Sunday, December 28, 2008

The fate of the Jews

Some of the things I have written recently have pushed right to the boundary of what may permissibly be said by civilized people -- but I have always run that risk. It is no accident that I am the proprietor of the Tongue-Tied blog. I am an instinctive anti-authoritarian. If someone tells me to do something, my instinct is to do otherwise. And if someone tells me not to do something, my instinct is to do it. I am in other words quite happy to be a rebel against the orthodoxy and am rather supported by the certainty that the orthodoxy of today will be the absurdity of tomorrow. So pushing against speech limits is, I hope, a service I can render to the advancement of knowledge and understanding.

What I will almost certainly be accused of below is "blaming the victim". I am in fact not blaming anyone, merely trying to understand -- and I accept no limits on what I can say or think in that quest. So I hope that no minds will snap shut before they read the whole of what I write below.

What I want to say a few words about now is that everlasting issue: Jews. How awful it must be to be born into a group that is a perennial source of at least controversy and often hate. I am sure many Jews must pray for Jews to be simply forgotten. But their God seems to have doomed them not to be. I admire Jews in many ways but I am glad that my heritage is less horror-filled. Mind you, as a middle-class WASP male, I too belong to a much reviled group. But we are not as targeted as the Jews, mainly because there are more of us, I imagine.

And that leads into my point: Their small numbers reveal Jews as a biological failure. Reproduction is the prime imperative in biology and reproductive fitness has to be judged by reproductive success. I have always admired the wisdom of Gideon but from a biological viewpoint, strength is in numbers. So the roughly 10 million Jews in the world today is not impressive. If the Iranians were to sail two ships carrying nuclear devices into both New York harbour and Tel Aviv harbour at roughly the same time with some jihadis aboard to detonate them, there would not be much left of that 10 million.

By contrast, there are around one billion Christians in the world. So why have Christians flown so far ahead of Jews in reproductive success? Originally, there were a lot more Jews than Christians. The obvious answer, of course, is that Jewish numbers have been kept down by persecution. But that just leads to the very vexed question of why people have been persecuting them from the Pharaohs on. There are many answers to that but I want here to look at just one.

The contrast between Jews and Christians is all the more surprising when we look at the doctrinal similarities between them. After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans and the subsequent diaspora, the Judaism of the Old Testament simply died. Most of the instructions in the Old Testament were predicated on Jews having and ruling their own country and that was no longer the case. So the commands given in the Old Testament no longer COULD be obeyed: No animal sacrifices at the temple etc.

In response, two reworkings of traditional Judaism emerged: Rabbinical Judaism and Christianity. And they were surprisingly similar. It was no longer feasible to stone to death such evil-doers as homosexuals so that was no longer expected of believers. St. Paul simply pointed out that such offenders were still abhorrent but left punishment of them to God. And the Rabbis had to rule similarly. The major differences between the two new versions of Judaism was that the Rabbinical Jews were gene-preserving while Christianity was open to all and actively sought to embrace all men (and women). So Christians rapidly lost any Jewish identity.

So where did the more traditional Jews go wrong? I am going to be blunt. I think that there must be something in Jews that predisposes them to political stupidity. How else are we to explain their ending up on the wrong side of just about every ruler from the Pharaohs to the Babylonians to the Romans to the Popes to the Tsars to the Nazis? I can't be sure what that thing is but it is still in full bloom today. Both in Israel and in the USA Jews tend heavily to lean Left -- at a time when the Left are having a romance with the sworn enemies of the Jews: Muslims. How stupid can you get? Jews just don't seem to be able to see who their friends are. Just about their ONLY friends in the modern world are American evangelical Christians but the actions of the ADL and much else reveal most Jews as despising American evangelical Christians.

And contrast that stupid behaviour with one of the world's most successful ethnic groups: The British. As Winston Churchill said, not for a thousand years has Britain seen the campfires of an invader. While the rest of Europe was tearing itself apart with internecine wars, Britain was securing for itself a couple of continents (Australia and most of North America) plus some rather nice Islands (The British Isles and New Zealand, for instance). And their progeny populate those places to this day.

So how did the British do it? Basically through just one strategy: Allies. The British have always sought allies. That has long been the dominant aim of British foreign policy. Britain never goes it alone. They will even enter wars that really concern them little just in order to preserve alliances (WWI and the Iraq war, for instance). So any description of a war in which Britain has been involved has always been between two sides: "The Allies" and the other guy. But to achieve that, you have to be great compromisers and great propagandists. And the British always have been both. Even Hitler admired British WWI propaganda. But above all you have to VALUE potential allies. And as far as I can see, Jews generally don't. They value their enemies instead. The Iranians may get them yet.

So do I have a clue about what causes such a brilliant people to be so stupid politically? I think I do have a clue. If you read Moses and the Old Testament prophets, you will see that they often describe the Israelites as a "stiff-necked" people (Which I take to mean proud, obstinate, unwilling to bow down to anybody. A more pejorative definition is here). I suspect that Moses and the prophets were right about their people and that enough of the old genetic material has survived in Jews to make the same thing true of most Jews today. St. Luke certainly seemed to think it was hereditary (Acts 7:51) and modern-day Sabras are certainly not often shy and retiring people. Maybe in fact you have to have some of that genetic material to identify as a member of such a reviled group. Such a difficult inheritance seems a pity to me -- from my ethnically British standpoint with its devotion to compromise and the "fudge" (scroll down) as a solution to difficult issues. But I am glad that there are still some people who take on the great burden of being Jews -- given the immense contribution that Jews have made -- and continue to make -- to civilization. And I am sure that I am pretty stiff-necked myself. I would probably not be writing this otherwise.

I am now going to let one of my regular Jewish readers speak about the issues I have raised above:
A few disagreements or notes on what you wrote about Jews:

What would our numbers be without 6 million murdered..and of the remainder that survived Europe, how many were yet again dysfunctional, would not have children, committed suicide later on? Ok, we'd still be small in number, but not QUITE so small, given the one or two generations that would have survived and possibly thrived.

Religious Jews, the most "stiff-necked" of the bunch in terms of holding onto their Judaism, (and the most politically conservative), are the ones with big families. The problem is that the base is so small, that the overall numbers remain low, but in percentage terms, the one group of Jews growing is the Orthodox.

It is difficult to compare Britain, an island nation, with the stateless-until-a-short-time-ago "nation" of Israel. We were and remain an anomaly in history, a people that were interspersed among the nations. That made us the "stranger", always, and we were often forced into professions that were not looked upon in a god light, e.g. moneylending. We certainly see right now that financiers are heroes when times are flush, but even the honest ones are anathema when times go bad. And we certainly had no nation to hold onto, remained the great scapegoat of the nations. Was that because we were politically stupid?

NO. That's because we were weak and easy targets, and yes, we refused to fit in and go along with the rest of the population. We refused the easy terms of Christianity, so were reviled by Christians. We refused the paganism of Rome and Greece, and suffered accordingly. We refused to go along with the insane Mohammed, and now our no. 1 enemy in the world is Islam. Ok, so yes, we're stiffnecked, but to say it's because we were politically stupid....or should we just given in and lost our identity, should we have become Christians or pagans or Muslims, and just let Judaism go by the wayside of history?

So yes, our numbers are puny. But we outlasted the Third Reich, Stalin's Soviet Union, Torquemada's Inquisition Spain, ancient Rome and Greece, ancient Egypt..and all others who've tried to destroy us.

Now, I would agree that in the current day, and maybe ever since the Enlightenment, when we decided to "reform" and not be SO weird and stiff-necked, when we tried to blend in...we've become more and more leftist, and that HAS resulted in terrible problems for us. We don't even need to worry about Iran as we are fading away on our own, as the less stiff-necked amongst us don't care if their kids leave Judaism and marry others, or cheapen the religion in any number of ways; right now, I would agree that leftism is our dominant "religion" and it drives me crazy, as you know. It has caused us much grief and we are committing, I would also agree, our own suicide. But it is the strange people in the black hats, and the rabid "settlers' on the West Bank, and the families with the 10 kids, and those who worry about the picayune and strange rules of Halakhah, the religous, Orthodox "form" of Judaism, the form that is derived from the Rabbinic Judaism, that has the only real chance of keeping Judaism alive. THAT is not a new phenomenon, and was always thus.

Allies? Who should we have made allies with, without losing who we were? It's a valid question, but the answer is that we had no one to ally with. We had nothing or little to give...no lands, no titles...occasionally money and know-how to make money, for which we became court Jews and influential...but money, as it is wont to do, as often corrupted these Jews, as it does most people. Should we have allied with those who blamed us for killing their Lord, and who blamed us for poisoning the wells of Europe to bring about the Black Plague, which we often missed because of our rules of sanitation? Should we have allied with the Muslims who gave us dhimmi status at best, if not actively persecuting us for our lack of intelligence to convert to Islam?

I WILL be willing to grant we are not always smart as we are given credit for. I know a lot of Jews that irritate the hell out of me, and that I don't find so bright...but what percentage of science Nobels (not the meaningless and political ones like "peace" or "literature") are from Jews? That's another story and I know you know it.

So being alone and defenseless and insular and strange...it is a blessing and a curse. I'm well aware of the curse, but more need to understand the blessing. And what hurdles we've had to face. That we've overcome them is the miracle we'll celebrate, in part, tonight, the first night of Chanukkah. It is the anti-assimilation holiday, totally perverted by the reformed Jews, but the holiday is purely about maintaining our identity, our stiff-necked and crazy and insular persona, even in the face of hate and abuse.

And so it is 65 years since my grandparents were murdered by the animals, the Nazis, in Auschwitz. My 2 kids are religious, my sister's 5 kids and 7 grandchildren (I'm the slow one of the two!) are all religious or being raised religious. We haven't disappeared yet. But Hitler and his henchmen are gone, the Reich is gone. Yes, new enemies have arisen, and anti-Semitism doesn't go out-of-fashion, and yes, we can be total idiots...but we persevere, because we believe in what we are and who we are...not better than anyone, but maintaining who we are and what we do is important, EVEN IF WE DON'T EVEN ALWAYS UNDERSTAND WHY...: we are the group that gave the world the premier book about theodicy, the book of Job. It is who we are. We maintain faith though at times it seems absurd to do so. It is not always or maybe it is NEVER rational. But we've outlasted all the other folks who tried to do us in, and we believe that we'll outlast the Iranis and Hamas and Islam and all the rest of the murderers.

Said with proper passion.

He misses my point a bit, however and I admit that I should have spelled it out more. The thrust of my initial remarks above was not at all that Jews should always have sought allies. I agree that allies would have been rarely available. My point is that Jews should be cultivating their allies NOW -- while such allies (American fundamentalist Christians) are available. Fundamentalist Christians are strong people in the face of the hostility of the world and have therefore remained supportive of Israel despite the scornful attitude that many Jews seem to have towards them -- but changing churches is an American tradition and church doctrines themselves have undergone a lot of changes even in my lifetime. My old Presbyterian church is still an oasis for the old gospel but many other churches are not. So nobody should take fundamentalist Christians for granted. Their support might not always be available. Note that already outside America fundamentalist Christians are often little focused on Israel. So from a British perspective it is stupid of Jews not to value, support and encourage American fundamentalist Christians.

And the reason I mentioned Britain was to point out that even a great and powerful nation has always seen a pressing need for allies. So if the Brits have always thought that they needed allies, might not people who are in a much weaker position also need them?

My comments on the Biblical description of Jews as "stiff-necked" as an explanation for Jewish political folly could probably also be expanded. I did note that I myself probably deserve that description. My point, however, was that obstinacy and defiance has both strengths and weaknesses. And I think that Jews are a good example of that. It gives Jews an independence of mind but also generates hostility towards them. Even The Lord himself did not like it! And I have NO expectation that it will ever change much. If Moses and the Hebrew prophets could not change it, who could?

Again, however, I think the British offer a safer example -- a way of handling others that any target of hostility should find thought-provoking. The Brits are experts at deflecting hostility. They don't succeed entirely at it of course but their historic civility and their ability to find allies shows that they are pretty good at it nonetheless. And their way is what outsiders often condemn as "British hypocrisy". But it is not really hypocrisy. It is just an attempt to respect the sensitivities of others. And the tools for doing that are compromise and the "fudge". You almost have to be British to understand what a fudge is and probably the best way of finding out is to Google "British fudge" and read some examples of it. It it is basically a partial retreat or concession that is disguised as not being a retreat or a concession. So it means something like "an evasive compromise", "handling a dilemma by vagueness" or "concealing what is really going on by vague or misleading words". It might not be too unkind to describe the whole of British politics as one big fudge. I doubt that the word is capable of precise definition but precision is, after all, anathema to it. There are some good examples of it here (Scroll down a little).

And I did make the point that the relatively small population of Jews in the world is essentially the result of persecution. That was really my starting point. I went on to ask WHY Jews have been so persecuted. And given their present demonstrable unwisdom politically, I suspect that they have always lacked political wisdom -- with "stiff-neckedness" being a major fount of that unwisdom. But my British heritage means that I speak as someone who not only respects compromise but also understands the "fudge". Nobody respects the "fudge" -- but they do it rather than perpetuate hostility.

A fudge that modern-day Jews could use would be to declare that Christian fundamentalists are after all just another Jewish sect. It is only partially true but it would warm relationships.

To be blunt:

I just want to make a brief comment on something that every single Jew who has written to me on this topic has said. They say: "We have survived them all so far and we will survive the present lot of SOBs too" (I paraphrase).

What that overlooks is what Winston Churchill originally said in 1934 (he said much the same later too). I briefly alluded to it earlier:
For nearly a thousand years England has not seen the campfires of an invader. The stormy sea and our Royal navy have been our sure defense. Not only have we preserved our life and freedom through the centuries, but gradually we have come to be the heart and center of an empire which surrounds the globe.

Churchill went on to warn (rightly) that the sea barrier was not alone enough and that Britain was nonetheless in dire peril. But what I want to draw attention to is that the English have survived for a long time too but have done so in style. They have had relative peace and prosperity (not a single woman raped by foreign troops in nearly a thousand years and very few civilian deaths from hostile foreign action) and have made their culture one of the world's most influential and made their language the common language of the world. English is even the language most widely spoken by Jews. Compared to that success, the Jewish achievement of mere survival amid horrendous losses is a very poor second prize.

I am sorry if that is a harsh way to put it but my more "fudged" British way of putting it previously obviously failed to communicate effectively in at least some cases.

So what I was doing above was to analyse what the English got right and what Jews got wrong. My conclusion is of course only my own opinion but I hope that the arguments I have made in support of it are persuasive. And my principal focus was of course on just one of the things that have kept Britain safe and thriving: Their unremitting emphasis on the importance of allies. Britain was invaded many times before the Norman conquest in 1066 but the Normans brought to Britain a wider continental awareness and engagement. And that system has continued in one way or another to this day.

And my (pissing into the wind) hope is that I might get more Jews to value allies highly too, now that some chances for allies have opened up. I have been a partisan for Israel since my early teens and I want it to survive in peace and prosperity, not amid more horrendous losses. So I say what little I can that might assist that.

Comment on a critique

Punditarian has some comments on my recent posts about Jews. We appear to be in substantial agreement -- with the main problem being that he has completely missed my point when I compared the English and the Jews. I was not at all interested in the question of what the future holds for the English. I was merely trying to extract what lessons we can learn from their rather distinguished history to date. How did the English do so well from the 11th to the 20th centuries? I think the answer to that could have lessons for Jews. And there is nothing in that answer that is at all threatening to Jewry or Judaism. Quite to the contrary. Jews have survived for 3,000 years amid great suffering. I believe that there are ways to reduce that suffering. It has been said that when we stop learning we die so I do hope that Jews are still capable of learning some things. If so, I believe that the English are one group who could teach most people something.

I think the only area where Punditarian and I disagree is fairly trivial. He wants to call Jews a nation. I have no strong feelings about that at all. My only point is that Jews are not a race and he seems to agree with that. Nonetheless his use of "nation" is a bit peculiar. In ordinary usage, "nation" refers to the people of a particular place under a single government. So Israel is undoubtedly a nation but Jews generally are not. Whether you call Jews a nation, a people or just a group, however, the only really interesting question, it seems to me, is how they are defined. It is of course an old question that has been debated for many years and Israel itself has effectively thrown up its hands over the matter and declared that you are a Jew if you think you are. Being one of those pesky social scientists, however, I still strive to bring a bit of order out of chaos so I still like my definition that you are a Jew either because of your own religion or the religion of one of your recent forebears.

In an earlier post, Punditarian conflated geneology with genetics in discussing one of my statements but I concede that the statement concerned was unclear enough to enable that. I could not see how any modern day Western Jew could trace a GENEOLOGICAL connection to the Israel of 2,000 years ago but Punditarian took me to be referring to a GENETIC connection. There is of course no doubt (as we see here) that some Western Jews derive some of their genes from the Middle East and, hence probably from ancient Israel. Overall, however, Jews are racially very mixed. I trace some of my ancestry to Scotland but that does not mean that I am a Scot.

One point made by Punditarian that I rather liked, however, was his point that Jews have always been only weakly endogamous. As he notes, the Bible itself records plenty of examples of marrying "out". The book of Ruth is in fact all about one such episode.

"Fudging" and treading on dangerous ground

"Fudging" is of course what the English do in order to avoid treading on dangerous ground but I have enough independence in me to be rather un-English about that. I mentioned yesterday some of the points made by Punditarian. One point I did not mention, however, was his comment about "fudging". He cautiously mentioned that Jews are rather good at that too. He must be Jewish as I cannot imagine a gentile daring to say so. It could feed the stereotype of Jews as being devious and dishonest.

So let me start out by saying that Australians do a bit of fudging too. And we even call it that. I imagine that fudging occurs from time to time in a lot of places. An essential point however is that British fudging is primarily used to avoid upsetting community or political applecarts. It is used to keep everyone involved reasonably happy. So whether Jews often do that sort of thing from time to time I will leave unanalysed. My point about the matter is that modern-day Jews certainly overlook large opportunities for doing so -- and overlook such opportunities at considerable loss. The example I gave of a way in which Jews could do some good British fudging still seems to me to be valuable: Jews could declare that fundamentalist Christians are after all just another Jewish sect. Like all fudges, that is only partly true but it would surely warm relationships greatly nonetheless. And the importance of warm relationships between modern day Christians and Jews was the whole point of everything I have recently written on the topic.

An omission:

I note that although I have defined "Jew" in what I think is the most reasonable way, I have not defined "English". As an academic, I see that as a regrettable omission and I think it may have led to some confusion. So: As with the Jews, a number of definitions are possible but not all are equally good. Some sort of rough racial description could perhaps be managed, for instance, but for my present purposes, all I need to do is to define the English as the LINGUISTIC group that first came to England c. 1500 years ago and who still live there in the persons of their descendants -- descendants who still speak an evolved version of the same language. That makes no racial claims and in fact what I say is heavily dependant on a cultural claim, as we will see in a moment.

And the descendants of the original German tribes of 1500 years ago have of course received heavy genetic input from other groups: Particularly the previous Celtic inhabiants of what was once Britannia and various Norse invaders (Danes and Norwegians). So racial purity is in their case, as usual, a fantasy. It is however true that the physical and cultural differences between the three major groups were slight so have left little difference that is now detectable.

What is important, however, is the large cultural change brought about by the last (Norman) invasion of England in 1066. Before that event England was getting invaded all the time, with the previous invasion being only a couple of weeks before, in fact. The Normans represented racial groups (Celts and Norse) that were already well represented in England so the change they brought was not a racial one. What the Norman rulers brought to England was a much larger and cannier political perspective and, for one reason or another (due in part, no doubt, to the Norman struggles for independance from France), that perspective hardened rapidly into the alliance-orientation that has characterized the English ever since. And so it still is. Tony Blair sent 15,000 British troops into Iraq not because Britain had been attacked but because America had been.

More detail on English history

Below is an email recently received from a Jewish friend that questions one of the points I have made so far. It is in fact not directly about Jews at all but traces back to my comparison of Jews with the English above. It challenges in part my description of the English as having survived the last 1000 years "in style". It does not challenge the external achievements of the English but does point to internal problems. I follow that challenge with some more comments of my own.
I wish to add some objections to your core thesis that agues that the English have survived in style for the last millennium and a half.

While on the surface this carries with it an apparent truism it overlooks the fact that English history, despite a popular misconception, has not been in and of itself peaceful. Looking at the period after 1066 (the time when England was last successfully invaded) Albion has witnessed on local soils rebellions by the Saxons against Norman Feudalism, the Baron Wars, Peasant Rebellions, the War of the Roses (which really spanned the era between Richard II and Henry VII), the English Civil War, the Jacobite War and the insurrection of Monmouth. If one adds in the American Revolution (which for all intent of purpose can be looked at as an internal struggle between English speaking people) it is evident that the English have had a long history of warring amongst themselves.

In addition if you add in the numerous English lives (mostly commoners) that have been lost in the pursuit of Empire on a global basis -not to mention those lives foregone in conflicts with Spain, the Netherlands, France, Scotland, Denmark, the United States etc - the idea of surviving with style, at least how it reflects down to the bulk of the populace, is found wanting.

Now I will not deny the fact the English have been very successful in transmitting their culture on a worldwide basis. The dominance of the English language and systems of education and governance attest to this phenomenon but it has come at a price which I believe cannot be swept so easily under the proverbial rug.

The English are a very admirable people (I have been somewhat of an anglophile for most of my life although my enthusiasm has waned as of late as British institutions which I once respected continue to shed ground to the Stealth Jihad) but the accident of geography that has afforded them island status clearly played a large role in their success (yes the Scots and Welsh could harass the English but by sheer force of number were unlikely to ever win the upper hand..).

Winston Churchill was correct in arguing that the island situation was an advantage that could not last forever and that Britain would need to work on establishing alliances to ensure survival. This was not a novel idea at the Empire level (regional alliances with the Iroquois, the Basuto, the Sikhs were common) but in the more critical area of European politics it was particular loathsome to the English mindset. After the Napoleonic Wars and the obvious realization that the European Powers (Russia, Prussia and Austria) were intent on turning back the forces of liberalism and nationalism (via the Concert System) Britain retreated into a type of 'splendid isolation' where it focused on growing its Empire alone without outside interference. With the possible exception of the Crimean War this attitude characterized British geo-politically thinking up to the Second Anglo Boer War. It was only after the South African conflict, where British resources were stretched to breaking point by the guerilla tactics of well organized militia that the need for global allies would become a necessity. In fact one can pinpoint this change in policy to the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1902, a framework that set the foundation for the Entente Cordiale with France and the Anglo-Russian Entente.

However even in this regard the Brits were slow to the post, for one the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was already well established. Germany also had cultivated an ally in the Ottoman Turks. One could even argue (with hindsight) that Britain's decision to enter into a system of alliances and thereby join the trend was ultimately what caused the weakening of the Empire by forcing London to engage in a vortex of events leading to the disastrous Great War (although I suspect that you will argue otherwise using the pretext that the growing influence of German Naval Power made war inevitable).

I believe that the success of the English people resides with a combination of factors. They are a very resourceful people (their pragmatic creativity during the First Industrial Revolution and beyond bears this out) but so does a commitment to the free inquiry. The former has its structural origins in the English Reformation, but was further augmented by the battle against autocracy during the Civil War and the Hanoverian transfer of power during the reign of George I. These changes were not as forthcoming amongst Britain/England's continental rivals who were forced to delay the coming of modernism to the Enlightenment Period.

However what has most served the English is their ability to adapt - to take the best from the outside and make it somehow English. They did this with the Roman system of laws, Grecian Rationalism, Judeo-Christian Ethics, Stoicism and Iberian naval proficiency. It is this same characteristic that the family branch of the English, the Americans, have utilized with remarkable success today (Another island nation, the Japanese, are similar to the English in this regard).

It is this adaptation that has created the illusion that the English have resisted invasion. While no army since William the Conqueror have overwhelmed the English on the home front since the 11th century (although the Hungarians humbled the English football team at Wembley in the 1950s) it is equally true that the English monarchy has resided in the hands of foreigners since then. The Normans were of a Franco/Norse stock, the House of Plantagenet, and its spin offs in Lancaster and York were all Gallic, the Tudors were Welsh, The Stuarts - Scottish and Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor were/are all German. Yes not since the ill-fated Harold Godwinson (aka Harold II) has England had a monarch of English ethnicity and before that power was invested for some time with Danish kings such as Canute and Hardicanute.

What is most remarkable though is that within a short period the English turned these foreigners into extensions of England itself...so that their ethnicity is more a matter of historical detail than anything else.

However with each addition and influx of change a point of saturation is neared. Changes are rarely neutral with respect to key factors. The utility of adaptation carries with it a double-edged outcome. At what point in a series of changes is the system or the people no longer English?

British Internationalism, the overriding policy of adaptation, that dominates the nation in 2008 is a consequence of this underlying tendency, however in subjecting itself to the relativism of multiculturalism the Brits seem to have shot the bolt and traded away the base in one foul swoop. Could it be that the English will simply wither away? Over-adapted themselves to death? Maybe there is a grace in this style but I am at a loss to find it.

Phew! Where do I start there and where do I finish? The argument is too detailed for most readers to judge so I think I should content myself with some fairly general remarks in reply. I am inclined to make remarks along the lines that that the Jacobite wars were fought mainly in Scotland and that the Monmouth rebellion was trivial but that would just move the debate too far afield.

A major point above, and one I had been waiting for someone to make, is that, although there has been no foreign invasion of any moment, the English have at times fought amongst themselves -- and the Scots also got a bit far South on some occasions.

And I do not for a moment deny the savagery of some of England's internecine wars. There were large areas of civility in the wars concerned but there were some nasty incidents too. My point, however, is simply that foreign invasions would have made things much worse and England managed to avoid those. The English have never had a magic wand that insulates them from all harm but they have done better than almost anybody (Yes. I know about Iceland and Japan) at keeping out foreigners. Internecine wars are regrettably common just about everywhere -- see for instance pre-Tokugawa Japan and the numerous wars that for so long consumed the German states. And see Renaissance Italy and classical Greece for that matter. So the English did little better than others on the internecine front but they did wonders on the foreign front. Life in England would have been a lot nastier and much more destructive if foreign troops had marched through England's "green and pleasant land" as well.

And I will be a little pesky and point out that England's internal strife came to a halt a remarkably long time ago. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 terminated England's internecine wars. Since then there have been lots of nasty internecine wars in other places: Two of them in America in fact. So the English even got the internecine problem under control earlier than most. I can already hear a few roars about my mention of America, though.

I think the next point made above by my friendly critic is that lots of English troops have died in England's wars abroad. That is of course true. EVERY nation has lost sons in foreign wars. But, again, the English have generally got off pretty lightly. In WWII, for instance, English losses were piffling compared to the losses of men (and population generally) suffered by Germany and Russia. Britain's alliance with the Soviets was unpleasant but, as with most of Britain's alliances, it did succeed in getting lots of foreigners to die for English liberty. Clever? You judge.

So I think at this point I will make a concession to my critic above: I may have given an impression of complete tranquillity in England and that would certainly not be justified. But nearly a thousand years of freedom from foreign invasion was still a major achievement and it sure beats almost anything elsewhere. And that seems worth study.

We now move into an area that is a bit fuzzier. How consistent has been Britain's seeking of alliances? I have not the slightest problem in saying that their seeking of alliances has waxed and waned. The seeking of alliances was simply an English tendency, not some rule laid down from on high. So I will not spend too much time on each era of English history. My critic does descry, however, a period in which the enthusiasm for alliances was low but admits that the Crimean war took place during that period.

I cannot let the magnitude of that pass unremarked. In the Crimean war (against Russia), the English were allied with the FRENCH! The enormity of that can hardly be understated. Perhaps a small anecdote will help. Since Norman times, the French have always been England's chief enemy. And when the allied generals in the Crimea were discussing strategy to be used against the Russian enemy, the English generals had the unfortunate tendency of referring to the enemy as "The French"! That did not go down too well with their French allies, of course. So the English propensity for seeking allies was strong enough at that time to cause them to enter into the most unlikely and unpopular alliance which was at that time conceivable. So I don't think that the English enthusiasm for alliances was too far submerged in that era either.

This post is already way too long so I will finish by making a tiny point about the many late 19th century alliances that were negotiated in Europe. It is true that Britain was not an enthusiastic participant in them but there was a good reason for that. The prime mover in the alliances concerned was Germany's brilliant Otto von Bismarck and Bismarck kept playing musical chairs with Germany's alliances as a way of keeping everyone off balance and thus preventing the rest of Europe from ganging up on the new Germany and thus igniting a hugely destructive war. So the British were rightly deeply skeptical of all those manouvres. And when Bismarck was gone we see how right he was about the dogs of war that lay in wait for Europe. Without his mercurial diplomacy to prevent it, Europe entered WWI.

And it is true that I think the German fleet was the main reason for Britain coming in on the side of France in WWI. The battle of Jutland showed that the German fleet was rightly feared. But that is all another story. The rest of my critic's observations I broadly agree with.

By the way: Most readers here will know that I am Australian, not English, but I want to make that clear for any new readers. Thanks to our British forebears, Australia is the only nation that has an entire continent to itself -- which is exceptionally neat. And Australians are probably even more devoted to alliances than the English are. Wherever British or American troops are fighting, Australian troops will normally be there too lending a hand. And in the more than 200 years of our history, we have not seen the campfires of an invader either. Nor have we had any civil wars. So Australia really has had a tranquil past -- lightyears more tranquil than the history of the Jews over the same period. And Australia is a pretty tranquil place today too.

1 comment:

Despaxious said...

John, another area you have not taken into account is that the Judaism is not a proselyting religion like Christianity or Islam. Judaism accepts non-believers, but it is not part of their religion to actively seek converts. For Christianity (evangelism) or Islam (submission, dhimmitude or death) proselytization is a core and fundamental imperative of the religion.