Sherwin Pomerantz

No Man is an Island – Its Meaning for Today  

Dennis Brown’s lyrics to the song No Man is an Island recorded in 1965 are as applicable to life today as it was then in a world beset by chaos in every corner.

No man is an island, no man stands alone.  Each man has a brother and remember each mans’ dream has a road.

We here in Israel approach the 70th anniversary of our founding having subjugated our neighbors for almost 51 of those 70 years.  We can tell ourselves that all of the land is ours, we can tell ourselves that the situation is because of the recalcitrance of “the other”, we can even tell ourselves that only our cause is just and that we are here by a God-given right.  But so what?  So what if all of that is true?  Each of us has a brother and each mans’ dream has a road.  Does not the road of “the other” need to be paved as well?

Now we need one another ooh yes and we all try to be friends.  Each man has a brother and each man has a friend.

This week Israel will be closing the Holot facility for asylum seekers (primarily from Africa) who have sought refuge in Israel. The people who have been detained there will be sent abroad to countries that don’t want them, to places where their lives will be endangered and where, effectively, they have no future. We, the people whose European brethren were destined for destruction by a German madman and who even if they escaped could find no refuge anywhere in the world, are refusing to accommodate a relatively small number of refugees (compared to our total population).  For shame!  For these people we are choosing not to be their brothers and we are certainly not acting as their friends.

You can live in this world all by yourself, in this world all by yourself.  No nonoooo you can’t make it alone and just as sure as you try to make it by yourself you gonna wake up and find you gonna need somebody else

Shimon Peres is reputed to have said that a person cannot live in luxury forever when all around him people are living in poverty. His interpretation of that statement related to Israel’s geographic position in the world and the lower economic levels of our neighbors. He understood that borders will not insulate us from the challenges of our neighbors.

So today we see that the lack of proper electric power in Gaza, for example, which prevents sewage treatment plants from operating properly if at all, causes raw sewage to flow into the Mediterranean.  Ultimately some of that lands on Israel’s shores and gums up our desalination facilities and other coastal activities.   So while it is easy to say it is not our problem, the fact is that as the song goes, we cannot live in this world by ourselves and act as if their problems are not ours.

No man is an island, no man stands alone.  Each man has his brother and each mans’ dream has a road.

The lyrics, of course, were written at a time before society acknowledged that there are at least two sexes and possibly more ways to designate sexuality than by binary definition.  So if we substitute “people” for “men” it is possible to expand the message that no person stands alone and every person’s dream has a road.  The question then becomes if someone’s dream is denied, or unfairly challenged, or not recognized, shouldn’t the person or persons who are responsible be punished?  Everyone will say, “of course, not even a question.”

Yet in the world in which we live today high ranking leaders of countries across the globe regularly rip up the road of people’s dreams (to use the language of the song) and yet remain firmly ensconced in their lofty positions.  Misogyny, morally corrupt values, dishonesty….it does not matter whether we are speaking about democracies, totalitarian regimes or dictatorships, the moral fabric of society has been “dumbed down” so far that the population simply looks past the moral faults of the leadership and blithely follows some pretty unsavory characters.

So, is there any hope?  Yes, for sure.  Folk singer Joan Baez also sang this song but altered the lyrics of the last verse and captured the hope.

No man is an island, way out in the blue.  We all look to the One above, for our strength to renew.

For people of faith there is always hope.  History has shown than pendulums swing and while the pendulum seems now to have swung very far in one direction it will eventually swing back. It probably won’t return all the way to its alternative position as there is a physically dictated loss of momentum during the swing itself.  But swing it most certainly will and let’s just hope that by that time, the world’s moral compass will have retained enough of its directional integrity to repave the road.  We can hope for nothing less.


About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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