by John Zerzan


Theodor Adorno opens his magnum opus Negative Dialectics (1966) with “Philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed.” Thus, he goes on to say, philosophy is “obliged ruthlessly to criticize itself.”

Not only has it misfired, but its failure and irrelevance has only worsened over the years, with scant exceptions. Its tedious abstraction means the standard philosophy college survey course easily wins the “most boring” prize.

Cumhaill and Wiseman’s Metaphysical Animals (2022) tells us about post-World War II women philosophers at Oxford, and points out that the “greats” of European philosophy have all been men, and nearly all of them bachelors. They isolated themselves from women and children, so largely from life, love, and loss.

The separation of philosophy from the larger culture goes along with an increasing separation of philosophers from other philosophers. In 1962 Yehoshua Bar-Hillel judged that “communication between philosophers has been deteriorating during the last decades.”

Originally the word meant “love of wisdom,” referring to knowledge in general. Very early on, the senses were ruled out in favor of the cerebral alone. In the past century or two specialization has set in with a vengeance, producing mostly abstruse intellectual puzzles of interest only to professionals.

Meanwhile a new malaise of civilization is the zeitgeist, with news outlets fueling a fast-spreading catastrophic outlook. End times prevail, with new depths of psychological suffering. Technology has triumphed, leaving us feeling lonely and abandoned.

The current period of widespread indifference to politics has seen the end of “every emancipatory adventure,” according to Elizabeth Rondinesco in 2005.

I’d like to back up here, to the 19th century, to take a look at how philosophy’s idols (some of them, anyway) helped bring us to today. Deflate them a bit, bring them down to earth, starting with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) proclaimed a “life is suffering” doctrine, close to the outlook of Buddhism. In The World as Will and Representation (1818) he saw irrational, unrelenting will as bedeviling the individual, denying personal fulfillment. He was one of a handful of philosophers who addressed suffering, but only in terms of a quasi-religious gesture, quite removed from historical or social reality.

Referred to as the Great Pessimist, he became far less pessimistic when he acquired prestige quite late in life, as a kind of overnight sensation. His was perhaps not as serious a philosophy as he projected, but Schopenhauer had a major influence on Friedrich Nietzsche.

According to Nietzsche, a philosopher should be “a terrible explosive from which nothing is safe.” To many, he was a radical iconoclast, the anti-Christ, his Zarathustra alter ego proclaiming the ubermensch/overman hurling prophetic thunderbolts. Gilles Deleuze judged that “modern philosophy has largely lived off Nietzsche, but not perhaps in the way he would have wished.”

In fact, the image of a peripatetic wild man misses the mark entirely. He wandered, having abandoned his philology professorship early on, but his outlook was conventional at base, at least until he approached a psychotic break at the age of 45.

He rejected antisemitism and German nationalism, boosting Felix Mendelssohn as his favorite composer, and aspiring to the status of “good European.” He would resemble a modern liberal, but for the fact that he was wholly against democracy.

Nietzsche did not deliver a systematic philosophy His outlook was anti-metaphysical, and beginning with The Birth of Tragedy (1872), more of an aesthetic one. His contrast of Dionysian and Apollonian impulses in the arts was meant to revitalize Western civilization, not to combat it. His attention to the dynamics of individual ethics qualify Nietzsche as more of a psychologist than a philosopher. He advocated a more instinctual approach to life, decrying the tame and civilized status of the herd. But at times he undercut this anti-domestication sentiment by urging the subject to transcend his animal nature.

For Nietzsche freedom is the will to power; however, he quite clearly rejected the idea of power as power over others. He meant self-mastery; again, the psychologist, the ethicist. Robert Solomon’s essay, “A More Severe Morality: Nietzsche’s Affirmative Ethics” explores this ably.

His crowning conception was eternal recurrence or amor fati, love of fate: the unreserved embrace and recurrence of all that was and is without change. Conservative conformism on a philosophic level, as I see it.

Nietzsche died in 1900, after a decade of madness following his 1889 breakdown in Turin. Another unsystematic thinker, Henri Bergson, was beginning to emerge into prominence in the years before World War I. He was by far the most well-known philosopher in the interwar years. Since World War II, unlike Nietzsche, he has been forgotten.

Bergson stressed experience and intuition over mediation and abstraction; he wrote of duration as lived time. HIs vitalist outlook fit the pre-World War I zeitgeist of energy and challenge. Nikos Kazantzakis was Bergson’s student; his Zorba the Greek expresses some of that spirit. Bergson’s major works include Time and Free Will and the very popular Creative Evolution.

Coinciding with the heyday of Bergsonism was the arrival of the “linguistic turn,” the major philosophical development of the 20th century. This movement is variously called analytic philosophy, logical positivism, and the Vienna Circle, the last a reference to its proponents. For these philosophers, all philosophical questions are questions of language.

Outspoken philosopher Marjorie Grene trashed this as a move to the “more and more trivial, more and more divorced from anything…you can tell when philosophers start talking. There’s no connection with reality.” Bruce Wilshire put it this way: “Analytic philosophy tends powerfully to put us at a remove from everything, even from our own selves, selves turned ghostly.”

With the likes of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the modern analytic shift was based on logic, specifically mathematical logic, the most formal kind. Thus meaning somehow resides in what is ever more formally abstract, aiming at an utmost precision of language, a purely formal analysis.

Looking for the austere logical skeleton within language is immeasurably remote from actual reality and its challenges. Language is not bodily. It is the missing person. Analytic philosophy is thin and desiccated to the highest degree. Wittgenstein, considered the most brilliant of the analytic practitioners, ended up seeing the folly of the search for the inner meaning of language. His early Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus pursued the party line, but he reversed course with Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously in 1953). He came to the conclusion that the secret of language is a false quest, that the many uses of ordinary language (“language games,” as he called them) work just fine.

Edmund Husserl founded phenomenology at the beginning of the 20th century. He tried to establish a rigorous analysis of consciousness in order to get directly “to the things themselves,” free of preconceptions. Although he failed to reach this goal, Husserl’s brand of theory of knowledge was an influence in many spheres of thought throughout the century. His aim––an unmediated, beyond-the-conceptual connection with “things themselves”––beckons, but cannot be obtained through abstraction. (Which is, after all the hallmark of philosophy.)

Husserl was the mentor of Martin Heidegger, who as the rector of the University of Freiburg banned him from the campus when the Nazis came to power in 1933. (Husserl was retired but had continued to use the university library for his research.)

To many in the philosophy playpen, Heidegger was the most influential thinker of the 20th century. He focused on what it means to be: Dasein, or being in the world, with his declarative Being and Time (1927). He asserted that it is possible “to think being” in separation from beings, a Heideggerian version of existentialism.

Against our “fallenness,” our “forgetfulness of Being” (we’ve been on the wrong path since Plato), Heidegger situates thinking on a deep ontological level. But it’s so much bunkum that links up to nothing. He even attests that all human inquiry is circular. His rhetoric sounds profound and goes nowhere. Adorno’s The Jargon of Authenticity nails it: jargon, not authenticity.

His one actual insight he quickly rendered inconsequential. He saw that technology devours and deforms everything, even thought itself. So he recommended a new Be-ing––but one that would leave technology alone! In 1955 he said, “We can use technical devices and yet with proper use we also keep ourselves free of them.” (!!) This quietism is a total copout, and I think he knew better. “Only a God could save us,” he declared in a 1966 Der Spiegel interview.

There are those who find Heidegger’s thought eminently separable from his identification with Nazism, a deplorable ethical lapse by his partisans. Recent scholarship has made this position even less defensible. Beginning in 2014 his Black Notebooks, covering entries between 1931 and 1969, have been published. Notebooks can consist of undeveloped ephemera, but Heidegger considered the Notebooks his crowning achievement, containing his definitive judgments. As convincingly documented in Richard Wolin’s Heidegger in Ruins (2022), the Notebooks display the depth of his antisemitism, commitment to Nazi ideology, and their connection to his overall philosophy. It’s an extremely ugly and irredeemable collection, reflecting almost forty years of bile and bigotry.

Gilbert Ryle, along with A.J. Ayer, Rudolf Carnap, and of course Wittgenstein, was a mainstay of the logical positivist/analytic school. Ryle summed up Heidegger in earthy terms: “He was a shit from the heels up, and a shit from the heels up can’t do good philosophy.”

Martin Heidegger claimed throughout his career that he was a phenomenologist, no matter how distant his thought was from “the things themselves.” His empty ontology was in no way bodily, for instance.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, on the other hand, was indeed a phenomenologist, the century’s most prominent. Certainly influenced by Heidegger, his emphasis was on perception, consciousness, embodiment. He was a co-editor, with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, of Les Temps Modernes. This collaboration, and further philosophical exploration, were cut short by Merleau-Ponty’s death at age 53.

Sartre was an acclaimed dramatist (e.g. No Exit), and novelist; Nausea was one of the major novels of the 20th century. His Being and Nothingness (1943), proposing that human being is a nothingness that must constitute itself, is a long introduction to a philosophy of freedom. The Nazi occupation forced the question of freedom on Sartre; it was the ground from which existentialism emerged in the postwar West, especially in France.

Sartre’s partner Simone de Beauvoir was strongly influenced by Engels’ The Origins of the Family: Private Property and the State. She saw in women a “new proletariat,” and wrote early feminist classics, notably The Second Sex (1949).

Sartre was a famous partisan of the Left, opposing French colonialism in Algeria and French and American imperialism in Vietnam. In The Critique of Dialectical Reason, he tried to reconcile existentialism and marxism. Despite his cornerstone Rousseauvian emphasis on existential freedom, he joined the French Communist party and praised the regimes of Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung.

Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse were co-members of the radical Frankfurt School. Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) borrowed a leaf from Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, as to the ever-greater instinctual renunciations at the heart of civilization. They give a different spin to the scene in Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus and his crew are tempted by the Sirens: “Come ashore and party with us!” His response is to have himself tied to the mast, his crew’s ears blocked with wax. To Homer the Sirens threatened death. To Adorno they represented eros and freedom, an interruption to the voyage to repression/civilization.

Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization (1955) tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to rescue civilization via a middle-ground perspective. Against Freud’s conclusion that repression is the very nature of civilization, he argued that if we could remove excess or “surplus” repression from civilization all would be fine. Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964) despaired of the possibility that people could revolt. With what he termed repressive desublimation, the subject has become too deeply enslaved. “The Sixties” began to explode globally within months of the publication of One-Dimensional Man. Teaching in California, Marcuse joined the movement.  HIs star pupil, Angela Davis, turned out to be a marxist-leninist, sadly enough. Somewhat like the case of Jurgen Habermas, Adorno’s graduate student, a committed proponent of civilization and enlightenment; not a failed, fatal experiment, Habermas claims, but one in need of completion or fulfillment. (!!)

Neo-Freudian Jacques Lacan had–– and still has, in the case of leftist Slavoj Zizek––an influence on philosophy. His most memorable line reminds us of the continuing dominance of the “linguistic turn”: “The Unconscious is structured like a language.”

Postmodernism enters the picture in the 1960s with figures like Jacques Derrida, who also enlisted under the “linguistic turn” banner. And who famously proclaimed, “There is nothing outside the text.” Nothing inside it either, when one applies his deconstruction approach that undermines stable meaning, ultimately reducing text to incoherence when it is shaken or stirred enough. Derrida renounced categories like transparency, presence, origin. Now that Artificial Intelligence can produce the text and the other symbolic products, where does that leave deconstruction?

Jean-François Lyotard was another postmodernist. Like Derrida, he opposed metanarrative, the desire to grasp an overview or the whole. “Let us wage war on totality,” he urged, for the will to totalize is a totalitarian impulse. This was aimed at marxism, but extended to create its own anti-totality totality, a generalized dictum that rules out understanding.

Among those in the postmodern dark in France I must award the prize for most removed from reality to Jean Baudrillard, beloved by the art school-type crowd in the ’80s and ’90s. In his early work, such as The Mirror of Production (1975), he cogently analyzed marxism as embracing productionism as fervently as does capitalism. But he soon declared that reality is no longer moored to reference points; under the sign of simulation modernity has become hyperreal; all is simulation. In The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995) Baudrillard took this view to a new level, asserting that images of the U.S. war on Iraq were more real than any actual “war.” It has been said that from being a big science fiction aficionado he graduated to writing sci-fi himself. One quote he did get right: “We live in a world where there is more and more information and less and less meaning.”

In many ways postmodernism was a debilitating impulse, a surrender in thinking. Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University, published “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in a 1996 issue of Social Text, a “cultural studies” journal. Sokal purported to apply a postmodern approach to particle physics; the article was a complete hoax, as he admitted. A parody, employing trendy pomo rhetoric, without substance. But leading postmodernists fought back, defending the indefensible, just as there were those who defended Baudrillard’s insistence that the Gulf War didn’t really happen.

Strongly influenced by his contemporaries Foucault and Sartre, Gilles Deleuze focused on how philosophy comes about. He first received acclaim in academic circles for his Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962). Deleuze became involved in what is called the philosophy of sense; in The Logic of Sense (1969) he resisted philosophy’s “linguistic turn.” It was at this point that he came to fully embrace his materialist and naturalistic leanings. In those years he began his collaboration with activist psychiatrist Felix Guattari. Deleuze’s major work, Difference and Repetition, mirrors, however abstractly, the difference he sought, and the repetition and inertia that blocked liberation from the State and the Communist party.

Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980) are the two volumes of their Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Foucault’s take was that these works examine Western society’s “innate herd instinct” and question what is normalcy. But their complicated and obscure “body without organs” concept seems to me unnecessarily central to either capitalism or schizophrenia.  And their reliance on the “rhizome” metaphor, describing a lattice-like surface as means of development, is clearly related to postmodern rejection of depth and origins.

The Left in Europe declined markedly in the 1970s. Its last significant theorist was the structural marxist Louis Althusser, who strangled his wife in 1980 and was declared insane. His For Marx (1962) and Reading Capital (with co-authors, 1965) are forgotten today, even as embarrassing communists like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek soldier on.

Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) introduced an important concept as to the nature of modern society. Ignored by the mainstream until the 1990s as too radical, Debord, in turn, ignored the centrality of technology.

There were no important postmodern thinkers after the 1990s. In America, philosophy has mainly slumbered in the shallows of pragmatism, from William James down through John Dewey and more recently, Richard Rorty. Its thin reformism barely veils its utter conformism.

Another branch of contemporary philosophy includes ethicists such as Emmanuel Levinas, Martha Nussbaum, and Peter Singer. I think their overall failure stems from ignoring social institutions, while claiming to decide how to approach questions of right and wrong.

A third sector is philosophy of mind, still haunted by machine metaphors despite the overwhelming negative reality of technology. Thomas Nagel’s What Is it Like to be a Bat? (1974) is a banal if well-known offering from this field.

Philosophy: for all that life has been up against, hardly a success story.


by Rene Tihista

These days there’s a lot of conflict, hand wringing, puzzlement and outrage about the various sexual identity issues currently riling up our dyspeptic society.  One of these disputes concerning what has become known as LBGTQ issues, is usually confined to humans.  However, though not widely known, issues of gender identity are not exclusive to H. Sapiens.  Lodged in my vast experiential archive of life’s trivia, is the curious case of a male “buck” sheep, as rams were called in Montana where I grew up, who suffered not from gender confusion, but, and arguably worse, species confusion.  A little background is necessary to preface this tragically enigmatic tale.

When my oldest brother Edward assumed responsibility for the family business after my father died, he’d been away from any working involvement with sheep for more than a decade.  After serving in WWII, he’d been a salesman and in retail management, both occupations he excelled at.  But the cultural imperative of the eldest son taking over the family business after the death of the paterfamilias was compelling and he returned home to fulfill his patrilineal destiny.  His absence from experience in the sheep business occasionally clouded his judgment as illustrated in the case of the aforementioned confused buck.

To breed our herd of 1,800 ewes we had three-hundred rams. That’s a pretty standard ratio of six ewes per buck although obviously there were occasional anomalies to consider: bucks that were older, timid or only mildly interested in performing their husbandry duties.  Or ewes who were skittish, cantankerous, aging or indifferent to breeding despite being in estrus.

A neighboring farmer, who also had a small herd of cattle, had acquired and reared a  Columbia Ram with his cattle.  It was a beautiful animal.  Quite large, as Columbia sheep are.  They are a hybridized breed first developed in Wyoming prior to WWI and bred to thrive in the harsh climate typical in the western high plains of the Great Basin.

Open faced, they are good wool producers, their meat being a secondary asset.  So, when the farmer talked Ed into buying the buck, just before breeding time in late October, it seemed like a propitious fit for our herd.  Unfortunately, the big Columbian had a serious identity crisis.  Much to Ed’s surprise and mounting frustrated anger, the big ram ignored the ewes while his more amorous peers went enthusiastically about their business.  The Columbian was utterly disinterested in the ewes he was procured to implant his majestic genetic heritage into.

In early December, we trailed the sheep from the summer grazing range to our farm in the Milk River Valley for the winter.  The drive took most of a day, about twenty-five miles and passed by several farms.  Whenever we passed a herd of cows, the big Columbian took off at a dead run to be with the cattle.  Ed, fuming and cussing, would drive over in the pickup, nab the recalcitrant Romeo with a sheep hook, and return him to the herd.  This farce was repeated three times that I remember, the last being the very farm from which Ed had purchased the buck.  He was gone quite a long while that time because, as we later learned, he had had a heated discussion with the farmer who’d sold him the malingering Columbian.

For all his shortcomings as a sheepman, Ed knew when to cut his losses.  He sold the gender-confused sheep for a very reasonable price to a notorious former bootlegger and alleged calf rustler named Homer Dribble, who lived in the Badlands south of the Missouri River.  I suspect the species-conflicted sheep became the main ingredient in at least a month’s worth of mutton stew.

By chance, many years later, an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer caught my eye and shed an entirely different perspective on this unfortunate animal. A psychologist at the University of Washington was doing research on sheep and discovered that some of the rams in her study were apparently homosexual.

Another study by the University of Oregon corroborated this surprising finding.  I quote: “Researchers in the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine, have confirmed that a male sheep’s preference for same sex partners has biological underpinnings. This study, along with others, strongly suggest that same sex preference is biologically determined in sheep and possibly in humans”*

After reading this I pondered how Ed might have responded to the news that his strapping Columbian buck could have been gay. But the ram displayed no apparent amorous proclivities toward his fellow rams.  If he had, it might have explained the unexpected behavior.  But there was his affinity for cows.  Given the size differential between the big Columbian and potential cow mates, one has to be skeptical. Granted, he was huge—for a sheep, but still, to a bovine he might (to mix species metaphors) be considered a shrimp.  I suppose an argument could be made for the odd case of species consanguinity. There is the precedent of Romulus and Remus though the veracity of that myth is questionable.

No, I suspect this particular sheep’s interest in cows was more than confused sexuality.   Could it have been some spiritual connection?  Humans make up spiritual fantasies all the time—communing with the spirts of the woods and rivers the birds and the flowers.  Fly Fishermen harbor mystical feelings of solidarity with salmon and their impossible odyssey from a mountain stream to the depths of the Pacific and then, years later, back to their original remote spawning grounds. Are we to assume the so-called “lower” animals don’t possess the capacity for mysticism?  How do we know that?  Could this big Columbian have imagined he was a cow?  Did he think, dream or contemplate life as a cow?   I propose that the Columbian’s struggle with his species identity was a profound statement about life’s metaphysical mysteries.  When I discover what those mysteries are, rest assured, I’ll report my findings.

*Science Daily, Oregon Health Sciences Center, March 9, 2004


by Stephen Slater

Tourism, like the society that gives rise to it, has a remarkable inescapability.  Although it is undeniable that tourism would not exist without tourists, it is equally undeniable, and in fact more revealing, that people become tourists because of tourism.  It is the context which bestows meaning on – and in part begets – the individual phenomena rooted in it.  Tourism is a web of institutions, images and attitudes that, since the end of the nineteenth century, is always already there before the tourist sets out.  The modern guidebook, guided tour and travel bureau all have their prototypes in the early years of the nineteenth century.  The “tourist flood” first witnessed in Switzerland and Italy is something that took shape in the following decades.  Since then, tourism has become not simply one form of travel alongside others but rather, with exceptions such as the business trip and visiting relatives and friends, the form of travel itself, its incarnation in the modern world.

A definition of the term “tourist” which would seek to distinguish it from “traveler” in the period since the closing decades of the nineteenth century would have, at best, mere polemical value for those who wish to see themselves as travelers rather than as tourists.  The consulate officials who issue visas have understood this better than most: tourists are those who enter a country for reasons other than business or study or visiting relatives, for example.  To travel for the purpose of seeing and enjoying is, to a greater or lesser extent, to make use of the institutions, be enticed by the images and embody the attitudes, of tourism.

This piece of writing aims to be a description of the consciousness of the tourist.  It is here that these images and attitudes are rooted, here that these institutions reveal their power.  Other approaches are of course possible: the history and sociology of tourism, its economic, political and ecological effects, the prospects of a less obtrusive tourism, etc.  These are of course important topics, and have already been investigated to varying degrees.  Yet the subjective dimension has for the most part remained unexplored, with the exception of at least one of the texts assembled in Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (1957),  Hans-Magnus Enzensberger’s “Eine Theorie des Tourismus” (1958, in his Einzelheiten, 1962) and Dean MacCannell’s The Tourist (1976).

Fundamental to tourism is the notion of the sight to be seen, or the scenic.  The designation of certain areas, highways and views as being “scenic,” or certain buildings and monuments as being “of interest,” is by no means one which can be accepted or set aside according to preference.  Once brought into being, the scenic has a force of its own.  At most, individual designations or collections of such designations (in guidebooks, for example) can be rejected and alternative ones put in their place; but the scenic as such, as configuration of experience in advance, remains.  It is the organizing principle of this experience.

A city, for example, is approached by means of a particular selection of points of interest.  In the course of visiting these locations, some points of interest or scenic routes are added, others omitted.  A process of abstraction takes place: selected features of this city are highlighted as being Worth Seeing, and the rest of it becomes simply – The Rest.  It is not a matter of abstraction as such, which is a necessary component of experience.  The point is that this abstraction is also a process of reduction.  The city, divided up into what is scenic and what is not, is perceived by those who approach it this way as simply the sum total of all the scenic locations plus the local conditions governing transportation from one scenic location to the next.  What occurs, then, is a reduction of the city as a whole to a fragmentary constellation of enclaves of the scenic.

The search for the scenic has, within the last century, been powerfully reinforced by a technological development that performs this process of abstraction and reduction mechanically (and now, electronically).  Although the camera itself was invented in the early nineteenth century, it was not until 1923 that a portable, inexpensive camera was made available to the amateur photographer (after the Kodak camera in the late 19th century).  What this meant for the pastime of sightseeing was a shift from merely looking at sights to the activity of collecting them.

In her book On Photography (1977), Susan Sontag provides penetrating analysis of the psychic significance of photography.  “A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”  The search for the scenic thus brings into relief the common characteristic inherent in tourism and photography, these twin developments of the industrial age: both are permeated with an essentially accumulative attitude, not to things per se, but to experience itself.

This attitude is reflected in the touristic conception of “knowledge of the world,” which is measured by the number of cities, parks, beaches of countries one has seen, or at least passed through – and, of course, how many photos one has.  “Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter.  Unsure of other responses, they take a picture.  This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on” (Sontag).  These frozen reminders of what we have lived or seen (or – merely photographed) present the continuity of lived experience as an episodic chain of memorable moments, one following the other in a homogeneous series, with the implication that the more photos we have taken, the more memorable experiences we have had.

The increasingly available and nearly inescapable photographs of buildings, monuments, cities, beaches and landscapes have flooded the imagination to such an extent that that had tourism not existed, photography would surely have invented it.  That this is not simply idle speculation is attested to by the overwhelming success of modern visual advertising, which creates the demand for products and services well before they are actually on the market.  It is not, then, solely the taking of photographs by tourists, but also the nearly unavoidable presence of them which has contributed to the insidious power of the scenic.  In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), Marshall McLuhan observed that the photograph has reversed the purpose of travel, since it is no longer the strange and unfamiliar which is sought out, but rather that which has already been seen.  “Thus the world itself becomes a sort of museum of objects that have been encountered in some other medium.”  Travel is then a matter of corroboration of previously seen images, a project of confirmation in which the goal of the tourist’s undertaking is to “…check his reactions to something with which he has long been familiar, and take his own pictures of the same.”  To say of a place, “It wasn’t what I expected,” is to say that it didn’t look like its photograph.  If it is remembered that the Journey had been regarded among the educated and privileged in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe as the epitome of transformative experience (the Grand Tour), it will not be difficult to appreciate the significance of the change which has taken place.  (In fact, the Middle High German word ervarn (modern German: erfahren) meant both “to travel (through)” and “to experience,” i.e. “to go through.”)

The search for the scenic is one of the many manifestations of experience as spectacle so typical of modern urban life.  Rather than enumerating the criteria which would determine what should be classified as spectacle and what should not, it is more illuminating to characterize the sort of consciousness for which the phenomenon of the spectacle has come about.  The desire to merely see, to look at, regardless of whether any sort of adequate comprehension or receptivity can in this way be achieved, is the hallmark of a consciousness for which an avalanche of visual impressions is an everyday occurrence.  Today, this may seem to be due to the city as such, film, video and the internet, yet it has its roots in particular technological and commercial developments in the nineteenth century: along with photography, the steam locomotive (1830) and the emergence of visual advertising as an enterprise in its own right.

As a result of both the speed of modern means of transportation and the frequency of their use, a sort of dazed staring on the part of the passengers sets in, and an attitude of simply “watching it all go by” is generated, without any involvement with what goes on outside the windows of the vehicle.  In the century between the introduction of the steam locomotive and that of television, this tendency toward passive visual experience received strong support not only from other modes of transport but also from advertising, photo-journalism and film.  Although television was certainly very influential in this regard, it should be understood as strengthening a tendency which had already crystallized long before the electronic age began.

After the initial shock of the speed wore off, the “motion picture” of the visual flow presented by the windows of the railway car became the main feature of passenger railway travel.  Due to the nature of this sort of transportation, it was impossible to do more than simply look, unless one looked away; the physical constraints of such conveyance provided no opportunity for any further involvement with what was perceived for a brief moment.  Soon, an unquestioned “obviousness” of this visual experience was the unforeseen result.  (So much, however, cannot be said of most advertising, sensation-oriented photo-journalism or the more mind-numbing examples of Hollywood movies, television and the internet.  An unquestioned passivity is intended here: submission to that which is not meant to be inquired into.)

The spectacle as a way of experiencing is a uniquely modern turn of mind which tourism so remarkably exemplifies: the “museumization” of the world – not just of monuments, buildings and cities, but also of human beings and cultures.  This way of seeing the world as on display, simply there to be stared at whether purposely so arranged or not, is part of a worldview that has been generated by the department store, the supermarket, the show window, the illustrated magazine and indeed the museum itself. (Dean MacCannell has a very interesting chapter on “staged authenticity,” originally published in 1973, in his 1976 book The Tourist.)  As a corollary of the museum’s intended function of preserving the art and artifacts of the past and present, there is the inevitable “show” aspect which is to some extent present in every exhibition, due to the fact that a context which would render an exhibition is some sense meaningful, even just intelligible, must be to a significant degree supplied by the viewers themselves; otherwise an exhibition is simply a collection of curiosities, a mere juxtaposition of things often indistinguishable from the most random grouping of objects.

The scenic does not exist alone, but in relation to that which defines it as scenic.  Before photography became an instrument of such definition, the guidebook had already sketched its main features.  John Murray’s Red Book, which appeared in 1836 and covered Holland, Belgium and the Rhine region, was the first guidebook to evaluate sights by means of the “star system,” according to which the more stars received, the more worthy the sight is of being seen.  Through imitation of Murray’s approach, Karl Baedecker’s books attained the popularity which made the name Baedecker synonymous with the guidebook for so long.

The guidebook is more than one among several pieces of equipment that accompany tourists on their travels; as the text that channels intentions, desires and awareness itself into preselected paths, the guidebook is a primary historical root of the scenic.  As the annually updated catalogue of tourism’s world department store, it creates the demand for that which is described, thus falling within the scope of advertising, both in function and in use of language.  In general, it is a descriptive inventory of possibilities, relegating to non-existence what is not listed simply by virtue of not being listed.  In this sense the guidebook is an encyclopedia of the scenic: though modestly renouncing all claims to completeness, by the mere fact of its catalogue form the guidebook effects the reduction of what is there to what is listed, what is described.  James Bruzard, referring to a 1975 article in the New Yorker, notes: “German bombing attacks on British cultural institutions in 1942 earned the name ‘Baedecker raids’ because the bombs appeared to be aimed at all the guidebook’s starred attractions” (The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways of Culture 1800-1918, 1993).  The supposed objectivity of the map is surreptitiously invoked.  (It is noteworthy than some maps have come to approximate the tour guide: places of interest are prominently marked, scenic routes indicated, sometimes with photographs or cartoon-like illustrations of what is “typical” for a given location provided.)

  1. M. Forster’s novel A Room with a View, first published in 1908, contains a concise portrait of the guidebook mentality.  Lucy Honeychurch, a young English tourist in Florence, Italy, finds herself without her Baedecker and is at a loss as to what she should do.  Irritated and upset, she enters the church Santa Croce: “Of course, it must be a wonderful building.  But how like a barn! And how very cold! Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling what was proper.  But who was to tell her which they were?  She walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date.  There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the one that had been most praised my Mr. Ruskin.”

This helplessness in the face of the thing itself – and Forster is by no means exaggerating here – is a classic example what Edward Said referred to in his book Orientalism (1978) as the “textual attitude.”  The textual attitude is in a sense a way of not seeing. By subordinating our perceptions to the interpretive schema of a book, we short-circuit the process of finding out as much as we can by ourselves.  The concomitant blind spots in our receptivity to the world are the subjective counterparts of the fineness of mesh which an “authoritative” text has.  It is by means of this filtering function in the text itself that some aspect of the world are allowed to pass through to us and others not.  “Travel books or guidebooks are about as ‘natural’ a kind of text, as logical in their composition and in their use, as any book one can think of, precisely because of this human tendency to fall back on a text when the uncertainties of travel in strange parts seem to threaten one’s equanimity. […] [T]he book (or text) acquires a greater authority, and use, even than the actuality it describes.”  As long as the author succeeds, or at least doesn’t fail too noticeably, the reader confirms the veracity of the author’s claims by reading more books by him/her/them, recommending them to others, etc.

The foreign and the exotic are sought out in the hope of shaking off the constraints of the familiarities of home.  The romance of travel and adventure has, after all, fed the Western imagination for centuries (e.g., Homer’s Odyssey), and since the European voyages of discovery there has been a growing body of travel literature.  The era of the European drives toward colonial expansion (primarily) from the 15th through the 19th century saw the aesthetic appropriation of the foreign and exotic in painting, the novel and poetry.  (That all of this has in our time been dwarfed, at least in lavishness of detail, by the exotica presented on film, television and the internet, is evident.)  Likewise, the importance of the Grand Tour for the education of young European men in the 18th century has been noted by many, including the author of the article “Travel” (original: “Voyage”) in the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert: “Travelers develop and raise the level of the mind, enrich it through knowledge, and cure it of national prejudices.  Such study cannot be replaced by books or by the tales told by others.  Men, places, and things one has to judge by oneself.”  (Enlightenment indeed.)  In its description, categorization and enumeration of the elements and basic regularities of the various things it dealt with, the Encyclopedia (1751 – 1772) was in fact the predecessor of both the travel guide book and another phenomenon related to it: the retail catalogue.  First appearing at the end of the 19th century, by 1906 the Sears mail-order catalogue had become the “consumer’s bible.”  In its commodification of places, monuments and customs, the guide book can be regarded as a retail catalogue of the foreign and exotic.

Until the middle of the 19th century, travel for its own sake was the privilege of the few.  By the time the organized group tour (Thomas Cook), the printed guide book and the tourist hotel had come into prominence in the last decades of that century, “seeing the world” had been, at least for the middle class and the better-paid strata of the working class, democratized to a significant extent. What this meant for the realm of the imagination, the inner landscape where dreams of the far away are enacted, was a shift from being the closed realm of the unrealizable to becoming the initial planning phase of real possibilities.  Hopes are kindled that the World, as opposed to home, will allow one to shed one’s everydayness, at least temporarily.  As Dean MacCannell notes: “[…] somewhere, only not right here, not right now, perhaps just over there someplace, in another country, in another life-style, in another social class, perhaps, there is genuine society.”

It is in this attempt to escape one’s own everydayness that one of the paradoxes of tourism becomes manifest: the foreign and far away come to resemble the familiar and everyday in as many aspects as possible.  The easy access which new modes of transport created brought about the flourishing of the hotel business throughout most of the world.  Increasing comfort while enjoying the foreign and far-away is the principle here; accessibility itself is, in the context of tourism’s domestication of the foreign, an aspect of this comfort.  After all, what else is “comfort” in this context other than the protective bubble of familiar everydayness?  “Home away from home” and receptivity to what is unfamiliar cease to indifferently coexist after a certain threshold of comfort and convenience is reached: thereafter, comfort and convenience are present to the extent that the foreign and unfamiliar are absent.

The comfort which is sought is not only physical.  The uneasiness in the face of the unfamiliar gives rise to various defensive strategies.  Not only the activity of taking pictures but speech itself serves as a repository of the familiar in those innumerable discussions among tourists about the logistics and accoutrements of travel.  Such conversations, rather than exemplifying a concern for detail indicative of an active curiosity about one’s environment, are defenses against an alien environment – in short, they are expressions of homesickness.  But this homesickness is not that of being too long away from home, but rather that of having ventured into what is foreign in the first place.

Another aspect of tourism’s inherently paradoxical nature reveals itself in exactly the opposite of the comfort just depicted: the search for the native, the unspoiled and authentic.  An attempt is made to come into contact with what is genuinely foreign, undefiled by the quest for home away from home.  The tourist seeks to escape tourism, to be simply a visitor, a “traveler.”  He or she is often hostile to others who seem to fit into the category of “tourist.”  As James Buzard has amply documented, the traveler/tourist distinction (always with disapproval of what the latter term was taken to signify) dates back to the early nineteenth century.  He also quotes the twentieth-century novelist Evelyn Waugh: “Every Englishman abroad, until it is proven to the contrary, likes to consider himself a traveler and not a tourist.” “The term ‘tourist’ is increasingly used as a derisive label for someone who seems content with his obviously inauthentic experiences.”  There is a wish to become invisible as a tourist, a desire to pass as a “local,” if possible.  But as Jonathan Culler has persuasively written, “The desire to distinguish between tourists and real travelers is a part of tourism – integral to it rather than outside it or beyond it” (Framing the Sign: Criticism and its Institutions, 1988).

The flight from tourism has itself become an extremely popular mode of tourism, and has generated a whole range of “alternative” guidebooks, guided tours, hotels, hostels, etc.  But there is a grim truth concerning the very essence of tourism: the massive search for the unspoiled and authentic is one of the primary causes of its destruction.  As Bruzard observes, “No tourist ‘intends’ the transformation or violation of visited places; yet, in complicity with powerful social, cultural and economic forces, each tourist helps to effect such transformation.  In Tristes Tropiques (1955), the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss notes: “The fact is that these primitive peoples, the briefest contact with whom can satisfy the traveler […] are all, in their different ways enemies of our society, which pretends to itself that that it is investing them with nobility at the very time it is completing their destruction, whereas it viewed them with terror and disgust when they were genuine adversaries.”

The search for the scenic and the accumulative approach toward experience it involves compromise from the outset those contacts with native residents which, precisely because experience here is predominantly experience of things, are quite limited to begin with.  “A country’s humanity disappears to the exclusive benefit of its monuments” (Roland Barthes, Mythologies).  To the extent that contacts with native residents do occur, they tend to be within tourism’s pre-established socio-economic context in which the local resident is the merchant, the hotel clerk, the bartender, the waiter or the local tour guide, and the tourist is always the customer.  The tourist industry is, after all, an interlocking cluster of service industries, which in most cases means that the ultimate consumer of the product or service is personally waited on.  The server-served relationship is by no means unique to tourism; but what is striking here is the pronounced and nearly unavoidable tendency to the exclusion of other kinds of relationship.  The tourist as customer is there to be helped, accommodated, fed and entertained.  He or she may act according to whim, since what has been purchased is not simply a meal, a room, a seat or a souvenir, but the unimpeachable role of guest.  Though perhaps somewhat ill at ease due to lack of competence in the local language or to a vague and unexamined feeling of being out of place, the tourist’s nothing-to-lose attitude of the self-invited guest is there nonetheless.

The local resident whose job it is to serve the tourist does not have the luxury of such arbitrariness, since business and livelihood are at stake.  Moreover, in the anonymity of waiting on and being at the service of the tourist, the service industry worker is placed in the role of representative of his or her town, region or country.  The tourist addresses the person who serves him or her from a position of inherent superiority: the power to decide where and how to spend even a limited supply of vacation money is a crucial advantage.  This superiority of position never goes unnoticed by those who possess it.  It may or may not manifest itself as haughtiness, but even if it does not, the conditions for condescension and patronization have already been created.

The local service industry worker and the tourist who is served are thus bound to each other in a mutual embrace in which the instrumentality through which each views the other casts a shadow on any further attempts at communication between them, as if engaged in a parody of the dialectic of master and slave in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.  Although the resulting ambiguity of their simultaneous attraction/repulsion is mutual, the initiative lies with the tourist, as does the advantage throughout.

by Stephen Slater

In the spring of 2006, I was unemployed, not very happy about it and actively looking for work online in the field I had been working in as a part-time freelancer since 2000, when I passed the 3-hour test administered by the American Translators Association (a professional guild that creates and oversees the test of competence for accreditation in translation and interpretation and which was then and subsequently utterly useless to me for anything else). After leaving academia in 1999 due to lack of work opportunites (last job: Reed College in Portland, Oregon) and lack of basic human decency on the part of my prospective employers, I decided to try my luck as a German-English translator. (Of what? Of anything that came my way except advertising and propaganda meant to be used as propaganda.)
A job was posted on a website for freelance translators, interpreters and others who provide linguistic services. It was for a full-time, regular job at a translation agency in Auckland, New Zealand and, unlike other such jobs that involve submission of work via e-mail, required the translator to be physically present at the office in Auckland. It was a long shot, but the prospect of living in New Zealand (a country I was unfamiliar with) was appealing, since I hadn’t travelled abroad since 1992. The company that posted the job opportunity, PAEN Language Services, had its main office in Auckland with a subsidiary in Berlin. The company required that I pass a translation test of its own via e-mail, which I took not knowing what to expect.
After not hearing from PAEN for several weeks, I assumed that I hadn’t passed the translation test and began looking for other jobs. Early one morning I got a phone call from PAEN’s co-owner saying he had been trying to reach me for several weeks via e-mail but hadn’t received a reply. He told me I had passed the test and that he wanted to take the next step in the hiring process. I had no idea why I had not received the half a dozen or so e-mails he and other colleagues had sent, but I was happy to be hired and began making preparations to move to New Zealand.
And then something interesting happened. All the e-mails that Andreas, PAEN’s co-owner who had called me, had sent arrived simultaneously in my inbox, supposedly unopened. It was almost immediately evident to me what had happened. It was 2006, a little over three years since the United States had launched its invasion of Iraq after the Iraqi leader, Osaddama bin Hussein, had been found to be developing weapons of mass destruction. I was, of course, a sleeper cell with a whole case of box-cutters waiting to strike. It was the National Security Agency or a similar entity that had intercepted the e-mails, headed by an Allen Dulles-like creep with an unlimited budget and a unquenchable desire to inflict maximum damage on America’s enemies. Since there had been e-mail traffic between Auckland, Berlin and Eugene (where I had been living), a possible 9/11-like plot had first been discovered and then, after the creeps couldn’t find anything incriminating about me, abandoned without a word of explanation. After all, the e-mails arrived “unopened.”
I was able to take the job in Auckland and remained there for nearly two years. But I almost lost the job, which was very important to me, because of the paranoid anti-Muslim, anti-Arab hysteria whipped up by that despicable little shit George W. Bush and his enablers behind the scene, enlisting Colin Powell to do their bidding in front of the UN General Assembly by presenting the new Gulf of Tonkin incident in the form of slam-dunk WMDs. Yet another genocidal American rampage against yet another slant-eyed anti-Christian country in the name of Freedom. (Genocide? You mean the invasion of Iraq, like the invasion of Vietnam and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wasn’t genocide?) I have often wished that W. would face the reckoning faced by the main character in Costa-Gavras’ 1972 film State of Siege, minus the execution: he should be “put on trial,” i.e., confronted with all the evidence against him, but then released, Barabbas-like, to live with the knowledge of what virtually everyone knows he is responsible for. (In German, the noun Gewissen, “conscience,” comes from the verb wissen, “to know”; similarly in French the word conscience means both “conscience” and “consciousness” in English.)


by Herbert J. Weiner

The recent crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas caps the invasion of Ukraine, wars in Northern Africa and its continent, conflict in Southeast Asia, the rise in anti-Semitism and racism, increase in crime and shootings, political and economic polarization, the rise in authoritarian governments and the threat to democracy, even Scandinavia, a region of social democracy.

Is it any wonder that the present conflict between Israel and Hamas has occurred?

And, with domestic incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia throughout the world, notably in universities, no one despite the distance from the Middle East, is free of this horrid conflict. This would include division of attitudes within families and between friends, precluding dialog and constructive exchange.

Is it possible that the seeds of this state of affairs were planted decades ago?

This paper attempts to answer that question at some length with the reader’s endurance being appreciated. We begin with the postwar period, exploring the previous 60 years.

The postwar years, while consisting of an affluent middle class, were not ideal. There was the Red Scare with fear of Russian military invasion; anti-Semitism; racism; homophobia; sexism; untreated mental illness; poverty and the fear of nuclear annihilation. As long as one conformed, one, for the most part, was safe. And some unfortunate individuals had to struggle to conform, to be part of the American Dream.

The 60s broke much of the conformity, evidenced by the casual dress at worksites which even the most conservative wear to this day. Workers and superiors are called by their first names. Civil rights made great progress, the festive, largely peaceful demonstrations helped end the war in Vietnam, women were beginning to protest against oppressive sexism and Stonewall fueled the fight for human rights with the LBGTQ community.

But in the 70s, the counter-revolution against progressive movements, forces and programs began. The unions began to make concessions to management, stagflation was plaguing the economy, wages were falling behind, the rightwing was infiltrating the Establishment and détente was eclipsed with the beginning of a new conservative period in the Cold War. We supported Osama Bin Laden against the Soviet Union with tragic results years later.

In the 80s, high interest rates paralyzed the economy for a period of time, Reaganomics took hold of economic thinking with the beginning of extreme polarizations of wealth, our living standard was plummeting, the arms race continued until peace began to be brokered between ourselves and the Soviet Union. This was also the beginning of neoliberalism’s influence in the Democratic Party where centrism replaced the policies of the New Deal. Unions were either taken for granted or ignored and business more favored by the Democratic Party. In the late 80s, Communism was collapsing, being replaced by the market system and the expectation of political democracy. The latter hope, sadly, was not fulfilled. But the Cold War, at the end of the decade was winding down dramatically to the applause of neoliberals and neoconservatives, praising the market system and the rule of private property. This was also reflected abroad with the rise of Tony Blair in the United Kingdom. He, to the delight of Margaret Thacher, transformed the Labour Party into a capitalist body, largely ending the hope of democratic socialism in the UK. Needless to say, he flew to Washington to take lessons from Bill Clinton.

In the 90s, the Soviet Union was dissolved with the adoption of the market system by it and its former satellites. Poverty was massively spread with the dissolution of the safety net. Organized crime flourished in Russia with gangster capitalism. Oligarchs developed with the sale of state industries. And Bill Clinton welcomed Boris Yeltsin to the point of approving his shelling of Russian Parliament. With our propaganda agencies, we supported the breakaway governments of the former Soviet Union; many were repressive. We flexed our muscles as a unipolar world power with the war in Kuwait which, with our massive military strength and might, was a walkover and false reassurance of American power. In the latter years of the decade, we supported the extreme rightwing faction of the Albanian Kosovars who formed an autonomous territory within Yugoslavia. Domestically, the serial shootings began with the tragedy of Columbine setting the stage. The shootings reflected the lack of concern with problems of bullying which impacted on severely disturbed individuals who armed themselves and planned these disastrous events with the understanding that they would kill as many as possible before taking their own lives. In addition to schools, these events would also occur at the worksite.

The beginning of the century was marked with 9/11. The fracturing of communities was underlined by the inattention given to the perpetrators of this attack who blended into their environment without the notice of others. Intelligence reports, predicting the danger, were ignored. And, Osama Bin Laden, whom we previously supported against the Soviet Union, was the mastermind of this onslaught. The response to this attack was the massive bombing and attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan which were wasteful, unproductive and destructive. The United States and a “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq on grounds of finding weapons of mass destruction which had no basis. But it did result in PTSD in deployed troops. Some, affected by trauma, resorted to serial shootings. These could have been prevented with mental health interventions, but the resources for doing so were limited. This was the beginning of shootings that have almost become a daily fact of life at the present time. In 2008, the worse recession occurred with the meltdown of the world economy, caused by the default of buyers in the expensive, unaffordable housing market. There was a faulty safety net that could not address the massive unemployment that occurred as a result. Major brokerage firms collapsed and some were reabsorbed by the banking industry. In actual fact, the end of separation of saving banks from investment firms under the Glass Steagall Act contributed to the crisis, because banks brought risky securities that were based on loans for home purchases. When the buyers defaulted and home payments dried up, the economy contracted. Government bailouts rescued investors and corporations but not the average person who was the victim of the crashed economy. The economic crisis, coupled with interventions abroad greatly depressed the quality of life and alienated the average citizen who felt that there was no control over one’s life. This was the foundation of desperation and the need for security which many saw political figures as addressing. Obama was able to do this to some degree. But wages did not grow on his watch. There were deportations in his Presidency and drone warfare which consisted of civilian casualties.

In Obama’s term of office, there was alienation and a depressed living standard which Hillary Clinton did not address, running on a platform of identity politics which addressed major groups as women, gays, immigrants and minorities but not wages and the depressed living standard of the country. Trump pretended to address the latter and tapped the economic pain of workers affected by outsourcing. Apparently, Hillary took labor’s support for granted which resulted in her loss. She reflected Bill Clinton’s ideology without his charm, resulting in Obama voters changing their votes to Donald Trump who exuded poor hatred and pretended to meet the alienation, rage and desperation that still exists today.

Biden, to his credit, did address the needs of labor and to a degree has made economic improvements. But he still adheres to the Establishment as reflected in his policies in the Ukraine and Asia. The social, political and economic polarities with violence and lawlessness are a major challenge for all in public office. At the local level, there is homelessness, drug abuse, increased crime, unaffordable housing and a culture of selfishness and greed with San Francisco being an example. Corporations and individuals have invaded the city, made their pile of cash and left for other regions of the country as Dallas, Austin and Nashville. The needs of rural areas are underserved which constitute angry voters who will support conservative and extreme right wing politicians.

In the midst of the polarization and alienation that has increased over the last 50 years, minorities and vulnerable groups and individuals can be scapegoats. Hate can piggy back on legitimate criticism and disguise itself. It can be exacerbated by international, national and local events. The problem of anti-Semitism on college campuses is not new. It has been festering for some time which the present crisis in the Middle East has brought out in bold relief. The fissures in our nation preclude intelligent, thoughtful dialog. The ignorance of the past fuels the attack on Jews and Muslims.

The settlers are as fanatical as Hamas, desiring the extension of Israel at the price of Gaza, the West Bank and Arab states. Hamas is just as rigid with its desire to instill its theological beliefs and domination in the Middle East. This is also paralleled domestically with Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups attacking each other. This is not restricted to this country but is world wide.

The casualty of this polarity is truth which has been displaced by hate and ignorance. Do Jews understand that AIPAC supports political candidates who were involved in the January 6th insurrection? There are some Holocaust survivors who oppose Israel’s foreign and military policies. And what of the late Ruth Dayan who criticized Israel’s government and had Palestinian friends? What of the peace forces and Israel’s leftists who feel abandoned by those outside their country? Does the left know that, in World War II, the Arabs supported the Nazis and Jerusalem supported the Allies? Is the left aware that the Soviet Union and the United States endorsed the birth of Israel? Israel, until the mid 60s, was the darling and Cuba of the left where some of our leftists spent time on the Kibbutz. Slowly, this allegiance evaporated and attitudes toward that nation are now reversed.

In Arabian and Persian countries, women are oppressed in the clothing that they must wear, the faces that must be concealed and the clitorectomies that deny them sexual pleasure. Homosexuals and other sexual minorities face ostracization, even death. As noted above, in the Second World, Arab nations were pro-Nazi. And there is collusion with the oil companies in addition to being part of the capitalist world order. Do Arab states, other than Jordan, accept Palestinians as citizens? Ofcourse, we must support our brothers and sisters who are victims of such oppression. But supporting Hamas is another story.

And what about Hamas? Does anyone really understand the nature of the organization, the attitudes of their members, the conditions that encouraged individuals to join and the actual nature of their support? Do they all think alike? Only by understanding our enemy can we defeat them. And, if we do get a two state solution, won’t that take the wind out of their sails? Hamas has exploited the grievances of Palestinians and even appealed to them by providing medical care and other social services. If the needs of Palestinians were met by a peaceful settlement, Hamas would lose much, if not all, of its appeal.

Eventually, there will be a temporary resolution of this conflict, paid for with too many lives on both sides. A settlement must reached, because the underlying tensions that exploded in these tragic events will remain. To my distress, a more dangerous group than Hamas may evolve like a mutating virus.

To fully understand the above issues that I have raised, we need a dialog from all sides which is sadly lacking in the present situation. Understandably, we don’t wish to see Israel destroyed. The price of its existence has been dearly paid for with oppression of centuries and, notably, the Holocaust. But miscalculations of Israel can result in its self destruction. That is why it cannot pursue the present policies that it is following. And what Israel does affects us. Because of this, this conflict is world wide with global anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We are all involved in this, whether we like it or not.

What is needed is dialog between all sides, so lacking on our colleges and universities. Marine General Jim Mattis has set the standard with his sentiment that he would like to see parties express their disagreements but then go down for friendly conversations at the soda fountain. Despite our conflicts, we also have agreements. Personally, I know conservatives whom I would trust in dark alleys in dangerous parts of the world. A former security man at my synagogue was a Republican with whom I could exchange ideas. Can’t we do this at this troubled time? Instead of the armed camp, can’t we have a camp of respectful differences in order to survive these terrible times?

This has particular relevance for Jews and Arabs. In Dearborn, Michigan, Jews and Arabs have collaborated politically and have also been business partners. In France, Jews and Arabs have marched together. In Haifa, Jews and Arabs have played cards together. In the Middle East, Jews and Arabs have been friends. King Abdullah of Jordan, a critical friend of Israel, likes us. And, at least one Jordanian had Jewish playmates as a child. Personally, I have found Palestinians to be civilized and intelligent. These examples do not rule out hope for peace between Jews, Arabs and Palestinians.

In closing, I plead for us to bring out our best in order to eclipse the worst of our human existence. Where there is life, there is hope.

Thank you for your audience for this lengthy paper.




by Ulitka Krasnyy

A man I know once said, “Capitalism was a good seed that became corrupted over time.” In this essay I am going to examine whether markets (the first seed of capitalism) and money (the second seed of capitalism) are truly good seeds. Are they even neutral seeds? Capitalism hasn’t become corrupted over time, it is just finally reaping the fruits of its labors. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. If something becomes corrupted, it must have had qualities that lent itself towards corruption. Gold can never tarnish, iron always rusts. All time occurs at once, therefore the monolith capitalism has become lies coded into the DNA of its tiny seeds: markets and money.

Markets, by their very nature, foster dishonesty. People are selfish by nature, and if the only way to acquire their means of subsistence is the selling and trading of goods they will most likely either lie about the quality of their wares or engage in unequal trades. The need for markets was created by production and ownership of objects, and the need for a universal means of exchange was created by markets. If one person makes unequal trades, or if bartering standards cannot be agreed upon, or perhaps there is too much of one thing, a currency is necessary. Money is the unforeseen consequence of the market.

Markets have also created the need to sell oneself. If you have no wares to sell or trade in the market for means of substinence, your body is the last frontier or, in many cases, your children’s bodies. Prostitution, getting sold into slavery, blood donation, Indian women selling their hair all stem from the market. In a sense, the market desanctifies the body. Ultimately the market desanctifies everything. All objects, beings, and bodies become commodities to be sold or traded.

Those who wish to free the market confuse variety of selection with freedom. Being able to chose between twenty competing brands of toothpaste does not erase any of the problems created by the market. If the market is free to ravage humanity, which it already is, competition in the market would still inevitably end in monopoly. If we are subordinating ourselves to an imaginary system, markets, we are not free. Albert Camus said that real freedom is a submission to a value1. The market has no values except to expand itself. Hence, if we free the market, we are all slaves.

The end result of the market is that it absorbs every aspect of our lives. Its framework becomes all-encompassing, and we are no longer able to operate outside of it. Community can no longer exist without the market.

Money, a result of the market, fosters greed. Greed is ultimately a fear based emotion; one takes more than one needs in order to be sure to have enough for oneself. Money, since it does not spoil, is far easier to stockpile and hoard than food, clothes, livestock etc. Money becomes a protective cushion preventing hardships. The more money you have, the more insulated you are from its ravages.

Now money rules every aspect of our lives. We are completely unable to live without money, and living with it means either to work or to be born rich. In our modern age work is not something that directly benefits the worker, we are not creating anything for ourselves. All that work consists of now is selling one’s time for money. Therefore, we are all commodities of the market, unless we are useless to it, in which case we are pushed aside to rot.

The argument for capitalism would say that it gives people freedom of movement within the class structure. The problem is that if you wish to raise yourself up, you must surrender to money and the market. Capitalism is a huge, hideous machine grinding human lives through its jaws so it can keep growing. I would have to say that money and the market were bad seeds and capitalism is a truly monstrous tree. The workings of its systems bring out the worst qualities of human nature and crush the best ones under its gold-plated jack boots.

To end on a hopeful note, we are all equal whether we like it or not (unfortunately most people do not like it). We are all born, and we all die. True justice comes when the rich man lays on his death bed realizing he has lived in vain, tormented by the blood on his hands. Those who live truthfully die with grace and courage. The only thing we can do in our lives is to participate in the system as little as possible, respect the Earth and its creatures, and help our fellow travelers on this strange, twisted road of life.

by Frank Harper

The summer of 1967 I was 17 years-old living in San Jose, California when I finally had a chance to go on my very first date. The Santa Clara County Fair was going on and I thought that was the best place to take Diane on a very warm Friday evening. Diane was a petite French girl that took a lot of nerve for me to ask her out. First of all, she was so cute and my biggest fear was being rejected because I was a awkward teenager. Much to my surprise she said, “Yes!” Now the nerves were kicking in because I was not experienced in the art of dating. I had never kissed a girl and I thought about the movie, Casablanca where the song was sung several times – A-Kiss-is-just-a-Kiss! I was working at Wools Cannery and I was able to get off early so I could wash and wax my 1952 Chevrolet pickup just so I can impress Diane on this special occasion.

My truck was waxed and cleaned and I put on my best Blue Jeans and I drove to Diane’s house. I got out of my truck and the next thing I knew I was greeted at the front door not by Diane, but her father. Oh boy I could see he was very protective of his lovely daughter and I assured him that we would be back home by 11:00pm. Diane was very anxious to say good-bye to her father and she grabbed my hand we were out the door – free at last! I opened the passenger door to my truck and Diane got in and slid over and I ran around the back of my truck and I opened my door – I could see she would be sitting right next to me. My heart was beating so fast I thought I would need oxygen. I tried to calm myself down because I didn’t want the dreaded sweaty arm pits.

We made it to the fair and we had a great time eating cotton candy, strawberry short cake and the best hotdogs in the world. We visited the animal barns and scratched the pigs and cattle. We rode the Farris Wheel and had a blast on the Bumper Cars. We decided that in order to get on the good side of her father that we should not be late and be at her house by 11:00pm and I actually pulled up to her house at about 10:45.

I shut off the engine of my truck and we talked about what a great time we had. You know that feeling when you just got to go for it – remember that first kiss. Well I made my move lifted my arm to romantically put my arm behind her neck and wham – my elbow hit her smack in her left eye. The last word I expected to hear out of this sweet little voice was – OUCH! I couldn’t believe it as I looked at her eye that was now red and swelling – this was not good. As the shock subsided – Diane knew that her father was waiting up for her. Diane said to me, “Frank you need to come in the house and explain to my father about my black eye!” Talk about the “Kiss of Death” I had to face her father, but I had to stand up to him and explain to him that I accidently hit Diane with my elbow. He was actually very understanding and I felt extremely humiliated. That was the longest drive I had ever taken in my truck as I headed home. My mom asked me the following morning how my date was? I simple said, “Mom you don’t want to know!”

Well a few weeks later Diane and I we went to a movie and this time I was very careful and Diane ducked her head for safety reasons – I landed my first kiss. A couple of years later I was shipped to participate in the Vietnam War and I lost track of the girl who gave me that first kiss.

I eventually got married, with elbow pads, and had two kids. The marriage didn’t last and we got divorced and I raised the boys as a single-parent. I have never forgotten about Diane who gave me my first kiss and I will never forget her father.