Thursday, September 28, 2006

Aping the Goyim

Aping the Goyim. I just saw this expression in the comments section of another blog. It is often used when someone on the right is giving Mussar about some aspect of secular culture he has detected taking hold in his own community. And it is one of the biggest turn-offs for me whenever I hear it. It is almost a challenge to go and do exactly what it is that the individual is protesting.

This expression is indicative an attitude that is anathema to me. Aside from the fact that it unfairly characterizes all non Jews in an automatically stupid and evil light, it also casts all their behavior that way. This is clearly wrong. But aside from this obviously misleading and terrible message I want to focus on anther point.

If one analyzes the meaning behind it one can clearly see that the phrase "Aping the Goyim" is a pejorative against anything secular. This is ingrained in a particular mindset that eschews any activity that one may enjoy that is not in specifically a Torah based activity. Using such language subliminally reinforces this belief amongst those who hear it… those who throughout their lives have been indoctrinated to believe that all of western culture is evil.

And in my view doing it this way is far more effective and therefore worse than just being direct about it. Why? Because it enters the unconscious mind and influences attitudes without any analytical thought. By labeling an activity as “Aping the Goyim”, the image implanted in the mind is a very negative one. Not only that it is Assur, but that it is stupid! And no matter how innocent, participating in it is to looked at as ape-like! Because only a subhuman primate is dumb enough to follow such a custom without really thinking about it! All this in a subliminal message.

So I am here to yell and scream about it. …To counter the notion that participating in activities that non-Jews participate in is not stupidly “aping the Goyim”. It is just enjoying that part of western culture that one is permitted to engage in. …To tell people to stop thinking of activities that are not in the Torah but permitted by Halacha as stupidly aping non-Jews. That is not what one is doing by enjoying a culturally western based activity. And to not listen to the false Hochacha of saying that anything non-Jewish is stupid.

Of course we know that we should not participate in cultural activities that are Assur. No one should run out to MacDonald’s and buy a cheeseburger and fries. But for those things that are Mutar, just because one first saw a non-Jew doing it does not mean we are stupidly copying them if we want to do the same thing. Not at all. We are simply enjoying an activity that we learned about through living in, and observing western behavior. It is arrogant to so derisively use this term. Those who do so, mockingly dismiss permissible behavior by labeling it stupid. Well, if aping is stupid then the uniformity of dress that exists in the world of the right is just as stupid. One is merely substituting one kind of “aping” for another.

Besides, what constitutues “Aping the Goyim” anyway? Is wearing a suit and tie “aping the Goyim”? If not, then neither is anything else we learned from western culture as long as it does not violate Halacha.

So, if for example one wants to enjoy the music of the Beatles, go to a baseball game or a symphony concert, or wear the latest fashions in clothing, or participate in any of what western culture has to offer, as long as it is Halachicly acceptable one ought to not be made to feel guilty about it.

And expressions like “Aping the Goyim” ought to be eliminated from our lexicon.