My Jewish “problem”-and ours

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First, I am paraphrasing Norman Podhoretz’s famous essay My Negro Problem-And Ours, though this post will bear only a flimsy resemblance to that. I titled it for the attention, I admit it….

Due to time constraints, I won’t be able to blog much in the near future (measured in a few weeks). I thought that I’d post something that was controversial (in the best tradition of this blog) as a temporary kiss-off to readers. But first, I’d like to point you all to Google News Alerts. Since I don’t have time to do much web browsing these days, this service has come in really handy (I actually only have a “genetics” search, since I assume CNN can give me an OK headline list).


  1. What a lack of originality, Razib! Assimilation was tried and it did not work, not in Spain not in Germany not in Poland. I do not think that Jewish people can escape from their Jewishness in any significant scale. The world “needs” Jews. It is fate. It is also fun. Enjoy.

  2. Hurry back, Razib. GNXP is basically a political blog without your posts, and I enjoy reading it for info on cultural dynamics.

  3. not in Spain not in Germany not in Poland

    a non-trivial number (some say as high as 40%) of the spanish nobility has marrano forbears. many polish families, including in the former nobility, had jewish antecedants, though we won’t ever know how many because books published on this topic were purchased by members of these families and destroyed.

    the idea that the “jews will always be with us” is false. the jews of zimbabwe became bantu tribesmen. the jews of kaifeng disappeared circa 1850 because of assimilation into the chinese substrate. the indian bene israel are descendents of kohanim from what i know-what happened to other jewish lineages? perhaps they assimilated because the barriers were lower for non-priestly jews. etc. etc.

    many of the german jewish families of the 19th century and almost all of the sephardic families of the 18th century have become christian (barry goldwater’s father was a german jew, he was raised episcopalian by his gentile mother). the reform congregations founded by german jews are now filled with people who are descendents of galician hasids and lithuanian mitnagdim (traditional orthodox)-not the original reform jews who founded them.

    are the jews the most persecuted people in the world? perhaps. but they are the most persecuted because they are one of the most persistent and resistant to full assimilation, a jewish core remains to witness to the historical tradition of their people. other minorities that have been treated badly are eventually absorbed when they exist in the number that jews have. like a allele that will not reach fixation, but always hovers between 100% and 0%, jews rarely overwhelm societies to make them jewish (stopping persecution) or become totally absorbed to the point of no longer being identifiable objects of persecution (the historical instances of jewish assimilation are not pointed to very often-but new genetic studies hint at its existence in rather strange locales if the kohanim can be taken as a guide-post).

    btw, i don’t address israel, because it doesn’t have a “jewish problem.” it is close to one end of the continuum, toward fixation of jewishness as the norm, so persecution and its children are not the same in that state.

    apologize to all those who post comments that i can’t respond to. i really am pressed for time.


    p.s. chris, you should get yourself a genetics book so you can read the science related posts!

  4. Razib wrote:
    “Perhaps one of the reasons is this: I am a Jew. By this, I mean I share many of the traits (streotypically) of Jews, I am bookish, argumentantive, often analytic in my thinking though it might lead to pedanticism, and yes, obscuranticism. The values that I prize most highly, sharpness of intellect, curiousity, mastery of word and symbol, and so forth, the Jewish people excell in in spades. A common phrase is, “but is it good for the Jews?” It might be re-termed “but is it good for me?” On some level, I suspect that if it’s good for the Jews, it must be good for me, as a socially libertarian individual of Asiatic provenance”

    This isn’t really a response, but just something this paragraph made me think of. I think the accusation that many make that the Jews are primarily concerned with the well-being of their own in-group may be true under many circumstances, but in this regard they are not unique at all. Most people are not as universalistic as they proclaim (although an even greater number of people are honest, and don’t proclaim to be universalistic at all). People care about those who are like them: those who share the same lifestyle, history, culture, and values. I care most about other educated, secular, socially liberal, reflective, cosmopolitan types — that is my in-group. Average ordinary middle-class Americans care about other average ordinary middle-class Americans, Evangelical Christians care about other evangelical Christians, white trash care about other white trash, international businessmen care about other international businessment, Linux geeks care about other Linux geeks, and working-class Latinos care about other working-class Latinos. Loyalties aren’t based upon “blood and soil” for all people anymore — other factors come into play. However, moral universalism is typically a cover for special interests, and those who speak of their loyalty to “America” usually have a specific subdemographic in mind that motivates this loyalty (which isn’t nearly as broadbased as some might believe). Maybe many Jews are tribal, but no more so than anybody else.

    It would be refreshing to seek everybody cast the ideologies aside, and just come out and admit that they are merely seeking the benefit of their specific in-group. Nobody cares about “American culture” — such a concept is a piece of fictional propaganda. People care about the specific subdemographic of which they are apart, while false conflating it with “American culture”. Maybe if we admitted this, we could see that many problems could be solved if groups with irresolvable differences separated from each other’s political space, so to speak. Maybe.

  5. jaime wrote:
    “I do not think that Jewish people can escape from their Jewishness in any significant scale.”

    I know from experience that this is false. Being in my twenties, I’ve known a number of young people of Jewish background who aren’t in anyway recognizably Jewish. My favorite co-worker, who had Jewish parents, is a good example. The guy almost has an allergic reaction to stereotypically Jewish behavior, and bashes Jewish culture on a regular basis. There are countless young people of jewish descent who aren’t Jewish in any relevant sense, aside from the fact that their parents happened to be Jewish.

  6. chris,

    since i’m still here, i’ll make one point: i think anti-semites and jews tend to both play into the stereotype that jews are a special people put through special circumstances. in other words, they are always targets, always making trouble among the nations etc. etc. i don’t think this is true, jews aren’t that special, many of the things kevin macdonald says about jews ring true, but they aren’t unique to jews, so i don’t buy his idea that they are evolutionarily adaptive. instead, they are the responses of a given people to a given set of problems and contexts.

    for instance-some of my jewish acquaintances often like to note that they are a very persecuted people, a specially persecuted people. there might be some truth in the christian context because of theological issues, but in general, i think what is special about jews is that a few instances of persecution does not totally digest them into the general society. though the majority of marranos converted to catholicism and became spaniards, a minority of sephards remained to remember their expulsion. if persecution is the dependent variable, and t the independent variable, the jews might win out in the number #1 victim game if you evaluated the integral between t=0 (genesis of the jewish people) and t=present. but, there are many peoples who have strong histories of persecution, and the absolute average value of persecution for jews might not be that much higher in the historical scope that it was for say the albigensians in southern france. groups like the latter though have a much shorter span of t and so their integral of the persecution function comes to a smaller absolute value….

  7. It’s crucial to note that Easterbrook’s entire crime was to write a sentence that contained the phrases “Jewish executives” and “worship money.” He did _not_, however, say “Jewish executives worship money.” Nor did he say that all Jewish executives worship money or that more Jewish executives than gentile executives worship money. He was specifically referring to only the two men who greenlighted “Kill Bill,” Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein. I don’t know about Weinstein, but Eisner is notorious for the vast amount he has paid himself as head of Disney.

    Easterbrook is being condemned for _accidentally_ making a glancing reference to a stereotype. The reaction of the vast majority of commentators has been shameful. The chilling effects on freedom of speech are obvious.

    If you converted his “radioactive” paragraph into an attack on black rap moguls, it would elicit few complaints from anyone beyond the hard left.

    “DefJam’s CEO, Russell Simons, is black; the chief of Death Row Records, Suge Knight, is black. Yes, there are plenty of white and other music executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for black executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent American history alone ought to cause black executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Rap records are now played all over America, to audiences that may not understand the irony or even read the reviews, but can’t possibly miss the message–now DefJam’s message–that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.”

    Bob Herbert writes this kind of thing in the NYT all the time. Why Jews should be immune from formulations that blacks are exposed to constantly is a very interesting question, but not one I expect to hear discussed widely in the press after the Easterbrook brouhaha.

  8. So, are Jews greedy? I don’t really know. Depends on how you define greedy.
    This article (which says that the net worth of US Jews is three times the average), claims that it’s because Jews don’t believe in the afterlife….!

    Rounded up, butchered like animals, treated with a barbarity that defies description. Some of the groups that were targeted, Communists, Gypsies and homosexuals were marginal social deviants,
    Well, that’s OK then!

    I don’t feel comfortable speaking of the Jewish people in a way that I might speak of blacks, Chinese, Hispanics, etc….. But what if we spoke about Jews in such a fashion? What if we mis-spoke?
    For fucks sake, get a spine. For a supposedly ‘realist’ site, Jews are definitely your elephant in the sitting room.

    If you converted his “radioactive” paragraph into an attack on black rap moguls, it would elicit few complaints from anyone beyond the hard left.
    Nor would discussion of Japanese being particularly good at consumer electronics, or Swedes good at producing cheap furniture… but Jews good at making money? unmentionable.

  9. “The “social justice” trend among Jews predates the Holocaust. Jews were disproportionately Communists, both in the US and Russia. The whole “social justice” phenomenon is, in my opinion, the root of a lot of right-wing anti-Semitism.”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. If Jews stopped trying to fix the world’s injustices and went back to their ages-old practice of just *surviving* ( which is what Israel is all about, basically ), there would be no Jewish ‘problem’ in the USA – at least not in its current form.

  10. “The dissolution of the Jewish people is a sad event for those who identify as such, but it is part of the genesis of the bobo class, which is partially Jeurasian.”

    Razib, I know you have high hopes for a caste of Jeurasian bobos who will create an oasis of real liberalism and genuine regard for the individual in a desert of group-think hyenas, but do you really think it will happen? Let’s say for the sake of argument that your “Jeurasian bobos” are the best realistic outcome of our ever-coalescing cognitive elite. The worst is a caste of Brahmin-like overlords, and the middle ground is are Latin-American style “conservatism” that Murray and Herrnstein predicted in “The Bell Curve”. Of these three, which do you think is the most likely? We all know that high IQ and compassion are not package deal, but neither are IQ and individualism. I suspect that the ethnic melding you speak of will occur, but it will not respect true individualism any more than the current regime does. In fact, I fear that Asian influence might strengthen the drive to create tight group bonds that ostracize non-conformists in the Japanese model. But I predict that your Jeurasians will embrace (or extend)individualism as an intense desire for money and status, not as honor, courage, and respect for the independent mind. This, of course, is nothing new. The bourgeouisie has been acting this way since it’s inception. But as the cognitive elite coalesces, the Jeurasian bobo elite will become for anyone with a high IQ what the pre-Lutheran Catholic Church was for any European who feared Hell: the only game in town. In the past high IQ folks who preferred not to become consumption machines could escape to the bohemian, avant garde world or to religious institutions, for whatever relief they could provide. Even materialism wouldn’t be so bad if they could put it in a historical, more worldwide perspective, but most bobos’ disinclination for self-examination is matched only by their ignorance. What is someone like me to do as my Church becomes an advocate for illegal immigration and the bobos adopt (or increase) Jewish American Princess levels of shallowness?

    My greatest lament as a humanitarian has long been that the social/economic changes of post-WWII America have it so extremely difficult for the low-IQ individual to live a life of honor. But then I realized that whatever their IQ, most people don’t want to live honorably if it requires self-denial and sacrifice. Their choices in aggregate do not reflect well on human nature, but neither does most of what people do. However, some people do want to build lives of honor and the bobo elite must (at least) tolerate them if any greater good is to come from the Jeurasian community. If high IQ people must choose between a consumeristic but functional JB elite and black/redneck/Mexican proles, most idealistic ones will choose the latter. How can you keep the JBs from purging their critics? Can any large group of people be taught to respect the principles of liberalism? We are a minority, as you’ve said. Maybe the ignobility of the masses is acceptable since it is a triumph of free will. But if the miniscule percentage of people who want to be honorable have that urge pressed out of them to avoid being thrown overboard into the roiling underclass sea, it will be a tragedy for the individualist spirit that you so admire.

  11. Duende, great comments.

    We must always keep in mind the problems with human nature. There is no ethnic blending or cultural blending that will fix those problems.

    People can and will find new ways to differentiate among themselves. There is no shortage of snobbishness and arrogance of upper class liberals and leftist intellectuals. There is no shortage of ignorance and embrace of stereotypes of assorted outgroups by academics with high IQs.

    I agree with Steve Sailer about the chilling effects on freedom of speech by the Easterbrook affair. I am disappointed that Razib doesn’t even bother to mention this in his comments about it. This is ironic since Razib posts under a pseudonym in large part because he wants to write about taboo subjects.

  12. “Just don’t impose it on me…”

    Where in that post did I tell you, or anyone, how to live their lives? Find me a quote that says “The government should stop people from being greedy pigs”. I simply said that I doubt the new JB world order will be any more respectful of real individualism than the current state of affairs. If the JB crowd considers itself a threatened minority at the mercy of a large, hostile underclass the urge to censor and ostracize will be even stronger. Is this position unreasonable?

    You seem to find my ideals as distasteful as I find your self-gratification/materialist stance. All this really means is that you and I are very different people. My post did not have instructions. It did convey my negative feelings of consumerism as an attitude toward life, but I’m sure you can live with my disapproval.

    Godless, I really don’t care what you do or how you live. But if all the JB dream accomplishes is that we trade one high IQ groupthink for another, how will we be better off?

  13. Duende
    Get off the mescalin please. Sounds like you need to get a fantasy novel out of your system.

    I’m not sure where Godless, I or any other advocate of philosophical materialism has advocated ‘instant gratification’ and ‘materialism’ in the consumerist sense. You’re simply conflating the two concepts. I suspect high IQ people find ‘vulgar consumerism’ too boring to provide much long term gratification. You’re the one watching Geraldo or whatever the hell it is you watch, not us. Note that according to David Brooks’ formulation, Boboism is to be distinguished from the sort of shallow consumerism you have in mind which is more typically the preference of your idealised proles.

  14. what is this real individualism you speak of, Duende? it sounds like the sort of Rousseau-inflienced romanticised notion that produces suicide bombers rather than the sober but dynamic bourgeoise individualism that has served America well all this time.

  15. “I suspect high IQ people find ‘vulgar consumerism’ too boring to provide much long term gratification.”

    Well, I doubt the line between “vulgar consumerism” and “non-vulgar consumerism” is that sharp. Both low IQ and high IQ men spend money on cars and clothes that they think will help them get laid. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I just don’t see much fundamental difference. High IQ men are probably more selective in their purchases and consider ramifications (e.g. will this look like I bought it for tonight?), but the motive is not that different.

    High IQ people probably pay more attention to quality and shop with a long-term or intangible goal in mind, such as a specific color couch to match the wallpaper they chose for it’s classical theme. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s how style, aesthetics and the arts function. Looking for a really expressive sweater is a lot of fun. But if, outside work, you spend most of your time shopping even for beautiful things, I find this a little creepy. Maybe I’m just a nerdy bookworm who would utterly miserable shopping my life away.

    You used the word “instant” not I. I don’t “idealize” proles, and I certainly didn’t mean to convey that I did. They terrify me, even if I do pity them. If I had to choose between them and the bobos, I’d go with the bobos, I just
    want a third option

    My notions of individualism and high IQ people’s propensity for it are very much colored by my residence in Washington DC. EVERYTHING here is political and/or is traceable to partisan politics. I am surrounded by very smart, very ambitious people who think their party is the savior of mankind, and that the opposing party (and its adherents) are enemies of humanity who must be crushed if their party is to build its shining city on the hill.

    And as for getting a fantasy novel out of my system, I don’t entirely disagree.

  16. Razib: I’m told that the Israelis have a saying that goes something like this, “When you visit a country, if you want to know who really runs it, find out who it is who no one is talking about.”

    I find your hesitancy in not talking about Jews annoying (and telling?). Perhaps part of the reason for your hesitancy is that they make such a stink about being citicized, and they are so good at derision that people internalize a sense of shame at the idea of criticizing them. And if Jews are able to control you and others in that way, then they indeed have won a major psychological battle.

    In my opinion, all people grouped by race or religion or any other category are open to criticism. If you are afraid or hesitant to criticize, you wind up letting a group get away with things. This is exactly how an idiot like Jesse Jackson has had such success and is still able to damage race relations after all these years.

    The educational philosophy of the Jews themselves is to create psycic dissonance, and I for one am certainly willing to help them out with that by pointing out their own contradictions. I find their diversity mantra ridiculous (it is theirs in the sense that they use it a lot) when on the one hand multiculturalism causes such obvious problems and on the other the pursuit of diversity seems to be leading to a globalized homogeneous cultural and the possibility of miscegenation to the point of minimal human biodiversity. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with those things, but I think that Jews are not always forthcoming about their real motiviations.

    At any rate, my advice is that you ignore your hesitancy and criticize away as you feel inclined.

  17. This is not going to happen. Besides, even if you did mix people up on a global scale, it wouldn’t “eliminate’ biodiversity – it would just create new groups.

    i agree on this point. some people seem to have interpreted my idea of a JB class a move toward a universal a-racial liberal class. not at all-rather, i view it as a logical “cluster” in america that should bind itself more closely together and implement in reality the de-emphasis of aspects of identity that it rhetorically asserts are not very important (race & religion). so-if secular jews assert that race & religion are not important, but rather you views on tolerance, pluralism, freedom, justice, etc. they should get with the program and accelerate their mixture with well educated inviduals of all religious confessions and racial backgrounds….

  18. Godless:

    I listened to Amy Chua for an hour yestereday. She has interesting ideas and I will read her book. However, she does not believe that the market dominate minority phenomenon is a product of either genes or culture. Instead, she gave some inscrutable PC reason for it.

  19. A very good, thoughtful post. Along with the “Jewsweek” post, one of the two intelligent pieces to come out of the Easterbrook imbroglio. But no good deed goes unpunished …

    [excerpted quotes follow]

    “I am a Jew. By this, I mean I share many of the traits (streotypically) of Jews, I am bookish, argumentantive … In the Jews, I see me ..
    … [but i have] … expressed dismay at a “Jewish model” for the development of the ethnos that I am a member of by blood and birth .. want the brown to melt into the milk, I want desi (South Asia) culture to envelope itself into the broadly liberal tradition “

    This is the most personal post of yours I have read so far. It’s a coherent view of yourself and how you relate to the world. And I think its incorrect.

    I think it’s impossible to disappear, and that the “Jewish model” is the best and only way an non-Christian, non-white alien can become a real American. Melting into the milk is a futile effort that will result in a frustrated life (unless you do it the Bobby Jindal way — that would work)

    But you’re already aware of my objections…

    “The path toward ethnic self-awareness and identification is fraught with unasked for responsibilities and duties in exchange for the protection conferred by the group, while the path of individual self-definition is rich in the possibilities for failure and personal humilation, though it frees you up to dictate to the world who you are.”

    I’m not sure you can dictate to the world who you are. One part of the Hitler lesson is, as you say, become part of the establishment if you wish to be secure. But the other part is that, no matter how much you cast aside you ethnic markers (e.g. accent, funny clothes) you cannot fully dictate to the world who you are. Even if he had never taken power, blocked by a JB establishement, Hitler and company would have seen Jews, not Germans.

    And in a country like the US, where Christ is central and a connection to the ‘heartland’ a sign of legitimacy, there will always be many people who will see you as part of the indissoluble brown, not part of the milk.

    But I suppose from a multi-generational perspective, the melting is be possible, so long as your descendents embrace Christ. If Dershowtiz descedents will not be Jewish, it is also possible that Razib’s kids will be creationist evangelical Christians, pure whole milk.

    And finally

    “has made me more hesitant about posting on racial issues”


  20. Or if the culture becomes less Christian, and more “spiritual”. I don’t think you have to “embrace Christ”

    Said by a blue-stater. We are in the midst of the fourth great-awakening, the greatest Christian revival in America in a century. The President’s most admired philospher is Jesus Christ. Outside Berkeley, “the culture” is not getting less Christian.

    And maybe the rest of Cali-fornia is not so godly either. But, like it or not, American normality is defined by the ‘heartland’ — the red states. And increasingly, it is defined by the south. When I lived there, Wednesday night was bible night, and this was in one of the richest parts of Texas. There was no hope of JB there, but plenty of WWJD. That’s why Hindu Piyush Jindal is now Catholic Bobby Jindal.

    If you don’t want to convert yourself, the econd best hope is that your children will marry Christians and your grandchildren will be future Wesley Clark’s or John kerry’s — both Christians with a smattering of non-Christian ancestry.

    I suppose that’s one way to have the brown dissolve into the milk. Is that what Razib meant?

  21. both Christians with a smattering of non-Christian ancestry.

    both are half-jewish. not a smattering.

    and you’d know what i meant, ikram, if you read what i wrote. of course, your tendency is to resort to snide ripostes – which i’m sure are impressive on your ever so original blog. keep on living by substance of style ikram….

  22. Yeesh, next you’ll be saying I am an enemy of the future …

    As I said in my first comment, I thought this was a well thought out post. As per your advice, I went back and read it agian, as well as re-reading some of your other recent posts. I understand that you do not look fondly upon the Clark-Jindal solution.

    As you know, I think your preferred option, the bobo elite, is not a stable long term solution. (You probably don’t think so either). The values of the mass of people (“volk”, to misuse a term) need to be aligned with the values of the elite. I can think of several historical examples where a heterogenous secular cosmopolitan elite came to no good — Vienna before WWI, Alexandria before Nasser, Sarajevo before the 90s.

    The wine-drinking apostate elite of Sarajevo were not attacked for the religion they followed, they were attacked for the religion their parents followed. Had their parents converted to Orthodoxy, would they have been safer? I think yes — still not safe, but safer.

    (As for my own blog, I am under no illusions. It is infrequently updated and mostly visited by google-searchers hoping for porn and people looking for a dead South Asian gangster.)