Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reflections: But Wait--the Joke's on Us!

In the spirit of full disclosure, and lest we get too carried away by the punch line of my previous post, it must be stated that the very next paragraph after the joke about the converso, the roast chicken, the priest, and the fish, says the following:

Despite the joke, one should not equate the Marrano’s notion of private Jewish identity with the Inquisition’s essentialist—essentially racist—presupposition. The Marrano’s Jewish identity was not so much passively received but actively acquired, even if the activity dare not show itself… Being Jewish consisted in the private performative act—one was Jewish because one avowed oneself to be. (Betraying Spinoza, p.128)

Go ahead, take all the fun out of it, Prof. Becky.

So where has all this “private performative” action landed us today? Well, we have the atheism of Becky and her paramour, the redoubtable Steven Pinker. And we also have the following, clipped this morning from the current Sunday New York Times book review:

Neoconservatives don’t think small. They also tend to spurn empirical methods of inquiry, giving the lie to Kristol père’s famous aphorism that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. It’s truer to say that a neoconservative is a liberal (or, more often these days, just a plain old conservative) who has been seduced by the notion that America is in steep decline and must reassert itself as a moral and military force in an otherwise corrupt world. Neocons bear, Heilbrunn writes, “an uncompromising temperament” and a prophetic cast of mind, and they “use (and treat) ideas as weapons in a moral struggle.”

No, this is not a non-sequitur. Keep reading:

Did someone say “prophetic”? There’s no point denying it: neocons tend to be Jewish.

(Ah, ha!)

There are plenty of prominent exceptions — William Bennett, the former education secretary, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late United States senator, diplomat, White House aide and sociologist, were both Roman Catholics — but neoconservatism’s priorities, which range from strong support for Israel to vehement opposition to affirmative action, are heavily influenced by the values, interests and collective historical memory of the Jewish people.

Wow. The warmongering Israeli lobby aside, this is very nearly offensive stuff, isn’t it? In fact, the reviewer rounds off the paragraph above with:

Heilbrunn carries this conceit to the outermost boundaries of good taste by dividing his book into sections whose names are derived from the Old Testament: “Exodus,” “Wilderness,” “Redemption” and “Return to Exile.”

Yeah. Well, to sum up: it certainly seems like there’s material here for another one of Woody Allen’s semi-serious flicks, like The Front. Only this time he should write and direct it, as well as starring. He could play the role of Norman Podhoretz, or the elder Kristol. (It’s too bad Zero Mostel is gone; he’d make a perfect Richard Perle.)

And yet you call me an anti-Semite. Shit, I’d go see it.