Tuesday, November 17, 2015


To what extent does a culture sanctify resentment? Much of the Islamic world, and particularly the Arab and Iranian Islamic world, revolves around an unstated sense of inferiority re 'the West." It is this sense of inferiority which fuels the resentment which manifests as acts of terror all over the world.

This ugly, aggressive sense of agrievement - of disowned psychic stuff - is palpable: just take a walk through the Arab section of the Old City of Jerusalem, with young men standing around in patriarchal clumps cursing passers by under their breath in Arabic, or making predatory comments about tourist women whom they consider "fair game"

Of course Moslems do not have a monopoly on terror...young white males - domestic terrorists like Timothy McVie - have killed more people in Australia and the US than Islamists, and we Jews are pretty good at resentment too...I don't think we have fully owned our own emotional pain and stuckness since the Holocaust, which can be seen manifesting in our knee-jerk reactions to even friendly and constructive criticism, or in the murder of Yitzchak Rabin z"l, or in the most uncivil discourse in Israel between different world views.

However re a collective sense of inferiority which permeates large swathes of the Islamic world...no one is responsible for this except, perhaps, Moslems themselves, for believing untrue thoughts. They are as inescapably worthy as anyone else, but often don't seem to believe this. Eleanor Roosevelt observed " no one can humiliate you without your permission." I belive that Islamists characteristic inability to laugh at themselves or be self-reflective in any way and the "respect us or we'll kill you" approach stems from this internal suspicion that somehow they are not respected, and perhaps are not even worthy of respect? And hence the elaborate acting out - "take us seriously or else." (and this is just as true of Jewish, Hindu, Christian or Bhuddist fundamentalists, but they are perhaps - hopefully - a little more marginalised in their broader faith communities),

Certainly we Jews also struggle with a collective sense of inferiority - not surprising given our history and our focus on the'pain body" - the persecutions culminating in the Shoah, and the stuff that is often projected onto us. That's maybe why so many Jews name drop famous Jews....to assert that we too are valuable, worthwhile, strong, contribute and have our part to play. Its a way of resisting the strong (often unconscious) thrust to devalue us which seems to be so often present in the majority cultures that surround us. Whether this tactic - of claiming our Mark Spitz's and Nobel Prize winners - really stops the gnawing self doubt is anoither question. What do you think?

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