The Risk of Israel (I): Populism & Perversion

Temple prostitutes and prophets
A strait betwixt two!
But whose side are you on?

* * *

To understand the historical significance of Israel, one must first understand the historical significance of populism. But what is populism, and is it even a coherent and morally consistent tendency to begin with?

For after all, any true person of virtue, any authentic defender of individualism, one who vigorously opposes collectivism, may easily fall prey to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards; particularly when so many of ‘us’ have an avowedly populist approach.

Populism sounds obviously fallacious, from a radical individualist perspective. Surely The People all have different interests? If so, how is it possible to talk about ‘The People,’ without falling under the same condemnation one levies against those who deny conflicts of interest at the level of the nation, or the human species?

Surely, if the national interest is a meaningless abstraction that cynically assimilates a wide variety of conflicting interests to a falsely unitary single interest, ‘The People’ is every bit as foolish an idea as well?

And surely if the good of humanity is the good of no-one, populism is every bit as unbearably fallacious as bourgeois humanitarianism?

In order to reconcile populism and individualism, it’s important to understand that the logic of true and authentic (i.e. valid, legitimate and noble) populism is very distinct from the logic of collectivism. Collectivism, as ‘we’ shall see, includes counterfeit or plastic populism; but the latter has a very different logic to legitimate, individualistic populism.

It is undeniably true that the citizens all have different interests; however, ‘The People’ is nothing do with numbers.
It’s about values.

Individual liberty & individual justice are never reducible to a mathematical formula.

‘The People’ could be one person, like Elijah, or it could be a million, like the masses of the French, Chinese or American revolutions (at least if you broadly support these examples; but you may choose any examples you prefer).

The people is not about everyone…

And it’s not even about the majority.

I would argue that this is where Corbyn’s Shelleyan ‘For the Many, not the Few’ and Sanders ‘1% versus 99%’ angles fall very much short of the mark.

Politics is exclusionary by its very nature; or at the very least, it is ‘non-inclusive,’ i.e. ‘not-entirely-inclusive.’

Politics does exclude, and it does discriminate.

Discrimination is the foundation of basic morality; and politics is, or should be,

Discrimination writ large.

Discrimination sounds ugly to the smugly enervated and dissipated postmodern ear, but it really means ‘discernment.’

Discernment means A is A, but it often isn’t B or C.

In other words:

Realism.

You can’t have your cake and eat it. (Ayn Rand).

Value Pluralism.

The final reconciliation and union of all possible goods, values, and ends is an impossible chimera. (Isaiah Berlin).

Anti-Solutionism.

There are limits to technocratic engineering. (Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, Karl Popper).

Ultimately, if not all ends are reconcilable, not all interest-bearers, i.e. citizens, are reconcilable either. Politics has to take conflicts of interest as its basic premise; this is an ineradicable reality.

It is for this reason, that I insist ‘The People’ has nothing to with numbers, and everything to do with values.

If you are on the side of truth, justice and individual liberty, you are on the side of The People.

But if you oppose all true, authentic and noble values, then you are an Enemy of The People.

It thus follows from this that populism is most certainly not collectivism.

At least in its most true, authentic, avowedly exclusionary and discriminatory forms.

Because collectivism denies either the existence, or the importance, of conflicts of interest.

But genuine populism treats these as a non-negotiable point of departure, and as an inescapable reality, that simply cannot be lightly trifled with.

All across Europe, the USA and India, the ‘Populist Moment’ is really a ‘Populist Transition.’

Trump’s America First agenda, the pro-tradition politics of Narendra Modi, Brexit and its many future Eurexit siblings, the Visegrad vanguard…

Populism is here to stay, but the only question here is what form it takes.

Is individualism the Future?

The renewal of Westphalianism and of national sovereignty, classical liberal toleration, traditional pluralism, individual liberty, individual justice, and individual equality before the law?

Or will the hideous groupthink, relativism and subjectivism of today be replaced by new forms of collective interests and group rights: theocracy, quasi-theocracy, ethnonationalism, or even a particularly crass and moronic ‘civic nationalism on steroids?’

There is a guiding hand behind history, but ‘we’ can’t always see it.

So God or no God, everyone one of ‘us’ still has to make history; for history is made by people.

How will Israel respond to the challenge of populism?

Will Israelis do the right thing, and put their own people first?

Or will they surrender to the provincial cosmopolitanism and parochial, high-minded humanitarianism of the current waning order of the Self-Styled, Self-Appointed and ever-unbearably-self-Anointed ‘international community?’

It seems to me that Israel, a nation founded in pain and flourished in terror and a thousand perils, will function as a key sight of resistance against the deadening effects of unleashed global-corporatist crony capital.

Anti-Semites always accuse Jews, Israelis and Zionists of systematically undermining tradition, religion, historical consciousness, rootedness, in an eternal war against the Particular.

But on the contrary! This is most certainly not the case.

For it is most certainly not not Jews, Israelis or Zionists who are responsible for the deadening effect of omnipresent crony capital.

Indeed, it is Israel who stands as an eternal rebuke to the eternal ‘Synthetic Temptation’ of bourgeois cosmopolitanism and bourgeois humanitarianism.

Israelis, Zionists and Jews know from millennia of bitter experience that one is never ‘just a human being.’ Being ‘human’ is not an identity, in any remotely meaningful sense whatsoever; and the abstract, futile, moronic humanitarianism of an unreconstructed modernity is every bit as toxic as the idolatrous, imbecilic fetishism of bourgeois identity politics.

Jews have always resisted the cosmopolitan, humanitarian Arrogance of Nebuchadnezzar, of Antiochus Epiphanes, of Pilate and Caesar, of the Soviet Internationalists.

What Israel can offer, by way of a remedy for the ills of the age, is a critical reaffirmation of an ancient truth:

The ‘One Door’ of the Particular is the gateway to the Universal; and without it, there is none other.

When I was growing up, an old Sunday school hymn said:

‘One door, and only one.’

This notion is reflected also in Hegel’s philosophical meditations upon the Incarnation that Christians speak of: the Universal through the Particular.

No matter what religion one follows (if any), the vision is most compelling.

Truth is universal and objective, but the wings of the spirit cannot soar to the Logos without a tree of virtue and a beauty, on which she has been nurtured. This is the Quran’s ‘fig tree neither of the East nor of the West,’ and yet it is nonetheless rooted in the native soil of the values, dreams, aspirations, hope, fears and terrors of the people.

This is something it is impossible for the clunky mandarins, deluded prophets and pampered princelings (those Rabbi Gamaliel’s brilliant protégé St Paul calls ‘the God of this world’) to understand…

All images used are public domain pictures from Pixabay.

About the Author
Jonathan Ferguson is a Chinese graduate of the University of Leeds (BA, MA) and King's College London (PhD). He has written on a range of publications including Times of Israel, Being Libertarian and Secular World Magazine. He is a strong believer in individual liberty, individual justice and individual equality before the law. He stands with Israel, with the girls of Revolution Street and of course, with anyone who takes the courage to prefer the David Gilmour and Phil Collins eras to the pretentious artsy-fartsy dark ages of 80s rock... in the face of the all-too-predictable vitriol that is hurled at us!
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments