Saturday, November 05, 2011

Comments Trail and Murti-Bing pill

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Anyone who follows this blog would notice that the volume of my writing and participation in conversations in the various blogs and message boards I've been visiting regularly for the last few years has shrunk considerably. There are all sorts of reasons for that, not least is my on-going angst about some in my family. But a great deal of my malaise is due to the feeling that more recently I've been running up against a wall of indifference at best and hostility as a rule when Israel's continued existence is discussed, what appears to be an instinctual aversion to facts and to the idea that Israeli Jews can be and are warriors who will not be easily defeated or demoralized out of their right to self-determination in every respect of this term.

I've been reading Czeslaw Milosz "The Captive Mind". He speaks of those who used to be the Eastern Block 's intellectuals but what he says resonates with the kind of attitudes I encounter at the very heart of the West. For what could be more "West" than Canada, with its great naivete, ignorance, and good nature, the bedrock of multiculturalism gone amok?

Milosz begins The Captive Mind with a discussion of the novel Insatiability by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz.

In the first chapter, "The Pill of Murti-Bing" Milosz is describing Witkiewicz's 1932 little-known novel titled INSATIABILITY in which a vision of yet another dystopia is being offered:.

Witkiewicz's heroes are unhappy in that they have no faith and no sense of meaning in their work. This atmosphere of decay and senselessness extends throughout the entire country. And at that moment, a great number of hawkers appear in the cities peddling Murti-Bing pills. Murti-Bing was a Mongolian philosopher who had succeeded in producing an organic means of transporting a "philosophy of life." This Murti-Bing "philosophy of life," which constituted the strength of the Sino-Mongolian army, was contained in pills in an extremely condensed form. A man who used these pills changed completely. He became serene and happy. [...] A man who swallowed Murti-Bing pills became impervious to any metaphysical concerns. The excesses into which art falls when people vainly seek in form the wherewithal to appease their spiritual hunger were but outmoded stupidities for him.

Milosz sees in the intellectuals who have been enthralled to Communism as Witkiewicz's Murti-Bing addicts. Milosz is indeed mostly concerned with the effects of Communism and let's not forget that his book was written in 1951 and under the pressure of events and systems which are now considered obsolete. But his main contention remains intact and if intellectuals today cannot be coerced by the state to become compliant, they are still suffering from the same human disease, the inexorable need to conform to ideas and ideologies that are fashionable and popular within the circles they inhabit. Those would be academia and media.

Milosz writes:

The epilogue, in a few words: the outbreak of the war led to a meeting of the armies of the West with those of the East. In the decisive moment, just before the great battle, the leader of the western army surrendered to the enemy; and in exchange, though with great honours, he was beheaded.The eastern occupied the country and the new life, that of murti-Bingism, began. The heroes of the novel, once tormented by philosophical "insatiety" now entered the service of the new society. Instead of the dissonant music of former days, they composed marches and odes. Instead of painting abstractions as before, they turned out socially useful pictures. But since they could not rid themselves completely of their former personalities, they became schizophrenics.

This schizophrenia I encounter today, every time I attend or lead group discussions, or engage in discussions in the blogosphere. People express great concern for human rights, for the abiding poverty in the world, for avoiding a repetition of the twentieth century human catastrophe known as the Shoah. And yet, in the same breath they jeer at Jewish life in Israel, they expect Israelis to sit back and absorb murders and destruction, they have little patience with any real talk about the Holocaust. I don't know how to deal with it. I watch the tsunami of hatred gaining energy and legitimation among people who couldn't be nicer. These nice, soft spoken people who, when any mention of Israel is made, their faces twitch and grimace, their hostility barely contained in contemptuous shrieks of sanctimonious outrage.

This is not well said. I'm still struggling to find the words by which to express and articulate my dread, my deep pessimism. What if human beings really cannot learn from the past?


2 Comments:

At 12:03 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Humans do not learned from the past, but I do not think there is anything particularly unique about what you refer to as "their hostility barely contained in contempltuous shrieks..." The Palestinians are viewed as the underdog. History is filled with communies of humans who stand up for the underdog. They have marched in support of them; laws have been passed as a result of struggle for acceptance. Keep in mind there is no exact modern replica of the establishment of a new democratic country on land that had been lived on for centuries by others (Palestinians). Yet, Israel is a legitimate country, established "legally" and for reasons that make sense to people who have a homeland, but some Israelis who for the first time in thousands of years have a homeland, seem blindsided to why Palestinians react against settlements and resort to violence against those who continually taking over land promised to them. Why should the average Canadian or American support Israel's treatment of the Palestinians any more than anyone should support those Palestinians willing to blow themselves up to kill Israel civilians. The powerful never blow themselves up...the Tibetans do. The powerless in the Middle East do.

 
At 8:55 PM EST, Blogger Rebecca said...

The Tibetans do not "blow themselves up." Tibetan monks and nuns have been immolating themselves in protest against China - an act which only causes their own deaths, not the deaths of others.

 

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