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Sep 13, 2002 11:25:14 AM Archived Entry: "Friday, time to leave Seattle for a day"
Dear Sou'westerers, friends and family,
Greetings to all from our not very efficiently run Mom and Pop operation. The beauty of this tranquil day at the coast, belies the shadow we are under -- September 11th. 2001- The day American civilization encountered the 21st century Barbarians.
The gist of this letter is to let you know that on Veterans Day weekend ( November 8th and
9th) we invite to the Sou'wester anyone who wishes to experience Fall at the beach. Don't pay us. Instead bring your check for the value of your lodging made out to any charity of your choice which promotes the brotherhood of man (or sisterhood of woman). Since you are not paying for the accommodation, your donation is tax deductible in accordance with the law.. It
is our way of helping remember those who died or were maimed on September 11, and
those veterans who gave of themselves to create a better world. In this way, we can all make a
modest contribution to help this world along.
The Jewish New Year is upon us. We send those who celebrate it our warmest wishes, as we do to everyone else. At this time the traditional saying acknowledges the pain of the past year and expresses optimism for the new. "May the old year and its curses end . May the new year begin with its blessings." In addition, because it is not an easy task, tradition gives us ten Days between New Year and the Day of Atonement, to reflect on our own lives, to acknowlege where we may have wronged our fellow man/woman, and to take upon ourselves the responsibility to right that wrong in person. In so doing we improve the quality of the new year for ourselves and for others.
The rest of this letter is just commentary, so for those with little time, just skip it.
This is a sad time. A sense of moral outrage fuels our resolve and spurs us to action, so that in the future, innocent people will not be murdered by terrorist politicians for political gain. Depite this, ultimately Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's words do strike a chord.
"The little I have seen of the world.....teaches me to look upon the errors of others in sorrow, not in anger."
I am a simple man. Much that goes on bewilders me. The world moves too fast for me. Emotions heightened by one event are numbed, buried undigested, and replaced by others in rapid succession as news media, driven by the bottom line, play on my anxieties, training their cameras and excessive verbiage on their next carefully chosen event.
We can only imagine the helpless terror of blameless men women and young children in four metal capsules hurtling through the skies to their death... -- Imprisoned by a gang of paranoid men, intent on murdering thousands more.
Images hail down upon us - dead and dying, students on Mount Scopus. That university is one place in that troubled land where man and woman, Moslem, Christian, Jew, believer, atheist and agnostic - all rubbed shoulders and broke bread together, a place for learning and dialogue.
And then, almost swallowed up in the rapid succession of images, there is the carnage of the nurses at a Christian hospital in Pakistan. They healed the sick, without discriminating against race or religion. This
killing is the work of those who when faced by challenge have made the choice to worship death. When they worship death, in their demented minds the hospital is a logical target. After all, it is in the service of Life.
When you are blinded by a death-obsessed hate of the Other, then a university which encourages openess, tolerance, understanding, and dialogue between diverse peoples, - such a place is a target.
How sad it is then to see images of children celebrating in the streets along with the adults when images of the massacre at the twin towers flash upon the screen, or the youngsters in Gaza, playing to the cameras, screaming with tumultuous joy at students murdered and maimed,- their young minds abused for life by adult mentors.
How chilling it was to see the mother of a suicide bomber, so cold and devoid of affect that one sensed she might be schizoid, praising the youngster she had sent to his death. In the background two of her younger children with bands around their foreheads listened while she bespoke her awe of her god which prompts her to send them to slaughter and be slaughtered.
Closer to home is the 60 minutes image of children studying at the religious Moslem school in the
States. They are , after all, American youngsters. The teachers spoke peace, but their students declared their willingness to be suicide bombers. Where do they get their values from? Their religious teachers say it is not from them. Their organizations deny that they promote it. The parents, surely will deny it. So, to what emotional undercurrent, then, are these young American students responding? They may profess a belief in Allah, but the god they worship is Moloch.
Of course, Islam is not unique in having its life-affirming, peaceful religious precepts hijacked by fanatics armed with paranoid intellectual rationalizations. It has happened throughout time and place. "Quae fuerunt vitia, mores sunt." - " What were once vices, now are customs" is an age old Latin adage.
In ancient Greece, Socrates was sentenced to death for philosophically questioning prevailing pantheistic idolatry. Two millennia ago Christ was crucified. In Spain Jews who refused to accept Christ as their savior were burnt at the stake. In America innocent women were drowned because
superstitious men feared witchcraft. Fifty years ago Miriam was spat upon by fanatically
religious Jews when we naively walked, wearing a short-sleeved blouse and shorts, along the streets of a fundamentalist religious quarter in Jerusalem.
I cherish the tolerance enshrined in the American veneration for freedom of religion and conscience. I do, however, equally cherish the freedom to apply man's ability to examine all our belief systems in the light of reason. In doing so we grow as human beings.
In patriarchal Afghanistan women were literally covered from head tofoot. Even in America in the 60 Minutes excerpts the girl students wore scarves to hide their hair. It seems innocent enough - and at the risk of being politically incorrect, let me at least respectfully put in my two cents. They say that they want to be respected for their minds, not their sexual charms. This certainly makes some sense to the western mind - but if that were really the custom's psychological roots, why would the Taliban have prevented girls from going to school? My guess is that the motive behind the men in the patriarchal tribal society, who originally instituted these customs, was probably admirable - namely to prevent the rape of women. But surely, in the twenty first century, men can learn to accept responsibility for, and control of their own sexual urges. They do not need to invoke the deity to indoctrinate women to willingly subjugate themselves to a custom which enshrines repressed guilt
feelings about their own sexuality. Rape has to do with power, control and disdain.. Although their motive to prevent physical rape may thus be admirable, aren't they possibly just sublimating that urge and still asserting that power and control, only now it is rape of the female mind? And, sadly, the women willingly submit.
I realize that what I am writing is just one man's point of
view. I know that like the blind man describing the
elephant I am probably giving only a partial, and perhaps
incorrect picture of Reality. The reality is much more
complex. I live in peaceful Seaview, a mere statistic in
America's mass society. I am distant from the reality that
is taking place. I receive it filtered through a media which
has its own agenda. Thus all that I can really go by in
making judgments then, is to take my own life experience and
extrapolate from it.
Thus two remarks made by Bruno Bettelheim, the most
profound human being with whom it
has been my privilege to be in contact, come to mind. The
first was "The end is in the beginning." In a society
where indoctrination replaces education from the earliest
years, child abuse, disguised as religious sermons,
kindergarten, school text books, media, summer camps, mass
rallies,etc. etc. is the beginning....... The end is Twin
"What ails these young people is rage" was another remark I
remember, made by Bruno Bettelheim,
when speaking of the emotionally troubled children
in his care at the Orthogenic School of the University of
Chicago. In their pain they act out blindly, hurting
themselves and those
around them. Indeed much of our time was spent in helping
these children become conscious of that anger. We tried to
help them uncover its causes, and understand that there may
very well be a valid reason for that anger. However, it was
behavior, - being destructive of themselves
and of others - which was not valid. In the past it had led
to a cycle of
violence that exacerbated, rather than solved the problem.
Our work lay in trying to help the child find a more
constructive solution on how to deal with the problems,
rather than act out an ultimately self-destructive rage.
that people in one society spend their energies and coin to
indoctrinate in its youngsters
the same homicidal/suicidal tendencies, that we in our
spent our energies and coin to heal.
Half a century ago my brief
time at "Summerhill" in England with its creator A.S.
Neill was a major influence on my life.. It would be
wonderful, if, as I believed then, that
children always flourished if we gave them kindness,
caring and warmth. - We believed
that given the freedom to create their own children's self-
government, they would grow into happy sociable
human beings. As the song had it - we believed -"All you
need is love!"
It would be wonderful, but, alas, I have learnt that it
would not always be true. I was exhilarated to find that it
was true for the children I
taught on a kibbutz, who had been born into that Utopian
society. I was, however, humbled and depressed to
abject failure in using the same methods trying to educate a
delinquent city youngsters.
As the title of a seminal book
by Bettelheim explains "Love is not Enough. " The return
to emotional health required
both a sophisticated understanding of the child's
needs; but this also included the resolute underpinnings
of an understanding but extremely powerful authority figure.
Unbridled emotional illness is a raging torrent that
everything in its path. To his everlasting credit,
Bettelheim took it upon himself to counteract this
destructive force. He took upon himself the onus of being
the essential, but deeply resented Super Ego - an immensely
powerful figure, fear-inspiring and awesome. He set the
whether destructive of the self or of others was permitted.
He was the
bulwark that stanched the destructive flow of emotional
illness. In so doing he created a framework, that was
safe for child and staff alike, - the most caring,
loving, supportive and healing setting for these bright
youngsters that I have encountered anywhere in my seventy
Sick elements of an alien civilisation have invaded
America's skies. When sick
people band together in sufficient number they no longer
recognise each other as
emotionally sick. On a superficial level it may appear to
be a political problem. But the undercurrent is a
plague that is infinitely more dangerous and contagious than
the West Nile
virus, particularly when it is fueled by a hideously
deformed religious fervor.
Just as the emotionally disturbed child needed the threat of
sanction by an extremely powerful authority figure, so, in
the global picture, the implications of the need for such a
world authority is clear.
We have progressed far beyond our lives as cave-dwellers.
As man's need to live with others grew, the need for the
rule of law became
clear. We were blessed with far thinking Founding Fathers
whose genius established a government where the state could
protect us from predatory individuals, balanced by a Bill
to protect the individual
from a predatory state.
Over the past century, at least, we have experienced the
need to move
further. As Plato opined, the State is Man writ Large.
Now, with the proliferation of the means of mass murder,
the wars, the terrorism, all point in the
direction of the need for the Global Community as the State
Years ago Kipling wrote:
"East is East and West is West
And ne'er the twain shall m
Over the millennia, growing up geographically separated from
persons in different countries develop their own unique
psychological defences to deal with the existential
challenges with which their world presents them. Out of
this grew their own unique culture.
British culture, being technologically and economically more
developed, conquered India militarily. Since the English,
like everyone else, were unconsciously ethnocentric, they
viewed the Indian culture with disrespect.
To Kipling's mind an unbridgeable chasm separated western
culture from the culture of India.
Unless we are taught otherwise, we tend to be
ethnocentric. We are not respectful of other cultures. It
is to the credit of western culture that we are becoming
aware of this. But there is a dynamism in human
interactions. The individual who feels his culture devalued
by a dominant
power is at first, cowed,
stunned, feels inferior. In time there is an awareness of
a sense of hurt, of righteous insult. This fuels anger and
hatred and a drive
for revenge. There is envy, too, of the culture they claim
to despise. The terrorists, after all, used a significant
aspect of western culture, namely its technology, with which
attack the USA.
With all their sophistication, their technological wizardry,
their inventive skills, their business acumen, and
military might, the Western business elite in its thirst for
oil were blind to the radical impact of their
culture on a tribal society
stagnating for hundreds of years. With transportation and
communications creating an ever shrinking world,
the Western political elite ignored the impact of its
materialism, its religious freedom, its democratic beliefs,
its attitude to women, its approach to sexuality on the
tribal society. And as long as the sense of insult
understood neither by the west nor by the Islamists
themselves - the hatred grew. After all, these terrorists
not from the underprivileged. Usama ben Laden is a multi
millionaire. The terrorists had received educational
oppportunities in the West. It was to the United States
that they came
when they wanted to learn how to fly the very planes they
So, since the end of the First World War, the citizens of
have been faced with the next challenge - to create a world
authority which will protect the individual state from a
predatory state, balanced by the need for a way to protect
the individual state from a predatory world authority
controlled by special interests. It is the problem faced by
our Founding Fathers writ large.
Of course the world is far from being ready for this.
On a societal level world cultures are still too disparate
culturally, religiously, militarily and economically. And
on a personal level we have not yet developed sufficiently
to be able either to administer or to accept such an
Of course we are not blameless. We are a society obsessed
with materialism. We are self centered, overly
competitive, insensitive, often
allying ourselves with tyrants, rather than with the
populations they oppress, in order to satisfy our own greed.
Of course our culture is probably no worse than any other.
We humans are still linked to our animal being. We may be
justifiably proud of what we have achieved relative to other
inhabit the earth, but, in many ways we retain our animal
individuals we do
our best to develope our potentalities as human
beings. We have our neuroses. They are reflected in our
society. But thankfully ours is not a civilization
that glorifies the acting out of a paranoid belief
system. For example, I believe I may may be justifiably
angry at the Seaview sewer commissioners who have raised our
annual sewer rates from $1500 per year to $4164. But I would
neither detonate a bomb at Chico's Pizza Parlor murdering
high school youngsters, nor blow up the Ocean Beach hospital, nor slaughter students at Gray's Harbor Community College in order to make a political point of my grievance. Nor do I
teach my children that God will reward me with a bevy of virgins for so doing.
That is why I so much appreciate the American experiment in
government which tries, albeit with some aberrations, to
separate the fervor of the supra-rational element of
religion, (no matter how benign it may be at any particular
time), from the State with its powers of coercion and force.
There is much we have to be thankful for.
Despite the difficult times, or indeed perhaps because of
them, we are aware of the sense of community that the Twin Towers massacre
brought to the surface - the kindness, the generosity, the
compassion, the heroic efforts to save one's fellow man.
Individual life is precious. Life on earth is to be
cherished. We have developed beyond
the chicanery of those who preach to the underdog that there is "Pie in the Sky".
I remember the plight of the coal miners
entombed, deep in the earth. Family,
friends, employers and co-workers, and strangers near and
far labored mightily, sent help and prayers for their
welfare. The whole nation heaved a sigh of joy when their
tired blackened faces emerged from their rescue cage.
And there are other wonderful events - the rescue, safe
and sound of children kidnapped by deranged human beings.
The cooperation of thousands united in their belief in the
value of a single human life. What joy! The whole of
America becomes a village.
I am aware that I am alive today because
of the involvement of probably hundreds of thousands of
anonymous people whose combined efforts in the service of valuing
human life, maintained universities, taught students,
labored in research, built and maintained hospitals, paved
the roads for me to reach them, that enabled the experts to
reach into my open chest cavity so that my ailing heart
would receive a desperately needed supply of oxygen-filled
blood. Five years later, at 73 Miriam and I bless the fact
we are both still alive and enjoying life. With all its
problems, this great diverse nation is life-affirming.
In the grand scheme of things there is always hope. We may
move two steps back, but we always move three steps forward.
Nearly half a century ago the musical "South
Pacific" asserted the essential goodness of man, singing
"You have to be taught to hate."
Even earlier, I am reminded of a song Frank Sinatra sang
perhaps fifty years or so ago. It was called The House I
Live In. It sang of the American dream of a nation of
diverse races, religions and color living together as
brothers and sisters. I was touched and given hope by these
expressions of American culture. I know this was often more
honored in the breach than in the observance, but it IS the
ethos that underlies America, the direction in which
our culture has been traveling.
This is not a conflict between between Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Relative to much of the
world these monotheistic religions have more in common with each other
than they have differences. As I have said before, the roots of the conflict lie between those who worship Life and those who worship Death, though they may falsely don the apparel of religion.
Despite all life goes on.
"Who is wise? He that learns from everyone.
Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions.
Who is rich? He that is content.
Who is that ? Nobody".
He's right of course.
But, hang in - we'll get there!
Miriam joins me in sending all of you our very warm wishes -
P.S. Those of you who would rather not be on our mailing list, please let us know and we will remove your name.
"Only weak men fear able women" - Marion Boyars