Thursday, August 31, 2006

Israel Stands Alone - As a Nation and As Individuals

I read a great story the other day, via soccerdad, about a tense scene in a bunker in Tel-Aviv, on the eve of the Six-Day War. Lionel Chetwynd tells how after hours of futile debate about what to do, and whether Israel can defend itself without any allies, Begin who did not say a thing until then, raises his hand:

“Slowly, the table’s attention slid toward him and there was silence. “Excuse me,” he asked, “but are there any Jews in this room?” There followed several beats of surprised, even confused, silence. The discomfort level was rising. Finally, he added, “Because if so, they should realize that if we wait for allies, we would best spend our time digging a mass grave for that will be the only serious task left.”

Chetwynd goes on to describe how Churchill’s England made the same decision:
“Halifax is said to have told Churchill that the only way to escape devastation was to find a way to survive with the Germans — or the England of the country farm, the corner pub, etc., would be lost. Churchill is said to have growled, “If that is all you you save, then you have failed. That is not the England of the Magna Carta”

Read the whole post here

Sometimes a nation, in order to survive, must stand alone, in the face of its fiercest enemies, without the comfort of allies. But Churchill makes another important point – survival in and of itself is not enough – slaves can survive – but do we wish to be slaves? Do we have nothing in ourselves, inherent to our nature that is worth cherishing and defending? Churchill thought that England certainly did have that something.   I’m sure that Israel, as the home of the Jewish people has many spiritual values that are worth cherishing, and defending, and even dying for. Unfortunately for the Israeli people, their leaders do not think so, and they are more likely to agree with Halifax than to bother with values, ideals, and the meaning of life beyond the next payoff.
So it is up to us – up to every individual citizen in this country to take a stand and decide where are we headed – to ignominious defeat and likely death, or to a long bitter struggle to maintain our freedom, our values and our way of life.
I am sure that many Israelis would choose freedom, except as far as I can tell, choosing to choose – choosing to take responsibility and act accordingly, is an extremely difficult task for even the bravest and most mature person.
This is true, especially when almost everyone around us is saying that everything will be O.K, that the higher-ups know what they are doing, that the next great star is waiting to be born just for us on TV, the next talk show, the next edition of the next news-as-entertainment daily gossip & propaganda sheet, just for us, so stop worrying about tomorrow, they say, let’s all just play, and drink, and snort and smoke another joint so we can forget who we are and what we are doing here, and so can you.
Standing alone, standing up for yourself, in defiance of society – that is perhaps the most difficult challenge a man can face. But sometimes it is necessary for his very survival. Which reminds me:
A few hours after I saw the Begin story, my wife reminded me of this one, recounted in “Women Who Run with the Wolves”, a fantastic book by renowned Jungian analyst, Clarissa Pincola Estes :
“ A man goes to the tailor, to have his new suit fitted. When he is standing in front of the mirror, he notices that the hems on the waistcoat are uneven.
“ Don’t worry about that” said the tailor “just pull down the shorter side with your left hand and no one will notice”.
The client did as asked and then he noticed that the lapel had turned upwards, instead of being flat.
“This?” said the tailor. “ It’s nothing. Twist your head a little and flatten it with your chin.”
The client obeyed, but when he did so he also noticed that the inner seam of the pants was too short, and the pants themselves a little too tight in the groin area.
“Don’t worry” said the tailor. “Pull the pants with your right arm and everything will be just fine.
The client did as he was told, and bought the suit.
The next day he wore his new suit with all the necessary chin and hand “modifications”. He limped around the park. His chin holding down the lapels, one hand holding the waistcoat, the other his groin. Two old men stopped playing checkers and looked at him in dismay.
“ My god, look at that poor cripple!” exclaimed the first old man.
The second one thought for a minute and then said “ yes, he his horribly disabled, but I wonder…I wonder where he got such a beautiful suit.”

Dr. Estes uses this story to describe how women come to be disabled by society’s demands upon them, forcing them to give up on their true, wild nature.But this is a universal story, applicable to everyone, everywhere throughout history.
We are born with an intuitive understanding of ourselves, of who we are, what we are meant to be and what we need to survive and thrive. However, at birth we are totally dependent upon society for our survival, and must do everything we can in order to appease those people whom we are dependent upon. In this process of growing up to be a part of society, called socialization, we tend to lose sight of ourselves. We develop a suit – a beautiful suit – consisting of all the things we want other people to see in us when we are in company. In Jungian theory this social suit is called the Persona, and in extreme cases it is almost everything that one knows about oneself. In trying to comply with society’s demands, we lose sight of ourselves, and we lose touch with our instinctive nature, our wild, free, alert selves, we lose touch with God.
And that is the paradox of humanity – we cannot be ourselves without first being a part of society, but ultimately, in order to be ourselves, to make our lives our own, to make them worth living even – we must choose between society and ourselves, between society and God.
This choice is inherent in Judaism – after all, we are called Israel – Those who struggle or strive with God. The first commandment is “ I am the Lord thy God” and the second one “”Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” and only after these do we hear about the individuals obligation to society, to his parents and neighbors. So we must first struggle with God's demands from us and only afterwards must we deal with society's demands. Sometimes, though, society will demand from us to disobey or ignore God – and what are we to do then? What if society's demands are leading us to our death? Will we dare to shout - "The Emperor is naked!"?

Our mission, as a people, is to struggle with God. For the most part, we tend to forgo this struggle. It is an extremely difficult path to follow, and the pressure of society, of the group – friends and family and co-workers, is usually much closer at hand, and much louder than the deep, uneasy rumbling of the displeased God within us. There are times in history when a society can have only a few select people dedicated to this struggle with God, facing the fateful choice between God and society. Personally, I am afraid that this is not one of those times – I fear that it is incumbent upon all of us to try and engage in this struggle, so that perhaps together we can right this ship, and steer it in another direction. I fear that if we don’t – if we wait for our allies, for our leaders and elites, for our friends and family, for the newspapers and obscenely good-looking TV announcers – I fear that this time, if we will wait for them, the collective ship we are sailing will flounder. It has happened before.
But I grew up on the idiom “Never Again”, and I am going to do my best to make sure it doesn’t.
Will you?

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Psychology, Tikkun and Freud

This is the fourth part in a series of posts that constitute the main concern of this blog: What Is Wrong with Israeli Society and How to Repair it. The previous posts are filed under the category “ RepairingIsrael-TheSeries.” The original, somewhat different, Hebrew version of this post may be found here.

Warning: I think I broke the world record for longest post with this one, so if you dare to brave it, take a deep breathe!

Advice: if you read long articles on the internet sometimes it is difficult to focus on where you are exactly, especially if you do a lot of things at once and take your eyes away from the screen. This is why I recommend installing the Paragrasp extension , which highlights the paragraph, you are reading, and the highlight moves along with your keyboard or mouse – it’s indispensable really. Of course it is intended only for Firefox users.

Previously I explained the expression “Tikkun” (Repair), and why this should be done in a scientific manner, with the use of the knowledge available in the field of Psychology. But there are a few more reasons why an understanding of psychology is important to anyone who wishes to Repair the world:

Why Psychology?
Psychology is the science of human behavior and mental function. It tries to explain what the human soul is, how it works and why, and also, if it happens to malfunction,  - how it can be healed. Psychology is a relatively young science, slightly over a hundred years old, but in that short time it has gained an enormous amount of knowledge. A large part of it is, admittedly, quite trivial, but others we may consider extremely useful for the purpose of Repairing the world. To the extent that the knowledge of human behavior gained from psychological research is scientific, i.e. reliable and a true reflection of reality, then it is the first time that such knowledge has been gained. But there are a few more reasons why psychology can be considered crucial for Repairing the world.
First of all psychology has replaced philosophy as the branch of knowledge where assumptions about human nature are put forward, researched and discussed. In point of fact, psychology was actually born out of philosophy, which dealt for hundreds of years with the perennial question “wither man?” This means that as a society, we are acting today upon assumptions about human nature that are based mainly on psychological research and not philosophical surmise. When society considers how to deal with terrorism, unemployment, or the public school system it is assuming a certain human character – it should be in our best interest to check these assumptions, and make sure they accord with the facts.
The second reason is that, as far as I can tell, nearly every thought and every action that we take is accompanied by our own personal assumptions about our own, and other people’s human nature. For the most part we are not aware of these assumptions, and it usually takes a nasty shock to get us to reflect upon them and perhaps change them. in my opinion, our actions in the world will only be as effective as the assumptions that guide them are accurate. In fact, it would be best if we rid ourselves of our assumptions, and based our actions on knowledge.
Orthodox Jews are the third reason for understanding psychology. This is because the orthodox, at least in Israel, do their best to avoid any contact with the secular world, especially the humanities and social sciences. This means that they lack all the useful knowledge that has been gained in the past two centuries in these fields. It also means that their ignorance puts them at the mercy of those that do posses this knowledge and know enough to use it. In comparable physical terms the orthodox are waging cultural war with sticks and stones, against a secular adversary armed with tanks and bombers. This may work for Arabs, but I assure you, this does not work for Jews.
So this series is written for all the Orthodox Jews (and I have known a few) that wish to Repair the world, but lack the appropriate knowledge to act effectively. For them, I wish to present the relevant psychological knowledge from the viewpoint of a believer, while assuring them that not all secular knowledge is an abomination,on the contrary,some of it may be extremely useful.

Which Psychology?
Psychology today has become an enormous field of knowledge. The American Psychological Association lists 53 professional divisions, accumulating an amount of information impossible for one man to digest in his lifetime. So, obviously, some sifting through is called for. In order to gain the widest perspective possible, I will discuss those theories that also bring a broad philosophical approach to their psychological practice. For me this means the theories of Freud, Adler and Jung – the fathers of modern psychology. From my personal experience it seems to me that almost every idea being expressed or researched today in psychology, already has it’s origins in one of these world-embracing theories. In addition to them I will discuss two more practical theories that were created outside of Academia, but with a strong psychological basis. These are Transactional Analysis, and the Imago Theory, both which I have already mentioned in the movie reviews (see here).
In each case I will give a (hopefully) short overview of the theory from a very specific perspective – the point of view of a believer who wishes to understand the world he lives in and how to Repair it. For each theory there will be a second section showing how it may be applied to everyday life in Israel, on the collective level and on a personal level. I also intend to suggest legislation based on these theories that, in my opinion, can help us Repair the world in an effective manner.
Along the way I will use these theories to understand what is meant, psychologically speaking, when we talk about such terms as God, belief, religious, secular, and Repairing the world.

Freud From A Believer’s Perspective
First, a confession: I was never attracted to Freud’s way of thinking. I find his writing intentionally obscure and his reasoning in most cases obviously flawed. Even so, no discussion of psychology and Repair can begin without acknowledging Freud’s significant contribution to our understanding of ourselves. In this case, it is doubly important since Freud’s writing’s and philosophy have had an overpowering effect on Israeli society. We will begin with a brief view of the man himself.

Freud’s Life
Sigmund Freud was born in Czechoslovakia in the year 1856 to a poor Jewish family. While still a child, his family moved to Vienna, there Freud grew up, studied and worked until he was deported by the Nazis in 1938. He died in London one year later.
Freud’s unusual intellectual ability was noted while he was still young, and his family accorded him all the support and encouragement possible to them. He finished his studies in the Vienna Gymnasium with flying colors and moved on to medical studies at the University of Vienna. He was extremely interested in scientific research and for years he studied and did research in the fields of biology and physiology, and would have continued to do so, if not for his precarious financial state which forced him into a more practical occupation. Freud chose to intern in nervous diseases and in the year 1881 received his degree and started to see patients. At this time he also got engaged although financially he was not yet able to get married.
In his first years Freud gained experience in the treatments known at the time, mainly hypnosis and free flowing associative discussion with the patient that led to catharsis and recovery. In time, Freud abandoned hypnosis and switched to a conversation only method of treatment. These conversations revealed to Freud an amazing fact – all of his patients reported childhood sexual experiences, especially involving close family members. Freud became convinced that all mental problems originate in a flawed sexuality, a conviction that his colleagues by no means welcomed nor embraced. Freud returned to his work and began a self-analysis through dreams. After two years of this he felt that he had solved a large portion of his mental problems and became, as a result, a healthier, more rounded human being.
This analysis turned into his most famous book “The Interpretation of Dreams. This book was not received well by his contemporaries, but within a few years a substantial shift occurred in his fortunes. Freud began to write and publish at an incredible rate, and some of the younger doctors found his ideas so intriguing that they asked him to create a weekly discussion group. This group started in 1902 and included Alfred Adler who also lived in Vienna and Carl Jung (who joined later). This group published several periodicals and was the antecedent of psychological associations to follow. Freud reached his peak in the 1920’s and 1930’s. At this time his method of treatment developed into a general theory of human beings and Freud became an honored and respected member of society. During these years he was diagnosed with cancer (Freud, despite his formidable mental health, was a chain smoker) and suffered immense pain and many operations until his death in 1939.

Freudian Theory
Fundamental to Freudian theory is the idea that a dynamic relationship exists between the mind’s different parts (which is why it is called, among other names, psycho-dynamic therapy). At the center of this relationship we find the eternal struggle between man’s instincts, impulses, and desires on one hand, and reality, which painfully restricts their realization on the other. Freud considered the sexual drive to be the most important impulse, even stating that all the psychic energy we posses, our  “libido” is actually sexual energy. From this conclusion he derived another one – that all human creation, including all spiritual and religious creation, has it’s origins in the sexual drive.
The impulses inhabit the unconscious; in the part he called the Id. The ego is the conscious part, mediating between the impulses and reality, or as Freud put it “ the ego mediates between the pleasure principle and the reality principle”. The reality that the ego faces is a social reality, full of terribly constricting rules and prohibitions. Educating the child towards fulfilling the social - moral code begins at birth and is conducted mainly by the parents. In time the social - moral code is internalized by the individual and a new psychic structure is formed – the superego, which oversees every action, thought, and feeling, and judges and critiques them for better and for worse. The ego’s role is to mediate between the Id and the superego, so that we can derive the most pleasure, while accruing the least possible amount of pain. Obviously this is not always possible. There are cases where the ego cannot succeed in compromising between the impulses rising from the id, and the demands of society. The ego may experience such a state of distress that it simply throws the whole unpleasant event as far away as possible – into the unconscious. This action is called repression and is a most important and central tenet of Freudian theory. The psychic energy that was awakened but not used does not simply disappear – it is repressed into the unconscious, and erupts from there in the shape of compulsive behaviors, acts that have nothing to do with the objective reality we are experiencing at the time. In Freud’s words: “ a psychic trauma is formed, and it is expressed in neurotic behavior”.
There are many forms of neurotic reactions to trauma, some of the most important, for our purposes being: (taken from this Wiki)
Denial: occurs when someone fends off awareness of an unpleasant truth or of a reality that is a threat to the ego. For example, a student may have received a bad grade on a report card but tells himself that grades don't matter.
Psychological projection occurs when a person "projects" his or her own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings—basically parts of oneself—onto someone or something else. An example of this would be to say that Alice doesn't like Bob, but rather than to admit she doesn't like Bob, she will project her sentiment onto Bob, saying that Bob doesn't like her.
Others are intellectualization and rationalization, both favorites of Jews, as well as compensation, sublimation and displacement.

Freudian Treatment
Many of the psychic traumas occur when we are helpless infants. For instance, a mother breast-feeding her child may cause trauma if she feeds too much, or if she feeds too little. Maybe she is holding the baby too tightly, or maybe not tightly enough. Breast-feeding in and of itself is, for Freud, much more than a simple act of nourishment - it is an act of seduction by the mother. Freud believed that the sexual life of man begins in infancy, and proceeds intensively until the age of five, resuming again only at puberty. In this five-year period the child passes through several psychosexual stages of development, which, if successful, will turn him into a healthy man, and if not – into a neurotic person.
Anyway, let’s get back to our suckling mother – as we mentioned she is seducing her child, and he delights in their close relationship. However the mother realizes that this is an unhealthy situation so she attempts to severe the sexual connection between them. This dependent tie between the infant and his mother is part of the famed Oedipus complex. When the baby refuses to disengage from his mother, she threatens him with castration (no less!), and when even this does not help, she threatens to tell daddy to come and castrate him. Overcome by anxiety, the poor infant agrees to severe the ties of love that bind him to his mother. All of this happens, of course, only in a healthy family. If the family is not healthy, many things can happen to derail the child from the correct path of psychosexual development. Any mishap can cause trauma. The force of the trauma causes events to be repressed into the unconscious and there forgotten. Only psychoanalytical treatment can conjure up these memories, and free the grown man from his trauma and the accompanying neurotic behavior. The harsher the original trauma was, the greater will be the resistance of the patient to disclosing the unconscious contents connected to this trauma. The greater the resistance, the longer and more complicated the treatment will be, lasting in many cases for many, many years. (a prospect which no doubt delighted the poverty stricken Freud, and continues to delight his successors).
Freud was sure that human character is formed in the first five years and that all human behavior can be explained by events that occurred when we were children.
It is possible, for example, that right at this moment, the reader absently scratched his head. It is possible that you scratched your head because it itches. But this is certainly not the only possibility –it may be that you are indulging in obsessive behavior, caused by a childhood trauma, since repressed and completely forgotten. How is one to know the truth? The truth can be reached only through psychoanalytical treatment at the hands of an authorized psychologist. As long as you refuse to undergo proper treatment there is a very good chance that you are neurotic. And it gets worse – your adamant refusal to submit to treatment is proof, in and of itself, of your resistance, and why should you resist, if you are not hiding from psychosexual childhood trauma? If this sort of circular logic flabbergasts you, than I assure you that you are not the first.
If it happens that you are convinced by this logic, and you start treatment, then you will be asked to tell your doctor all your innermost thoughts and feelings. Your associations, the things you choose to tell and the things you withhold, every hesitation, stutter, or slip of the tongue, all your dreams – all of them will be like strands of silk in the hands of the psychological weaver, who will analyze this material (hence the name psychoanalysis) and interpret it for you. The psychologist will present his interpretation as friendly suggestions, as possibilities. However, since his understanding is based on Freudian theory, there is a good chance that you will find out that you were a baby with a very strong sexual drive, which you were forced to repress because of societal prohibitions. It may turn out that your mother seduced you, and then abandoned you, and even threatened to castrate you. You may be asked to recreate the fear, envy and jealousy you felt towards your father when he disposed you from your natural place alongside your mother. Of course, no one is forcing you to accept this interpretation. On the other hand, as long as you disagree, it is obvious that you are still resisting. You may be labeled as a problematic patient, who is having a tough time getting along. In other words – not only are you a sick neurotic man, you can’t even be a proper sick, neurotic man! On the other hand, if you accept the Freudian interpretation of your childhood, the stain of being a bad patient will be removed, the tension between you and your therapist will subside, and you will be able to continue to delve deep into all the details of every childhood trauma, as partners and even as friends, until you feel healthy enough to stop treatment, or until you become bankrupt, whichever comes first.
For the record I would like to state that I do think that such a method of treatment may be effective under certain circumstances (which I will get into in a later post in this series), especially considering that today most therapists, even if they usually accept Freudian theory, still use, in addition, a variety of techniques and theories.
What is important for me to point out here is the one-sided, almost indoctrinary character of the relationship between therapist and patient in Freudian therapy. Of course, the therapist himself went through psychotherapy and was forced to go down the same path – either he accepted the Freudian theory or else he could not have become a therapist. Bottom line is this – if you agree with Freudian theory then obviously you are a healthy, sane man or at least on your way to becoming one. If not, then you are an antagonist, a psychological “Misnaged”, suffering from a neurosis, which must be treated.
Freud once said, according to an account I found in the introduction to “The History of the Psychological Movement” that “We posses the truth. I am sure of it”. This sort of worldview is reflected in his therapy, just described, and it also implies that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who believe in the Truth according to Freud and those who refuse to believe. That is why when Adler and Jung raised questions about the theory, and actually presented facts that it did not explain, there was absolutely no ground whatsoever for a rational discussion between scientists searching together for the truth, because Freud had already found it, and like every other prophet – his word was final. In this situation the only course of action is excommunication and boycott. This is why I was not surprised to hear Jungian therapists described by Freudians as  “heretics” a term that is used to this day.
(I recall that famed psychologist and author I. Yalom uses it in at least one of his books).
Even so, I am sure Freud would be at least amused to note that his theories are treated by many as religious dogma, and his books cherished almost like Jews cherish the Torah. Probably he would have been shocked too because he was utterly unequivocal on the matter of religion.

Freud’s Treatment of Religion, God and Faith
In Freud’s opinion, religion is a sign of mental illness, belief in God a neurosis, God Himself – a frail cobweb of delusions. Freud had no patience for religion, and had only one positive thing to say about it: “ Clearly, religion has done a great service to humanity, and contributed much, though not enough, to repressing anti-social impulses” (from The Future of an Illusion). In other words, religion helped to develop the superego, the conscience, and therefore, human culture. But in Freud’s view, it is time to admit that religion does not satisfy our needs, and that it is better for humanity to do without this illusion. According to Freud, this delusion originates in childhood, and as the helpless child gazes adoringly at his all-powerful father, so does the grown man. As we grow up and we realize how impotent we are as humans, when we face our insignificance to the world and society, it is then that we recreate the childhood experience. The all-knowing omnipotent father of our childhood is re-created as a protecting God of Deliverance. Freud actually thought that this would not be so bad if not for one thing – the tone of sanctity that accompanies so many human thoughts and behaviors, and as a result – distorts them. Freud was sure that scientific achievement, past, present and future will enable humanity to renounce the illusion of faith in god, and desist from all the religious practices that seemed to him, from day to day, more ridiculous and out of touch than ever. Religion is a mental illness: “ We may view religion as a general human compulsive neurosis, and like that of a child it has it’s origins in the Oedipus complex, in the relationship with the father” (Ibid).
Freud predicted that a growing number of people will stop believing in God, stop participating in the various religions and accept the fact that the reality that we live in is extremely painful, that we humans are puny, and largely helpless, and he also thought people would come to accept all this without the aid of the emotional crutches called Religion and Faith.
In short:  a mentally healthy man is a secular man.
The negative attitude towards faith and religion is part of a general negative stance toward the past:
“ We say to ourselves that it would be all well and good if there was a benign Creator, a Divine Providence, if there was a Moral order in the world and an afterlife, but it is obvious that this is just wishful thinking. And it would be extraordinary if our impoverished forefathers, ignorant, and enslaved could have solved all the difficult riddles of the world” (Ibid.)
The reader is free to draw his own conclusion about Freud’s approach to the bible. He does address this issue indirectly in his book “Moses and Monotheism”. Here Freud tries to prove that Moses was an Egyptian priest, member of an Egyptian monotheistic cult persecuted by Pharaoh. Moses was forced to escape, adopting on the way the Hebraic tribe, and forcing upon them this new religion. As a reward for this service, and in keeping with Freudian theory whereby every son wishes to slaughter his father (see Totem & Taboo for the details), the People of Israel proceeded to murder Moses, and, feeling guilty about it, accepted the new religion. So, who led Israel 40 years in the desert? No problem says Freud – a different, additional Moses led them to the Promised Land.(I swear I am not making this up!)
We can also learn about Freud’s attitude to the bible in a more indirect manner. Many of the most important events in the bible are dreams. What does Freud have to say about dreams? According to his theory, dreams are an expression of an unfulfilled wish, or impulse. Therefore dreams can teach us a lot about our unconscious desires, frustrations, and traumas. Every dream has a double meaning – the overt, obvious one, and the hidden, latent meaning, which is the true one.
Let’s say that a young child wakes up in the middle of the night to the voice of someone calling his name. He gets up, walks around, sees no one and goes back to sleep. After a while he again hears this voice calling his name (for artistic purposes we’ll call him Samuel). Again he wakes up, walks around –no one is there! What does all this mean? Freudian theory most likely would say that once a person starts hearing voices in his head and projects them onto the world, then he is in big trouble. It would be recommended that the parents of this child send him in for diagnoses and treatment. The last thing you want to do in this situation would be to cooperate with this delusion, and if someone dared to tell this boy that he is hearing the voice of God – why, he is doing the poor lad no favors, and should probably be committed himself!

Repairing the World According to Freud
While explaining the term “Tikkun”  I pointed out that for me, Tikkun begins with the individual. I stated that first we should find out what the Repaired individual looks like and then we should tailor our institutions accordingly. So, what is Freud’s version of the Repaired man, the mentally healthy man?
Freud stated that during our crucial childhood years we undergo several stages of psychosexual development, inevitably accompanied by various degrees of trauma. Everyone is traumatized to some degree and therefore we are all neurotics. The difference between a healthy neurotic and a sick neurotic is the degree to which their neurosis enables them to function normally in society, to be productive and fulfill their ambitions. From this we can conclude that a man is considered healthy relative to the society he lives in.
People are also distinctive in the degree of reason they possess. Freud thought that the history of mankind is the history of the war between human reason and human drives, and especially between the sex drive and the death drive. For him reason was the greatest virtue a man can possess. He assumed that if people would reason, they would realize that society’s prohibitions are intended to serve them and that they actually serve to arrange human relationships in the best possible manner. When people would realize this, said Freud, a large part of their resistance to the dictates of civilization will fade away, and so will a large part of their neurosis. The key concept here is Reason:
Our hope for the future is that our mind – the spirit of science, reason – will, in time, establish itself as the dictator of man’s spiritual life. The nature of reason is such that it will not deprive the senses…” Unfortunately, only the few have been bestowed with this gift: “ in the same manner that we cannot avoid cultural coercion, so we cannot avoid the controlling of the masses by the few, for the masses are weak and lack intelligence” (Ibid)
Freud’s ideal man is a man of reason, who uses his mind to control his impulses. Of course, this is a man who has no illusions, no faith, no God, and no religion whatsoever. This is a man who gets along with society, and is a productive part of it. He gets his satisfaction from sublimating his drives into a spiritual, intellectual endeavor, perhaps engaging in an artistic pursuit, or some other cultured enterprise. It is clear that reasonable people seek treatment for their neuroses, and that only such people can be held responsible for their actions because all the rest, the “masses that lack intelligence” are motivated by unconscious impulses, by unfulfilled childish wishes that ceaselessly seek the light of day in the adult world.
So. Now that we know what a “Repaired” man is in Freud’s world, then it is not difficult to describe the Freudian Repaired world:  it is, actually, just like this one!
It is a world where a constant struggle exists, between the sex drive and the death drive; between the pleasure principle and the reality we live in. This is a world of unavoidable conflicts, a world of existential loneliness, a world without the comfort of God or religion, or true love between man and wife, and, sadly, a world devoid of any meaning. This is a pretty gloomy world to live in and Freud realized it. But he was absolutely sure that this was the best possible world, and he truly believed that in this world we must do our best to extract the most pleasure, with the minimum pain, and finally, he believed that psychoanalysis can help everyone achieve this. The role of psychoanalysis, to use a well-known Israeli proverb, is “to ease the despair” (from a popular Hebrew song “London”- Hebrew lyrics here- sung by Chava Alberstein, and written by the essence of Freudian art in Israel, the well-known and much acclaimed playwright, Hanoch Levine).
Obviously, then, Freudian psychology is far from being a psychology of faith. It has no redemption and Repair, neither for the individual, nor for society. It has no faith, no God, for the most part no individual responsibility, and no objective morality. Finally, from a believer’s point of view, the worst thing about Psychoanalysis is the hopelessness of it all.

If Freud did not discover The Truth, at least he did discover some very important truths. He was the first to treat the unconscious as an important object of scientific research that we can learn much from. He was the first, in the modern era, to use dreams as a major tool in learning about humans and helping them. He discovered and named many mental phenomenons, chiefly repression and it’s various guises. He was one of the first to ascribe mental causes to physical ailments, and connect between a man’s behavior and his unconscious. He was the first to attribute the human soul with an independent economy of energy.
Actually, for the most part, there is no question about the validity of many of the psychic facts he found and described. The main argument, continuing to this day, is with his interpretation of those facts, and especially the dogmatic theory that he wove around them, a theory that is very far from scientific practice, and much closer to religious dogma. Perhaps it is ironic that Freud’s theory, intended to abolish faith of all kinds, has become a pseudo-religion in and of itself, proving that no matter what – human beings have to believe in something.

Has all this affected Israeli society? Indeed it has, in my opinion, immensely. I will try to prove it in the next post.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tikkun at the Movies: Billy Elliot and the Toxic Parent

I’m not giving a spoiler alert here, because I doubt that such a movie can be spoiled. I’ve already seen it a few times, and have enjoyed it more each time. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do so, and then come back to read this post.

The plot
Billy Elliot is the story of an 11-year-old boy growing up in a coal-mining town in northern England. His tough coal-mining father sends him to boxing class once a week. Although Billy does his best, he doesn’t have it in him, and one day he is forced to stay after class to make up his deficiencies. Coincidentally, a ballet class starts on the opposite end of the gymnasium, and Billy is captivated and although he doesn’t realize it yet – he has found his destiny.
The rest of the movie is the story of the struggle between Billy and his father and older brother, both tough, heavy-set men’s-men, who cannot conceive of a way of life different than theirs. Billy’s father refuses to allow him to indulge in his infatuation with ballet, and goes completely berserk on the subject. Luckily for Billy, his father experiences a change of heart when he happens to see him dancing one cold Christmas eve, and after that he stands behind Billy’s attempt to gain entrance to the royal ballet school.

The Natural Life Force
After many hardships, Billy auditions for the royal Ballet and although he does not realize it at the time he does beautifully. After dancing, he is invited back for a short interview, and just as he is leaving, one of the panelists asks Billy what does he feel when he is dancing. This is his answer:

Panelist: “Just one last question. Can I ask you, Billy::  What does it feel like when you're dancing?
Billy:  Don't know.  Sort of feels good.  It's sort of stiff and that...but once I get going.... then I, like, forget everything...and...sort of disappear… I sort of disappear. Like I feel a change in me whole body. Like there's a fire in me body. I'm just a bird. Like electricity.

The Imago Theory (short intro here) postulates that every human being is born with a natural connection to the life force. When I heard Billy’s description of his feelings when dancing, I was instantly reminded of this notion, and it seems to me an excellent description of a human being connecting to that life force – the feeling of being immersed, of being carried, of effortlessness, of flowing with energy – with “electricity” as he puts it – that feeling is exactly what we were all born with, and lost, and yearn and struggle to gain again.
How did we lose this natural connection?

The Toxic Parent - Murdering the Spirit
In the opening moments of the movie, Billy is shown in his home fooling around with the piano that apparently belonged to his late mother. His father sees this and angrily demands that he stop playing, nearly crashing the lid on Billy’s fingers.
This is a small example of a parent seeing his child express himself, enjoying himself, and, instead of encouraging this, and displaying interest – he does the exact opposite, punishing Billy for being himself.
But this is only the beginning – when Billy’s father discovers that instead of going to boxing class he’s using the money to pay for ballet classes he confronts his son:

Billy:  What's wrong with ballet?
Dad:  (raising his voice) What's wrong with ballet?
Billy: It's perfectly normal.
Dad: (incredulous) "Perfectly normal"?
Senile Grandma: I used to go to ballet.
Billy:  See?
Dad: Aye, for your nana. For girls, not for lads, Billy. Lads do football, or...boxing, or...wrestling. Not frigging ballet.
Billy: What lads do wrestling?
Dad:  Don't start.
Billy: I don't see what's wrong with it.
Dad: You know exactly what's wrong with it.
Billy:  - No, I don't.
Dad - Yes, you do.
Billy:No, I don't.
Dad   - You're asking for a hiding, son
.Billy - I'm not, honest.
Dad: You are, Billy…. Listen, son, from now on you can forget about the fucking ballet. You can forget about the fucking boxing, as well.  I'm busting my ass for those half pences, and you're... No, from now on you stay here, you look after your nana.
Dad:  Got it? Good.
Billy: I hate you! You're a bastard! (Escapes the house, running away from his father)

The father’s behavior here is the exact definition of a toxic parent. The toxic parent cannot make any distinction between himself and his children. What was good for him must be good for all his children too. What he wants for them is what they must want for themselves, if they know what’s good for them. (Which is why Billy must do like his father did, and his father before him and be a boxer). The toxic parent displays no interest in his children’s life, (notice that Billy’s father is not interested in Billy’s experience or his feelings while doing ballet) but rather is interested only in using him for his own emotional needs, (in this case – affirming his ideal of manhood, and avoiding ridicule from the community) and finally, and worst of all, the toxic parent cannot, under any circumstances stand idly by when his (or her) child is enjoying himself, feasting on the abundant life force, being himself. This the toxic parent cannot allow because he was not allowed it either, and since he is suffering, he sees no reason why anyone else, especially his children, should enjoy life.
Of course, the toxic parent has no conscious knowledge of what he is doing and why. Most likely, Billy’s father would say that he is only doing his duty as a parent, and most authority figures would agree with him. But they would be wrong, and Billy knows it, which is why he sneaks off to his teacher’s house and continues his ballet lessons, this time with the intention of preparing for an audition for the Royal Ballet School.  Unfortunately, the night before the audition, Billy’s brother is arrested for his part in the coalminers strike, and Billy is forced to miss it. His teacher comes looking for him, and another highly emotional confrontation occurs, involving Billy’s father, brother and teacher. It ends like this:

Brother:You say he can dance? Go on, then.  Let's see this fucking dancing.
Teacher:  This is ridiculous!
Brother: If you're a fucking ballet dancer, then let's be having you.
Teacher: (to Billy) Don't you dare!
Brother:- What sort of a teacher are you? He's got the chance to dance. Now, you're fucking telling him not to. (raging brother lifts Billy on to the kitchen table ) dance, you little twat!
(Billy remains standing on the table, paralyzed with fright.)
Brother:  So, piss off. He's not doing any more ballet!  If you go near him again, I'll smack you, you middle-class cow.
Teacher:  You know nothing about me, you sanctimonious little shit!
He won't grow up to race whippets, grow leeks or piss his wages up the wall.
Listen! He's been with me...
(At this point, Billy again runs away from home, and bursts into a beautiful dance sequence, played out on the streets)

The toxic parent is usually not alone – some one, usually his spouse, enables his behavior, and even participates in it. Many times children get in on the act as well – like Billy’s brother, who echoes his father’s first tirade. The father in this case remains silent, enabling his eldest, “normal” son to do the work for him.

The Child of A Toxic Parent
Growing up in a toxic family is not an easy ordeal, as anyone who has experienced it can attest. Basically, the child is struggling to maintain the connection with the life force he was born with. Since the child is wholly dependent upon his parents, he (or she) usually cannot win this struggle, the connection is lost and with it the natural sense of identity, the innate knowledge of who we are and what we are supposed to be doing here on this planet, all are lost. If we are fortunate, we can try to recover this knowledge later in our lives, but always this will entail severe spiritual trials. A toxic parent can ruin a life in a very short period of time, while rehabilitating that life may take a whole lifetime.
However, Billy is different. Somehow he manages to stand up to his father and his brother, and even after the second time his father finds out that he has disobeyed his orders, he still has the nerve to bust out of his house and start dancing like the wind. Billy’s spirit appears to be unquenchable. His secret is revealed to us when he brings some personal things to a private ballet lesson, so that they will give his teacher some ideas for a dance. In this scene Billy repeats by heart a letter that his late mother left for him to open when he would become eighteen:

"To my son, Billy."
"Dear Billy:
I know I must seem like a distant memory to you...which is probably a good thing.It will have been a long time....and I will have missed seeing you grow.Missed you crying, laughing...and shouting. I will have missed telling you off. But please know that I was always there with you through everything. I always will be.And I am proud to have known you and I'm proud that you were mine.Always be yourself.
I'll love you forever.

When the authority figure raising the child imparts to him this kind of message “always be yourself” and backs it up with actions (as Billy’s mom did), then the chances of losing touch with the sustaining life force, with god, or the Tao or whatever people wish to call it – are substantially diminished. In other words – Billy Elliot is not only a very talented child – he is also a very fortunate one. And he is fortunate in another way too – his remaining living parent has a heart, and rediscovers it.

Can the Toxic Parent Change?
Dr. Susan Forward, the author of the book “Toxic Parents” states that from her experience toxic parents very rarely change, or even admit that they are to blame for anything. She actually describes a case where a father who raped his daughter for years completely denied the charges and still blamed his daughter (by then grown up) for being promiscuous with other men. For the child trying to recover from the disastrous affects of a toxic parent, even a verbal apology can mean a lot, and even this small gesture is refused him in most cases.
But Billy’s father turns out to be different. Like any toxic parent he is confronted with a choice: he has to choose between his self image, and between his son’s talents and aspirations, and also he has to choose between the community he lives in (which, like him, disapproves of ballet for men), and between his own child. Twice he chooses himself and his emotional needs over those of his child, in effect murdering his child’s soul.
But on Christmas Eve a miracle happens – he is out celebrating, and on the way home his pals notice that the gym lights are on. Billy is there with a friend (unfortunately, wearing a ballerina skirt), his father comes in, and all is silent. Suddenly, Billy starts dancing, gathering steam he erupts into a wonderful dance, starting and ending right under his father’s nose. As hard as it may be to believe – this is actually the first time Billy’s father has witnessed him dancing, even though this is  a consuming passion of the son that he supposedly loves so much.
In any case – Billy’s father is shocked, and touched, and as it turns out - convinced. From that point on he get’s behind Billy with all his might, enlisting his friend’s to help him out, and sacrificing cherished personal belongings. In order to raise money for his son’s trip to the audition in London he even crosses the picket line and resumes work. His son, a leader in the union confronts him:

Billy’s Brother: Dad, you can't go back, not now!
Dad: Look at the state of us! What've we got to offer Billy?
Brother: You can't! Not now! Not after everything we've been through!
Dad: It's for wee Billy! He might be a fucking genius, for all we know.
Brother: For fuck's sake, Dad. You can't do this, man! Dad!
Dad:   He's only eleven   for fuck's sake.  He's a kid. He's just a fucking little kid.                I'm sorry. I'm sorry, son. Please! - I'm sorry, son.  We're finished, son!  What choice have we got, eh? Let's give the boy a fucking chance!
Brother - Please. Please don't do this to me, Dad. We'll find him some money. We'll find it for him.

Thus, in the end, the father comes to his senses and makes the right choice, and we are shown a  parent who actually loves his child more than he loves himself. How rare is that? Let’s see.

Conclusion in Mahneh Yehuda Market
A few weeks ago I went to the Mahneh Yehuda market. I walked to the bus, and no one I passed was smiling. On the bus, about forty people were riding, most of them dressed in black, I saw no one smile and heard no one laugh. I went through the whole marketplace, and still I saw no one expressing any kind of joi de vivre. But standing on the curb at the far end of the market, waiting for the cars to pass, I see one man digging a ditch. Of all people – he is the only one smiling, and he looks to me completely at peace with himself, resting for a second on his spade, before lifting it again.
I do not know how many Billy Elliot’s are out there, and how many parents are now, at this very moment, denying their children a chance to live life at the fullest. But if what I am seeing on the streets, what I have seen in every walk of life that I have been in (lots!), is any indication, if the level of violence in our society is any indication – then millions; literally millions of children are being crushed and trampled, their spirits deformed, their will denied and broken, their innocence and simple joy in life desecrated.
I weep for these children.
As I weep for myself.

Surprisingly, I could not find any good resources on the net for the subject of Toxic Parents. I guess in this case the best thing would be to buy the book. It is not expensive, nor overly complicated. Dr. Forward is very direct and accurate, and anyone who has grown with toxic parents will easily recognize the horrifying reality she is describing. The book also includes some exercises, intended mostly for rape victims, but in my experience, they are useful for any abused child.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Whom did you vote for in today’s elections?

Probably you are surprised by the caption. As citizens in a Democratic country, Israel, we are used to voting once every four years, which for most people constitutes the height, length and breadth of democracy. But that idea is simply not true. We vote everyday, in various ways, and the way we vote determines how our society functions, and in Israel’s case, as of now, our votes decide if the country will survive, if and when there will be another war, and how bad it will be for us.
One of the aims of this blog is to show the connection between our actions as individuals, and society as a whole. I have heard many Israeli’s complain that they are helpless ‘nobody listens to us anyway” they will say or “what’s the use – we vote and then the politicians do whatever they want.” That is only partially true. Israeli  politicians are known to act upon public opinion, and that opinion is shaped mainly by the mainstream media. The information we receive from the media determines for the most part what the aggregated public opinion will be like. What is even more important is that politicians, knowing this, are acutely aware of how the media presents reality to it’s readers. In other words – we can influence our elected officials greatly by the way we choose to get our information.
I already discussed the nature of the information we usually receive from the postmodern media and to sum it up in two words – it sucks. (Full post is here).
So every time we buy a paper, listen to the news on the radio or watch it on TV – we are making a choice: we are either encouraging professional journalism, concerned with conveying facts and analysis to it’s readers, or else we are encouraging postmodern journalism which does not care about the facts, but rather, about shaping our perception of the world according to a predetermined political stance. This is doubly true in Israel where the mainstream media is wholly owned by people from the extreme left, and mostly populated by their adherents.If fifty percent of the population was reading Carolyn Glick in Makor Rishon on weekends, instead of Yediot Ahronot, then chances are that the public would not now have to beg it's incompetent and corrupt elected officials to step down - because they would never have been elected in the first place.
So, whom did you vote for? People who never, in their most dreadful nightmares would agree to vote for Meretz (radical, secular, Ashkenazi, Left-wing party), will gladly buy newspapers that reflect the Meretz position in every important way. Yes, the mainstream media will carry various opinions – but that is just a ruse. The opinions page is redundant, when the information on the main pages is totally skewed.
How bad is the mainstream media?
I read this today on IMRA, an interview with Uzi Landau, former Likud party member in Haaretz. He has this to say about the Israeli media:

"Journalism in Israel is a cartel. You cannot express yourself, and you cannot conduct a debate. This journalism has deluded the public and prevented a serious discussion. For a long time there was a desire to keep the facade. Even now the same interviewers are inviting the same commentators and the same consultants and all those who drove us into the mud. For 13 years the elite has been explaining to us that we are the occupation and justice is with the Palestinians. We were brainwashed that the Israel Defense Forces cannot win, that it is all about the occupation. No real debate took place.”

And just to remind my readers that this by no means is an exclusively Israeli cultural phenomenon, I also read this today, a wonderfully detailed analysis of a blood libel against Israel in which all the American mainstream media participated: The Red Cross Ambulance Incident.
What is most shocking in this account is that not one reporter bothered to fact check the initial reports. Not one!!

So,for the last time - whom did you vote for in today’s elections?

Shabbat Shalom!

Edited: 29/8

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

News Mongerers – How Corrupt News Reporting is Killing Our Society

Democracy is supposedly a rational way of self-government. It assumes, among many other things, that the best way to reach a decision is to gather the relevant information, process it, talk about it, debate it, and then decide. Living in a capitalist society, our culture has been willing to pay for the information it deems important for it’s survival. We, the members of that culture, are paying for that information all the time – each time we buy a newspaper, watch the ads on TV or hear them on the radio, and in some cases, when we pay our taxes to the national news agencies as is the case in Israel and many European countries.
Most people have never asked themselves if the information they are receiving every day is good reliable information, or even if it is the information they need. We are normally not even asking ourselves who is providing us with the information we consume each day, and if it is a reliable source, committed to our interests as consumers of news, and not to other, conflicting interests.
But this thoughtlessness, this blindness, has got to stop. It must stop because, literally, the news is killing us.
There always is a silver lining to every cloud, and if there is one in the last war in Lebanon, it is this: the Mainstream Media corruption has been exposed for all to see. They are not heroic journalists risking their lives in their search for truth. These are not the dedicated professionals of yesteryear who stake their reputation on every byline. These guys don’t even have a reputation, and they sure as hell aren’t gonna risk their lives for you, on the contrary – they will ask you to risk their lives for them as in this case(via LFG):

“When Um Ali Mihdi returned to her home in the southern Lebanese city of Bint Jbeil two days ago, she found a 1,000lb (450kg) Israeli bomb lying unexploded in her living room.
The shell is huge, bigger than the young boy pushed forward to stand reluctantly next to it while we get our cameras out and record the scene for posterity.”
(my underline)
This report is from the BBC.THE BBC. No less!! Really, how low can you get?
Well, a lot lower it seems. Do you remember those horror movies where doctors still had to dig up corpses so they could practice and learn the new modern science, and then, usually, the corpses came to life and haunted the neighborhood and so on and so forth? Well, the task of digging up corpses and reviving them has now been passed on – to the news people we trust so much:
“…I have been witness to the daily practice of directed shots, one case where a group of wire photographers were choreographing the unearthing of bodies, directing emergency workers here and there, asking them to position bodies just so, even remove bodies that have already been put in graves so that they can photograph them in peoples arms….”

The whole article by a freelance photographer is well worth the read here on LFG.
Remember the good ole’ days, when a corpse was just a corpse, and not a stage prop? Those were the days!
And this is now. How did we ever get from there to here? I’ve already read how Israeli journalists are decrying the budget cuts that have taken place in recent years in the MSM. This kind of outcry appears once in a while in The Seventh Eye, a Hebrew journal published by The Israeli Democracy Institute a secular center- left-wing think tank.
It seems that the result is that fewer people are actually gathering the news, and the people who are vetting it are inexperienced and uneducated, relative at least to the veterans they have been replacing. Apparently this has been going on in other places. In another excellent piece from the L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten, he follows the money trail:

“To consider one of the most troubling of the Reuters debacle's possible causes — the way cost-cutting opened the way to manipulation, whatever its motive — it's helpful to take a long step back and to note a couple of quotes from a story that appeared in the New York Times' business section early this week…For that reason, Morton's analysis of the Scripps papers' quality didn't faze Thomas A. Russo, a partner in an investment firm whose clients hold E.W. Scripps stock. "In order to make money in newspapers," he told the Times, "you want to cover promos, potlucks and police blotters. The last thing you want to hear about is Pulitzers. And Scripps has done a great job…the company's newspaper unit, 'does not get high marks for its journalism.' He added, however, that its cash-flow margins — 28.9% in the second quarter — were among the highest in the industry."

But this is much bigger than Scripps or Reuters.
LFG, again, has a terrific description by a former employee of APTV, a subdivision of the omnipresent AP byline. The whole piece is long and well-worth reading. For my purposes here I will just quote this description:

“This is how APTN makes its money: news organizations (mostly TV but not all) subscribe to APTN and pay an annual amount to both watch and then re-use the stories that are fed over the Global News Network…It is pretty much impossible, however, to operate a TV news organization without taking feeds from either APTN or Reuters or usually both…While most of the world takes news pictures with minimal interpretation beyond editing, the Arab Gulf States have asked for and receive a different and far more expensive service… …The slant of the stories required by the Gulf States has a definite effect on which footage is used and discarded. This affects both the Gulf newsroom and the main global newsroom…anything involving Israel is a favorite with Gulf Arab states for showing to their viewers…Footage such as the Palestinian mob joyfully lynching two Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 is held by APTN’s library: any attempt to license this film for reshow is carefully vetted. Requests for the use of “sensitive clips” are referred directly to the Library director. This is not the case with clips that paint Israel in a bad light. Likewise, the re-showing of Palestinian celebrations on 9/11 is considered “sensitive”…. APTN is the gatekeeper that sits between you and the actual event. You will never see what the editors at APTN see before they compile your evening news. What do you think is cut out?”

Media Prostitution
Professional prostitution is of course nothing new. People are people, and throughout the years there have always been those that could not resist temptation and sold out to some financial or personal interest. But this is different. We are not witnessing an individual breach of ethics. What we are seeing here is the total disregard for any kind of professional ethic. The concept of ethics, of professional behavior has simply been tossed out of the window by the Mainstream Media and somehow, fittingly, they forgot to tell us. What I am trying to say here that this is not only about money. With money the Gulf States can buy A.P. but they can’t shut up the outcry, the moral and professional outrage of A.P. ‘s professional staff. Except they don’t have to. They didn’t have to and they won’t have to because most of the people working in the news business are exactly that – businessmen and women, out to make a name for themselves. Nowadays, news is entertainment; it’s not a vocation, or a public service, something to take pride in. Those days are over, and the sooner we realize it the sooner we will be able to participate in the current war in an effective manner. (Yes, there is a war going on. The good news: it’s not too late to sign up.)
The new media has a strict financial bottom line, but it has no moral bottom line whatsoever, because it is a result, too, of a postmodern ideology. This ideology has taken hold of Academia in the West and it’s products inhabit, among many other institutions, the media. At the risk of repeating myself I will give a brief explanation of Postmodernism:
"…It is a philosophy that is based on the notion that the world we live in is defined by our relationships to it, and does not exist outside of them. This means that there actually is no “true” world to discover, as Newton proposed. This also means that causation is not the prevalent mechanism in the world, rather, events are defined by their relations to each other, and to everything else. In such a world, causation is well nigh impossible, or futile, to determine. It follows therefore that responsibility and accountability must be determined by means other than linear causation, if indeed there is a need to do so. After all, this is a world without objective truth, and therefore without God, which means that there is no standard for moral behavior that is not human in origin, and anything human is relative, so, who are we to judge what is right and what is wrong, asks the postmodernist? “

An honest man might well ask how anyone can be a journalist in such a fraudulent spiritual environment. From what I could tell, and according to what I heard from students in the communications department, the answers are these:
  • The general atmosphere is fierce unbridled competition between shallow, amoral, completely selfish individuals, gleefully stepping upon each other’s necks on their way to media stardom.

  • A minority of students sees this general atmosphere as an example of what not to be and do. They will seek work at media outlets that stand by the old-fashioned notion of telling the truth to their readers. (Their still are a few left.)

  • Others will not enter at all into any kind of journalistic endeavor.

The Mainstream Media that stands before us today is a result of these two forces – economic efficiency and a postmodern philosophy. As consumers we have a number of ways to deal with this situation, most of them detailed here. The key is that as news consumers it is in our hands every day to decide if a lying, corrupt, unethical media should also be economically efficient.
As it stands today, our Democratic culture is paying a very heavy price in exchange for the MSM’s increasing revenues. We are losing our collective minds. We are getting bad information composed of propaganda, disinformation, and a confusing mixture of lies, half-truths and plain facts. We are forming opinions and making decisions based on misinformation. Is it a wonder then that our collective choices are so poor? That the public debate, in most Mainstream Media, is so superficial, resembling Wrestlemania more than an intelligent discussion between rational citizens of a Democratic nation?
We have entrusted the media with the task of being the eyes and ears of our society and for the most part the MSM has betrayed that trust. Will we continue to rush blindly to our doom, deaf to the sounds of the quickening storm? Will we continue to blame everyone but ourselves for our problems?
In Israel protests are beginning, blaming politicians and Army Generals for the failures of the recent, unfinished war. Good people will stand for hours in the scorching sun, hoping to stir the conscience of their leaders. I applaud these people. But I also say to them – the most effective protest will be this: stop buying the newspapers that are lying to you and that have brought you to this point. Stop listening to the news on television and on the radio, because they have been misleading you and betraying you. If you do not realize this fact and act upon it – all your protests will be in vain, because soon enough the same corrupt media that misrepresented Olmert and Halutz will do exactly the same thing with someone else, equally foolish and corrupt. We have no choice: as Jews we must seek the truth and nothing but the truth, and we must do it before death finds it’s way to our doors.

JBlog Me

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tikkun at the Movies: Analyzing Mrs. Doubtfire

***spoiler alert***
if you haven’t seen the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” then don’t read this post because it will probably ruin it for you. Instead rent this excellent movie.
***spoiler alert***

I never was a great moviegoer, until I got married. But my wife is a passionate film fan and as her loving spouse I have learned to accommodate her – who said marriage was easy? I mean, sometimes you just have to sacrifice, and watch a movie. Turns out that this not such a horrible thing to do, and over the years I have watched dozens of great movies. The most interesting thing about them was the manner in which the movies, like all art, reflect back to us the human condition. The movie we watched yesterday, Mrs. Doubtfire is just such a movie, and even better – it shows us tikkun in action. How is that possible? Let me explain.

The plot
The movie is about a couple: Daniel (played superbly by Robin Williams) and Miranda Hillard (Sally field) who have three adorable kids. Daniel is a happy go lucky actor, always between jobs, whose passion is life is his children. He’s funny, outgoing and very emotional and spontaneous. His wife is the exact opposite – serious, uptight, and disciplined to a fault she is the steady partner, the breadwinner, and the rock in the relationship. But she is really sick of it, and one day when Daniel quits his job and throws a surprise birthday party for his son, which includes hosting the mobile petting zoo and trashing the house - she demands a divorce. The court rules that Daniel, with no income and no house can see his children only once a week. Daniel is devastated – his raison d’etre, his children will not be available to him. If he wants them back – he has to get a steady job, and turn his new bachelors cove into a nice, tidy haven, or else he has no chance of seeing his children more than once a week for a few hours.
But Daniel comes up with a clever ruse and he manages to secure the position of nanny to his own children, beautifully disguised as an old, reliable British codge named Mrs. Doubtfire, who claims that she can cook, clean, and do everything that Miranda could ever hope for, everything that he himself never was able to do, and never even wanted to, which was also everything that his wife yearned for and wanted from him
As the movie unfolds we see Daniel, heavily disguised, rise to the challenge. He is beloved by the children and he quickly gains the trust of his unsuspecting former wife, who confides in Mrs. Doubtfire frequently, including this important dialogue, describing the fourteen-year marriage she had, that recently broke up:
(Transcription from Drew’s Script – O-Rama)

Miranda: You can't imagine what it was like being married to Daniel.
Mrs,Doubtfire: Tell me, dear. What was so horrible about this man you lived with for years?

Miranda : Well, at first, nothing. He was so... romantic. - So passionate.

Mrs,Doubtfire - Really? He sounds like an absolute stud, dear. I hope you don't mind me being a tad rude, but...How was he... you know...on a scale of 1 to 10 ?

Miranda :Oh, well. That part was always...OK.

Mrs,Doubtfire:Just OK?He was probably a Casanova compared to poor old Winston.

Miranda :- What was the matter with Winston?

Mrs,Doubtfire: - Oh, dear.Winston's idea of foreplay was "Effie, brace yourself."

Miranda :-It was Daniel's spontaneity and energy I fell in love with.


Miranda :Everyone else I knew was so organized, so scheduled. Like me, I guess. But Daniel was so wonderfully different. And funny. He could always make me laugh.

Mrs,Doubtfire:I always say: the key to a solid marriage is laughter.

Miranda :But after a few years,everything just stopped being funny.

Mrs,Doubtfire - Why?

Miranda :- I was working all the time.And he was always between jobs.I hardly ever got to see the kids. If I got home early to be with them, something would go wrong.
The house would be wrecked and I'd have to clean it up.He never knew, but so many nights I just...cried myself to sleep.

Mrs,Doubtfire: Really? (Mrs. Doubtfire is devastated. For the first time, Daniel is hearing out his wife)

Miranda :-The truth is, I didn't like who I was when I was with him. I would turn into this horrible person. I didn't want my kids growing up with a mother like that. When I'm not with Daniel, I'm better.And... I'm sure he's better when he's not with me.

Mrs,Doubtfire: Well, you never...I mean... Did you ever say anything to him, dear?

Miranda :Daniel never liked to talk about anything serious. I used to think Daniel could do anything.Except be serious.But then, I was serious enough for everybody.

Analyzing Mrs. Doubtfire: Imago Theory and T.A.
This is a very good example of Imago theory, and also of Transactional Analysis. I will use both theories to explain what is going on here. In future posts I would like to present these theories in their full detail, but for now I’ll just explain as I go along, just enough for my purposes here.
Imago theory (short introduction here) states that as children we are born complete and whole, in a state of bliss. As we grow up and are fashioned mainly by our parents into social human beings, we learn to adapt in order survive. Many parts of our personalities and abilities are “trimmed off” by our caretakers. We lose our natural connection with the life force that we were born with and all our lives we yearn to get it back. To do that we must reclaim all the parts of our personality that were shorn away in our childhood.
This can be done, according to Imago theory, with the help of one person – our spouse. Our marriage partner necessarily embodies all the good and bad traits of our primary caretakers. This means that he or she will represent to us all the traits that we lack, and so dearly wish to possess. Unfortunately, because of this they will hurt us and wound us just as our parents did, but they will also, if the situation is handled correctly, heal our wounds and give us the love we so desperately need. The opposite is also true – we represent, for our partners, everything that they need to reclaim in their own personalities, but were denied in their childhood by their parents.
In Jewish terms this means that almost every marriage is a chance for Tikkun Olam for both partners, a chance to become whole again, and to reconnect with the life force – which is nothing if not - God.

The second relevant theory here is Transactional analysis (good wiki here), made famous by the best selling “I’m O.K you’re O.K” (buy here). This theory describes, among many other ideas three basic parts of the personality: The Parent, which is that constant voice in our head that endlessly drones on and on, mostly evaluating everything we do, think and feel, and generally prying us away from what is happening now. The Adult element is responsible for, well, being an adult – it has no emotions and displays none, but rather like a computer gathers all available and necessary information and arrives at the appropriate decision and acts upon it efficiently. In fact, the adult functions very similar to the way robots are depicted in many Science fiction movies (the Terminator for example). The Child possesses all the emotions, the creativity and spontaneity. These can be utilized to appease the Parent – this is the Adaptive Child, to rebel against the Parent as The Rebel Child, or they can be used freely, with no constraints, with boundless energy as the Free Child will do.

Applying the Theory to Mrs. Doubtfire:
According to the Imago theory, the two partners in the marriage will have adopted in their lives exactly the opposite traits of each other. In this movie it is clear that Daniel is a Free Child. He’s spontaneous, endlessly creative, bursting with energy; he’s a fun guy all the time. But that is all he is. He lacks an Adult so he cannot hold a job, he just quits whenever he wants to, he has no conception of how he is affecting his environment and he couldn’t really care less – because he also lacks the Parent who gives us Moral values. All he is interested in is himself, Now!!
To compensate for this horrible lack, Daniels finds a spouse who is the exact opposite – serious, responsible, and judgmental – a spouse with a very strong Adult and Parent, who is all business and no play. Together, they would make one whole very happy human being. They need each other for the personality parts they lack, but , tragically, these same traits are exactly what was forbidden to each of them – on pain of death – in their childhood. In the beginning, in what the Imago theory calls the Romantic Stage, they , like all new couples, felt fascinated by these traits, and felt that at last bliss is at hand. But sooner or later this boundless energy abates, and doubts creep in, The Parent is heard louder and louder, and he is telling Miranda that Daniel is rash, irresponsible, rude, and even dangerous. The same physical parent that taught Miranda that emotions are dangerous is now telling her, embodied as the mental Parent, that Daniel is dangerous.
Daniel on the other hand is stuck. He knows only one way to get along in life, and he uses it as much as he can. When Miranda’s Parent admonishes him, he can only respond, automatically, with his Rebel child. Miranda can’t talk to him as an Adult to an Adult, and he cannot listen – he was not trained to, so this goes on until disaster strikes, and they get a divorce.
But this disaster is exactly what Daniel requires to finally get a grip on himself, and from then on, he does everything in his power to change and grow himself an Adult who can deal effectively with the real world, and a Parent who is able to raise children in a responsible manner. Looked at it this way, we can see that the divorce was in Daniel’s best interest, and therefore most likely engineered by him, unconsciously. This was done firstly by not allowing any serious discussion, and second, by his outrageous behavior, which, eventually, was the straw that broke his wife’s back.
In an ideal marriage the partners realize that their mission is to heal each other’s wounds. In this case that means that Miranda must help Daniel grow an Adult and a stronger Parent. For Daniel this means that he must help Miranda loosen up, and regain her childish joy of life. For most people this is extremely difficult. Miranda, in all likelihood (we are not shown this) could not bring herself to trust Daniel enough to let him actually do things. I guess that her thinking would be that she could do it better and faster anyway, and he will just forget or mess around. On the other hand Daniel knows in his heart that unless he is funny and vibrant, unless he is the life of the party, there will be no party, and no life. He learnt growing up that the only way he is worth something is to be funny. Therefore he cannot allow anybody else to take that role, and so Miranda never gets the chance to learn from Daniel how to be a Free Child. They are stuck in a futile power struggle, without the ability to solve it, and hence, eventually the divorce. When Daniel is alone, he finally has the opportunity to develop his missing parts, since he is no longer hindered by his wife’s criticism on the one hand, and on the other he is spurred on by his need to be with his children. (who actually are the physical embodiment of his own inner Free Child.)

Miranda at the same time and throughout the movie does not experience any change. Theoretically she would now have the chance to be with her children and start developing, maybe with their help, her Free Child. But in the movie she is wooed by her old-time boy friend, a rich, stiff –shirted British millionaire. She is not in love with him, nor is she swept away, but for the time being she enjoys the attention and the stability that this new man gives her.

The Children
It is interesting to note the behavior of the children who throughout the movie enjoy playing with Daniel, but also play the part of his Parent – judging and evaluating his behavior. This is what happens when the parent is lacking parts of his personality – someone around him – his spouse or his children, or both, will have to compensate for this lack. The minute he regains the missing parts – the children can resume their childhood, and stop moonlighting as Daniel’s parent. As Daniel develops, his children start treating him like an authority figure that they can trust and rely on. Their collective relief was, to me, quite clear.
I would also note that in real life children of such a marriage would in no way be so polite and restrained. At least one of them would express the children’s anger, despair and anguish in an unmistakable manner, most likely a violent one. But I guess that showing the development of all the characters would have turned this movie into a 5-hour saga.

The Court
One last note about the court’s behavior. We see the court in session twice with the sole judge giving his verdict each time. Both judgments were ruled against Daniel. The first time, as we said, because he lacked the physical conditions deemed necessary by the court for proper care of the children, and the second time, after his masquerade was discovered, he is judged mentally unstable.
This kind of behavior is typical of our courts. In my view this behavior completely disregards the psychological situation of the family. Basically, husband and wife are locked in a power struggle. The battle for custody is just another part of it. The question is, why does the court not recognize this situation and work to resolve the power struggle? Instead, in the present circumstances, the courts have become unwitting participants in the marital power struggles.
In a Jewish state, in a Jewish court of law, I would like to see the judges working together with the married couple to advance Tikkun. This means rewarding the couple for taking upon themselves to Repair themselves within the relationship, and punishing them for continuing their power struggles which inevitably come at the expense of their children. This means that the couple will be directed to participate in a treatment of their choosing which is known to lead to Repair, and if they do not wish to do so they will be punished in such a way that will bond them together – let's say joint community service with people less fortunate than they are. I don’t know – I’m just tossing out some ideas. I do know this – the courts should be working for Tikkun in every possible situation.

As the British nanny, Daniel manages to circumvent the court order and be with his kids each day. The charade eventually is put to an end, but finally, Miranda, under pressure of her kids, and the fond memories of her nanny/husband (who she has learned to trust!), decides to let Daniel take care of the kids everyday.
So after a harrowing and extremely difficult adventure, Daniel finds himself in exactly the same place that he was before, possessing everything that he already had and wanted so dearly – time with his children.
But this time,the new improved Daniel, the responsible, competent authority figure (who can still laugh!) is able to experience them from a more mature, confident viewpoint.
The wiser, fulfilling viewpoint of a man who has undergone Tikkun.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Secular Jew, A Religous Jew, A Believing Jew - So Near, and Yet So Far

Yesterday I added a small paragraph about the media at the end of the post, and since it probably got lost there, and I’m still obsessed about the media, I’m posting it again. This will also give me an opportunity to explain something about Israeli society that is usually overlooked, but is crucial nonetheless.
This is the quote:

“What kills me is the inconsistency of observing Jews that believe in God, in the Truth, follow His commandments, and yet cannot spot a liar or his lies even when they are staring him (or her) in the face from the pages of a news medium that does not believe in god nor the truth, and is in fact, representative of every pagan idea our ancestors fought against.The fact is - if you cannot spot such a lie, then you probably don't really care about the truth, which is why there is such a big difference between Jews (and anyone) that are observant or secular on the one hand, and people that believe on the other. I am secular, but I believe more than most observing Jews i have met.”

Like every other society there are many divisions in Israel – Arabs and Jews, men and women, rich versus poor, Eastern Jews vs. Western Jews and so on. But in my view, the most dominant division is the one dividing secular Jews from religious Jews, and in a way the struggle between the two camps can by itself explain all of Israel’s seemingly insane political moves in the past decade, and even before that.

The effect of Secular Jewry on Israeli Society
The first effect is that secular Jews created the state of Israel. Even if you dislike the state, one must admit that it is quite a large effect, and it is also a decisive one.
It was a secular Jew from Western Europe, Theodore Herzl who re-created Zionism as a part of the 19th century nationalist movement in Europe. Other secular Jews mostly from Eastern Europe took up the challenge, spearheaded the movement, populated it’s ranks, and eventually led it to the promised land. This happened while religious, observing, Jews mostly looked on, sometimes as disinterested spectators and sometimes as fierce opponents. The religious Zionists, who joined the effort to re-establish the state of Israel, were a minority among religious people at the time, and still are even today, in Israel. They were the forerunners of the Mizrachi movement.
What this means for Israeli society is that all it’s major institutions, all it’s laws, whether formal or informal, even the very language we speak nowadays, was created almost from scratch, with near total disregard to thousands of years of Jewish tradition.
The secular Jews who built this country were rebels. They rebeled against everything that was old and antiquated, everything that was perceived to be holding back the realization of their dreams, but most of all – against everything that reminded them that they were Jews – humiliated and downtrodden for centuries.
So, off went the kippah (yarmulke), the tzizzit, and the traditional garb. Prayers were forgotten, synagogues avoided, Jewish learning ignored and held in contempt. The religious Jew came to symbolize in Israeli secular society, everything that was wrong with Judaism. Everything that ever happened to us as a people was blamed on those primitive, dirty, bedraggled Jews. Sounds anti-semitic? It was, and still is. Zionism from it’s inception was anti-semitic because it had to be, because it was the only way to break away from a stagnant tradition that weighed upon the zionists so heavily, that it threatened to destroy the will and spirit of the movement before it even began.
As a secular Jew that received most of it’s education in Israel, the basic image of a religious Jew that was engraved in my mind was this: a Nazi grabbing an old, miserable looking Jew by the beard and dragging him along the street. A religious Jew, these images seemed to tell me, is a humiliated Jew, a hated Jew – so I, and everyone else – must do everything we can to be the exact opposite: bold, proud, modern Jews – Jews that do not look like Jews, and don’t behave like Jews, and don’t follow the traditions of Jews, but nevertheless – Jews. These Jews-who- are- not- Jews were called Israelis. A national ethos was born, in which Jews were passé, and Israelis were in.
If only life were so simple! Yes, the secular founders of this country rebelled, and they did so successfully. But they did not manage to forget. Some of them were fond of their upbringing or at least parts of it. The bible for many years was held to be an important part of a secular education, concentrating on the nationalistic parts, on Joshua’s conquests for instance. Archeology was the all rage for a time.
And not all Jews who arrived in the country were secular.
A majority of Jews arrived from Moslem states, after the inception of the new state of Israel. In Moslem society, there never was a separation between church and state. Everybody was defined (and still is) by his religion. This means that the newly arrived Eastern Jews never experienced the dissolution of the Church, the rise of the secular state, and the secular way of life, a circumstance that was crucial for European Jewry. This situation was complicated by the fact that there were Jews who were both religious and Zionist – the Mizrachi Movement. For years they were allies and partners of Israeli secular Zionists, and this of course necessitated many concessions.
In the end, the ethos of the reborn Jew – the secular Israeli - was doomed to be dragged down by the weight of it’s history which it could not deny. Actually, this did not happen in the end, it started to happen right at the beginning – in the sixth Zionist congress (1903) in which Herzl laid out his Uganda Proposal. This consisted of sending Russian-Jewry, assailed by pogroms at the time (surprise!), to Uganda. Although Herzl proposed this as a temporary measure, the world Zionist movement almost split on this issue, which meant, basically – to what degree are we Jewish? Are we so secular that we do not even care where are homeland is built? The overwhelming majority of participants - mostly East-European Jews, said no – we choose Israel, while a small, now-forgotten minority, split away and formed the ITO (details in the link above).

Degrees of Secular
What I am saying is that there are degrees of secularity in Israeli society and always were. Generally speaking there is the secular jew who wants nothing to do with his heritage or with other Jews, especially if they look like traditional Jews. In the past these were most likely to be Western-European in origin, people who have a firm belief in the separation of synagogue and state, so to speak, and even firmer insistent belief in Atheism . This reminds me of I joke I heard at a family gathering: someone asked this famous German Jew (I forget the name) how is she Jewish – “after all , you don’t pray, you don’t observe anything, what makes you Jewish.” They said. Furiously she rose up to affirm her identity: “ of course I’m Jewish – I don’t eat ham in the synagogue on yom-kippur!” Now that is a secular Jew – these are the people that plan their trips for the holidays so they will not have to be at home ,and be reminded all the time of that shameful secret, their secret identity, I mean their Jewish ancestry.
How many of these secular Jews exist in Israel? According to surveys that are conducted from time to time (sociologists here are fascinated by this issue) I would say about ten percent of the Jewish population is secular to the highest degree possible without actually committing suicide. Unfortunately this small segment of the population are the descendants, spiritually and sometimes physically, of the people that built this country, so for better or for worse they are holding this country hostage to their personal demons,(which are, in a way, part of our collective demons.) These secular Jews and their views are dominant in every important aspect of Israeli society, including the judicial branch, the economy, the Army, (where religious officers are weeded out of the higher ranks, and vetted and tested incessantly), and in the Israeli media and Academia(mainly in the Humanities & Social Sciences) .

The Traditional Jews
Most Jews are neither here nor there and would define themselves somewhere between secular and religious, saying something like this: “ tradition is important and we want to keep and cherish it, but we also want to participate fully in Western secular culture and all the wonderful things it has to offer, among them, chiefly, the freedom to do whatever we want without censure. “
These people look at the orthodox and see a restrictive way of life, and also, don’t forget, we were brainwashed in school to identify religious people with negative ideas. On the other hand, the complete disavowal of Jewish history and tradition, the self-loathing of the wannabbe gentile-Jew also disgusts and infuriates these people. The result is ambiguity, a mental split, and an inability on the part of the majority to actually part ways with the secular anti-semitic elites, because when they look around they cannot spot any kind of viable political or cultural alternative. Yet.

The Orthodox
These people are the devil incarnate, at least from the viewpoint of the secular elites. They are demonized in almost every way imaginable, and it is almost impossible to find a positive article in the media about orthodox people. They are used to being the shunned and hated minority in this country and actually seem to enjoy it at times. In other words, they are clearly Jewish, and unashamed of it. But they are not viewed in as bad a light as the religious Zionists are – these people must be crushed! Their homes destroyed, their will broken! The settlers, they are the real threat to Israeli society, so say the secular elites. Now, why is this so? How can a settler, living in peace and quiet, like the west bank momma be such a threat? I think that is because the threat is spiritual. Yes, the Arabs may kill us, but we will bury our dead and life will eventually resume it’s course as it always has. However, if the settlers realize their dreams, then , the secular thinking goes, they will not let us live our secular lives in our secular state. This means that in a way, the Israeli secular elites have much more in common with the surrounding Arab elites than with the Jewish people they are ruling since both identify Jewish people as the enemy.
All in all, the orthodox account for a little less than a third of the population in Israel.

The Believing Jew
Israel is divided into two camps – you are either religious “Dati” in Hebrew or else you are secular “hiloni”. Amazingly, the majority of tradionalists are completely ignored in this battle. Perhaps it is because of the visual aspect – if you do not wear a yarmulke it is assumed that you are secular. How important is that? Read this account in which Dr. Yehudah Tzoref a secular right-wing Israeli tells how Israeli security forces surrounded a settler house in east Jerusalem, and how the settlers inside the house, who already agreed to evacuate, asked him to remove their belongings, since he was the only secular person present. This tactic was important since world and Israeli media were waiting outside to document the settler’s defeat, and it was assumed that a secular Jew moving stuff would be simply ignored:
“…to my amazement, the tactic of “a secular evacuation” succeeded above and beyond my expectations. Time and time again I entered and left loaded with boxes, in front of all the media…the more I came and went, the more I was ignored. The minute I was identified as a leftist-looking secular person I became invisible as far as the media, the police and everyone else was concerned.”

The original is highly dramatic and he also recounts another experience where he is talking with a haredi woman and a policeman harasses her while ignoring him completely. The full version is a must read but it is in Hebrew. You can read it here, and as a secular Israeli I can assure you –it is true. A religious person in Israel has the standing of a black person in the states – the first to be detested, suspected, and arrested.
So it is clear that as a Jew in Israel you can be one of two things – secular or religious. This is an excellent tactic as far as the secular elites are considered, in the great tradition of ‘divide and rule”. However, it is not a completely accurate description of reality, and if the present state of affairs is to be somehow overcome, it is important to come up with a new definition of Israel’s Jews, one that will unite them, and disregard the superficialities. I happened upon the term “believer” “Ma’amin” in Hebrew, in the writings of Motti Karpel, one of the founders (recently retired, with no explanation) of Jewish Leadership,
and although the term is not defined clearly enough, it is a good start in my mind, because it describes a mental state, and not a political, or sectional affiliation, and most important, it marks the boundary between the ruling secular elites and their subjects.
For the moment I will state that a believer is, obviously, one who believes in God. Most people will say that they do indeed believe in god, so this is not a very useful definition. I would like to refine it and say that a believer not only believes in god, but also yearns to experience a relationship with god, and believes that it is possible, perhaps not attainable for all the people, and maybe not attainable all the time, but still possible. This is important because faith, or belief, are first and foremost an emotional experience, and this important aspect of our common Jewish faith seems to me to have been marginalized so that many orthodox people are really “dati” in the original meaning of the word, which means “law” (explained nicely here) and not religious which means “to reconnect”, while many traditional, secular looking Jews in Israel are actually believers. It’s just that no one bothered to tell them about it, or make it an important aspect of their lives.
It is also possible to give a psychological definition of belief ( as well as secular and religous) and I will attempt to do so in the future.

The divide in Israeli society between the secular, self-loathing elite and orthodox-looking Jews is threatening to destroy Israel, regardless of the fact that the majority of Jews consist of people who are comfortably in the middle. One way to heal this rift is to stop talking about religious and secular Jews, and replace those political and sociological terms with a more personal one – belief.
It is my belief that a philosophy of tikkun coupled with an emphasis on personal belief as opposed to sectarian affiliation, may be able to sideline those who enjoy dividing between us, and give believing Jews a higher, common ground to stand on and defend themselves against our would be destroyers – from without, and from within.

edit: just a few hours after posting this , Israeli Mazav tell of a perfect example of the ultimate secular jew:
'Peace Now' described as 'severe' a report indicating that the number of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria increased by three percent in the first six months of the year. At the end of June, the number of Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria reached 260,932, up from 253,748 at the end of last year, the mainstream Yesha revenants group said, citing a report by the Interior Ministry's population registry.

In what other country,in what century, would Jewish population growth be described as severe?

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