling and utter refusal to admit the facts which leaves most western pundits utterly frustrated and at a loss of understanding. To a post-enlightenment rational mind , it’s as if the skulls of arabs and Palestianians are so thick that no amount of facts demonstrating their wrongness can enter their minds at all. The reality however is quite a ways from this.

In light of Richard Landes’ theories (see here, and here) all of this behavior is easily explained. Based upon the zero-sum pride/shame games, it follows that a player by definition cannot admit their own wrongness because such a action means conceding mental and emotional territory to an enemy, this clearly violates the rules of the zero-sum game. The question then follows, if arabs and Palestinians are not willing to sit down and have a rational discussion, they do they bother engaging with dialoge with any media personas who contradict their agendas at all?

The answer to this lies at the core of the arab interaction-modality with the west in a general sense. Arabs do not engage in discussions for the sake of getting to some kind of ‘underlying truth’ in the traditional Socratic or Talmudic senses. Rather, they engage in discussion solely in an attempt to legitimize and prove their a-priori agenda in some fasion. Every dialoge and discussion is a battle in which their point *must* emerge victorious and any concessions they make to another’s logic is only taken as a strategic loss in order so that their point can be victorious. Whenever they are backed into a corner they will resort to refusing to talk about facts (as Ed Husain did), calling their counterparts racists (as Diana did) or some other action of last resort. Whatever the final outcome or attempt exit strategy, rational debate with most Arabs, (especially on high-visibility forums) will be an utterly fruitless affair, because for the sake of their own advancing their agenda -which the only reason they are involved in the dialogue in the first place- as well as personal pride, they are not permitted to loose the debate or admit to any significant wrongness.

The question then is how can such a debate be held and how can these ‘spokesmen’ be interacted with at all? I’ll try to answer that in a upcoming post.

The Games of Pride and Shame

Lets take a look at how Palestinians think in some Normal Form grids based on the ideas of Richard Landes (see my previous post). Very briefly, the following summary can be made:

  • Muslims generally think in a sort of ‘Warriors Code’ where Pride and Shame define one’s baseline ‘strength’ and therefore right to exist (this is an evolutionary ‘signal’ in it’s purest form).
  • The mentality of Pride and Shame is a zero-sum game because conflicts are delineated by the victors and the defeated.
  • If a Warrior’s Shame Level is high enough, he will sacrifice much or nearly all of his existing resources in order to be able to regain his ‘lost face’.
  • The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a pathological case of this.

Firstly I believe that Pride itself can be defined as a sort of ‘resource’ in the typical microeconomic sense. It’s utility function is highly curved because all the notions absorbed by humanity for all of history define ascendancy and dominion on it’s one end… and slavery and utter dejection on it’s other.

curve

At some point on this curve, is some form on inflection point that defines the meeting of pride and shame below which one has been considered to have ‘lost face’. As the quantity of one’s ‘pride units’ continues to decrease, these pride units become geometrically more valuable. At the state of ‘loss of face’ every single moment experienced by it’s host bring continuous pain and they will seek to relieve this pain at a fairly high risk level, usually as quickly as possible.

Thus begins our analysis of why the Palestinians as well as the greater Arab world and Israel are continuously at war.

Baseline Game – Actors are purely concerned about resources

As the baseline, let us assume that two countries are a variant of the Homo-economicus mindset and go to war for the sake of resources. Each has a individual Probability of Victory Pv (I did not distinguish them separately for each warrior for the sake of brevity but they are obviously not the same for both) and gains resources R from the other if he wins, hence utility from the war can be formulated as a gain R(Pv) minus a loss R(1-Pv) for each side individually. Some transitional resources Rt are consumed by engaging in the warfare, I have also left these out for the sake of brevity and for now we will assume they are largely subsumed by the gain/loss of resources R from the warfare. Here is diagram of how this scenario will look, it is zero-sum:

actors

As you can see, our baseline actors will go to war for the sake of resources when they believe that they can win (each individually that is, we are not necessarily assuming Perfect-Information).

Now let’s take a look at how two warriors that are concerned with personal pride in addition to resources will conduct themselves.

Zero Sum Game – Two warriors go to war when they think they will gain resources or pride

When two warriors (with healthy pride-levels) decide whether or not to go to battle, they will make a calculation not only based on resources gained/lost but also how the result of the battle will reflect on their egos. When a significant amount of resources will be lost at a high likelihood (i.e. probability of victory Pv is low) they may choose to engage in warfare in order so that there is a chance that pride will be gained.

zero_sum

As you can see, resources R are still factored in (they are in grey) but there is additionally the element of pride V gained or lost at the probability of victory Pv. Warriors will go to war to either gain resources or increase their egos in general.

In this scenario, we are assuming however that both warriors are above the critical threshold of the pride/shame curve. Let’s take a look at what happens if one is below it.

Negative Sum Game – The warrior that has low pride will go to war whenever possible attempting to regain face

When two warriors engage in battle and one has significantly lost face beforehand, the value that he gets from the potentially increase pride is geometrically increased. Here is where they are on the pride curve:

As you can see, whereas for a normal warrior any additional pride could be valued at V, for the warrior that has lost face, it could be valued at V squared, V cubed or even some higher power. This is in addition to the fact that because he is below the critical threshold, he experiences the pain of having ‘lost-face’ continuously at every moment of his existence.

In such a scenario, the potential gains in pride that a warrior ‘might get’, could outweigh his actual probability of victory (even if it is minuscule) as well as any other resources that would be lost.

neg_sum

As you can see, everything is based upon the warrior’s positions in the pride curve. The lower he is, the more he will be willing to bear any cost for the sake of achieving victory. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a variant of this.

Middle East Game – Pathological case of Low Pride Game where nearly all resources could be exhausted to regain pride.

This is an extreme instance of the low-pride game where where nearly all resources will be exhausted to achieve victory. Resources will potentially even be borrowed or taken from any possible source. All in an effort to restore pride which is valued at some exponential value V to the Nth power.

isp

This is not only the game that is played between the Palestinians and Israel but it is the game being played by the Middle East overall. Countries like Iran are indeed willing to suffer highly significantly losses in order to eliminate the Nakba and restore Arab pride. The Palestinians are largely considered the most inferior peoples in the Muslim food chain, they can be murdered in Syria, suffer terrible conditions in Jordan, etc… but such things are of no concern to Muslim pride overall. It is only the Palestinians that are in Gaza and the West Bank that are trying to prove to Muslim world that the Nakba can be opposed are important. Such as scenario is largely incomprehensible to a Western mindset that reasons based upon modern moral modalities yet it can be easily understood with model presented hereto.

In summary, I believe it is worth mentioning that by definition, there must exist a level on the pride/shame curve that defines a complete Surrender. Such an instance occurred when the Japanese were defeated at the end of the World War Two. At such a point, a warrior that has been defeated lays down his sword and places all of his remaining energies, his reasoning modalities, and his entire future into the hands of his conqueror. This is the only scenario in which he can be beaten, this is the only way to seize his heart and mind.

 

 

Free, Free, the Arab Ego!

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, mostly because important personal reasons (i.e. marriage!) and the work I’ve been putting into the upcoming version of Gemdraw. Hopefully some posts will finally go up on thepredicate.net within the next couple of months demonstrating a completely revamped system.

There’s an article on WSJ pointing out the utter incompetence (thank G-d!) of Israel’s enemies and opposers. In a sort of burst of reflective exasperation, it goes:

“It may someday be that Palestinians will wise up; that the next intifada, should it come, will be Gandhian in its methods and philosophy; that the next Palestinian leader will be in the mold of Vaclav Havel, not Fidel Castro. In the face of that kind of movement, Israeli resistance to a Palestinian state would crumble.”

Firstly, it should be noted that most Israelis would be utterly thrilled if the Palestinians went into a Gandhian modus operandi. In such a circumstance, they would grant them full autonomy and even throw in financial aid and free utilities (which they are already doing to much of Gaza btw). The truth however is that the Palestinians and much of the Arab world is utterly incapable of going into a Gandhian mode, they are incapable of peaceful protest and non-aggressive emotional response because of their inherent reasoning modality which I’ll explain in a minute.

s1

 

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egypt-palestine

So why is it that Arabs worldwide are utterly incapable of peaceful protest? Why do so many Arab protests involve rock throwing and flag burning? Typical antisemitism is at play but antisemitism is rarely a first-mover, recall for instance that even in the Weimar Republic it was depression, inflation, and unemployment which made the land ripe for Nazi propaganda. The answer I believe is that Arabs have an intrinsic honor/shame complex that demands victory through force as a zero sum game. In every conflict their honor is at stake and where their honor is lacking, they develop pathologies.

In a brilliantly insightful tabletmag article, Richard Landes quite aptly summarizes:

“But the problem goes far beyond Israel and her neighbors. As anyone paying attention knows, the Salafi-Jihadis, who have “hijacked” Islam the world over, embody this self-same honor-shame mentality in its harshest form: the existential drama of humiliate or be humiliated, rule or be ruled, exterminate or be exterminated. Dar al Islam must conquer dar al Harb; independent infidels (harbis) must be spectacularly brought low, their women raped; Islam must dominate the world … or vanish. The language of Shia and Sunni Jihadis alike reverberates with the sounds of honor, plunder, dominion, shame, humiliation, misogyny, rage, vengeance, conspiracy, and paranoid fear of implosion.”

In summary, Islam (as is interpreted many vast swaths of it’s denizens) demands to conquer and subjugate via the use of force, any other modus operandi is utterly unacceptable.

This flies in the face of the core of the Gandhian ideal which generally espouses the proverbial ‘turning the cheek to the smiter’ until political ends are achieved (a.k.a. the smiter is overcome by external forces). This can be summarized by his own quote:

“There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

Namely, that in order to achieve peace one must first disarm oneself and pursue democracy non-violently. Only then can desired political ends actually be reached. This mode of thinking is utterly incompatible with the Arab mindset which requires ego and dominance as a sine-qua-non for any sort of progress. This is why for instance Ahmed Sheikh of Al-Jezera indicates that until Israel ceases to exist, democracy cannot in the middle east because of the paralyzing damage that it does to the Arab ego (take a look at the interview here if you don’t believe it…). Quite aptly, Ghandi also said:

“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.”

The Arab world is however utterly obsessed with honor/pride. The ‘honor-killings’ of a daughter that is raped are the first instinct of many Muslims. The rhetoric of Hamas’s violence escalations frequently speaks of ‘restoring pride to the Palestinian people’ and Arabs in general. Upon the height of the intifada Khaled Mash claimed: “Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. Allah willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day.”

As Landes summarizes, the honor/shame complex is a zero-sum game. One side needs to be shamed and dominated so that the other side has pride. The Arab mind cannot practice non-violence so long as his pride is wounded, which leaves him at an impasse because as the situation stands today non-violence is the only method with which he could ever achieve the sovereignty in the first place.

On a more esoteric level, I would characterized the Arab pathology as a obsessive fixation on the kabbalistic sefirah of Netzach (i.e. Victory/Dominion). Landes quotes E.R. Dodds ‘Greeks and the Irrational’ where he talks about transition of the Greek world from “a world in which fame and reputation, rather than conscience and fear of divine retribution, drive men to act”. I would argue that this characterizes a sort of societal ‘advance’ from Netzach (* Netzch/Yesod (divinity/purity) actually) to Hod representing the ideas of glorification and status. The Arab world en-mass has yet to make this movement.

As the IDF marches into Gaza yet again in attempt to relinquish Hamas of it’s vast rocket arsenals, and ceasefire treaties are once again raised in order to attempt to deter them, I am reminded of the long history of these events, of the last time this happened, and the time before that. The rhyme of history paints a consistent pattern where the same groups of people who celebrate Jewish blood in the streets just months before (I call it the ‘Terrorism Emboldenment Cycle’), begin to appeal to human rights organizations with ridiculous claims of ‘asymmetric loss of life’ which has likely resulted from their attempts at hiding weapons in civilian areas in the first place. To put it more concretely, they stick their children, to their best efforts, in the trajectory of Israeli missiles, put these children’s corpses in front of BBC cameras, and then use the press materials to make human rights violations claims. These pamphlets and conferences result and pressure placed on Israel’s leaders to deescalate and leave Hamas’s agents an arsenals alone (I call it the ‘Terrorism Failure/Deescalation Cycle) at which point they claim victory and begin rebuilding their stockpiles. I would summarize with a sad diagram.

pc-cycle

 

Overall, the picture is as salient as Seikh painted; Palestinian issues do lie at the core of the Arab world. Not because the Arab world cares about their lives or livelihoods but because of pride. The ‘Nakba’ wounded the Arab world’s ego to a immense degree yet the Palestinians, peoples who were considered the lowliest of the low in the Arab social hierarchy attempt to restore this ego by showing the rest of their kind that they can stand up to the ‘zionist behemoth’.

It is indeed as the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson said, in order to have peace, Israel must first and foremost display it’s strength. It must pound Hamas and the Intifada down into the dust and bring it’s perpetrators to their knees. It must prove to the Arab world that the Jewish nation can exercise power for as long as is necessary. Only fear can win respect in the Arab world, only with might and zealousy can it prove itself to be a worthy foe; and upon the delivery of this proof, the Arab ego will ironically but axiomatically be restored. When the image of the ‘the jew’ shifts in their mind from a trampled dhimmi to a fierce brute, their shame in ‘loosing to that jew’ will be removed. The fear of his sword will wash it away into respect.

 

 

Heart versus Mind, which are we?

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, mostly because I’m working on the next generation of the Gemdraw system for thepredicate.net. Moving that whole system to Javascript has been a long arduous process but it’s slowly starting to bear fruit. I’ll talk about it more in the coming days and months.

One of the reasons I like David Goldman so much (author of It’s not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You, How Civilizations Die) is because of his erudite utter-irreverence of academically canonized philosophers, thinkers, artists, and other secular ‘Gedolim’. At the 80th anniversary of Sigmund Freud, he suggested that the best thing that we can do to ensure the progress of society is to exhume Freud’s body and roast it in an effigy. I don’t know that I’d go quite that far to begin with, but if we’re already at it, I’d have that effigy paraded down a street with the slogan “Kacha ya’seh l’ish asher ha-kof chafetz bikaro!” and this is for good reason, he raised the erogenous, Id-driven man above all alternatives (including the platonic one) into a gestalt that endears a return to the bestial*.

* It’s interesting to note that his critical error was the boundless generalization of case-study knowledge, the exact same type of error that was made by Darwin on the Galapagos but more on that later.

The following is perhaps the most fundamental conflict that has existed between psychologists and theologians for a century. What is the natural state, is man fundamentally a slave to reactive passion and emotion, or does he control these things with his conscious mind? What models can best explain the mediations of these elements, and how do they truly interact?

In our day an age, we are long past the models of Pavolov and Skinner that saw mankind as little more then sensation driven machines. Chomsky used linguistics to show that man has a system of reasoning that can formulate novel structures which are irreducible to mechanistic notions. Ekman gave us FACS, and the idea that emotions are much more then valence (i.e. arousal-level) driven things and can be measured as discrete units. The CAD Triad experiment showed us that emotions are tied to moral values. More recently, Johnathan Haidt argued that we are largely driven by “quick gut feelings, or affectively laden intuitions, which then trigger moral reasoning as an ex-post facto social product.”

So do these instinctual emotional reactions truly rule over us? Are these gut-reactive things the drivers of our lives? I think that this idea is folly.

First of all, there’s a simple sanity check perspective to be had. When most human beings get angry, they don’t go on murderous rampages not largely because of the fear of incarceration and death penalties. When most human beings desire the possession of another, they usually don’t resort to larceny and theft. Kant’s and Hobbes’ models of treating mankind as a ‘race of devils’ are simply not empirically true, because evolutionary psychology trumps Homo Economicus most days of the week. As the Tanya puts it, “Within man, the mind largely does rule the heart.” The fact that people generally can postpone gratification (if even for a short period of time) demonstrates this.

There is a trump card in all of this however, and this trump card is called Memory Reconsolidation. Where Psychologists in previous generations believed that episodic memories are encoded -or ‘Consolidated’- with all of their emotionally distorted details and emotionally activateable triggers only once (thus remaining forever unalterable), modern research largely shows that this process happens many, many times, and during this process they can be altered. Although I generally don’t like to make comparisons with computers (being the Penrosian that I am😉, a simple way to look at it is that when a memory is recalled it is ‘read and removed’ from the hard drive of the subconscious into the RAM of the hippocampus. As part of this pipeline, the memory is processed by the CPU of the neo-cortex and while it’s there, the conscious mind can alter the contents of the registers before it’s written back to disk. The process usually takes several hours to several days but once it is complete, what sits there on the hard drive of the subconscious is not what was there before, but a consciously altered version.

Here’s where this computer-oriented model becomes even more lucid. Imagine that while the memory is being loaded from storage (i.e. disk) into more transient locations (i.e. hippocampus and neo-cortex), the entire computer is turned off or the transistors are somehow ‘flashed’. That would entail that there remains little or nothing to write back to permanent storage, effectively causing the memory to be deleted. Electroconvulsive therapy is somewhat a equivalent to ‘flashing’ the transient storage of the human mind and thus should thus be able to clear a traumatic memory that is being actively thought about. As it turns out this is exactly what happens:
http://www.nature.com/news/zapping-the-brain-can-help-to-spot-clean-nasty-memories-1.14431

While electroconvulsive ‘deletion’ of a memory through Reconsolidation-flashing is a bit extreme, this kind of experimental result gives reason to believe that by taking advantage of such mechanisms, man can personally control his own deep memory of events. Therapies that involve re-framing of events are not just touchy-feely nonsense or ways to temporarily alleviate pathological symptoms, they are long-term-affective ways at reshaping one’s life experience.

Is this all though? Is the dividing line between what we can control and want we can’t simply a function of the temporal? I don’t think so. This is where emotional awareness and awareness-meditation (a.k.a. Samadhi) come into play as factors that can play a vital role in our emotional experience. Ekman’s Emotional Awareness which is based on some great conversations with the Dalai Lama, has a lot to say about this. It’s definitely worth it’s own blog post.

A Tale of Two Gods

Of all the dialogues going back and fourth within Orthodoxy, nothing is quite as interesting as the dialogue that goes back and fourth between the BT and FFB circles. To begin the conversation, some, aggravated issue of personal, familial, sexual, or communal disfunction comes out, and the FFBs begin to yell about how Orthodoxy is so repressive and backward, and immanently needs to change. The BT circles (Chabad and Aish most notably but there are others…) will the respond, preaching to the unwashed masses about how those affected are a small minority and do not represent Judaism as whole which is rather the wonderful, beautiful, and holy thing that they perceive it to be. The FFB circles react once more claiming that the BTs do not know the actual travails that go in in the religious community are largely immune to them due to their education, self-sufficiency, etc… and therefore have no right to preach ‘the party line’ to the rest. The BTs then respond once more, citing the difficulties that they went through in the process of becoming Orthodox, loosing all their friends, and redefining themselves from the ‘broken, sharded personalities’ that they left behind; therefore they DO in fact have the right to preach to the orthodox community about the likes of ‘how things should be‘. The FFBs then respond to the BTs once again, that their picture of reality is far to ‘dreamy’ to be correct. The BTs react in kind, and the cycle goes on; here’s a rough diagram of it:

FFB/BT Debate Cycle

FFB/BT Debate Cycle

This kind of debate-cycle arises in any major controversial issue, whether it be xo-jane’s article, YU’s pregnancy article, or any of the aggunah crises that are in the public eye. Very similar arguments, and counter arguments occur over and over again, cast in the light of the experiences and reference-frames of different individuals. I find this a most fascinating phenomenon but I would like to go one step deeper and propose that these argument-cycles occur because deep within the minds of FFBs and BTs lives a very differing kind of G-d.

I believe it was Manis Friedman who once said that as human beings, we tend to anthropomorphize G-d into the persona of ourselves. Tho this end, many of those in the Orthodox community who have an obsession with preaching of brimstone and hellfires, see the Almighty as nothing more then a projected form of the judgmental, unforgiving, and power-obsessed, individual that is themselves; and very sadly, this kind of projection has deeply poisoned the minds of many FFBs. Every single FFB kid that has gone through typical cheders (not only Litvish ones btw) has been preached this kind of philosophy in one form or another, and because of it, some part of them sees the almighty as an oppressive being who has no tolerance for their flaws and cares nothing for their difficulties.

Dysfunctional Orthodox families take this perspective and twist it one step further. Now, the familial, and personal disfunctions that the protagonist experiences become a anthropomorphism for the almighty and judaism in general. Judaism becomes the embodyment of an agent of oppression and an invalidation of their individuality, hopes, and dreams. Aggravated forms of this phenomenon bring to light such individuals as Feldman and Reich.

The BT groups usually see the almighty in a very different light, probably due to the fact that they had very different core-influences. Chabad, Aish, and other kiruv organizations generally present G-d as a loving, caring, and benevolent being, that forgives misgivings, understands people’s flaws, and has endless tolerance for their failings. Indeed the agenda of this kind of deity, wants nothing less then the well being, and enlightenment of all of mankind. This latter philosophy leaves a great deal of philosophical questions as to the reason for hurricanes and earthquakes (questions that many BTs frequently struggle with) but most of them are generally answered with some notion of a karmic-cycle. The difficulty of a BT then becomes how to rebuild their persona in light of this new Ultimate Truth.

It stands to note that BTs especially, often have a difficulty distinguishing between that which should be and that which is; the reason for this kind of systemic phenomena is mind-boggling to many FFBs but the reason behind it is fairly simple. In the film Copying Beethoven, in a fit of rage, the composer screams to an architect, “The reason that I’m deaf is because God screams into my ears! When you become blind is when you will be able to stand to the likes of me!” The drive of a BT to overcome their baseline reality and re-integrate themselves into the model of their newfound Ultimate Truth, often times, will forcibly introduce a form of selective-blindness to some of the less savory parts of the Orthodox reality.

This, I think, is the backdrop of the BT/FFB debate at the core. It is more then just external notions of philosophical inclination, but goes to the core of what kind of being we perceive the almighty to be. That a very different G-d lives in the minds of those who went through the orthodox dayschool system, and those who were introduced to him by kiruv organizations. Only once the Orthodox world comes to terms with this fact, will it be able to set it’s sights straight.

We Resurrected the Dead, and You’re Complaining!?

Of the many strange arguments espoused by right wing Orthodoxy, the argument that ‘Modern Hebrew should not be our national language,’ probably pisses me off the most. This argument is so nearsighted, so pretentious, and so downright idiotic that it consistently makes me go into a fit! To anyone that’s ever made this idiotic argument or ever considered it’s merits, just stop and think about the fact that there are literally hundreds of languages going extinct on a yearly basis! Do you really want the tongue of your ancestors to follow?

Here’s the typical gut reaction that happens in a Hareidi’s mind. He sees or hears about the fact that there are Israeli porn magazines in the biblical language, languishes in disgust, and says that Modern Hebrew is an abomination. It’s a ludicrous, but highly predictable pattern. In this case, those who follow this line of reasoning completely loose sight of the simple fact that they would rather see Hebrew go into the dustbin of history than see it a ‘defiled’ in their minds. Yes and before you jump back at me, I know that historically Rabbinic scholars have known Hebrew fairly well but they didn’t actually speak it! Nobody actually spoke it!

If you want to get where dead languages go, open your eyes and take a look at some real examples. Latin, which has probably fared best over the millennia is occasionally quipped by Catholic clergy who are fairly well trained in it. Koine Greek is known only by a handful of scholars and all but dead otherwise. A plethora of originally-African dialects survive in South America but are only known the religious elite in sentences and phrases, nobody actually speaks them. Tribal languages are being forgotten across the globe, hundreds of which have only one speaker, the chances of a tongue’s survival against the onslaught of globalism just aren’t very good! (Note that you could make an argument for Koranic Arabic faring the best, but it’s ‘whopping’ thirteen centuries of life hardly make it ancient language by our chronology)

Instead our brothers tell us of the wonderful Alter Shprach, or even the excerpts of the Nahadrea lingo (i.e. Yiddish and Talmudic Aramaic respectively) that would somehow qualify as a better national language than that of Moses and King David. They tell us that Hebrew is only supposed to be spoken but those who are ‘Puuurrre’ and have the correct intentions. This attitude of “death-by perfection-obsessed stasis” is probably the choke-hold that threatens to undermine all of Orthodox Judaism with utter mediocrity (gadlus literature being a chief catalyst) but more on that in a later post.

Here’s my response. Would you fools really prefer to speak a bastard language that descends from worshippers of Odin, Thor, and Freya, than the tongue of your own fathers!? These High-German words ‘farshteit’, ‘tsuzamen’, and ‘tracht’ do not belong to our nation or people! Yes, Modern Hebrew not a perfect replication of what was spoken but it’s damned close to it! There’s a reason why they call it the only dead language in history to have ever been revived.

Regarding, the porn magazines, I’ll say it like this. Remember that ‘Taina’ that the Maggid had when he saw the page of the Zohar in the dirt? Remember how the Alter Rebbe answered this Taina with the eloquent story about the king who needed to crush the diadem of his crown to save his dying son? That story applies here, only tenfold; those porn magazines are a worthy sacrifice to create an event the likes of which history has never known, to bring our ancestral tongue back to the lips of our children!

This last point has stuck on me for several years now. Back in Israel a few years ago, one of the few Leumi families I had dinner with at of the Yeshiva-out weekends told this simple story.

One afternoon we come home and see our daughter reading Tanach on her bed. We ask her, “is this an assignment you got from school?” She replies “nope, I was just curious to find out what happens later.”

Of all the difficulties they went through to do Aliah, they say that this event made it all worth it for them. If you don’t get that, think about it like this: In the 21st century, whose children ever read the great epics in their original tongues on a lazy Sunday!? Whose children fluently read the Iliad in Ancient Greek or the Inferno in Latin? None do! Their greatest works are a lowly shadow of what they once were, while ours is חי וקים!

The Synagogue and the Brothel

With all the literature flying out of Heshy via Frum Satire, Ari via Failed Messiah and dozens of others, as well as general mass media as a whole, it’s hard not to notice the child molestation crisis that seems to be seeping out of the ears of everywhere from Williamsbug (here, here, here), to Brooklyn (here), to YU. Even with my head buried in the sand with personal projects, I can’t help but laugh when people claim that ‘around 50% of boys in Williamsburg are being molested.’ (here, here)

On another reverie, a few days ago I took a look at the PDF published by Halachically Yours (here) and browsed through it, looking at all the line items, every single one of which I had learned from Porn at the age of 13, and all the ‘recommended titles’, most of which I read over the teenage years out of sheer curiosity. It actually boggles my mind how someone married for 20+ years doesn’t know what the term PC Muscle means but more on that in a later post.

I took the Hallacically Yours pdf and put it on my screen to the left and placed the article about satmar child mollestation to my right, pondering the photos of Williamsburg citizens clad in black against the couple embracing on the HY coversheet.

I took an article from Abby Lerner (Gender Relationships in Marriage and Out, Blau) noting how ‘with all the Taboo, nearly everyone she encountered over her years as a Taharat Hamishpacha instructor (who had gone through the Orthodox educational system), had some sort of sexual inhibition’ and put it together with HY on the left. Rabbi Wachsman’s ‘Puuuurrrrity now!’ Asifa rave obviously went to the right.

I continued this process for a few more minutes, comparing the left and the right… which became my representations of attempts at ramping-down the eros-sensitization lever (left) versus those trying to crank this lever up (right) and a sad truth emerged. Namely, if the left of orthodoxy is as bad as it is at integrating sex with religion, it’s no surprise that the right is falling off the chimney! Quoting David DeAngelo, who as a mass marketing PUA, frequently deals with desperate men: “If you attempt to repress your sexuality for long enough, it won’t just come out as the desire to #$%@ a woman’s brains out… it’ll come out in unexpected, and very odd ways.” From what it looks like on my screen, Orthodoxy’s quite the circus of “unexpected, and very odd ways” from the left to the right… the difference just being how loud the act is, and how many of the freaks are on display.

If there’s one point that I could ever make to the religious community, it would probably be this:

“Trying to lever up sentiments of ‘Taharah’ and at the same time create sexual normalcy in the community is a proverbial game of whack-a-mole!”

The requirements of one, visa-vi the other, are completely incongruent, so it is impossible to go in both directions at the same time. Williamsburg and others have chosen to dash head-long into the former and are suffering the inevitable consequences. This can be contrasted with the neo-MO 612rs who have ‘allowed themselves’ to drift in the other direction. The rest of Orthodoxy straddles somewhere in the middle of this equation.

While browsing the HY pdf, I came upon a whimsical headline which demonstrates my point as well as Orthodoxy’s unwillingness to recognize it.

➢ Nothing halachically permissible should be taboo

In the back of the mind of any rational person, there should be a small voice screaming: “But it is! But it is!!! Why is it!? Why is it so while everyone screams that it shouldn’t be!??” The answer isn’t simple but I think it can be summarized as follows: “The church and the brothel are joined at the hip!” (or the Synagogue in our case)

Take a look at Jewish nomenclature for a second and note that on the altar there were two angels depicted as nude babies, one male and one female, that face one another. In clinical psychology it’s obviously known that there are psychological diseases relating to a belief that sex is dirty but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you think about the aforementioned nomenclatural fact. To those mystically inclined amongst us, I would say its like this. The same Sefirah of Yesod that represents ‘Taharah’ and Divinity, also represents sex and genitalia (this just happens to perfectly match Haidt’s models, note my previous posts here and here but more on that later). The most sacred relic in our nomenclature mirrors this idea, that experiential religious elation-feeling as driven by sentiments of ‘innocence’ is counter-balanced with sexual undertones. It’s a delicate balance that needs to be managed by a healthy psyche.

So why to the sexual taboos in the Orthodox community exist? Most people agree they weren’t deliberately created because the Talmud deliberately talks about the penis lengths of major Babylonian Rabbinic luminaries (Bava Metzia 84a). People argue that they ‘seeped’ into Judaism from Catholicism, Sufism, or some other influence of the years but this begs the question, “why weren’t these influences not resisted?” Maybe because we never saw a need to go in the opposite direction and it ‘felt right’.

Here’s the interesting and unfortunate part. Once the sexual dialogue is closed to public conversation as it slowly became through out the centuries, it’s really freaking hard to re-open. Anyone who’s ever been through various sections Iamamother.com knows how immanently true that is. The 21st century doesn’t help much either, because the mussar schmoozers need something to decry, and no Yesiva bachur seems to have the cojones to stand up and point to the aforementioned tractate and tell-off the puritanical rave.

Finally, there is of course the masterbation issue; this 21st century reality which rabbinic authority has not fully come to terms with, is probably the most hilarious of them all. Chassidish cheder rabbies seem to absolutely loooove scaring teenagers, ranting about how if they masterbate, their ‘unborn children’ will come to beat them in the grave and how they’l be flung from world to world… I believe that ironically these rebbis are perhaps the biggest culprit of them all and should bear a vast amount of the blame for molestation, because they’re ramping up the sensitization lever to absolute overload (here’s an example of that).

Is it really a wonder that within those who are hyper repressed, sexual dysfunction and deviancy comes out the most? Probably not, but orthodoxy has performed a great deal of effort to fan the flames of this wildfire, and it’s leaders still don’t get it!