Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Political Orthodoxy of the Left

Jonathan Rosenblum
Jonathan Rosenblum is a rare breed of Charedi writer. He is a highly intelligent intellectual who was educated in two top universities, the University of Chicago, and Yale Law School. And that often shows up in his writing, as it did in the latest issue of Mishpacha Magazine.  Few Charedi writers can communicate their ideas with his level of erudition.

In addition to being Charedi, his politics lean conservative. That is where my own politics lean. Which makes us kindred spirits in many ways. His Charedi perspective is moderate and that too overlaps my own Centrist perspective.

In his latest piece he takes leftist political orthodoxy to task. It is an orthodoxy that is unforgiving to those that dare to express a view that veers even slightly from that Orthodoxy. It demands adherence to its version of ethics and morality. There are no ethics; and there is no morality - outside of theirs. (Which is somewhat ironic if you think about the moral relativism that is the hallmark of their worldview.) 

There is no discussion. No dissent. Only a lot of people nodding in agreement with leftist dogma. They will not hear any argument - no matter how rational - that contradicts the political Orthodoxy. It is a dogma insists that a better tomorrow will only come about through actively implementing their ideals.  But as Jonathan notes such idealism does not end with the utopia they envision. It usually ends with a dystopia.

And yet those that dare to veer from that orthodoxy are silenced and even ostracized. Even, as Jonathan notes, those that are card carrying leftists. When they do, they are quickly ostracized. That is what happened to Eric Weinstein - a leftist intellectual (who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries). He and others like him have found a space to discuss their ‘politcally incorrect’ ideas in the center-right. He has as labeled it ‘the Intellectual Dark Web’.

What this means is that values that were once considered the cornerstone of a civilized society are sneered at. Even considering it racist or sexist in some cases. Here is how Jonathan puts it: 
NOWHERE IS THAT DESIRE to create a better future by wishing it into being more evident than in the left’s thinking about gender, which Eric suggests is completely detached from any empirical research about actual human beings. Another is the left’s view, often codified in governmental regulations and court decisions, that differences in outcomes — for instance, rates of school discipline among blacks and whites — can only be explained by racism and oppression.
Amy Wax, a chaired professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and likely the most credentialed member of the faculty — Yale BS summa cum laude, Marshall Scholarship to Oxford; Harvard MD, Columbia JD, six years in the Solicitor General’s office — ran afoul of that orthodoxy last year, when she and Larry Alexander, a fellow law professor at another law school, wrote an op-ed arguing that all cultures are not equal and the “bourgeois values” that dominated American culture from the end of World War II through the end of the ’60s and ’70s are more likely to prepare people to be “productive citizens in a modern technological society.” 
What were those values? “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness…. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country…. Avoid coarse language in public…. Eschew substance abuse and crime.” 
These are values that most Orthodox Jews subscribe to (and, I might add, by what used to be called the silent majority). And yet a value like getting married is hardly important to the politically orthodox left. That was made evident by reaction to Wax’s op-ed. It was immediately rejected  by half of her colleagues who in a letter made public - urged students to monitor her classes for signs of stereotyping and bias.

Jonathan ends with an important question:
IS THERE A CAUTIONARY TALE here for our own society? I’m not sure. But it does strike me that all tightly knit communities may be vulnerable to certain forms of internal terrorism in which name-calling takes the place of argumentation and in which too many “disconfirming” viewpoints and facts are excluded from the discussion.
A society in which empirical facts are suppressed and truth is no defense is one that will necessarily have a difficult time solving its internal problems and responding to new societal needs. Having observed the havoc wrought by the cultish behavior of the left elsewhere — not the least in its contempt for religious liberty — may we be wise enough to preserve the open discussion needed to address our most pressing challenges. 
I believe that he was hinting at a problem that exists across the spectrum of Orhtodoxy. There is dogma on both the right and left. Those who part with that some of that dogma even slightly are actually written out of that segment even if they identify with it generally. Someimes even ridiculed for expressing those views. 

More than once I have been accused by the of being a misogynist for my views about the role women in Judaism. And I can’t even count the times I have been accused of hating Charedim because of something I questioned based on their world view. 

How many times have I heard the phrase. “Nisht Fun Unzera’ - meaning not one of us. This is a comment one might hear about a fellow Orthodox Jew – no matter how observant - that might stray into their orbit but does not share their worldview or lifestyle .

As Orthodoxy continues to to grow. Is there a real danger that we could split apart as a people?

At the moment, I don’t see that being the case. As I have said many times. The vast mainstream of Orthodoxy consists of moderate Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews of the right all living together and leading similar lifestyles. But I fear that unity might someday give way to more factionalism. 

It has been  my experience that growth means separation. The more we grow, the more people can be found coalescing around a narrower Hashkafa. And when a critical mass forms - there is a separation. And that separation makes us grow further apart as a people as time goes on.  And that is not good for the Jewish people.