Naphtali Perlberger

Getting used to putative reality

We seem to be living in the reality of alternate universes! If our perceptions, words, and actions were merely over trivial or inconsequential events (e.g., whether the weather was oppressive on a given day), it would be human nature to see and express such things differently and uniquely.

Sadly and destructively, these alternate realities evoke serious conflict and bias on seemingly similar factual contexts. They manifest in arguments, polarization, igniting rhetoric, and even violence. Added to this divisive fuel, and by some observers, created and intensified, is the media — be it through social barbs cast in tweets or byte-size zingers, or in transnational print or airway commentators, masking as news sources.

This culture of alternate realities plays out globally as identity politics and intersectionality, giving credence to those who fit the philosophy or platform of a given party or movement.   At the same time, this culture denigrates, denounces and demonizes those who disagree or do not fit the profile of credibility. Often, it appears that a minority of the population becomes the prevailing voice as it is embraced and proliferated by the media, who then advances their own agendas. Free speech, which allows for a peaceful discourse between opposing viewpoints, is fading from our society. It is difficult to speak one’s mind in public or in private, at a conference or even at the dinner table.

What is the truth?  What is reality? The answer to these questions depends on the identity of the speaker. What is evident today is that every word or action of one who is not in favor of the prevailing wind is analyzed through the prism of that speaker’s world view, race, religion, nationality or creed. What goes unnoticed and without criticism are the glaring incongruencies hidden in the bias of the speaker with whom a given party, movement or media identifies.

In America, visions of violence permeate our screens virtually on a non-stop basis. Sadly,  these dramas and tragedies are the grist of the election frenzy in which we will find ourselves for the next 15 months.  Open versus closed borders, illegal immigrants versus undocumented asylum-seekers, victims of white supremacy, racism or extremism on both the Left and Right, are issues that are today’s currency of manipulation for wordsmiths who create and foster these alternative universes.  Dare to disagree, contribute to or support a person who is the face of a given policy, and you are summarily branded as a bigot, racist, white supremacist, anti-Semite (or Islamophobic), a deplorable, stupid or downright ignorant of Truth.  Take your pick.

Equally important (admittedly the subject of current controversy and debate) this writer maintains, is the Judeo-Christian moral compass that goes back to Creation and upon which the world stands. Increasingly, the slippery slope we find ourselves on is the plunge into a dark world that has no room for the light of scripture — our Torah, or for Christians, their Bible (which includes ours). There can no longer by a concept of Life originating in G-d, or even an Intelligence Design. There can be no prayer for our children in the schools where they spend more than half their waking hours, not even a moment of silence. We, more tragically our children, are living in a world that insists on being God-less!

The result — anything goes! You may argue that’s not so — there are moral and good people who do not believe in G-d or practice the religions they were born into. But — such a world is one of relative morality, framed and promulgated by those in power, or who yell or act out the loudest. It is a world that permitted Hitler Germany to design and carry out the genocide of Six Million Jews (and millions of others who were objectionable as people, races or beliefs), while its leaders went to church on Sundays and listened to Mozart and Beethoven.

Internationally, there is an appalling, immoral double standard by which much of the world applies to Israel and countries or peoples aimed at destroying the State and its Jewish inhabitants. Despite its embrace and inclusion of other religions in the mosques and churches throughout Israel, despite the fact that Israeli-Arabs have seats in the Knesset, walk the streets and work side-by-side with Jews, and women may dress as they wish, hold public office and are found in every field of endeavor in which men participate, Israel is condemned as being apartheid, racist, the greatest violator of human rights, and the Evil Empire. Streets are not named after Jews who kill non-Jewish residents on buses, in schools, in places of worship, in malls and on the street. The killers (or their families) are not, either given life-long stipends in reward for their heinous crimes.

Just this month, two 17-year olds — one a yeshiva student kidnapped and brutally killed by terrorists (something that had horrifically happened to his grandfather 19 years earlier); the other a young girl blown up by an explosive device while walking with her family on a quiet afternoon. While the families and the nation mourned at graveside, fireworks and celebrations were taking place in the communities that fund, groom, protect and reward the killers. This is not covered by the media — again not fitting the narrative or the policies of nations and peoples whose hatred of Israel, and all Jews, are not even thinly veiled.In the aftermath of each horrific murder, celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank broke out, praising the killers. The world was silent — virtually no coverage in the world media.

As we look back on all that is going on — depressing and scary — we must fear for the future of our children. We recoil in pain and sorrow, but are not permitted to do so purely and honestly, as the events are magnified and morphed into political agenda and rhetoric attacking our allegiances, our beliefs. I have often written about the War of Words, amplified by the internet and global communication. We are not losing this war because we are on the wrong side of history.  We are losing the war because the voices are louder, better funded and censoring of any different narrative. Our response is often weak, silent, cowering. Such a response, historically and contemporaneously, is not only ineffective, but unwittingly conspires in the furtherance of this putative reality to which we are tolerating.

We cannot get used to putative reality for it leads to a reality that obliterates all our rights, liberties and very lives. Speak out, write the words that refute this poisonous stream of noise, join with others and support those people in your communities, your leaders and the three pillars that Pirkei Avos instructs support and maintain this world that G-d gave us — torah, service (prayer) and good deeds, which are Sages say are manifested in truth, justice and peace.

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".