Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Controlling Society Through Hate

Jackson

Recently, Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver DeSean Jackson tweeted fake antisemitic quotes supposedly from Adolf Hitler.  He was promptly chastised and apologized.

That’s not the problem.

As evil as Jackson’s misguided tweets were, the hidden agenda is worse.  Jackson’s message isn’t what he said but that he said it.  Such odious comments reflect the continuing effort by prominent whites to sic marginalized groups against each other.  That, in turn, gives the majority a free hand to do whatever they want while everyone else is distracted.

It’s a common play used in poker, where big stack players happily let the small stacks battle with each other, eliminating themselves while the rich get richer.

Jews reading from the Bible
In this country, there has long been a concerted effort to pit African-Americans against Jews, both of who remain outside the mainstream.  Jews represented about 2 percent of the American population.  In 2019, Blacks represented 13.4 percent.

Blacks are not being held back by Jews, who are concentrated in the Northeast (New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey).  As an aside, I was surprised to note that the Gallup poll found that Florida’s population was just 3 percent Jewish given the stereotype of Jews congregating in Miami Beach.)

African-Americans have been restrained by systematic racism, the same kind of bigotry that held back Jews.  In the 1920s, for example, Ivy League schools had quotas to limit the number of Jewish entries. 

Douglas
In theater, the bigotry was more pronounced.  In the late 1800s, Jews grew angry at the depiction of “Yid” characters by Christian comics.  That led to an infusion of Jewish comedians.  They exaggerated stereotypes, most notably on radio with The Goldbergs, which starred Molly Berg.  The show also made it to television.

Nevertheless, movie actors for decades were advised to change their names to non-Jewish ones.  Kirk Douglas, for example, specifically chose one that had no Jewish connotation.   He was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky.  He was so successful in hiding his Jewish heritage that producer Robert Evans (who was also Jewish) was stunned when Douglas, an Orthodox Jew, flawlessly led a Passover Seder.

Danny Kaye was told to have surgery to look less Jewish.  He refused.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr., whose grandfather was Jewish, was appalled when movie moguls – many of whom were Jewish – refused to get involved in pro-Jewish films during World War II because they feared having the industry labeled as Jewish.  Even after the war, 20th Century Studios had to be pushed to produce Gentleman’s Agreement where non-Jew Gregory Peck experienced widespread antisemitism as an undercover reporter.  The movie won the 1948 Oscar as best film.

The only reason so many Jews got into movies was because respectable Christians initially looked down on the business.  Performing on stage was considered contemptible, especially for women.

As such, it was acceptable for Jews, who were banned from high society.

Cast of the Dick Van Dyke Show
In the 1960s, I caddied at a country club that was still exclusive – no Jews allowed.  That was not uncommon. 

The Dick Van Dyke Show has long been held up as a model of a situation comedy.  Written by Jews and containing a largely Jewish cast, the popular 1960s show drew the ire of TV executives who asked the show’s writers to make the character less “ethnic.”  The two stars, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, were not Jewish. 

I remember being stunned to hear a reference  to Judaism during a Barney Miller episode in the late 1970s when one of the policeman realizes star Linden was not interested in the Christmas program because he was Jewish.  Linden was Jewish away from the set, too.
Douglass

In politics, antisemitism has held strong.  This country did not see a Jewish candidate for even vice president until Joe Lieberman ran unsuccessfully with Al Gore in 2000.  In contrast, Black presidential candidates have appeared on the ballot as far back as 1848, when Frederick Douglass stood for the position.

Jews have been battling antisemitism since the onset of Christianity.  It was kept alive to provide someone to blame for any calamity.  Massacres of Jews were commonplace for centuries throughout Europe, leading to the German-led Holocaust in the 1940s.

The antisemitic claims received a boost by forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was rewritten in the 1800s to frame Jews.  It was endorsed in this country by such people as industrialist Henry Ford and purported to be an outline of Jewish plans to dominate the world.

That is what DeSean Jackson referred to in his tweets, in which he claims Jews were holding back Blacks as part of their effort to control society.

Anyone seeing the chaos in Israel has to realize that Jews have demonstrated minimal ability to run any country, much less the world.

Jews marching with Dr. King Jr.
Like all western religions, they would like to see everyone become Jewish.  Christians and Muslims have the same goal.  Yet, Jews are the only ones to provide an avenue for anyone to follow Jewish morals and ethics and yet not convert.  Called Noahide laws, they were developed when sages realizes Noah preceded the first Jew, Abraham, and yet is called righteous.  They educed rules for anyone to become “righteous” without being Jewish.

That’s the opposite of world domination since “God-fearers,” as they are called don’t have to be Jewish.

In reality, Jews have been in the forefront of the Civil Rights efforts in this country and other social movements, fully aware that limits on any group limits everyone. 

They have been successful because they stress education – a byproduct of being isolated in ghettos and restricted in society.  That has led to hatred and animosity when Jews should serve as models for anyone trying to succeed in a hostile environment.

I am not trying to argue that Jews face more discrimination.  That’s not true.  It’s far easier to disguise a religion than skin color.  My point is that all minority groups suffer from discrimination, including Catholics when they first came here, the Irish and Mormons.  Muslims face similar problems today.

It’s how the majority keeps control.

Jackson’s tweets reflect that continued effort to divide and conquer.  Apparently, given the support his tweets ave received in the Black community, it’s an approach that still works.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  A member of the Unitarian Universalist Society, he holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. He is the author of the recently published novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Why Can't We Chamge Someone's Mind?


Flat Earth Society model
Spending hours isolated at home has allowed me to spend a lot of time on social media and really opened my eyes.  I have one Facebook friend who believes the Earth is the center of the universe despite years of astronomical observations proving that’s not true.  I have other friends who sincerely promote equally eccentric ideas, including conspiracies, without a shred of evidence or endorse political candidates who spout lies and are obviously unfit for office,

I regularly to try help them by supplying facts supported by research.  They calmly reject the data and cling their beliefs.  I could not imagine why until conducting some research in that area.

For starters, difficulty in changing beliefs centers around the fact that we only need a smidgen of support to remain adamant.  For example, I had a neighbor who loved George Wallace. (I’m dating myself, of course). I happened to be reading a scathing account of Wallace’s two terms as Alabama governor in The Nation magazine and offered it to my neighbor.  He willingly read it and came back delighted that the magazine liked Wallace.

Wallace
He had found a single sentence that reported Wallace promised not to raise taxes in the first term and did not.  He did in his second term.  That tidbit was enough to allow my neighbor to ignore all the harm Wallace caused otherwise.

Morsels like that help explain why incompetent leaders in many fields still retain support.  Even one person, who may be lying but whose comments support a belief can be sufficient to keep a believer charging in the wrong direction.

Ego is wrapped up in that.  We feel better by being in a group that accepts us.  We are social animals – which is why the required isolation from the virus is causing so much unrest.  We want to be part of a group.  So we all create our own “families” by joining with people with similar ideas.  For immigrants, the sociological term for that behavior is angloconformity – the attempt to be like the Americans.  Since this country invented and perpetuates racism, immigrants often become even more racist, even when they come from countries where racism is unknown.  For the same reason, people forcefully converted to a religion become more adamant and more devout than the original worshipers.

Mother Teresa
The same is true at political rallies, concerts and the like.  We look around and see people with similar beliefs, and our own belief is reinforced.

Ego also refers to how we treat people.  I taught religious history for many years and saw how this worked.  I had many priests, rabbis and other religious folks in my classes.  In one memorable class, I had six Catholic seminarians who had doubts about their faith when they were introduced to actual history.  However, like Mother Teresa, they stayed.  So did a rabbi I knew was an atheist. 

Why? Because they were treated better and accorded more respect because of their religious status.  We all show deference to someone wearing a religious collar in the same way we honor a music group that we believe is excellent or a politician who we accept as competent.  After all, the pope is well respected outside the Roman Catholic faith even though, to nonbelievers, he’s really just an old man with a funny hat.

Polygamous marriages
In addition, it’s very difficult to accept that a belief is wrong.  The leader of the Scandinavian wing of the Church of Latter Day Saints said he felt as though he had been “kicked in the stomach” when, after years of denial believed by the Scandinavian,  the church finally admitted that founder Joseph Smith really did marry many women, including some as young as 12.  The Scandinavian is not alone.  It’s painful to admit you were wrong, and most of us will cling to our beliefs to avoid that.

Scientists are known to change beliefs as facts accumulate, not the general public which is largely scientifically illiterate.  Who wants to be humiliated?  Who is strong enough to publicly admit an error in judgment?

As a last resort, we tend to close off alternatives that would shake our beliefs.  One cartoonist recently depicted people in glass balls rolling down a hill while shouting political slogans.  They couldn’t hear each other or contrary facts.  In many ways, we are placing ourselves in isolated groups and shutting out alternative and valid viewpoints.

Modern communication ensures that correct information is available.  However, it is easy to ignore.  I did a radio show on religious history.  The station owner, Carl, and I were discussing crime, and he said crime in Chicago (his hometown) was bad and getting worse.  Being interested in facts, I looked up the data.  Sure enough, he was wrong: in 16 of the past 17 years, crime in Chicago had fallen.  Even last year’s uptick still left the stats below numbers accumulated in the 1990s.

Carl’s response when shown the information compiled by the FBI: “False data.”  He has a lot of company denying accurate information that contradicts beliefs.
Early human family groups

In many ways, Carl and many others cannot accept contrary facts because of the most powerful reason: they chose their beliefs. 

That goes back to the origins of humanity, 150,000 or so years ago. Humans developed in small family groups.  We lack talons and fangs to cope with much bigger and more dangerous predators.  So, our only option was cooperation.  Nonconformists who chose to chose to buck the system were eaten.  Conformity is why people in Jonestown lined up to drink poisonous Kool-Aid, in one horrendous example.

The process worked.  We survived.  However, we inherited a “we” vs. “they” mentality.  The process created built-in biases, which were discovered by Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington.  Called implicit bias, they affect an estimated 75 percent of the population, who don’t even know the biases are implanted in their minds yet which affect how they act toward another person. 

When we were in family groups, “we” was easy to identify.  It became more difficult as populations grew.  Families grouped together to form communities.  Family ties no longer were sufficient to bind people together.  Besides, people are different.  Our brains evolve individually.  That’s why two people in the same family can have totally different views of the world.  Their life experiences are different.  Their genetics are different.  Beliefs became the matrix.

We fight battles for beliefs, such as “freedom” and “justice, for a country, itself an artificial creation.  Countries often change borders and names, and have through history.  It’s the belief that sustains them.  

Elizabeth 1
Religion is just one belief.  There were many others, particularly ones fostered by those in power.  As an example, the belief in the “divine right” of kings remains with us.  That’s the belief that someone is king because of heavenly selection.  In the biblical book of Samuel, in an overt case, David revolted against his king and declined two opportunities to kill Saul because, David said, Saul was anointed. 

In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth 1 faced the same problem as Catholics rallied around the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots, endangering Elizabeth’s hold on the throne.  Elizabeth almost had to be tricked into signing the death warrant because, she realized, killing a monarch undermined her own claim to the throne.  In France, the uprisings against Louis XV1 and, in England, the beheading of Charles I, required extraordinary circumstances and, in both cases, eventually led to the restoration of the monarchy.

In this country, we don’t have royalty but eagerly promote athletes, actors, oligarchs and politicians to that role and treat them with similar deference.  That’s why celebrity endorsements are used so often.

However, we choose our heroes; we choose who we want to support politically; we choose who we admire and want to emulate.  In effect, we are creating our own family, our “we.”  As a result, we are more adamant, more convinced we have made the right choice and even more reluctant to change. 

We can change religions easily.  For the most part, we don’t choose our religious faiths.  We are born into families which follow a particular religion.  As a result, it’s easier to change.  Annually, millions change their faiths.  Christianity, for example, gains about 15 million followers a year and loses about 11 million.  Islam gains millions every year and loses just as many.  The 10 Lost Tribes of Israel didn’t stray somewhere; they assimilated.  Changing a  religion is a snap.  Changing a political party or philosophy is far more wrenching and less likely to happen.
We vs, they

As a result, too many people today aren’t listening and they won’t listen.  They continue to ignore verified information that is readily available.  More than 150,000 years after the first modern human evolved, despite the immense advances in communication and knowledge, we are still dividing ourselves in “we” and they” just as our ancestors did.  As a result, almost without exception, only a tremendous quake – a Depression, a world war, the Civil Rights Movement or other cataclysmic event on an international, national or personal level – can convince anyone to change chosen beliefs.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. He is the author of the recently published novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.