Sunday, May 16, 2004

Portrait of the Writer as a Political Schizophrenic, Part II.

Social Issues

Henry Kissenger once said that Israel had no differentiation between its foreign policies and domestic policies. That is a truth, but an unfortunate one. Its more accurate to say that Israel's domestic problems tend to be ignored in favor of the big issues of war and peace. Few people seem to be noticing that Israel is going through something of an economic revolution at the hands of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This basically amounts to the Thatcherization of Israel's once highly statist economy, continuing a trend which has been ongoing for the better part of two decades. For a long time I was a free-market evangelist, but lately I've started to have some sympathies with some aspects of Socialism (that collective gasp you're hearing is all my friends from the States having heart attacks). By this I mean the egalitarian, anti-hierarchical aspects, as well as the feeling that the commodification of human interaction that occurs in a purely capitalist society is a worrisome phenomenon. However, I have no illusions about the foolhardiness of centralization and total state ownership. One cannot study history and not see the extraordinary dynamic energy unleashed by an unfettered free market. No country can survive indefinately without the capacity for rapid and complex change that can occur only in a capitalist society.

What worries me the most is the way that Jewish and Zionist values are undermined as Israel becomes more and more capitalistic. The closeness of people here, the natural trust people have in eachother, the willingness to sacrifice material comforts for the sake of building the Jewish State; all of these are meaningless in a society with no values other then the material. To put it simply: Globalization undermines Zionism. I do not want Israel to simply import the alienation and unhappiness of the West in its quest to become a paragon of globalization. After all, if the only point of life is to make money, everyone will just move to America, where one can do it much easier and without having to worry about being blown up on the bus to work.

In true Zionist style, I would like to see the application of Jewish values in a modern context to create a state which is neither Western nor Eastern, but a combination of the best of both (as the Jewish people are themselves a combination of the best of East and West). For instance, Jabotinsky's concept of a modern Jubilee Year. I would like to see a system which can reconcile Judaism's historical egalitarianism with the dynamic possiblities of the free market. One which will create an economy which will serve our needs, and not the opposite.


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