Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

I was reading UOJ's post a few moments ago, apparently one of the first people to do so, since there are no comments posted right this moment (1:54 est). What I was thinking about prior to that was the situation in cheredi communities of using violence to enforce stringencies on members of other shuls. And slightly earlier, I had been reading another blog discussing why girls go off the derech.

Bear with me, now - my brain gets a little convoluted sometimes. In UOJ's most recent post, the guest writer lists the options that parents have when they find out a child of theirs has been abused by someone at their child's dayschool or yeshiva. These are the options he gives:

1- Bring this issue to yeshiva administration. Unlikely to produce much beyond denial, or at best the promise to discuss the matter with Rabbi X.

2- Approach a local Rav, Posek, or Bais Din. This will most likely elicit additional denial, and all forms of manipulation of the system will be attempted.

3- Try a grass roots effort of bringing the issue to other parents. This will prompt an understandable backlash of retaliation. How dare an accuser create havoc among the parent body!

4- Report the incident to authorities. Expect to be ostracized in the community as a “moser”. Expect all other children to be expelled from the yeshiva. Expulsion may also spread to other schools if there are other children there, as the schools will all be guided to expect similar accusations. Getting rid of all members of the family is a good protection from such accusations.

5- Ignore the problem, hoping that it will go away. That type of parental neglect is inexcusable.


Now, here's the thing - expulsion is, by definition, a form of physical violence. Ostracizing is a form of psychological violence. And, of course, vandalizing people's property, harassing, threatening, and beating them is blatant violence.

Now, class, let's ask ourselves honestly - is violence an effective method of spreading religious truth (or religious opinion, in these cases)?

Is violence an effective method of endearing people to Hashem? To klal yisrael? To the rabbis? To orthodoxy?

Does any reasonably intelligent person really think that conversion by swordpoint produces true faith and practice?

Lashing out in violence and temper tantrums is what a 2 year old does when they don't get their way. Is that the intellectual and emotional level of cheredi judaism? It seems to be.

Allow me to paraphrase a contemporary philosopher of religion:

"It often happens that when the moral law protects the innocent, a ceremonial law is invoked to accomplish immoral ends."

The stringencies these fanatics are trying to impose on people are purely ceremonial, outward, in nature. True halacha has never been the issue here. Therefore, true faith has never been the issue here. It's all about power and control.

"If history has proven anything, it is that the spread of religion by the sword or by coercion has done nothing but misrepresent the message and bring disrepute to the Torah."

We call this chillul Hashem and the cheredi reputation is repleat with it.

"The thin line between good and evil does not run through shuls or ideologies, but through the heart of every man and woman."

The evil of chillul Hashem comes from man's own wicked heart, not from any true zeal for Torah.

"Anytime evil becomes organized, its ferocity breathes the air of hell. There is nothing that can quench that fury. It cannot be stopped until it has accomplished its purpose. That is why hell is unending. It's nature is to burn on the inside, and no outward consolation or influence can change wickedness that is inflamed by numbers."

The "numbers" do not even have to be the majority - they simply have to be in a position to have subdued the majority into fear and silence.

"When evil justifies itself by posturing as morality, Hashem becomes the adversary and the devil becomes like a god to them. That exchange makes one impervious to reason."

They have placed themselves beyond any ordinary definition of good and evil. They have placed themselves above the Torah.

"Their love for the Torah is nothing more than a desire to find ways to manipulate the law to serve their own immoral ends. Anytime Torah is quoted for the express purpose of advancing one's selfish aims, light is turned into darkness."

They have become the inquisitors that they once feared and loathed. They have done this because of envy of the inquisitor's power - power they wanted for themselves to be in charge of their own communities. Now that they have that power, they ravage their own people - they have shown themselves to be no different from inquisitors who once ravaged them.

"The outbursts and the tirades of the attackers are nothing less than the poisonous venom of misguided lives."

This is where our communities are today. Far beyond the implosion being caused by the insane economic disruptions these people have caused in our communities, there are more subtle disruptions. When kids ask intelligent questions in school, they are ridiculed and called names - more violence. When a couple decides to think for themselves and obey the true halacha instead of various stringencies, they are subjected to vandals and harassment and intimidation - more violence. When a man stands up to the bullies - escalated violence.

Class, a group that has to resort to violence to bring people over to their point of view has resorted to violence because they don't have truth on their side. Truth shines without any assistance from fanatics. Truth speaks for itself. Truth resonates in the hearts and minds of those who hear it - but obfuscations and coercion are just as immediately known by all for what they really are:

power-mongering.

They are acts of persons who do not have truth on their side and thus cannot use reason and righteous living to prove their point. They are acts of those whose education is lacking. In other words, violence is...

...the last refuge of the incompetent.

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