Maybe it’s the seething heat, but people are getting crazy this summer. No, I don’t mean the rising trend of pyrotechnical suicide attempts. Those I get. What really makes my head hurt is some of the responses those attempts got.
When Moshe Sliman made his preparations to set himself on fire on Saturday, he was most likely possessed by a bitter melange of personal desperation, mental instability and an urge to be noticed by a society that for years had been allowing him to perish slowly and in shame. Trying to determine which of those impulses most affected him is impossible — and would make for a pointless discussion.
All the same, government officials and esteemed journalists want to make it perfectly clear: it is a terrible tragedy.
Did I say “terrible?” I meant a personal tragedy. A standalone occurrence.
As a society of concerned tut-tutters, we are of course encouraged to follow the news on Moshe’s personal health, and hope sincerely for his swift personal recovery. Other than that, we should rest assured that the personal particulars that pushed Moshe over his personal brink shall be investigated and amended. There is absolutely no greater moral to this story.
Or at least according to all three of the ostensibly randomly selected people-in-the-street quoted yesterday in Israel Hayom in a full-page spread.
On the same spread, columnist Dan Margalit asked the public to stop beating itself up over a personal tragedy. His bottom line (actually, the title) was that, yes, there were some bigger questions to be asked, but at the end of the day, “A man is responsible for his own fate.”
Gravely worried that we, the delicate, bipolar public, might be too adversely stirred by this event, Margalit soothingly put things into perspective: We can’t hope to catch every personal potential-tragedy before it occurs. It’s not our fault, we mustn’t be too hard on ourselves, the guy was obviously a mental case.
After all, says Margalit, “many people live in far more dire poverty than Silman but don’t resort to such desperate acts.” An excellent case against self-beating, if I ever heard one.
No doubt Moshe Silman was afflicted with depression, a chemical distress to add on his financial woes. A different man, in similar straits but with a different chemical balance, might have persevered unscorched. Asking whether or not a person has the mind to set himself on fire may be elegant, but it’s also a repugnant way to elide the point.
Instead of mulling over personal drama, how about looking into the public tragedy of those sinking daily below the middle class (if there still is such a thing) but not quite low enough as to be eligible for insultingly meager social aid? Those Goldilocks poor are quickly becoming a new silent majority. A mute majority, to be precise, for no one seems to hear them even when they try to cry out.
The throats of tens of thousands of Israelis are gripped by poverty. Tens of thousands of perfectly hinged sprats who cannot provide for themselves, who cannot husband a household and who – too abashed or too afraid or too life affirming – won’t make a burning spectacle of themselves. They’re just not the type. You know, not the type to receive headlines.
If we treat tragedies incidentally and symptomatically, and social causes be damned, then we basically admit that if you’re not ready to go that extra mile for us – give a show, create a sensation – you just don’t deserve our attention. But in a society that simmers over the “unequal share of the burden,” this might leave many people confused and angry. I wouldn’t be surprised if people would soon begin to copy Silman.
What? Really? Two, already?
I guess human life in Israel is only worth the gas it takes to burn.
A week ago the government decided to set aside an extra NIS 40 million to promote aliya. “We will bring in all the Falash Mura by the end of 2014,” declared PM Netanyahu, and added: “Precipitating aliya from all over the world is a key target of my administration.”
Maybe solidarity and mutual concern are still prominent in the Israeli value codex; as long as they’re directed outward. Those shanties aren’t gonna populate themselves, right?
Vouchsafing ends once you cross the border. Welcome to Israel. We’re kinda in the middle of a heat wave; you might want to get yourself an air-conditioner, if you can afford one. If you can’t, you can burn quietly.