Somebody Should Do Something About It.


UPDATE: A nice piece in Guardian that sort of confirms my initial reaction to the matter: 

Once such conflicts could be quarantined by the United Nations’ requirement to respect national sovereignty. That has been shot to pieces by the liberal interventionism of George Bush and Tony Blair. The result has reinvigorated separatist movements across the world. Small-statism is not an evil in itself: witness its quadrennial festival at the Olympics. But the process of achieving it is usually bitter and bloody.

The west’s eagerness to intervene in favour of partition, manifest in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Sudan, is more than meddling. It encouraged every oppressed people and province on earth to be “the mouse that roared”, to think it could ensnare a great power in its cause.

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These are today’s words of Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, as many already know. I really have had little to say about this conflict and, as a Russian who knows very little about the situation there at this point, it is silly of me to pronounce any kind of judgment.  However, I have been following the development of the situation there just as anyone would and it strikes me as a strange position by Georgia, a very small country: Russia has invaded us, somebody should do something about it.  Of course, there’s a rather amusing exchange of rhetoric between Moscow and Tbilisi – Russians are calling Saakashvili a new Saddam, Georgians compare the situation with that in 1930s and the rising Nazi Germany.  I am sure people will write long essays analyzing this rhetoric and studying the history of the conflict (because knowing that a nation A was unhappy about nation B for a long time usually solves the issue, right?) My point of entry here is precisely this way of putting the present task: somebody should do something about it. Continue reading

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Secular “Jewishness:” The Case of Isaac Deutscher


Somehow, all of this recent talk and thought about philosophy and biography, or philosophy as biography, has gotten me thinking about identity.  In his 1954 essay “The Non-Jewish Jew” Isaac Deutscher writes, “The Jewish heretic who transcends Jewry belongs to a Jewish tradition.”  Such heretics for Deutscher are Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky and Freud:

All of them had this in common, that the very conditions in which they lived and worked did not allow them to reconcile themselves to ideas which were nationally or religiously limited and induced them to strive for a universal Weltanshauung.

Deutscher’s argument is basically that the Jewish backgrounds of these thinkers was critical to their becoming revolutionaries, but yet, each of these thinkers could not reach their dream of “universal human emancipation” within the borders that mark the Jewish tradition.  Continue reading