Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day Of Atonement

 

Note: a nationality has many qualities, good and bad, as individuals do. When the characters in this story talk about their nationality it is some qualities of the individual responding to some qualities of the nationality. It is far from the whole picture. With that said...

"What is anti-Semitism? Hating Jews more than they deserve."  Chief Medical Officer, Public Health Service, State Of Israel)

7 a.m.
Day Of Atonement.
Motorized transport forbidden
Corner of Dizengof and Frishman Streets, Tel Aviv

- Do you know where I can buy cigarettes?
- Everywhere's closed. Have you tried the hotels on the beach?
No. Where are they?
- You're not from Tel Aviv?
- No. From a small city. Not too far away.
- I'll walk with  you if you like. I'm not going anywhere.
- I'd like that. Where are you from?
- Los Angeles.  
- Nice. What are you doing in Israel?
Israel is paying me to stay here for six months then leave.
- You're working for the government?
- Not exactly. How old are you, by the way?
- 16.
- What are you doing in Tel Aviv?
- I came here with friends.
- Where are your friends?
- At the room.
- What are they doing now?
- They're sleeping. 
- What have you been doing in Tel Aviv?
- Drinking. Doing other things.
- Drugs.
- Yes.
- Why?
- It's good.
- Why is it good?
- It relaxes me.
- Why do you need to be relaxed? You're 16. You're supposed to love excitement.
- I have too much excitement at home.
- What's so exciting?
- You don't want to know.
- I do. I have all this day where everything is closed to listen. I have all my life to listen. I'm not doing anything important.
- I thought you said you're working for the government.
- In a way. What's so exciting at home?
- My mother is a cocaine addict and my father rapes me all the time.
- If you didn't have such a fresh face and were not obviously in perfect health and sane I wouldn't believe you. You speak about terrible things so casually.
- It's been going on a long time.
- But you have been to the police?
- They say they have more important things to worry about.
- They don't believe you?
- They do. They don't care.


8:30. Beach Promenade 


- This place is really something. Unbelievable, right?
- It is. We've been looking for cigarettes for an half hour, finally found the machine over there by the restaurant.  Do you have change for a hundred?
- I've been looking for cigarettes too. What do you need?
- Three sheckles more.
- Here.
- Thanks. You're from Scotland?
- You can tell? 
- Sure. What are you doing in Isreal?
-  Getting angry.
- Me too!
- What are you angry about?
-You tell me first.
- The people here. 
- What's wrong with them?
- They're sick.
- You're about 70? Israel brought you here as a Jewish immigrant, said to you, "Here's a few hundred dollars, the market determines that with that money you will be able to sleep on the beach and buy cheap food and cigarettes.  The history of the Jews compels us to invite you here, but the market is our true love. Thanks for coming, thanks for making a public display of our indifference to human life and of our obsessive greed. Enjoy Israel."
- You're funny.
- What are you going to do?
- Get cigarettes.
- See you later.


5:30 Hotel Entrance Steps. Near the beach.

- Hey! I know you. 
- Who's your friend?
- A very interesting man. His family has been in Israel for hundreds of years. Sit down.
- O.K.  
- What brings you to Israel?
- Like I told your friend at the beach this morning, Israel is paying me to come here and leave.
- And do what?
- That's all.
- I don't understand. Are you working?
- Are you? What is your profession.
- Software. But I do anything necessary to survive.  You know the economic situation.
- Yes. I'm interested in the subject. Are you a protester?
- Protest is useless.
- Why?
- The protests have gone on for years, nothing changes. My family built this country, made sacrifices. Fought wars, lived in tents before the city was built. I feel like it's all been for nothing. I'm thinking about the future. How I am going to live when there is no way to make money anymore.
- And you don't want to try to stop the government from destroying your country?
The government doesn't listen. It doesn't have to listen.
- Have you thought about why?
- Why what?
- Why the government doesn't have to listen.
- The politicians do what they want.
- But there is a reason they get away with it.
- If you know, tell me.
- Alright. A few days ago I was at a cafe with a young book editor....
- Gentlemen, I am going now to the temple. We'll meet again.
- Bye. You were saying? You met an editor.  An Israeli?
- Yes.  And we were talking about why Iran wanted to make a nuclear bomb and what were the chances if they did of their using it against Israel.  He argued that if they wanted to kill Israelis they could even now explode a "dirty" bomb offshore.  They want to bomb as a symbol of power, not to use, which they know would be disastrous.
- What did you say?
- That the question is not what the government of Iran could be expected to think is reasonable.
- What is the question?
- Whether a terrorist, who did want to explode a nuclear bomb, could get the agreement of the government. To answer that question you need to know what kind of government it was and whether that kind was likely to resist or not.
- What kind of government did you say Iran was?
- How much time do you have?
- I'm going somewhere. Why? 
- I can answer, but have to fill in some background first.
- I'll stay.  
- The Israeli government doesn't listen to protest, the Iranian government might listen to terrorists. That's what we want to explain.  Who a government listens to.  Before I came to Israel, before I got married in Hungary, I used to travel from one European capital to another and buy and sell old watches to other dealers doing to same.  I met them at markets, watch shops, cafes.  What I learned early on was that the law of supply and demand didn't apply.  Prices were set by an automatic monopoly making process.
- I don't understand.
- Let's say you are a millionaire owner of a watch shop in Zurich. You have thousands of watches for sale. A middle aged woman walks in and carefully takes out from its cloth wrapping a gold wristwatch and sets it on the shop counter. It was her grandfather's, she explains, and she would like to sell it. How much is it worth? The shop down the street told her it was only worth was the gold in the case, which could be melted down.  Now the shop owner knows this is not true. He also knows no matter how many shops the woman visits, she is likely to hear the same thing. What does he do?
- He cheats her, of course.
- Of course he does. 
- It's her fault: she could have sold it on the internet.
- She could have. So operating at the same time and same place there is both a free market system and monopoly market.  The monopoly market arises when there is a limited number of buyers and control of information.
- How?
- Let's go back to the watch shops in Zurich. Each shop keeper tells the unprofessional seller the same story because each shop keeper has gone into the business for the same reason: greed, love of profit. Each shares the same character.  The price monopoly depends entirely on this fact of people of the same character being attracted to particular professions.  In a large market, where anyone can buy and sell, monopoly doesn't arise.  But in any market with restricted access monopoly pricing is the rule, not the exception.   So-called free market supply and demand is the exception.
- Interesting.
- In fact there is nothing free about the free market. It begins with, is entirely dependent on strict prohibition against murder and theft, and ends, if spontaneous monopoly is not controlled, first with dispossession, then finally death of the majority of "free market" participants.  You study the Kabballa?
- Yes. How did you know?
- This is Israel, you're the type.
- What type?
- The passionate type. The type that is passionate about understanding more than anything else. Am I right?
- You are right.
- I'm not a Kabbalist...
- What are you?
- Just a talker: The garden of Eden. Genesis. Eve eats the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  
- Yes.
- If I were a Kabballist I might think there was something in the latest news: the creator and co-founder of Apple computers has applied for Australian citizenship. Everyone there can have broadband internet  connection, he says, but at his own house in California even he cannot because of monopoly control of business in the U.S.
- Is that true?
- Yes. 
- Wow.
- Eve and Adam already have knowledge. They know how to live, what choices to make. What happens after eating the apple is that new choices arise that must be made without complete knowledge. There are better and worse choices, and we, living outside the garden, don't know how to choose. We are angry at the situation, and are ashamed of our anger, of our acting like animals. Have you read Plato?
- Yes.
- Good. In The Republic the Guardian class are described as being like dogs. They love those they know and hate those they don't.  They have passion, and a strong sense of class.  Like Adam and Eve after eating the apple, the dog-like guardians hate not knowing. The come together as a class spontaneously, a monopoly occupation based on similar character.  The formation of social class is a response to, is avoidance of rage, of anger at not knowing what to do, how to choose between untested possibilities.  Are you following?
- Yes. Are these your ideas?
- Mine, Plato's. Doesn't matter. Now, the question of the Israeli government not listening to protesters, the Iranian government possibly listening to terrorists.  We ask, how much are the governments structured like free-markets, how  much like a monopoly?
- I don't understand.
- How much are government decisions made reasonably, how much are they made by groups of people of like character associated into particular professions.
- Why does it make a difference?
- Because the human being, ashamed of his liability to rage, like a proud aristocrat places himself above passion by rooting himself is stable social arrangements, which themselves arise spontaneously by the coming together of people of like character.  Reason, reasoning play no part in this fear of rage and spontaneous monopoly.  The Israeli government doesn't listen to protesters because listening is not something monopolists do. The customer selling the watch is a subject, is subject to the operation of the monopoly. The complaint of the Israeli protesters is, according to the people in the government, only a  complaint of those not like themselves. The protesters' complaints are no more listened to than a dog stops to hear the arguments of the stranger at the gate. With Iran, the question of access of terrorist to the government is whether the various monopolies established there would decide using a bomb would protect them from fear of the unknown and strengthen their class. I asked the editor if he knew how to answer that question.
- So you think, not just politics, but the economic situation is going to get worse?
- And get better when people know better.
- They won't know better. And as you say, the government isn't listening.
- Do you know the painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Bosch?
- Sure.
- It pretty much sums up what we've we talking about.  In Eden sexuality is open. There is no shame because there is no rage, no fear at not knowing what is good to do and what not. There is desire, which by definition is a lack, but satisfying that lack does not involve passion, passion in the meaning of one form of fear or another. If you watch babies smile, babies laugh, you will see they smile at what they know.  But this is totally unlike the dog's knowledge of its pack.  When a baby looks at adults acting as adults, acting as monopolists, he sees people who try to remake the world to suit the group they already know.  Who do not want to know more than that, so look at the baby only with regard to the baby's significance to their own monopoly participation. But a baby looks at things in the garden as objects to be played with, learned individually. When the baby looks at the adult he sees a blank. He can't see the past and future group relations which determine every sound and move the adult makes with the baby, The adult does not try to know the baby. The garden the children live in is wild, unknown in itself, but safe, is a playground, not a threat to the known. Children don't know their own character, don't look out for friends of like character, they are not monopolists, so the unkown objects in the playground world are not a threat to that character and are not fled. When the objects are known, they are smiled at in gratitude for letting themselves be known. Babies laugh when known things are hidden, they have begun to learn how playing makes something unfamiliar become familiar, have begun to rely on, have confidence in this knowledge.The monstrous creatures in Bosch's Garden are animal parts made to comprise the whole animal, a perfect symbol for the way single character types establish whole societies in flight from rage and fear.
- Fantastic stuff. I've got to go. 



6:30. p.m. Fasting period concluded. A woman sits outside at the pizzaria down the street.

- You look like someone I should meet.
- Sit down. 


9 a.m. The next day, outside the King George Street Post Office.


- What's your number? I see about 20 people inside, but my number is a hundred more than the one up now.
- I was just laughing about it with the guard.
- I think they are counting the people who died waiting, as a kind of memorial. 
- It's a crazy country.
- It's really crazy. Look at the guard: a 20 year old girl with a pistol at her hip managing, very successfully, to look fashionable. Do you ever go to the beach?
- Everyone does.
- Then you've heard the deafening announcement over the public address system? Where the city has paid someone to say no one works there? "Ladies and Gentlemen, No lifeguard on duty.  Swimming forbidden." Which the swimmers ignore? But you don't want to know what I really think of the country. Do you? It's not good.
- You're not having a good time here?
- No. Are you?
- These last few years have been miserable.
- Good to hear! Tell me the story.
- You don't want to hear it.
- I do.
- What are you doing in Isreal?
- My standard answer is the government has hired me to stay here 6 months then leave.
- To do what?
- Nothing. 
- What do you mean?
- Tell me your story and I will tell you mine.
- Let's go have a coffee when we're finished.

9:30 Cafe. King George St.

- Your story.
- I have the world's worst husband. Next week after fighting 3 years I hope the divorce will be final.
- What did he do?
- He beat me. Many many times. I went to the hospital.
- You went to the police.
- Many Times.
- Why isn't he in jail then?
- I didn't want to deprive my children of their father. They want to see him.
- That's bad, but...
- There is more.
- I'm waiting. What is your husband's profession?
- Film producer.
- What did the film producer do to make him the world's worst husband?
- He installed a secret camera into our bathroom/spa, so he could record our children and their friends naked.
- Really?
- Really. I pulled the equipment out of the ceiling. I have the tape. He's a pedophile.
- I'll ask again: why isn't he in jail?
- Exposing their father will ruin the lives of my children.
- Why? It would be in the news for a day, then forgotten.
- No. You don't know Israel.  It's a small place. Everyone knows everyone. 
- I don't know anyone.
- Why are you here?
- As I said, the government is paying me to stay here for six months and then leave. They like the idea of American Jews being here, so they pay, but they like the idea of increasing the economic potential of the Jewish People more, so they want me to leave.
- They think you will cost the state money in benefits.
- Yes.
- What do you do?
- Talk. Write stories no one reads.
- You don't make money.
- No. The Israeli government told me I wouldn't make money here, and asked me to promise to leave.
- You can work here. You can clean. I can get you the job.
- Everyone tells me that. 
- What do you say? You won't do it. You're too proud.
- In the last day alone I've met a 70 year old woman Israel brought here as an immigrant, with Israel then telling her she has go wandering around with no place to live because the marketplace determines that is how it should be, I've met a 16 year old girl who is raped repeatedly by her father and nothing happens, because of family connections and influence, I have heard from you that your husband is a pedophile and can't be prosecuted.  In Israel there are only monopolies, economic and social. 
- But Israelis are good people. I was at the post office to pick up 500 dollars my brother sent me, he knows I need it.
- Good to people in their gang, their pack, their cult, totally disinterested in those outside. The others can wander the streets like sleepwalkers or clean toilets, take it or leave it. I'll leave it.


P.S. Concluding words, from the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health Service, State of Israel:

"It's not smart for a government to insult a writer."




One Week Later

- We meet again.
- I put you in a story.
- With the Scottish woman?
- Yes. And the woman I met down the street at the pizzeria. That turned into its own story.
- Tell me.
- You have time? You're not going anywhere?
- No place I must go.
- Then let's walk.
- What have been doing lately, beside writing?
- Making everyone angry at me.
- Why? Let's sit down here.
- Did you see the way that couple looked at you?
- No.
- Wondering I suppose whether you're trying to be a holy man with your big black beard and wide brimmed hat.
- Why do you want to make people angry?
- I don't set out to do it. I respond to attack.
- There are times to speak, times to be silent. Do you know the old Hebrew saying, a clever man knows how to get out of trouble, the wise man knows to avoid trouble?
- You know, my friends, many are involved in the protests here. They are anarchists, I'm not.  If anything I am anarchy.
- What do you mean?
- That I don't want to avoid trouble.  I want to learn from it.
- I thought a lot about you in the past week. You call the people here money worshipers because you hate money. You're vindictive.
- I don't hate money. But I am vindictive. I don't want to hurt anyone, I want to destroy  false views of the world.
- What good does that do you?
- "Better to be a wise Hebrew than a clever one"? I want to do it, I love doing it.
- But you are unfair. Israelis are good people. In the last ten years their lives have been devastated by economic policies taken from your country: privatization, monopoly, foreign labor. And they are waking up now. You can hear it everywhere, even in the talk of ordinary people. They are not money worshipers.
- They're victims of America.  No, I don't buy it.
- Why?
- Because of the way they talk to each other, live with each other. Take the political situation. The religious live in a kind of internal diaspora. They have contempt for the politicians, who work for the free-market monopolists, who have contempt for everyone. Like they did living among the Europeans, the religious have made their deal, traded their support for protection and possibility to go on practicing their rituals. Individuals make the same kind of deal when they talk with each other. They don't answer each other, only throw aggressive speeches back and forth. Ritual faces ritual in a sort of truce. They don't like each other. Do you follow?
- Completely.
- The protesters know they've been robbed. But the relation they have to each other, disdain barely restrained from violence, will not allow them to make a better life with each other. Even if they win a few political battles new economic exploitation is certain to arise.
- Why?
- The alternative to worshiping money we have to consider is not what you think, living a simple life of family and work. The simple life is the life of ritual. Ritualists don't learn how to use public life to find out what might be better. They come into conflict with each other, then make deals. One side gets the better of the other, complains, protests, new deals are made....
- What's the solution then?
- To be willing to change. Ritualists, whether in making money or religious practice, don't want to change. Can I tell you the story of the woman I met at the pizzeria?
- If it applies.
- It does. You saw her?
- Yes. She looked like a classy woman.
- Designer sunglasses, jacket, jeans. Yes. Very fashionable. So sure of herself that when she took me to a school to get a haircut - I'd showed her a photograph of me taken two years ago at my marriage, she  declared my present appearance to be a catastrophe - at the hair academy she was so critical of the instructor working on me he finally put down his comb and shears and stood listening to her instructions along with the whole room full of students and clients. Do you know what fashion is?
- What?
- It is uniformity and revolt at the same time, wearing a uniform and being in revolt at the same time.
- How?
- People see they are forced to conform, and say "not that" to the last style. Some aspect of the present time may be adopted in the new fashion, but not in any significant expression, not in the way art expresses the times.  Art expresses the basics about life, good and bad, in language of the times adjusted to the circumstances of the times. Its truths are not new though its language may be, it is not in revolt.
- You're saying the protesters are playing at fashion. You're wrong. They're very very serious, very angry.
- They can not be anything other than playing at fashion, as long as they wear their uniform of ritual. But I want to talk about my new friend, Revital.
- A beautiful Hebrew name.
- Yes. What does it mean?
- Water of the morning.
- Beautiful. So beautiful Revital, in her fashionable clothes, was in roughly the same difficulties as I was when me met, and we went around the city with each other for about a week, staying together at temporary places I found over the internet. She liked to say she loved her life. She had these rituals, watching the same shows on her computer every day, concerts at which she would cheer, wave her arms as if she were actually there, it didn't matter to her, public or private, a cafe table or the beach. She wore her dark glasses even inside, even at her computer, because, she said, she didn't want people around to approach her. She liked to sing out a nonsense collection of Italian words. But she had this voice, a way of talking that was pure calm reason. I couldn't make her out. Seem crazy to you?
- No.
- After five days she dismissed me from her friendship.
- Why?
- I don't know.  I asked her what was wrong.
- What did she say?
- Nothing.
- Nothing was wrong?
- First that, then she wouldn't answer. Last time I saw her she shouted at me to stay away and ran off.
- What do you think happened?
- I said something, I did something. What I want to say with this story is that she included me in her life of rituals, then excluded me. Like she said she had excluded her father the rabbi and Yeshiva teacher, excluded her whole family from her life.
- It's common here.
- Common most places.  Wisdom is good as long as the conditions go on unchanged that are necessary for repeating your rituals. But when conditions fail you need to draw upon strength gained from practice dealing with a world you don't at first know what to do in. If the world never changed, you and your Hebrew saying would be right, it's better to be wise and avoid trouble than clever and escape  the difficulties you brought on yourself.  What the current politics shows is the the ritual wisdom here was bought at a cost of a way of life opposite that necessary to be clever and recover.
- I don't understand.
- All deals are off when you don't understand, the ritual rules don't apply.  People are each others resource in their difficulty and like each other for it. They are literally good for each other, see it, feel it, know it, if they know nothing else. They don't live, as the people are doing here, fighting over money, ritualist against ritualist - that is what I mean when I use the phrase money worship - but with cooperation and appreciation in a search for friends and companions.
- So you make trouble to avoid trouble? Look at the situation you're in. You really think it's wise?
- You're the one with the beard. Would you like to read the how me and Revital met?
- It's on your site?
- Not at the moment. A couple days ago Google blocked the story you're in.
- Why?
- Against their policies. Expressed hatred of group.
- What exactly did you write?
- A piece of Jewish irony, said by a Jew about Jews. "What is anti-Semitism? Hating Jews more than they deserve."
- That's self criticism.. How can they censor that?
- You're not allowed to say a group is deserving of even a little hatred.
- But it's obviously a joke! Israel is the only place in the world where almost everyone living there says the country is bad, says it violently even. It's good, what's special about the place. No matter how bad people get, they love to think, somewhere in this country there are good people, really good people. Do you believe me?
- I do. Here's our meeting, a Jewish joke if you like:

- What are you doing in Israel?
- The government paid me to come here and write bad things about the place.
- No. Really?
- Really. They didn't want me to come because they believed I wouldn't help the people who run the place grab more money, but their hands were tied by the rules of the game, the idea that Israel is a Jewish state anyone born into the religion can go to.
- You're Jewish then.
- Sure. And you're Israeli.
- The people here are garbage.
- That's what I say. You know the story, while Moses was getting the laws from god up on the mountain the people down below forgot about him and started worshiping a gold statue of a young cow.  The gold, the youth of the animal, its meat and milk are all promises of future wealth. The Jewish people were worshiping money. Moses went back to god and asked him what to do. "Kill them all", said god. Save the good, Moses answered, save those who were not worshiping money. God allowed the exception.
- We're the exception.
- And the spirit of Moses is bargaining with god what to do about the people down here.
- I want to leave this place.
- Me too. Voltaire called religion the great infamy. Money's the world's new religion.
- Money is good.
- Good used to a purpose. When making money becomes a principle overriding all other human activity it's bad. It literally is religion, a faith that putting money first will make life better.
- And you think you can stop it? By writing, talking? Look at all these zombies.
-  I like provoking them, the walking dead. They don't get angry. It's amazing. It's truth revealed.
- What truth?
- About the garbage, the walking dead, what money worship turns people into. People pounding each other into pieces, each piece part of what is still technically a human being, each piece of detritus a separate calculation about how to get money. Between calculations the trash fragments walk the dead human around waiting for the next cue to money making.
- You say that?
- Why not?
- What do they answer?
- "Sorry to hear you're not having a nice time."
- Garbage.

- There's more, but....
- You go too far.
- Have you ever thought about what is behind this famous Jewish self-criticism? There are two ways societies go wrong. They think only of their rules, nothing of the good life the rules are made to give us. Or they think only of the good life, construct an instance of it, and think nothing of the rules we need for getting there reliably. There are societies that combine both faults: individuals are left with no freedom at all. In what we call the West, our Christianity made societies produce pictures and instances of beautiful life. There is something melancholy and hopeless about this, the good is there, but no idea of how to hold onto it. The Jewish case is different. It is both without consistent beauty, because the rules are never allowed to pay off in a settled arrangement, and yet retains hope, because the world is left unconstructed, unfinished in imagination.
- Every society has its good and bad.
- Yes. But in the repressive societies individuals have no freedom to criticise, how the world looks and what you are to do in it is decided for eternity. In Christian societies you are not encouraged to find better rules of life, the door to improvement is seemingly closed, but you are soothed and calmed by the images of beauty. The Jewish society, though, is both without fixed beauty to rest on, and keeps open the task of making beautiful life, imposing on its members whether they like it or not the tools of rule making necessary to get there. There is a job to do and they know they are not doing it.
- The primitives are repressed, the Christians don't know any better, and the Jews can't help knowing better?
- Don't say I never said anything good about the Jews.