Donald Trump the Fascist – Part I

Donald Trump the Fascist – Part I

by

Howard Adelman

On Friday night at dinner, my friend complained that a crossword puzzle with the clue “mission” required the answer, “errand.” He thought that was unfair. I defended the answer to the clue because an errand – sending someone to fetch something – was one kind of mission, an activity directed intensely towards a single goal. My companion conceded the point and then asked what about the word “stupid”? The answer in the puzzle was “crass”. In this case, I tended to agree with my friend who was incensed at the injustice of the query.

However, my concurrence bothered me. For I knew I was often ignorant of some of the meanings of terms. Though I thought “stupid” conveyed primarily “lacking intelligence,” and “crass” conveyed “boorishness,” perhaps the two terms did, in some of the uses of each, enjoy a family resemblance. I looked “stupid” up in the thesaurus and found this additional equivalence:

crass

Crass behaviour is stupid and does not show consideration for other people.

They have behaved with crass insensitivity.

In this meaning, “crass” is not so much defined by the words and deeds of the character said to be crass, but by the crass individual’s ignorance about the effects of his (or her) behaviour. A crass individual is stupid in his or her insensitivity to others.

I begin with this very small anecdote because of puzzlement about Donald Trump who seems both crass and stupid. But how can someone so stupid, so ignorant about so much, know such a great deal about those who follow him? More significantly, how can he keep not only his own populist followers, but also so many conservatives and Republicans (the latter two are not identical) in line if he is both stupid as well as crass? Simply put, my answer comes in explaining Donald Trump as a fascist.

However, before we explore that response, it is well to understand another very different reason why we may be avoiding pinning the tail of fascism on the ass of Donald Trump. We use him and need him as either an object of ridicule or as a measure of madness. I focus on the latter.

Instead of calling DT a fascist, we say that he is mad, daft, crazy, an insane narcissist. Senator Jack Reed (D- R.I.) said, “I think — I think he’s crazy. I mean, I don’t say that lightly and [mean that] as a kind of a goofy guy.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted against the Republican efforts at “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, seemed to express her concurrence. This was on top of his ignorance. “I don’t think he knows there is a [Budget Control Act] or anything,” added Collins.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and celebrity on “The Shark Tank,” dubbed DT “bats” and David Brooks of The New York Times described DT as suffering from “multiple personality disorder.” However, if DT is mad, he has certainly developed a mastery of celebrity politics, more than sufficient to wipe the floor with his 16 opponents on the campaign trail for the nomination and then to go on to defeat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College.

One problem is that if Trump is mad-as-a-hatter, we should not normally ridicule him. Blaming a madman for his erratic behaviour simply undercuts the judicial principles developed over the last century whereby the mentally disturbed are not laughed at, but rather treated for their illness. If DT is mentally ill, some might criticize him but not laugh at him. For most cases of mental illness, we extend sympathy and empathy to the troubled individual. However, some diagnoses empirically do not generally elicit sympathy. Offering sympathy or empathy in some cases takes place only at considerable risk to the one who proffers it to a severe narcissist/sociopath/psychopath. For the latter will only use that empathy to disadvantage the person who is attempting to offer it, always in order to get the upper hand. DT is a master at doing just that. Further, if he claims personal experience trumps reality supported by evidence, we can end up only treating the individual as a deliberate liar rather than delusional.

Most important, we fail to get at the source of his erratic behaviour that runs so counter to his own interests. Just last week, these irrational patterns included:

  • Continuing the efforts at humiliating his only critical ally in the legislature when he was campaigning and who was so important in linking him up with the conservative core of the Republican Party, his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions;
  • Embarrassing an organization such as the Boy Scouts by treating youth as a staging ground for his rallies with his railing against the Washington swamp, and getting those boys to cheer for him rather than his applauding them for upholding the universal virtues that the movement tries to instill in its youthful members;
  • Doing far better than central casting, appointing Scarry Moochy, Anthony Scaramucci, as his Communications Director [for only trn days] who even upped DT himself in his profanity and use of humiliation to drive his rival, White House Chief of Staff and a pillar of the Republican establishment, Reince Priebus, from office by accusing him of being a criminal and crazy at one and the same time; the Mooch called Priebus a leaker (a felony) and a paranoid schizophrenic;
  • Contrary to his campaign pledge to guard their back, DT announced that he was not only denying transgender military personnel access to state-supported funds for medical procedures to which they were entitled as members of the armed forces, a denial policy pushed by many conservatives, he went further and tweeted that he was kicking them out of the armed forces altogether, claiming the decision followed consultation with “his” generals when, in short order, it became apparent that they had been blindsided and were unwilling to implement an order contained in a tweet.

The list could go on. These were only the most outstanding expressions of what is easily dubbed as madness. These were not simply breeches of democratic norms and standards of decorum expected of a president, but symptoms of a very deep illness.

There is another view. His nuttiness is merely his unique brand of cutthroat cleverness. As the campaign was heating up, Konrad Yakabuski in The Globe and Mail eighteen months ago wrote that, “While the historians debate whether Mr. Trump is a bona fide fascist or just an opportunistic rabble-rouser, the pundits have already decided that he is crazy – like a fox. His endless disregard for the boundaries of acceptable political discourse only serves to ensure that he dominates the news cycle – to the detriment of rivals struggling to gain basic name recognition – and to consolidate his support among a slice of the electorate that is hopping mad and sick of slick career politicians.”

Craziness had been converted into political craftiness based on absolute amorality. The main object is to continually hijack the debate, to hijack debate altogether, in favour of one outlandish claim after another, each more extreme than his previous record. Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post, six months after Yakabuski penned his op-ed, opined that he had once thought that DT was just “being crazy like a fox. Now I am increasingly convinced that he’s just plain crazy.”

Crazy or crazily calculating? However, if DT is that sick, should we laugh at him or ridicule his behaviour? Rather, should we not try to analyze the source of his dysfunction and urge treatment? Instead, DT has served as a boondoggle to liberal satirists. And he is such an easy target given his inability to complete a sentence unless he has his eyes literally tied to a monitor. With his compulsion to repeat phrases, his open-hands used to wave away criticism like a set of bothersome flies while he communicates that he is totally open to the audience as his limbs move in unison to draw in identification with himself as the abiding authority.

Like primates, wolves and dogs, Trump snarls.  Dogs snarl as a defensive, protective gesture and to provide a warning signal. DT does it to communicate threatening disdain as he shrugs to deflect criticism. His distinctive eye roll relays his contempt while his smirk discounts the other as a fool and his finger pointing identifies his enemies. He purses his lips to scowl at his opponents as childish miscreants and turns his torso towards them as an expression of domination. Finally, his swept blonde hairdo signals that he is not afraid to convey any of these characteristics, but wallows in the attention these gestures bring.  He is not only a celebrity who is energized by the spotlight, but a black star that uses all its energy to absorb the light from everything around.

Many in America are reluctant to use the term “fascist” and apply it to Donald Trump lest they be regarded as “off the wall” and exaggerating. They would, thereby, undercut the opposition to Donald Trump. However, non-Americans need not be so timid. My friend, Michael Marrus, wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail on 7 July entitled, “The new face of fascism, American-style.” (https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/a-whiff-of-fascism-drifts-across-america/article35556412/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&) Michael is a European historian and for years was the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto.

Other than prudence, Michael offered many other reasons why the term fascist had been avoided. The following elements seemed to be missing:

  • a cult of militarization and war
  • a celebration of youth
  • an idealization of sacrifice and death
  • an incubator of economic depression
  • seething ethnic quarrels.

My inclination is to suggest that all of these are lurking in the shadows. However, Michael suggested another reason for avoiding the use of the term fascist. Citing George Mosse, he wrote that, fascism is a “scavenger ideology,” “less a coherent body of thought and policy than a mood articulated by talented demagogues who patched together, from the popular culture, strident calls to action in the service of ill-defined myths of a nation’s greatness.” Michael urged us to resist the temptation and the many reasons on offer for avoiding the link between Trump’s overt behaviour and the label “fascist”. Rhetorically, he asked whether Trump’s contempt for a free press and his cruel insinuations and use of stigmas indicated a fascist personality. DT’s behaviour was not merely crass and stupid. Nor could his remarks simply be dismissed as just “inappropriate” and “disappointing”.

Michael cited Robert Kagan of the Brooking Institute, one of the few Americans unafraid to link DT with fascism in print. For fascism has come to America, “not with jackboots and salutes … but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac ‘tapping into’ popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party – out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear – falling into line behind him.”

The result has been:

  • an emphasis on fealty rather than loyalty
  • a professed disdain for elites as Trump surrounds himself with obeisant generals and billionaires as well as sycophants
  • embracing rather than rejecting the principle of contradiction
  • contempt for convention, comity and civility.

In People Magazine in 1981, Trump described humans (actually “men”) as “the most vicious of all animals.” He went further than Thomas Hobbes in insisting that this military viciousness was not even controlled or controllable by political institutions, but meant that life was just “a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” You were either a killer or a sucker. He was not a believer in the doctrine that the end justifies the means, but an idolater who believed that the only end worthy of effort was victory űber alles, including especially army generals whom he relished being made into his subordinates. The world is divided into alpha males and the “rest.”

As Trump boasted, “I was elected president.” Neither his supine nor his clever and intelligent opponents were able to defeat him. And in a memorable effort to confine Donald Trump within the constitution and some scraps of morality, Khizr Khan, father of a decorated deceased Muslim war hero whom Roger Stone, one of DT’s mentors, had labeled a “Muslim Brotherhood agent,” this “agent” waved the pamphlet containing the constitution, offering it to DT as reading material for DT seemed so ignorant of its contents, Trump was easily able to brush an attack launched from a pinnacle of virtue into the swamp created by the dam he has so assiduously built in the valley below.

As David Givens, Director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, noted during the primary campaign referring to Donald Trump, “Nobody has done it this well since John F. Kennedy. Or Mussolini.” It is to Mussolini and his philosophical partner, Giovanni Gentile, that I want to move. However, I will first elaborate on the debate over whether DT is a fascist. My position is clear. Whether a clown or crazy, Donald Trump’s behaviour does not simply bear a superficial resemblance to that of fascists. Donald Trump deeply identifies with the philosophical tenets of fascism.

With the help of Alex Zisman – and others.

Black Book: A Review

Black Book: A Review

by

Howard Adelman

This past Wednesday at Holy Blossom Temple, one of the best of the Holocaust historians, Michael Marrus, gave a superb lecture as part of Holocaust Education Week. His thesis was straightforward. The evidence was overwhelming to support the proposition that the Holocaust did not end with the conclusion of WWII. The sources of evidence he offered were quite varied and often complex.

Michael did not put forth the thesis that anti-Semitism, which had such a vicious expression in the Nazi murder of six million Jews, gradually morphed into a new alleged form of anti-Semitism – anti-Zionism and the disproportionate attacks against the Jewish State of Israel. Rather, Michael took up the historian’s argument that the Holocaust continued in the immediate aftermath of the war. As he began his lecture, there could be no focus on the Holocaust immediately after the end of WWII itself because neither the international community, nor the lands where those Jews were slaughtered, nor the Jews themselves, had any way to specifically identify what had happened to the Jews. The word “Holocaust” took a much longer time to settle into our language.

As Michael documented, for the USSR, the Jews who died sacrificed themselves in the fight against fascism. French Jews died for the greater glory of de Gaulle’s mythological re-creation and vision of France. There was then no discussion of the degree of collaboration, though many collaborators and alleged collaborators were dealt with swiftly and cruelly after the war. Nor did those creating the new myth of a France reborn from the resistance ever pay much attention to the fact that an estimated 15% of Frenchmen on average over the years were active or ideological collaborators, that almost 85% percent were standbys, that is, servile, reluctant collaborationists, who stayed out of the fray. Only perhaps .1% actually participated in the resistance. All of these figures fluctuated over the course of the war and shifted with its fortunes.

In Holland (a long time supporter of Israel), it is worthy of note, and of great relevance to the movie I will be reviewing, that one of the highest if not the highest proportion of the 140-150,000 native-born Dutch Jews and approximately 35,000 former German Jews were sent to concentration camps from Holland than from any other country in Europe. An estimated 75% died in the Holocaust. At the same time, Holland had fewer rescuers recognized as righteous gentiles by Yad Vashem than Poland, in spite of the number of killings and even pogroms in Poland in the immediate aftermath of the war. This discrepancy could be explained because the population of Poland was much larger than that of the Netherlands. [I expect Michael Marrus to correct me if these estimates are way off the mark.] More importantly, for the purpose of Michael’s lecture, the death of the millions of Jews was almost always made part of a larger story of valour and sacrifice. In the popular imagination, Jews were not killed because they were Jews. They were killed and were martyrs for a variety of different mythologies.

The overall numbers of Jews killed constituted a significant number, but still only a small number of the overall death toll from the war. In terms of survivors, the surviving Jews, the 200,000, were an even much smaller percentage. Besides, in a devastated Europe after the war, few had time to think about the death of the Jews, including the Jews themselves. Virtually everyone was focused on survival.

After the talk, a survivor came up to me and discussed her experience after the war, effectively confirming Michael’s thesis. Though she tended to stress the disinterest of the gentiles in what had happened to the Jews, I reminded her that I myself was preoccupied with other matters and had not paid much attention to the Holocaust from 1945 to 1960. In university as an undergraduate, the plight and flight of the Hungarians in 1956 and the Suez War, the fear of strontium 90 and the atomic arms race, were at the forefront of my mind. It was not until the Eichmann trial in the early sixties that the Holocaust come to the forefront of my concerns.

In 1960, my family with a newborn baby (Jeremy, now a renowned historian at Princeton University), took possession of a rented house at 586 Spadina Avenue; we rented the upper two floors to effectively reduce our rent while I was a graduate student. The landlord was moving to Montreal. It turned out he was a Holocaust survivor. He belonged to the small minority of Jews who survived the Holocaust when it reached Hungary in the final year of the war, though tens of thousands of Jews had died in Horthy’s forced labour camps before the Nazis invaded Hungary in March 1944. Only then did the wholesale deportation of most of Hungary’s 800,000 remaining Jews begin.

Our landlord was not just a survivor. He had compiled a book documenting what happened to memorialize the Hungarian Jews who had died in the extermination of the Jews of Hungary. It was called The Black Book. It had been self-published. As a condition of the rental of the house, I had agreed to make an effort to find libraries and individuals to purchase the over thousand copies he had stored in his basement. Though I am sure I did not try nearly as hard as he did, to the extent that I did, I found very few takers for the books, though I took a copy and read it. Was I appalled at what I read? Not really. It certainly made me weep, but my main reaction is that he could have used a good editor.

I only make this point to reinforce Michael’s thesis that the Holocaust did not end with the termination of WW II. It continued, not only with the physical persecution of returnees, with the resistance to giving up property to those few survivors, but in the second visitation of the Holocaust, the initial disappearance of the slaughtered Jews from memory and from history in the immediate aftermath of the war.

This is important. For in restoring the Holocaust to memory, and doing so in such a pronounced way, unfortunately a new heroic mythology replaced the previous repression. One dominant theme was that the gentile nations helped bring Israel into existence because of their guilt over the Holocaust, or, at least, over their guilt about the death of the six million whose slaughter still had no-name. Michael cited the Harrison Commission Report after the war. Harrison and his team visited devastated Europe and looked at the situation of the Jewish survivors after the war. In Michael’s recounting, as a result of the Harrison Report, the Jewish survivors were brought together into one camp under the auspices of the United Nation Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), treated much better and given a great deal of self-government within the camps.

I recalled another side of the Harrison Report. The reason the Jews were still in camps after the war is that no one wanted the remnants of the Jews of Europe. By 1947, the 200,000 Jewish refugees soon became a bone of contention between the United States, a country that wanted to settle them in Palestine, and Britain which did not. When I read the Report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine Report (UNSCOP), the minutes of its meetings and the diaries and memoirs of its members who participated in the Committee that would recommend the partition of Palestine, what stood out for me was that there was not one mention of the Holocaust or of the six million who died. The focus was on what to do with the 200,000 refugees that countries were still unwilling to resettle.

The belief that Israel was created because of guilt and as a recompense for the Holocaust, a myth shared by many if not most Jews, is just that – a myth. It is has no basis in historical fact. It is a myth perpetuated in many Holocaust films, perhaps most notably in the most famous one of them all, Schindler’s List. The film ends with the refugees leaving Europe as the wretched of the earth and reappearing coming over a hillside, healthy and alive in a reborn Israel that has arisen out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

Last night we watched a movie on Netflix that by chance was called Black Book, Zwartboek, not The Black Book. I had not caught the title of the movie before we began to watch it, though I noticed it had been co-authored (with Gerard Soeteman) and directed by the Dutch-Hollywood filmmaker, Paul Verhoeven on 2006. I recognized his name, but my shrinking brain could not at that time recall the names of the films he had directed. (Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct) Further, it did not help that the selection of the film to watch yesterday evening was a matter of complete happenstance and was totally unrelated to Michael’s lecture earlier in the week and my discussion after the lecture. It was only after we finished watching the film that I learned that the title was Black Book.

As it turns out, Paul Verhoeven is my age, actually six months younger. He lived in The Hague during the war while I lived safely in Toronto. But though shaped by very different experiences, we have a number of personal historical factors in common. For example, we both switched careers at an early age – he went from a PhD in mathematics to filmmaking while I went from medical school into philosophy. He is mesmerized by religion, particularly Jesus. He even flirted for a short time with evangelical Christianity. But we are very different in our tastes – like my youngest children, but unlike me, he thinks Monty Python’s Life of Brian is the greatest thing since the invention of the bagel. Ignoring these differences, and some other coincidental similarities, quite aside from the radical differences in our experiences and expressions, I truly believe I can get inside Verhoeven’s head and see what he wanted to portray in the movie.

The movie is a classic Hollywood film in that the narrative pushes and, indeed, rushes the film forward, even though the mechanics of the plot are quite complex. But it is also a movie about character, about virtue and vice and the difficulty in distinguishing the two. Unlike a typical Hollywood narrative film, this one is rich in irony. Further, the film was inspired by real historical characters.

A kibbutz in Israel provides the frame of the film. It begins when a busload of tourists to a kibbutz in Israel disgorges a redhead and her Canadian pastor husband. Suddenly the visiting tourist recognizes the teacher in the kibbutz, Rachel Rosenthal, née Stein. As a spy for the Dutch Resistance, she infiltrated Nazi headquarters, under the assumed name, Ellis de Vries. The two women had been together in occupied Holland at the end of the war. We learn during the film that both had become intimate with the Nazis, but for very different reasons.

At the end of the film, we see the other half of the frame, which I will not give away. But one part I will describe. The movie ends, not only in revealing a key piece of information about the kibbutz that had been withheld from viewers, but it is clear that we are suddenly at the beginning of the start of a new war, the Suez War, and the message of eternal recurrence rather than a phoenix arising out of the ashes of the old is unequivocally broadcast.

The movie is at once a war action flic, a spy movie, a film about magic and deception and a detective whodunnit to discover who was behind one trap after another for the Resistance, even discovering that each disaster had been a trap. The movie is even akin to the serials we saw in Saturday matinees as children, often about a damsel in distress rescued by a hero when the heroine is tied down on the tracks as a locomotive approaches, along the lines of The Perils of Pauline from the silent film era. And the situation keeps recurring in different guises. After all, this film is not just a fictional narrative, it is pulp fiction, but a pulp fictional representation of reality with a very serious theme. The movie offers a profound exploration of morals and atrocities in Holland in the final year of the war and its immediate aftermath. As it happens, the most horrific scenes in the movie take place after Holland has been liberated by the Canadians. And the most painful moments come just before those scatological scenes, before liberation, when the anti-Semitism on the part of the Resistance is portrayed.

The final scenes are adumbrated when a farmer is hiding the main heroine, the Jewish Rachel Stein girl, alias Ellis de Vries, played brilliantly by Carice van Houten (to my grandson, Eitan, in Israel – yes, this is the same actress who plays Melisandre of Asshai in your favourite series, Game of Thrones). The farmer asks Rachel to say the Christian benediction for the dinner they are about to eat which she had just memorized. Rachel says it flawlessly and, in my mind, I commended the farmer for helping her develop her gentile disguise as a hidden Jew. But suddenly the farmer remonstrates her and insists that the Jews would not be in such trouble if they had followed their saviour, Jesus.

This coming Friday, I believe I will be writing about Rachel as I wrote about Rebekah this past Friday. Rachel married Jacob to become the mother of Israel. I believe the naming in the film is no coincidence. At the same time, Rachel is a universal character, echoing those lines in The Merchant of Venice. But instead of her eyes and her mouth being in common with non-Jewish women, it is her breast and her hips.

That scene, and the scene of the Resistance just before Liberation, reminded me of the role of Dr. N. S. Blom, the Dutch delegate on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Holland is generally lauded by Israel for its strong support of Israel after the war. Except Blom was one of two delegates on the Commission required to follow the dictates of the Dutch foreign office. (The other was the Australian delegate, John Hood.) Blom had strict instructions to abstain or vote against partition lest his vote alienate the Arab vote which Holland needed to support its colonial position in Indonesia. (Blom was an ex-senior Dutch foreign service officer who had served in Indonesia.)

By luck, only weeks after, the peace negotiations between the Dutch government and the Indonesian rebels seeking independence led by Sukarno broke down in July of 1947, Subsequently, there was an impasse between the Dutch and the Indonesians over independence. The Arab High Committee voted to lend its support to Sukarno for independence. Only then, just two weeks before the partition recommendation, was Blom freed up from the instruction to abstain and allowed to cast a vote supporting partition. The Dutch, as it turned out, had another, a darker side to their heroic support for Israel.

That is one of the best elements in the film, the upturning of myths about the Resistance, including the one in his own 1977 heroic war epic, Soldier of Orange. Unlike that movie, The Black Book thrives on ambiguities and displacement, the magical inversions in which the best are revealed as among the worst and the worst emerge as virtuous souls, the cerebral underpinning made all the richer by the pulp realistic portrayal of death, of bodily functions and of the body itself. The film is not so ambiguous that it frees itself from the stereotypical vulgar Nazi war murderer, portrayed as Günther Franken as the deputy Gestapo chief, the Obergruppenführer, and a stereotypical villain in spite of Verhoeven’s insistence that all his characters are neither just good or bad. In fact, the ambiguity about Franken is that he is not just a crazy killer and a loutish pursuer of the female flesh, but that he is a thief and a crook to finance his life and planned escape after the end of the war, incidentally a far worse evil for Hitler’s regime than the cold-blooded killing of Jews and resistance fighters.

The film was justifiably voted as the best Dutch film ever and won numerous awards and three Golden Calves from the Dutch Film Academy. Many critics are bothered by the numerous coincidences that propel the plot – such as Rachel Stein as Ellis de Vries who first meets the head of the Gestapo, commander Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch), accidentally on a train, a meeting which saves her from her Nazi pursuers. Coincidences do not bother me, any more than the coincidence of my discussing The Black Book on Hungarian Jewry lost in the Holocaust and then watching Black Book unintentionally three evenings later.  Coincidences are only a problem when they are improbable. And it was not improbable that Rachel would seek a haven and flash her smile at a German officer sitting alone in a train compartment in the search for an escape. Further, the series of coincidences are congruent with one dominant theme in the movie, the issue of moral contingency.

I have not really said much about the plot – it is such a plot-driven film that I do not want to spoil it, or the musical score and the cinematography and editing, but they all mesh together beautifully.

So don’t let anyone tell you that this is just a soapy melodrama. Watch the film if you have not already seen it.

Memory and History.03.02.13 03.02.13 03.02.13

George Jonas column in the Saturday National Post, “Awaiting Clio’s Caprice” (2.2.13, A23) had two themes. First, Obama is a pinko-socialist who, in his first term, did not display his true colours; American voters were distracted by the black issue and forgot the pink issue. Obama may be half black but the real issue for Jonas is that he is three-quarters pink. In his interpretation, in Obama’s second inaugural address, instead of being coy about his pink side, he threw away his disguise and revealed his left-liberal manifesto (Charles Krauthammer’s phrase). So for Jonas, as for me, there is a difference between appearance and reality, but both the appearance and the reality are radically different. So is the explanation. For Jonas, the explanation is a combination of Obama’s deceptive practices and the public’s distraction — though the colour of Obama’s politics was “unmistakable from the word go”.

Jonas’ second theme was about change. What happens in history is not determined by inaugural addresses or even by who occupies the White House, but by the caprice of History. As George Jonas interprets its role, “The muse of history has her own agenda. Governments don’t decide historic questions; Clio does.” “Until Clio wakes up in a different mood one morning, the Arab-Muslim world won’t accept a Jewish state within what it views as the House of Islam, and Israel won’t give up being a Jewish state.” Change comes by chance. There no rhyme or reason for Clio’s sleeping patterns. But the situation is as unmistakable as Obama’s political colours. “America lies so low in the water that a load of big government could sink it.”

Dow Marmur also wrote me this morning about the shift back in Israel to discussions about peace and three speculations that the discussion is simply necessary as a key ingredient in forming a coalition, that the shift is a result of pressure from the newly reinvigorated Obama administration, and, third, with Netanyahu’s pragmatism, his desire to have a legacy and he and his wife’s deeply felt animosity towards Naftali Bennett on his right whom both he and even more so, his wife, despise. Sow as qucick to add that these were speculations and not history.

Tomorrow when I return to the subject of Obama I will write about Jonas’ allegations about Obama and in a subsequent blog about Obama’s relationship to the peace process in Israel. Today I want to address the issue of Memory and History as almost a prolegomena to tomorrow’s blog. Clio was the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, a titan who was the personification of memory. But although memory is a prerequisite of history, history is not the same as memory. Further, memory is a prerequisite to other fields of study – the arts, including music, poetry, dance, drama, and science. The marriage of Zeus and Memory produced nine children, not just Clio.

Even as memory is a prerequisite of historiography, the two are quite different. Memory is used by history. Memory helps shape history. But memory is not history. First, memory is often flawed. Second, it often remains only part of an oral tradition and is not transcribed to be checked and falsified while history is recorded and becomes historiography. So there is a question when memory is written down and whether memoirs are a transition stage to history. Scholars also asked how history shapes memory.

And historiography has also changed. As Jacques Le Goff noted in his book History and Memory (New York: Columbia University Press), historiography has recently mutated. There has been a return – of the event, of biography, of politics as central issues, and the use, role and nature of narrative itself. (Preface ix) But the former three have been aufgehobt. The event has become the catalyst for digging a deep mine to find out what is underneath. Biography is now written extensively by historians as a form of both intellectual history and a complement to history — and even part of history when academics become political actors. The question of power is no longer unquestioned as the central core of politics, but both power and politics themselves have become problematicized. Further, the fourth of this quartet, which many thought had been consigned to a nursing home for the aged and infirm, has itself become problematic as historians both use narrative and question how such a form affects the interpretation of events and politics.

Goff himself explored how different disciplines distinguish the relationship of the past to the present differently. And so do different people with different ideologies. Conservatives idolize and reify the past as a model for the present. For Palestinian refugees, depending on your perspective, the powerful nostalgia for the past becomes either an obstacle in the way of resolving the current conflict or the means by which the efforts in the present to recover that past are informed and given impetus. (See chapter 7 in my book with Elazar Barkan, No Return, No Refuge.) Radicals want to discard the past into the dustbin of history. Others probe the dialectic between the past and the present and want to understand how innovation takes place while the past informs the present as the past and its interpretations are being transformed by innovation even as both are interpreted by historians.

My eldest son, Jeremy Adelman, an eminent Princeton historian who is the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilisation and Culture and former head of his department, has written a biography as an exemplar of the new historical biography (Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman) that combines the personal story of a very reserved, reticent and quiet activist with an intellectual history of Albert Hirschman (The Passions and the Interests) that Princeton University Press will bring out this Spring. If you cannot wait for Jeremy’s book, see an earlier piece written with Emanuelle Loyer, “Between Worlds: The Life and Work of Albert Hirschman,” that appeared in 2010 in The Toqueville Review 31:2. Better yet, Jeremy has a video on Albert Hirschman on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDjVoA2NfH4); it is the lecture he gave on 14 November 2012 on a return visit to Oxford.

Albert Hirschman is relevant to our discussions, not only because of how prescient Hirschman was and how his ideas inform our current discussions, but because Jeremy’s book began from his weekly lunch discussions with Albert and Albert’s recollections of his involvement in the Spanish civil war, with Jewish refugees (Operation Rescue) and with the Marshall Plan before he became the famous developmental economist or, as Jeremy depicts him, anthropological economist. The book is about fear of change that I am discussing in my Obama blogs and Hirschman’s reflections on the fear of capitalism. Hirschman was an economist, but not just an economist. He was truly a renaissance man. He was also a humanist. Further, unlike the vast majority of scholars who withdraw from commitment and action, Albert thrust himself into history. Most academics who do so fail; Albert did so with panache and success.

An influential essay of Hirschman’s, “Exit Voice and Loyalty”, explains the dialectical relationship between collective action and private action in contrast to the ideological musings of a classical nineteenth century liberal like George Jonas and his idolatrous ideological worship of individualism. Getting Ahead Collectively is Hirschman’s empirical and detailed research on grass roots development often targeted by neo-conservatives. Hirschman explores how upward mobility actually takes place on the ground. (It is also a book relevant to current debates over massive debt crises.) It asks the question, not about the caprice of history, but about how the poorest people take agency and responsibility and exercise collective action to improve their lives, how research on the ground can inform action and, to the extent possible, overcome caprice. Hirschman gave voice to their efforts and energies. While Hitler in the usual sociopathic Large Lie had the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Work Makes You Free – over the iron gates to enter a concentration and extermination camp, Hirschman wrote about how work actually frees you by finding solutions to problems rather than pontificating. Whether Hirschman dealt with black market currency exchanges and the intricate details of how fake travel documents are created for refugees, the empirical on the ground and the method of taking advantage of opportunities were critical to both human actions and intellectual examinations of those actions.

An additional underlying theme was the art of exiting, on which he also wrote as the other side of Michael Marrus’ history of Vichy France. Whereas loyalty, along with authority and tradition, are the holy trinity of neo-conservatism, Hirschman was the epitome of loyalty, but loyalty in practice not as an icon – loyalty to the cause of the fight against fascism in Spain in the 1930s, loyalty to the fight of the French against Nazi Germany in 1939, and loyalty to his country of refuge in 1941 America. He immediately enlisted in the military of the anti-Franco forces, the French army and the US army in turn. But his loyalty was not a dogma. He immediately left Germany in 1933; he did not stay and fight the Nazis. For he was also prophetic. He recognized when loyalty had its limits, when there was an opportune and necessary time to leave, and when you had to roll the dice and choose without knowing the outcome. For some places offer No Place of Return. He remained loyal to the end of his life to the land of the free and home of the brave even though his work was hounded by the paranoid and probably anti-semitic J. Edgar Hoover who remained ever suspicious of Hirschman’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War and with the illegal activities of and with refugees. Hirschman worked for the Federal Reserve Board and exemplified the creative and important role of mandarins that I wrote about in my parashat on Friday. His life was also an exemplification of the hidden and repressed, not in any denial of his Jewishness, but in the “Lie”, the foundational lie of his marriage and the split between his wife’s rich, aristocratic assimilated Jewish family and his own ostjüden bourgeois family across the border in Poland.

Stupid loyalties to the past could prevent seeking out opportunities. You should not get caught up in failures and losses. He saw nostalgia as a loser’s cover-up. Hirschman was not a theorist of economic development but a strategist of economic development based on empirical research and on what really works. He was suspicious of the overall big idea, such as the worship of balanced budgets and fear of enlarged government and suspicion of regulation. For in both intellectual and real life, middle range innovations; and not ideologies count. As he wrote in a report for the World Bank, the closed mind is a danger and one must be open to the unexpected. Similarly when reporting on the past, do not exaggerate what you can do as a doer or as a scholar lest you undermine what you have done or your study of what has been accomplished.

Jeremy had just finished pulling off a very large international conference that he had organized. He wrote me yesterday while he was in a Shanghai museum that “museumized” the past and which stood in sharp juxtaposition and opposition to China’s pell mell race towards the future through the construction of large and imposing monuments of glass and steel, raised highways and neon lights, paeons to post-modernity that were sinking the city into the silt of the Yagste delta and making it even vulnerable to the rising oceans if global warming and the melting of the icecaps continue apace. China seems willing to trash the past and allow thousands of years of a peasant world go up in carbon gases.

Jeremy had just visited his cousin, Keith, who had no “place” in the world as an authentic displaced cosmopolitan and carried the weight of three generations of Christian missionary work to the Chinese on his shoulders. Jeremy wrote about that visit, their joint efforts to piece together memories and biographies, and their discussions about their grandfather so associated in both their minds with his grandfather’s photography and the carvings and the calligraphy he brought back with him to give to his grandchildren as presents. This is how memory intertwines with history as one waxes homesick for wife and kids, gets to experience the awful emptiness of the homeless and yearns for roots. I remember the experience well when I lived in Dadaab refugee camp; personal experience has always informed my own work.

[tags history, memory, hirschman, economics]