more flexible self-hatred

     “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

—Martin Luther King, Harvard University, 1968

     “I was amazed at how many intellectuals took issue with me over a piece I wrote a while back for the New York Times saying I was against the practice of Israeli soldiers going door-to-door and randomly breaking the hands of Palestinians as a method of combating the intifada. I said also I was against the too-quick use of real bullets before other riot control methods were tried. I was for a more flexible attitude on negotiating land for peace. All things I felt to be not only more in keeping with Israel’s high moral stature but also in its own best interest. I never doubted the correctness of my feelings and I expected all who read it to agree. Visions of a Nobel danced in my head and, in truth, I had even formulated the first part of my acceptance speech. Now, I have frequently been accused of being a self-hating Jew, and while it’s true I am Jewish and I don’t like myself very much, it’s not because of my persuasion. The reasons lie in totally other areas—like the way I look when I get up in the morning, or that I can never read a road map. In retrospect, the fact that I did not win a peace prize but became an object of some derision was what I should have expected.”

—Woody Allen, “Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind”, Tikkun, Jan/Feb 1990


“Thanks to Weininger, I realised how wrong I was—I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me.
    The Jew in me is not an island. He is joined by hostile enemies and counter-personalities who have also settled in my psyche. There are, inside me, many characters that oppose each other. It isn’t as horrifying as it might sound. In fact, it is rather productive, amusing and certainly revealing. […]
    The present should be understood as a creative dynamic mode where past premeditates its future. But far more crucially, it is also where the imaginary future can re-write its past. I will try to elucidate this idea through a simple and hypothetical yet horrifying war scenario. We, for instance, can envisage an horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’”

—Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, O Books, 2011, pp. 94, 179

“Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”

John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, September 2011

jokes of the moment

     Ray: Then I do know a Belgian joke. What’s Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse. And they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids!

—Martin McDonagh, In Bruges


Roger Vangheluwe, Belgium’s longest serving bishop has stepped down after admitting to sexually abusing a young boy about 25 years ago.

Q: Why do arabs priests fuck their camels little kids?
A: Because they know that the camels the kids don’t like it.

in defense of political correctness

An exchange in the letter archive of this month’s Poetry commemorates the contribution of self-described “hyphenated American poetMarilyn Chin to the rectification of names in response to publisher Joseph Bednarik’s criticism of her translations of Vietnamese poetess Ho Xuan Huong. Bednarik wonders as to which Nym character means “boo hoo” in Chin’s rendering of Ho Xuan Huong. In reference to another translation, he states: “I don’t see how Chin’s versions add depth or nuance to the work. Frankly, they read like someone noodling around in the margins of someone else’s book.” Chin responds:

The first two characters in the quatrain are onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound of a woman’s crying. Therefore, “boo-hoo” is an accurate translation, both semantically and tonally. I was aiming to capture the edgy, satirical attitude so ample in Ho’s work.
    Perhaps Joseph Bednarik is not conscious that “noodling around in the margins” is an appalling and problematic expression, fraught with demeaning sexist, racist, imperialist overtones, and born out of the very hateful stuff that Ho Xuan Huong so pointedly and whole-heartedly fought against in her poetry and in her life. All ugliness revealed, perhaps we could finally cut through his pernicious smugness and have that real discussion regarding how many Western cultural imperialists does it take to plunder Wang Wei and who, if anyone, should have the rightful claim to an Asian woman’s poetry. “Noodling” could have been an unfortunate slip and not unconscious hatred; but he might as well have said “flied-licing.” Perhaps Bednarik and his press believe that the white male patriarchy must forever colonize the translation of Asian poetry and that I, a dark-skinned Asian woman poet, should not be “noodling” where I don’t belong.

I agree with Marilyn. It’s high time we ethnic minorities put an end to taking it on the chin from the imperialist hegemon. Tolerance for slurs is a slippery slope tilted towards disenfranchisement. Let us relentlessly chip away at each chink in the armor of white male patriarchy.

the final causes


But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
— Barack Hussein Obama, 6 April 2008

No elitism here, quite the contrary.

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.”
— Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 1880, translated from the French by Edward Aveling

no typical white person

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know (pause) there’s a reaction in her that doesn’t go away and it comes out in the wrong way.
—Barack Hussein Obama, call to Philadelphia sports radio 610 WIP, 20 March 2008
Continue reading no typical white person

world’s shortest books

  1. Let Us Honor Great Italian War Heroes;
  2. Two Millennia of German Humanism;
  3. A Manual of French Hygiene;
  4. Recognizing British Heterosexuality;
  5. A Field Guide to Great American Lovers;
  6. Mastering Russian Table Manners;
  7. A Treasury of Polish Wit and Wisdom;
  8. The Secrets of Iranian Diplomacy;
  9. Iron Rules of Chinese Business Ethics;
  10. Side-Splitting Japanese Jokes;
  11. Loving Your Neighbors the Greek Way;
  12. Jewish Ways of Happiness; and
  13. Negroes I Have Met While Yachting.