City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: May, 2013

How the Jews became white

After World War II, a new consensus emerged in the United States and Europe that Jews had to be integrated posthumously into white Europeanness, and that the horror of the Jewish holocaust was essentially a horror at the murder of white Europeans. Since the 1960s, Hollywood films about the holocaust began to depict Jewish victims of Nazism as white Christian-looking, middle class, educated and talented people not unlike contemporary European and American Christians who should and would identify with them. Presumably if the films were to depict the poor religious Jews of Eastern Europe (and most East European Jews who were killed by the Nazis were poor and many were religious), contemporary white Christians would not find commonality with them. Hence, the post-holocaust European Christian horror at the genocide of European Jews was not based on the horror of slaughtering people in the millions who were different from European Christians, but rather a horror at the murder of millions of people who were the same as European Christians. This explains why in a country like the United States, which had nothing to do with the slaughter of European Jews, there exists upwards of 40 holocaust memorials and a major museum for the murdered Jews of Europe, but not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans for which the US is responsible.

Aimé Césaire understood this process very well. In his famous speech on colonialism, he affirmed that the retrospective view of European Christians about Nazism is that

it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before [Europeans] were its victims, they were its accomplices; and they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimised it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilisation in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

That for Césaire the Nazi wars and holocaust were European colonialism turned inwards is true enough. But since the rehabilitation of Nazism’s victims as white people, Europe and its American accomplice would continue their Nazi policy of visiting horrors on non-white people around the world, on Korea, on Vietnam and Indochina, on Algeria, on Indonesia, on Central and South America, on Central and Southern Africa, on Palestine, on Iran, and on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rehabilitation of European Jews after WWII was a crucial part of US Cold War propaganda. As American social scientists and ideologues developed the theory of “totalitarianism”, which posited Soviet Communism and Nazism as essentially the same type of regime, European Jews, as victims of one totalitarian regime, became part of the atrocity exhibition that American and West European propaganda claimed was like the atrocities that the Soviet regime was allegedly committing in the pre- and post-War periods. That Israel would jump on the bandwagon by accusing the Soviets of anti-Semitism for their refusal to allow Soviet Jewish citizens to self-expel and leave to Israel was part of the propaganda.

–from “The last of the Semites” by Joseph Massad

Oscar Wilde on hipsters

“…for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised. When it is violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect, by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt and Individualism that is to kill it. When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoralising. People, in that case, are less conscious of the horrible pressure that is being put on them, and so go through their lives in a sort of coarse comfort, like petted animals, without ever realising that they are probably thinking other people’s thoughts, living by other people’s standards, wearing practically what one may call other people’s second-hand clothes, and never being themselves for a single moment. ‘He who would be free,’ says a fine thinker, ‘must not conform.’ And authority, by bribing people to conform, produces a very gross kind of over-fed barbarism amongst us.”

Régis Debray on Obama

Born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, master of marketing, Obama is more cultured than a backwoodsman like George W. Bush, who so fascinated European rulers from Blair to Sarkozy. He knows that other worlds exist here below; hence the more courteous behaviour. But to consider that this correction of aim represents a conversion to multilateralism would be to mistake desires for reality—and to forget that an outsider American may be more imbued with the foundational myths of his country than someone of old WASP stock; more convinced that he must fight to defend the ontological privileges of his Promised Land by all necessary means, including the clandestine. And so cyber-sabotage and killer drones make strikes in sovereign countries.
–from “Decline of the West?” in New Left Review 80, March-April 2013