Perhaps by way of the editor’s accidental tourism in poli-sci and poli-psy, BackChannels has from the start been about the distillation of basic concepts and values. That’s evident down the column of the left sidebar (which hasn’t been updated in some time): there are the universals —
The six are what matter within ourselves if we are to support goodness and grace against the evil of a behavioral and moral vacuum.
They are perhaps the argument against the malign narcissism of politically absolute and inevitably sadistic systems of power.
In relation to a conversation about barbarism, cultural relativism, and civilizational superiority, the following moved mind-to-keyboard and out into a closed Facebook space:
Argument here has essentially to do with the civilizational character of cultural ethics, principles, and values and that is a little complicated by the fewer than 7,000 living languages extant that suspend and replicate thought from one generation to the next — or become muddled or die out.
Not to rapid-shift here, but when Mongol power receded from conquest in Russia, the princes, according to Pipes, had ingested and adopted the idea that the ownership of property and persons was natural and alike, and one test of sovereignty involved possession of the freedom to destroy either at will and with impunity. The modern Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian soul might consider that philosophy of absolute power / absolute ownership just a little bit . . . barbaric.
Whatever it is, it’s on display in Syria and Crimea, and as there seems to be a small cultural pride –how pure and pretty we may be! — theme in this forum, I would suggest this about the preservation of separable but not exclusive cultural, ideological, racial, and religious differences in appearances, ideas, and traditions:
Core X –> | Mixed XYZ –> |Fringe WXYZ x Primary Variable of Interest
No “theme” disappears but each has its core, its mixer, and its fringe and all have the freedom to choose what is most important in the character of their own survival.
There’s an old joke for intellectual youngsters: “Time exists so that everything doesn’t happen all at once; space exists so that everything doesn’t happen to you.”
As a political concept, what is important about ideas, including matters associated with self-concept and self-regard, is their distribution in geopolitical space and the equilibrium established or maintained between them.
So the world offers some small space for everyone who cares to assert that which is most important to himself as regards self-concept or identity.
There’s an old saw — and on the web attributed both to Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen without proof at the source! — “”The Jews are like everyone else, only more so.”
To answer the mother’s question, “Why can’t you be like everyone else!?” — we are all like everyone else, but we do choose some aspects of ourselves for highlighting, packaging, and presenting, and so may we all continue searching for — or finding — our individual space and time with, one may hope, a few others.
It has often been said that the Jews are like everyone else, only more so. And today, that is more true than it has ever been!
The world of our parents and grandparents was one of exclusion from the wider society. Living apart from the Ukrainians, Russians, and Poles was expected in the old country; when our forebears immigrated to this country many of them maintained their distinct dress, language, foods, songs, and of course religious rituals for a generation or so.
But my grandmother, who was 8 years old when she came to Boston in 1921 from the province of Volhynia in the Ukraine, did not want to be a “greenhorn.” She refused to speak Yiddish. She soon learned that she loved to eat lobster and clams, like so many other Bostonians. She wasn’t so interested in Jewish life. And so she, like many other immigrants, began to shed the ethnic attributes of the old world.
Adelson, Seth. “The Simple Child Sees Only the Past: Kol Nidrei 577.” Sermon. The Modern Rabbi, October 1 2017.