Sunday, November 08, 2009

More Avraham Avinu "Deep Critique" Radicalism
vs. Contemporary "lifestyle Liberalism"

Derrick Jensen;

Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? [all matters that had historical precident solutions in modalities fostered by deeply transpersonal, society-wide Biblical Ethical Monotheism - ironically condemned and lambasted by Jensen et al as being the source of the problem] Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this [what "this" is seems clear, but our ecoystemic knowledge of water systems is bracketed by our knowledge of economic and political systems] we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

An exchange on this article appears here. I hear an awful lot that's pertinent to current Jewish religious banter here; our individual acts (sins/mitzvot), are often described as accumulating to make global/communal difference in either social or spiritual capacities (depending on if you're closer to the 'rationalist' or kiruvy Charedi "spiritual" approaches). Such perspectives are often sold with the accompanying counsel on "what you can do" to make "a difference"; those who implant these perspectives want you to see them as the source of the Jewish route to feeling re-empowered, now through their particular Jewish route).

I think there are also similar "misdirections" on the Jewish societal level, steering away from making any system-wide critiques, which might risk shifting ones own perspective on a deep level away from the sanctioned Jewish perspectives. For example, strategic removal of particular teachers is seen as a 'concrete' step in ending sexual abuse in schools - but there is huge debate about reconsidering student/teacher power structures that might "risk" solving several problems at once, but also make for dangerously-democratic and less authoritarian educational settings...

Asking questions of any [dominant] Jewish system can indeed lead to doubts about that Jewish systemization as such...- which can, regretably, lead to dissention from religious modalities themselves (Torah, the inheritance of Israel). but they are more likely to lead to disillusionment and dissention in belief in comparably-recent human institutions (C/O/R Judaisms, Yeshiva world, etc), that may have religious motivations, but not be sacred and hallowed by time unto themselves. Such disillusionment frequently occurs, and is celebrated by the Orthodox when Conservative and Reform-affiliated Jews become [Orthodox-identifying] Observant, lamented when Orthodox kids go Off "the" Derech. But even such dissent is rarely all-or-nothing (systematic). Faranak Margolese determined that upwards of 60+% of adults who left Orthodoxy still believe in God and Torah from Heaven, and maintain certain observances.

The noble goal of consistancy and purity of deed and creed (mitzvot include deeds as well as beliefs), sounds to goal of "lifestyle liberalism", but I fear we are in a state now where "Avrahamic" radical critique may very well be the only way forward through the tyranny of Galut, rife with patriarchy, destruction of the natural world and moral decay, and our coercion into relying on such a system.

But when has all of Klal Israel honestly been fully, systematically observant without some society-wide element of coercion? When Jewish communities met Enlightenment ideas, the capacity of the rabbis and leaders to coerce fell - and so did observance on a huge scale. Is the Ghost of Cain in everything that we do? Is Rav Solveitchik's "Two Adams" as much pathological as it is "progress", technology, science and "dominion" over the earth? We are now in a situation where we are in a network of pathological, counteracting relationships, within Judaism and the greater world.

I think there is a component of the "the source of the problem is the source of the solution", if we admit certain things we already speak. Torah and Tanakh is multivocal. Tanakh contains events and settings in the world at large (expelled from eden, mabul, famines, etc), that are the basis for decisions positive and negative, and condemns the behaviors of certain figures in our history. I think it is doing just's not present in the text merely to prove their sacred origin because, for example, "no other human works condemn in their founding texts condemnations of the founders". Nor is Tanakh giving a little mere environmental background for the Avot changing their social setting. Many societal systems are protrayed therein, some condemned as whole systems, some evidently shared by Israel, changed due to external environmental circumstances, some we transition from and to. But in all of them, we're to have a certain ethic. And interestingly, the social consequences of the narrative of the Mabul included a change in diet and lifeways evidenced in a new convenant with all the Nefesh creatures. We maintain memory of all of this by learning and recounting the deeds and lives of the Avot, from Adam on, transition from Eden to the city-state of Ur and out to the wondering pastoralism to entering Mitzraim.

Tanakh in the hands of the Nations has indeed been used to justify imperialism, slavery, patriarchy, environmental degradation, etc, etc. And at the same time it has been evidenced as being a true awakening away from such negatives as they blossomed in the ancient world. Even as a system, R. Nahum Rabinovitch shows that Judaism can been seen as weening away from certain of it's own Divinely Decreed observances that are no longer morally justifiable - due to the proliferation of other Torah moral principles.

More later, gym beckons.


At 11/21/2009 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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