Friday, January 14, 2022

Underrated Classical Musicians: Fritz Busch


Fritz Busch is not so much forgotten as lost in the shuffle. That tends to happen when you're your country's #5 conductor of your generation... but when so many cults have formed around less deserving contemporaries, it begins to look like a minor injustice.
People tend to forget, except for Furtwangler, the batons who stayed in Germany were fundamentally regarded as the second-tier, promoted to the biggest appointments because the all the anti-Nazis left. People also tend to forget that, except for Walter, the conductors who stayed in America were also regarded as the second tier.
Regardless of your political views, if you were a German musiclover of 1950, taking musical jingoism into account..., you would have admitted a begrudging adoration of Toscanini, but you probably would have regarded the five best conductors to be Furtwangler, Walter, Klemperer, Kleiber, and Busch. And you would have felt as though all those excellent concerts under collaborators in Germany and refugees in America to be a form of settling for second best, and would bore younger listeners with tales of the 'good old days'... And yet today, there are at least a dozen a dozen other German-trained conductors of that generation who have vocal followings larger than Fritz Busch who were thought not quite of his calibre in his own day. Except in the Mozart operas, people seem to forget that Busch recorded some of the greatest of all orchestral performances.
This Brahms 4 is one of two Busch recordings made with the Wiener Symphoniker right before his death - Beethoven 7 being the other. The Beethoven is good, but the Brahms 4 is in contention for THE Brahms 4. Busch is usually regarded as a classicist, but that strikes me as a misnomer. He's a romantic who approaches music so from the inside out that he can easily be mistaken for a classicist. No one, and I mean no one, gets the Brahms idiom this well. No faux Wagnerian grandiosity, but also no faux Mendelssohnian lightness. Propulsive enough to always have forward motion, but rubato enough to never feel as though the structure inhibits the music's expression. So natural and secure is the pacing that all sorts of little details of idiom: phrasing and balance and rhythmic schwung, are added on top of an impeccably solid structure. It feels as though played by folk musicians from an inexplicable oral tradition.
You can go to Reiner or Szell for virtuosity, you can go to Knappertsbusch and Abendroth for Wagnerian grandiosity, Scherchen and Rosbaud for modernity, Bohm and Krauss for gemutlichkeit, but Busch was just pure music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngi73eohGM8

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dear Eli - Part 2

 


Before I keep going with this Eli, I think you need to understand certain things about any rebuttal through the years which other people you know would have to anything I mention here; particularly people we both know very well. 

Over the course of your life, lots of people will preach to you about the good old days or the good old land, please do everything you can to not believe them. American conservatives will paint for you a golden age of America between 1945-67 when prices were affordable, streets were safe, and Americans could become anything they wanted. This is an incomplete picture conjured in bad faith: every single American of your grandparents' generation lived until they were forty amid the dread of a nuclear war that could wipe them out in an instant. Few Americans of color were free to become what they wanted, and few American women could become what they wanted without work so colossal that it was almost not worthwhile to try. The prosperity was made possible by taxes being the highest they've ever been in American history and being used to send nearly 8 million World War II veterans to college for free. The US economy was so secure because the US was the only world power whose entire infrastructure had not been bombed out. Relative to the rest of the world, the US had so much money that the entire world seemed almost literally designed to serve the USA, and yet the mental state of Americans was such that while they worked hard, they could not function amid the stress without consuming colossal numbers of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages which killed millions of them decades before old age. Black people couldn't even get served at many restaurants and stores until 1954. Worst of all, within their consumption and production lay the seeds for the global warming pollution which could kill millions or many more within your lifetime. There are many glories of that era, but there is no such thing as 'good old days.' Everything in life is purchased at a steep price. 

And in the same way that there is no 'golden age,' there is no far off 'golden land' where everything is as we dream life could be. Lots of American progressives will conjure for you a golden land in Northern Europe, where government distributes such amenities to their citizens that there is barely such a thing as poverty. In this vision, every worker is productive because a good worker is the same as a happy worker, and government laws allow them fair amounts of pay, proper amounts of time off for raising children and vacation, strong labor laws, good universal medical care, guaranteed education loans for university, public transit and infrastructure, and full government subsidies for humanities, science, and journalism. This too is a vision painted in bad faith. The prosperity of Northern Europe is only made possible because the United States funds its defense, and when the United States stops (and it likely will very soon), much of their prosperity will disappear as they deal with the reality of relying on their own military to deal with a Russian threat that would love nothing more than for their prosperity to end. Furthermore, their prosperity is purchased at the expense of Southern Europe, which is entirely dependent on Northern Europe's purchasing power for their economies. In Southern Europe, everybody used to work on farms, but the farms have foreclosed. The only reliable jobs in Southern Europe is manufacturing products for Northern Europe, most of which moved away from Southern Europe because the well-intentioned strength of the European Union's labor benefits make the price of hiring everyone impossibly high. If you can't get a factory job, you either have to move elsewhere or accept that you'll spend your life without a job. Unemployment in Southern Europe is sometimes nearly 30%, and in the European South, civil unrest is just a fact of life. Northern Europe is tremendously expensive, and per-person debt, national and personal, often exceeds our own. And while I tried in previous drafts, I'm not going to touch the issue of immigration to Europe except to say; whether because of immigrant religious fanatics or bigoted nativists, the issue of immigration may undo them permanently. 

So yes, many family members and also many friends feel differently about the world from me, probably even the majority. That does not mean that they are any less good, or loving, or supportive, and it doesn't mean I love them any less. It just means, from my perception, that their perceptions and priorities are wrong, which is clearly how they perceive me too. 

It's as important to not understate the severity of the disagreements as it is not to overstate them. When people see the world so differently, there is an overwhelming temptation, one that I think exists among most families and friends, to read implications into those disagreements about the caliber of each other's moral character. One can claim that these disagreements are not personal, but the truth is they're nothing if not personal, and based not on intellectual conclusions but the emotional experience of living our lives. There's such a thing as an impartial judgement, but that only comes in the form of dusty archives and the cold calculation of statistics. 

Leave the impartial judgements for scholars; though if you become a scholar, don't believe any teacher who tells you impartiality is impossible. In your personal life, what's important is your own experiences - not just how your experiences make you feel, but how your experiences make you think. None of us can perceive more than a twelfth-or-so of how the world works (I'm using 12 because that's a concept in Jewish mysticism), and by reflecting on your experiences, you can get to know your twelfth so well that you can be an authority on it for people who come from the world's other eleven tribes. 

Furthermore, the deepest insights you'll ever get into how life works will happen because of the ways you were proven that your perception was wrong, not right. Whether it's world events or your closest family members or people at the peripheries of your social life, every component of your world will surprise you all the time if you're looking for it - mean people do nice things, nice people do mean things, smart people act stupid and vice versa, boring people become interesting, people who look interesting turn out to be boring, responsible people let you down and irresponsible people rise to the occasion. Being proven wrong doesn't mean that you knew nothing, and it doesn't mean that your perspective was always wrong; but on the level of personal experience, there's no such thing as 'the whole truth.' 

The truth is asymptotic, you get closer and closer to it but never arrive, because there are always new perspectives to assimilate, and new bits of information you didn't previously know. So whether you think you know the people you love most or hate most, whether you think you understand your childhood and your family, or whether you think you understand your children and their peers, there will always be information you don't know that would completely change your perceptions of them. Sometimes you will discover it and sometimes you won't. Some of that information would make them more sympathetic, some will make it less; but people should live their lives as though they could find information about the people they hate most that would make them seem more lovable, and find information about the people they love that would make them seem more hateful. 

That doesn't mean to ever stop loving the people you love or stop hating the people you hate, but it does mean that to a certain extent, we all need to do what Ronald Reagan always said: "trust, but verify." As you get older, you should still assume that the people who love you will always come through for you, but still make preparations for what to do in case we don't. Even the most loving person in the world has extenuating circumstances that can make them unreliable as caregivers. Sometimes, every parent misunderstands what their children need, every good friend misunderstands their friends, every good leader misunderstands their society. There is certainly such a thing out there as 'bad parents,' 'bad friends,' and 'bad leaders,' and some of them are deliberately bad; but occasionally, even the best intentioned in all three categories are as damaging as those who mean to exploit you; they don't mean to, but they do, and nothing anyone in your life can do to you is as damaging as the one thing any caregiver in your life never means to do - die prematurely. Nothing is less reliable than life itself, and if the world itself gets more unreliable, there is always that horrible chance that some of us might not be around for much of your life and you'll be called on to rely on yourself hundreds of times more than any of us ever were. 

Obviously none of us knows what the future holds, but the main reason I want to write this letter is that, as many people are, I'm filled with foreboding for the world you're going to inherit. Everything dies that lives, but as you get older, the chances of mortality go up, and that's just as true for societies as for people. However much our country survived in the 20th century, the fact remained, we were still a young country with the resilience of youth. We're not young anymore, our institutions are in nowhere near so healthy shape as once they were, and however robustly we could have managed ourselves, the fact remains; we're older now, and less societal viruses cause more societal illness. We could have managed aging better, we could have managed aging worse, but decline and death comes even for those who stay in shape to the end of their days. 

From 1945-1990 there was a chance of nuclear attacks every single day; attacks that came within a hair of happening at least three times. Is there any problem in America as large as the main problem of the era we call the Cold War? Probably not, and yet through the combined effort of many different proposals and implementations and leaders of very different temperaments, we solved the problem for as long as there was a threat. And yet the smaller problems we have now we've dealt with so risibly, and they are avalanching so quickly into exponentially larger problems, that it is very difficult to believe that these problems will stay smaller than nuclear war, or that we can deal with them when we have to. 

Your Zaydie obviously comes from a very different generation than mine or yours, and he has always marveled at how for his entire lifetime, America just muddled along, solving nothing, pretending problems don't exist, and then finally acting at the moment the problem becomes an issue of life or death. By the time you're three or so, you'll come to realize that I have a lot of opinions about your Zaydie. Whatever my complete and total exasperation at him, he is a giant, whose virtues and flaws stand next to each other in as though there is no contradiction between them. So regardless that I get consistently furious at him, I hold him in awe and always have. 

But for the purposes of this letter, we'll just say that while your Zaydie was a much more diligent history student than I ever was, I've said to him many times that I think his own lifetime experience made him overly optimistic about the American future, because the history he knows so well demonstrates that there are always certain places in the world whom good fortune smiles upon for a time, only for that lucky era to inevitably run its course. 

One of the greatest things Zaydie ever said was 'There are no solutions, only problems.' I immediately joked that that could double as his philosophy on parenting, but in terms of the world itself, which controls us so much more than we control the world, there are no solutions except the brief temporary calmatives, and even if those temporary palliatives last a hundred years - they're still short term solutions. In life, if you ever have a choice between a long-term solution and a short-term solution, take the short-term solution. The short-term solution may work for longer than you think, and you'll have paid less for it. The longer term solution inevitably creates its own set of problems, and even if it doesn't, the problems will have years more to evolve, and the reparations the longer solutions make cause your life's structure to be far more inflexible when dealing with future problems. Sometimes the longer term solution works, and if the person telling you that you need the long-term solution is a real expert, believe them, but you'd better make sure that expert isn't a quack. 

What this all means on a level past the personal is that if the US solved our problems, it's not because we were smarter or better than other countries, we solved our problems because we were luckier than they. This country has been run by the same mixture of geniuses and morons as any other superpower ever has. We rise and fall not on our skill but on our luck. If there is a God, then we have only achieved this great life because God has willed us fortunate and other nations less fortunate who deserved it no less. But no country since Ancient Rome has been as lucky as the United States in the 20th century, and one day, God ordained that the luck of all-powerful Rome would run out just as the Kadosh Baruch Hu seems like He may ordain it so for our own country in our own lifetimes. 

This is another century, and of all the world's major powers, our government is the second-oldest, and if it is time for our decline it would be entirely in keeping with the cycles of history in which civilizations grow and decline just like people. By decline, I do not mean the decline of all life in the US permanently, but I do mean the decline of the America I've ever known, that your grandparents generation ever knew, and that their grandparents ever knew; the America of untapped and infinite possibility, the America that gave the sense that the best was ahead of us, that there was always something to hope for, something to strive for, and that we'll be rewarded for our work.  

For generations, this country has been obsessed with visions of what we call 'the American Dream'. The American Dream takes many many forms, but it ultimately means that people came to America to be in charge of their own destiny. America was a country made from Europe's lowest of the low - in Europe, our ancestors were serfs on the lands of nobles, living only to serve, but here, we could be masters, write our own life stories edited by none but ourselves. In the service of that that dream we conquered a continent, slaughtered thousands of its native peoples, we enslaved a race from an entirely different continent, and in factories we maimed millions of all races. Americans were both victims and perpetrators of every crime they came to America to escape; and yet even with all that, we built a country more functional for a time than any other place in the world. That is not a testament to how great America is, but to how horrible the world is. For every American who succeeds from their hard work, there is at least one more American who worked just as hard yet was never rewarded properly for it, and there are ten around the world who worked just as hard yet were rewarded not at all. 

So just because life in America was easier than elsewhere does not mean that life in America was not very, very hard. The American Dream is entirely worth fighting for, not because it's true, but because nobody yet has come up with a better dream, and in life, you go with whatever works best. There are many lies that the survival of the entire world depends on our believing.  

During the seventeenth century, when the Catholic Church abused their power particularly badly, lots of Germans stopped believing in Catholicism, and the result was the Thirty Years War, which killed roughly eight million people during a period when 8 million dead would the same as 80 million Europeans getting killed today. The world got better for those who survived; Germans developed the Protestant work ethic, which decreased famine vastly and created a world of stronger monarchs with the power to prevent endless civil war. But you can't tell the dead that their sacrifice made the world better for those who survived.   

During the late eighteenth century, lots of Frenchmen stopped believing in God and replaced God with reason. The end result was the French Revolution and French Civil War, which lead to the rise of Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars, which lead to roughly another eight million dead around Europe, which is like killing a mere 30 million today. Again, the world got better in the 19th century, a whole new middle class was birthed, advances in science and medicine lead to increased life expectancy and particularly for children. But again, try telling that to the dead. 

During the early twentieth century, lots of Europeans stopped believing in the necessity of the European aristocracy, the end result was two world wars and a dictatorship of Communism around the world for seventy years that still continues in much of East Asia. The estimated world death toll? At very least, 108 million, and some estimates put it at well over 200 million. Again, the world got better for the survivors, but in the face of that much death, is improvement really worth it?

And now, many progressives no longer believe that individuals are the captains of their destiny. What they believe matters is the community and that all people truly get equality of opportunity. Like all the forward thinkers before them, they very well may be right, but the cost of making their belief reality may well be unfathomable. 

Whatever additions and addendums you make for it in your personal beliefs, it is vitally important that you to maintain that particularly American belief that individual freedom is the most important thing in life, even if it's not true. Even if the evidence contradicts the belief, we have to persist in believing that the world will reward particularly us for our hard work. It's what gets us up in the morning to do anything at all. If we believe in sacrificing too much to change the world, a better world will be created in our wake for those who come after us, but even our children may die in the effort to create it. What's the point in sacrificing everything for anonymous future people who have nothing even to do with people we love?

So yes, I'm writing this to you because I'm a little bit terrified. Sh'mot says that the sins of the father are to be visited on the sons until the third and fourth generation. That's tremendously unfair, and yet any history book shows that that seems an accurate span of time for the ramifications of sins to accrue their full penalty, and if anything is a little merciful compared to the reality. 

That famous 'sins of the father' quote does not just mean that life punishes children for the sins of their parents, though that is sadly and surely true. It also means that until those sins are punished, the danger that children will re-commit the sins of their parents is very, very real, and perhaps recommitted on a larger scale. 

Before the great fall of every civilization, its citizens commit terrible sins to sustain its rise and maintenance.  Eventually the world calls on every civilization to pay for its sins at the expense of younger generations who are still untainted by sin, but after a certain age, all children are called on to make the same moral choices as their parents, and most people make most of the same choices their parents did. 


 Have we committed truly worse sins as a society than most any before us? Well... yes we have... but no we haven't.... 

There are no words for the horrors of American slavery. It was every bit as horrible as any leftist will ever insist to you. And while we've reckoned with some of it, we have not reckoned with the sheer enormity of the crime even now: 10 to 12 million Africans abducted to America, the vast majority in the slave trade's last sixty years. They were kept in ships like such animals that 10 to 20 percent of the kidnapped died on the journey over from malnutrition. Think of how many billions of humiliations were involved in American slavery: beatings, rapes, work-related deaths, families stolen from one another... For three hundred years, were there even ten-thousand southern American whites who thought this system was barbaric? 

And yet history shows that the Atlantic Slave Trade, perpetuated for 300 years with the vast majority happening after 1800, was dwarfed by both the 1300 year long Arab Slave Trade, which itself was dwarfed by the slave trade of the Roman Empire. The disgusting logic of history means that the scale of American slavery is still progress; but try telling that to millions of hard working African-Americans who 150 years later are still left with the scraps of this country; held back from the middle class security not by their own laziness, but from the sheer difficulty it takes to climb out from poverty.

And our country still hasn't come to terms with Manifest Destiny: the belief that the United States of America has both the predestination and the moral right to conquer the whole North American continent. Obviously, it was not our continent to take. We did it through deception, intimidation, forced expulsion, and murder to the point of ethnic cleansing. We declared wars we would obviously win, only to take great pleasure in killing and humiliating Native Americans far in excess of what gracious victors do when they want to live peaceably with those they defeat. In spite of what many people say today, it would be stretching the truth to say that Americans committed a genocide against Native Americans, and we in the United Sates are often blamed for atrocities perpetrated by the Spanish long before we arrived. But given how we treated native Americans, we might as well have committed genocide against them. On the other hand, we owe Manifest Destiny literally everything. It built the entire country from which we could distribute every freedom and benefit we later achieved. 

And surely our treatment of other species is as great a sin as any imperial plunder, and maybe all the plunders put together. Just in the US, we kill 9 billion chickens every year (you don't want to know the world figure, trust me...); and until we kill them, we keep these farm animals in quarters no more humane than Auschwitz. We drug them, electrocute them, gas them, shoot them, behead them, all for our dinners, and we pretend we're any less beastly than were 300,000 years ago. But let's face it, nobody knows how to limit the world population yet, and we need reliable sources of protein to make sure humans don't die of hunger. 

And yet even all these atrocities are still not deliberate genocides of annihilation.

The chance for the United States's greatest sins are surely yet to come. There are many paths to mass atrocities, and we'll talk about more of them later.... But if/when climate change depletes resources and prevents crop growth, that will send many societies into mass exile, and the remaining, relatively prosperous, societies will decide who gets the resources and who doesn't. Again, we'll speak more about how this would happen later... But if or when this happens, and if we choose to keep the remaining resources solely for ourselves, then in the defense of our resources we may well commit sins as great as any Nazi. 

In large numbers, people in my time are starting to equivocate about the Holocaust. Surely, they say, there are other tragedies as large as the Shoah, surely other people suffered as much or more than Jews. In spite of all the world's atrocities, it is your responsibility to both the truth and to the Jewish people to never believe them. Jews can survive anything else, but we cannot survive the denial of the most important truth of living as a Jew, which is that our ill-treatment at the hands of the world is without parallel in all history. 

The differences between the Shoah and other genocides are so numerous, and the most important difference is its almost complete success. The number killed was "only" 1/3rd of Jews worldwide, but on the continent of Europe, our most common homeland for a thousand years: 2/3rds of all Jews were killed, and if you don't count Russia, 6/7ths of Jews were killed. And in the years after the Holocaust, there is overwhelming evidence that Stalin planned to finish what Hitler started, only prevented from carrying it out by his death. All this didn't happen over a period of hundreds of years, or even over a period of a generation. The vast majority of our slaughter happened over a period of two years. Furthermore, it was not merely the annihilation of Jews in a particular place to get the remainder to flee across a border. It was the sole campaign in world history in which the goal was the worldwide annihilation of all members of a particular race. A Jew could flee from Germany to Austria and then to Czechoslovakia then Poland then Holland then Belgium then France then Yugoslavia then Greece, and would still have ended in the crematorium.  

And that is just the latest in millennia of genocides perpetrated upon us. We were regularly exterminated en masse by European whites fifteen hundred years before most civilizations of color knew what a white person was. The massacres of us only stopped three quarters of a century ago, and somehow we're supposed to believe that we are now the same as white people. It's your responsibility to still love non-Jews who believe pernicious lies like this until the very moment when some of them stop loving you, but it's also your responsibility to never trust them and make provisions before they stab you in the back.     

Nevertheless, the path toward something as awful as the Holocaust is so easy to spot, and the path toward something still worse than the Shoah is not particularly disguised either. I doubt Jews would be anything like the first to fall to these misfortunes, but in the counterreactions to whatever comes, who knows what acts of  genocide against Jews the world is capable?

Should refugee genocides be the world's future, then Jews would probably be white no longer, but we would not fall to genocide, not yet at least... we would be second-class citizens in exactly the ways African-, Hispanic-, and Muslim-Americans are today - incarcerated at disproportionate levels, accused of stealing other people's jobs, and monitored by government intelligence. And like European Catholics under Hitler, we would be automatically suspect precisely because mercy lies at the core of our beliefs. Meanwhile, many of those other refugees who would like to be immigrants here may well be wiped out in a few decades, and some Americans of their extractions might be killed along with them... 

The responsibility of Jews is simple. We know what it means to lose everything, and whether the people who must be saved are Jews or antisemites, he who saves a single life saves the world entire. No one in your Zaydie's family, Eli, would be here if Polish Catholics had not risked their lives to save us. In whatever comes, your most important responsibility is to save lives, be they the lives of people you love or people you don't' know, whatever lives you save will save the world. And even if the great threat for the modern Jew is from the 21st century's Communists (more on them later), your great-grandparents did not endure so much just for you to profit by collaborating with the 21st century's Nazis. 

So the main reason I'm writing this letter is to say that even if the problems of your society are unmanageable, even if life becomes truly as awful again for people as once it was in the time of my grandparents, someone needs to assure you and your families that we've been here before many times, or our families of the generation after you, or the generation after them, or whenever the worst of the world happens, I want you all who come after me to know: people alive in my time still have vivid memories of those who survived the last great crisis, by all accounts it was every bit brutal as its legends, but some people did survive it. It may not be worth the price, but thanks to what they underwent - their hardships, their horrors, their sacrifices, people after them thrived. The sun also rises as surely as it sets. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Dear Eli - Part 2 - Third Draft

 


Before I keep going with this Eli, I think you need to understand certain things about any rebuttal through the years which other people you know would have to anything I mention here; particularly people we both know very well. 

Over the course of your life, lots of people will preach to you about the good old days or the good old land, please do everything you can to not believe them. American conservatives will paint for you a golden age of America between 1945-67 when prices were affordable, streets were safe, and Americans could become anything they wanted. This is an incomplete picture conjured in bad faith: every single American of your grandparents' generation lived until they were forty amid the dread of a nuclear war that could wipe them out in an instant. Few Americans of color were free to become what they wanted, and few American women could become what they wanted without work so colossal that it was almost not worthwhile to try. The prosperity was made possible by taxes being the highest they've ever been in American history and being used to send nearly 8 million World War II veterans to college for free. The US economy was so secure because the US was the only world power whose entire infrastructure had not been bombed out. Relative to the rest of the world, the US had so much money that the entire world seemed almost literally designed to serve the USA, and yet the mental state of Americans was such that while they worked hard, they could not function amid the stress without consuming colossal numbers of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages which killed millions of them decades before old age. Black people couldn't even get served at many restaurants and stores until 1954. Worst of all, within their consumption and production lay the seeds for the global warming pollution which could kill millions or many more within your lifetime. There are many glories of that era, but there is no such thing as 'good old days.' Everything in life is purchased at a steep price. 

And in the same way that there is no 'golden age,' there is no far off 'golden land' where everything is as we dream life could be. Lots of American progressives will conjure for you a golden land in Northern Europe, where government distributes such amenities to their citizens that there is barely such a thing as poverty. In this vision, every worker is productive because a good worker is the same as a happy worker, and government laws allow them fair amounts of pay, proper amounts of time off for raising children and vacation, strong labor laws, good universal medical care, guaranteed education loans for university, public transit and infrastructure, and full government subsidies for humanities, science, and journalism. This too is a vision painted in bad faith. The prosperity of Northern Europe is only made possible because the United States funds its defense, and when the United States stops (and it probably will very soon), much of their prosperity will disappear as they deal with the reality of relying on their own military to deal with a Russian threat that would love nothing more than for their prosperity to end. Furthermore, their prosperity is purchased at the expense of Southern Europe, which is entirely dependent on Northern Europe's purchasing power for their economies. In Southern Europe, everybody used to work on farms, but the farms have foreclosed. The only reliable jobs in Southern Europe is manufacturing products for Northern Europe. If you can't get a factory job, you either have to move elsewhere or accept that you'll spend your life without a job. Unemployment in Southern Europe is sometimes nearly 30%, and in the European South, violent protests are just a fact of life. Northern Europe is tremendously expensive,  and per-person debt, national and personal, often exceeds our own. These Northern European countries are almost entirely white, with some of the strictest immigration laws on earth, and when governments offer asylum to more than a few people from more troubled parts of the world, many of these socialists turn into something not unlike national socialists willing to harass the new immigrants and even be violent towards them, and then have the bad faith to claim through selective reporting that the majority of violence is done by immigrants rather than to immigrants - just as their ancestors once claimed about urban Jews... Again, there are many wonderful things about Northern Europe, but the utopian vision of Northern Europe is a whitelie no less dishonest. 

So yes, many family members and also many friends feel differently about the world from me, probably even the majority. That does not mean that they are any less good, or loving, or supportive, and it doesn't mean I love them any less. It just means, from my perception, that their perceptions and priorities are wrong, which is clearly how they perceive me too. 

It's as important not to understate the severity of the disagreements as it is to not overstate them. When people see the world so differently, there is an overwhelming temptation, one that I think exists among most families and friends, to read implications into those disagreements about the caliber of each other's moral character. One can claim that these disagreements are not personal, but the truth is they're nothing if not personal, and based not on intellectual conclusions but the emotional experience of living our lives. There's such a thing as an impartial judgement, but that only comes in the form of dusty archives and the cold calculation of statistics. 

Leave the impartial judgements for scholars; though if you become a scholar, don't believe any teacher who tells you impartiality is impossible. In your personal life, what's important is your own experiences - not just how your experiences make you feel, but how your experiences make you think. None of us can perceive more than a twelfth-or-so of how the world works (I'm using 12 because that's a concept in Jewish mysticism), and by reflecting on your experiences, you can get to know your twelfth so well that you can be an authority on it for people who come from the world's other eleven tribes. 

Furthermore, the deepest insights you'll ever get into how life works will happen because the ways you were proven that your view of things was wrong, not right. Whether it's world events or your closest family members or people at the peripheries of your social life, every component of your world will surprise you all the time if you're looking for it - mean people do nice things, nice people do mean things, boring people become interesting, people who look interesting turn out to be boring. Being proven wrong doesn't mean that you knew nothing, and it doesn't mean that your perspective was always wrong; but on the level of personal experience, there's no such thing as 'the whole truth.' The truth is asymptotic, you get closer and closer to it but you never arrive because there are always new perspectives to assimilate and new bits of information you didn't previously know. So whether you think you know the people you love most or hate most, whether you think you understand your childhood and your family, whether you think you understand your children and their peers, there will always be information you don't know that would completely change your perceptions of them. Sometimes you will discover it and sometimes you won't. Some of that information would make them more sympathetic, some will make it less; but people should live their lives as though they could find information about the people they hate most that would make them seem more lovable, and find information about the people they love that would make them seem more hateful. 

That doesn't mean to ever stop loving the people you love or stop hating the people you hate, but it does mean that to a certain extent, we all need to do what Ronald Reagan always said: "trust, but verify." As you get older, you should still assume that the people you love will always come through for you, but still make preparations for what to do in case we don't. Even the most loving person in the world has extenuating circumstances that can make them unreliable as caregivers. Sometimes, every parent misunderstands what their children need, every good friend misunderstands their friends, every good leader misunderstands their society. There is certainly such a thing out there as 'bad parents,' 'bad friends,' and 'bad leaders,' and some of them are deliberately bad; but occasionally, even the best intentioned in all three categories can unwittingly be as damaging as those who mean to exploit you, and nothing anyone in your life can do to you is as damaging as the one thing any caregiver in your life never means to do - die prematurely. Nothing is less reliable than life itself, and if the world itself gets more unreliable, there is always that horrible chance that some of us might not be around for much of your life and you'll be called on to rely on yourself hundreds of times more than any of us ever were. 

Obviously none of us knows what the future holds, but the main reason I want to write this letter is that, as many people are, I'm filled with forebodding for the world you're going to inherit. Everything dies that lives, but as you get older, the chances of mortality go up, and that's just as true for societies as for people. However much our country survived in the 20th century, the fact remained, we were still a young country, and able to be resilient against problems. We're not young anymore, our institutions are in nowhere near so healthy shape as once they were, and however robustly we could have managed our societies, the fact remains; we're older now, and less societal microbes cause more societal illness. We could have managed aging better, we could have managed aging worse, but decline and death comes even for those who stay in shape to the end of their days. 

Is there any problem in America as large as the chance of nuclear attacks every day for forty-five years that came within a hair of happening at least three times? Probably not, and yet through the combined effort of many different proposals and implementations and human beings of very different temperaments, we fundamentally solved the problem. And yet the problems we have now, we've dealt with so risibly, and they are avalanching so quickly into exponentially larger problems, that it is very difficult to believe that these problems will either stay smaller than nuclear war, or that we will be able to deal with them when we have to. 

Your Zaydie obviously comes from a very different generation than mine or yours, and he has always marveled at how for his entire lifetime, America just muddled along, solving nothing, pretending problems don't exist, and then finally acting at the moment the problem becomes an issue of life or death. Your Zaydie was a much more diligent history student than I ever was, but I've said to him many times that I think his own lifetime experience made him a little bit overly optimistic in this regard, because history shows that there are always certain places in the world whom good fortune smiles upon for a time, only for that time to inevitably run its course. 

One of the greatest things Zaydie ever said was 'There are no solutions, only problems.' I immediately joked that that could double as his philosophy on parenting, but in terms of the world itself, which controls us so much more than we control the world, there are no solutions except the brief temporary calmatives. The US did not solve its problems because we were smarter or better than other nations, we solved our problems because we were luckier than they. 

But now is another century, and of all the world's major countries, our government is the second-oldest, and if it is time for our decline it would be entirely in keeping with the cycles of history in which civilizations grow and decline just like people. By decline, I do not mean the decline of all life in the US permanently, I do not the premature decline of people your age before you even rise, but I do mean the decline of the America I've ever known, that your grandparents generation ever knew, that their grandparents ever knew, and that even their grandparents ever knew. And such events never happen without a colossal expenditure of lives. 

So yes, I'm writing this to you because I'm a little bit terrified. Sh'mot says that the sins of the father are to be visited on the sons until the third and fourth generation. That's tremendously unfair, and yet any history book shows that that seems an accurate span of time for the ramifications of sins to accrue their full penalty, and if anything is a little merciful compared to the reality. 

Have we committed truly worse sins as a society than most any before us? Well... yes... but no.... Surely our treatment of other species is as great a sin as any imperial plunder, maybe all the plunders put together, but it is still not a deliberate genocide of annihilation. And yet surely those are coming when climate change depletes resources and prevents crop growth, sends some societies into mass exile and others into complete dependence on technology for everything from surveillance to deciding who gets resources and who doesn't. We'll talk more about how this would happen later...

But people in my time are starting in large numbers to equivocate about the Holocaust. Surely, they say, there are other tragedies as large as the Shoah, surely other people suffered as much or more than Jews. It is your responsibility to both the truth and the Jewish people to never believe them. Judaism can survive anything else, but it cannot survive the coverup of the most important truth of Judaism, which is that our treatment at the hands of the world is without parallel in all history. The differences between the Shoah and other genocides are so numerous, and the most important difference is its almost complete success. It was only 1/3rd of Jews worldwide, but on the continent of Europe, our homeland of a thousand years: in any part of Europe that was not Russia, 6/7ths of Jews were killed; counting Russia, 2/3rds of all Jews. And in the years after the Holocaust, there is overwhelming evidence that Stalin planned to finish what Hitler started and was only prevented from carrying it out by his death. All this didn't happen over a period of hundreds of years, or even over a period of a generation. The vast majority of our slaughter happened over a period of two years. Furthermore, it was the sole campaign in world history in which the plan was the annihilation of all members of a particular race all over the world. It was not merely the annihilation of Jews in a particular place to get the remainder to flee, it was a concentrated plan to rid the world of as many Jews as possible with the hope that Jews would be eradicated from the whole Earth. A Jew could flee from Germany to Austria and then to Czechoslovakia then Poland then Holland then Belgium then France then Yugoslavia then Greece, and would still have ended in the gas chambers.  

And that is just the latest in millennia of genocides perpetrated upon us. We were being massacred by European whites fifteen hundred years before most civilizations of color knew what a white person was. The massacres of us only stopped three quarters of a century ago, and somehow we're supposed to believe that we are now the same as white people. It's your responsibility to still love people who believe pernicious lies like this until the very moment when some of them stop loving you, but it's also your responsibility to never trust them and make provisions before they stab you in the back.     

Nevertheless, the path toward something as awful as the Holocaust is so easy to spot, and the path toward something still worse than the Shoah is not particularly disguised either. I doubt Jews would be anything like the first to fall to these misfortunes, but in the counterreactions to whatever comes, who knows what genocidal acts the world is capable?

In the fallout, Jews would probably be white no longer, but they would not fall to genocide, not yet at least... we would be second-class citizens in exactly the ways African-, Hispanic-, and Muslim-Americans are today - incarcerated at disproportionate levels, accused of stealing other people's jobs, and monitored by government intelligence. And like European Catholics under Hitler, we would be automatically suspect precisely because mercy is at the core of our beliefs. Meanwhile, many of those other extractions who would like to be immigrants here may well be dead in a few decades, and some Americans of their extractions just might die along with them... 

The responsibility of Jews is simple. We know what it means to lose everything, and whether the people who must be saved are Jews or antisemites, he who saves a single life saves the world entire. None of us, Eli, would be here if Polish Catholics had not risked their lives to save us. In whatever comes, your most important responsibility is to save lives, be they the lives of people you love or people you don't' know, whatever lives you save will save the world. And even if the great threat for the modern Jew is from the 21st century's Communists (more on them later), your great-grandparents did not endure so much just for you to profit by collaborating with the 21st century's Nazis. 

So the main reason I'm writing this letter is to say that even if the problems of your society are unmanageable, even if life becomes truly as awful again for people as once it was in the time of my grandparents, someone needs to assure you and your families that we've been here before many times, or our families of the generation after you, or the generation after them, or whenever something I fear will happen happens, I want you all who come after me to know: people alive in my time still have vivid memories of those who survived the last great crisis, by all accounts it was every bit brutal as its legends, but some people did survive it, and thanks to what they underwent - their hardships, their horrors, their sacrifices, people after them thrived. The sun also rises as surely as it sets. 

Reality is a very odd thing. On the one hand, we have no idea what the ramifications are of any action. There's never such a 1-to-1 correlation between anything you did and anything that happens later in life. And yet, when people look back on their lives, and then back on their parents and grandparents, you can how your parents and grandparents got through their life without punishment for certain mistakes that may have resulted in decreasing the quality of your life rather than theirs. I've always felt that I was made to suffer for the fact that my family lived away from cities, where the only they knew were other Jewish businessmen and doctors and lawyers. Where your father and I grew up, anyone regarded an eccentric was a social outcast, and anyone who couldn't function properly in school was told in so many ways that they had no future. My parents had no idea how to create a prosperous environment for a kid like me, and most of the people they sought help from were negative help rather than positive. The truth is that there are plenty of people like me out there. Most of them have parents more like them. If they'd gotten me off such a heavily Jewish upbringing while my age was still in the single digits, sent me to magnet schools, found me venues  for social activities outside of Pikesville to construct a social life with other weird kids, let me live a life outside the confines of a Jewish Day School, my life would have been very different, and mostly to the better. I might have done a lot of drugs, I might have dropped out of school, I might have read less and wrote less, but by now, I'd probably find it relatively easy to make a living, and my mind wouldn't have left me to rot. 

This is just one example 

 You live a nation mostly populated by the descendants of refugees, and fate blessed us their descendants with the good fortune our ancestors never had, while the descendants of our ancestors' persecutors were torn apart by world wars.  is coming a time when we will be the persecutors, and our descendants will be made to pay for our sins.
There are doomsayers in every generation who fear unnecessarily for the next generation because they think the world is going to the dogs

In people who disagree with us so fundamentally, we are all reminded of the reasons we think our lives are not better than they are. How much more true is that when these disagreements come from within our own families? I believe this is even more true in most other families than ours, and are true to the point that branches of families stop speaking to one another for entire generations rather than have yet another fight.  

So no matter what conclusions you draw in life, nothing is more important than to understand the conclusions of the people who disagree with you most strenuously. There are many people in your family who believe that their quality of life was severely depleted by losing the world of security that millions of Americans had before the late 1960s. They believe that the generation of your parents' grandparents, tempered by World War II and The Great Depression, was coerced by tragedy into a more realistic perception of the world's problems, and therefore built a much more secure, prosperous world through colossally hard work and shared sacrifice. They also believe that around 1968, this world vanished; lost unnecessarily because a new generation of liberals grew up within a standard of living so much higher than any human beings had in any time or place in world history, and their quality of life was so high that it conditioned the 'Baby Boomer' generation to believe that life entitled them things they never worked for.  

People like me drew a very different conclusion: that American prosperity was brought about by a very particular set of circumstances which deposited the majority of the world's good fortune into America and propelled a hundred million Americans into the middle class who were formerly poor. This prosperity would not even have been shared among any but the wealthy without the highest taxes this country has ever experienced so that the government could distribute some prosperity to the hundreds of millions who deserved it. And however equally the prosperity was distributed, this idyllic world was always bound to end at some point for a hundred different reasons, the most important of which was this; while many people of my grandparents' generation worked extraordinarily hard, there are many people around the world who worked every bit as hard but who did not achieve anything like their prosperity, and eventually they would come upon some solution that successfully transfers the money of the American middle class into someone else's pockets. 

This letter will grow into still thousands more words if I describe all the debates around social programs of that time, or the debates around big business in our time, but what's undeniable is that around 1968, life in America underwent an enormous and shocking change - nearly as shocking as the change of American life around 2016-2020. We'll get to why all that is later, but like many of life's more personal shocks, people can only speculate about why life changed so much and so quickly, and are drawn to replaying the shock in their minds the way bugs are to light. 

And since many people I know insist on talking about those changes with me all the time, that's extraordinarily aggravating for me, as I'm sure my sometimes incensed reactions are for them. I have no doubt that there is an overwhelming temptation to internalize the disagreements as the way we think of each other more generally, but no matter how great or small the fracases, the love does not go away; and in the long run, it bonds us to one another further. These disagreements are part of our chapter in the family story, and the differences in how we interpret the world is part of the legacy we pass on to you and how you pass on legacy to the generation after you. 

My perception is obviously different from theirs. The perspective held by most of our family is born of a forced relocation to suburbs from a mid-20th century city mobbed by crime. I'm sure I don't know the whole story, but what I know of my family's experience in the Baltimore of the 1950s and 60s is terrifying, and not my right to tell. One can easily imagine internalizing a lifelong perspective from their experience that believes that Jews should remain in the suburbs where they remain safe from crime, and basically associate with no one but other Jews.  

My perception is born from being a mentally ill person in the America of around the year 2000 in an all-Jewish suburb. No authority figure in my life seemed able to understand the simple and slight alterations to their values that could have improved the agonized mental state of my formative years; and if they did understand, they didn't seem willing to change; which in turn, made me crazier; I felt like an animal tortured for reasons beyond his understanding, which, like a tortured animal, made me lash out in a hundred ways that haunt me to this day; which in turn, retrenched them in their beliefs even further because they thought they had hard evidence that you would have to be crazy to dispute their decisions. 

Both sides of this divide look across an unbridgeable chasm of perspective, and see in one another the entitlement and poor character of millions that seemed to cause so many of our lives' problems. That can't be helped, but the truth is, like hundreds of millions of Americans, both perspectives have legitimate reasons for believing what we believe, and like tens of millions of Americans, both sides of this family could probably approach these disagreements in better faith than we ever do. That does not mean that both sides are equally right or have approached issues in equally bad faith, but it does mean that bitter disagreements are absolutely inevitable and simply part of living a life. 

Eventually, through whatever struggle and suffering you undergo, you begin to wonder how it happened. Whatever your misfortunes, probability tells us that 50% of the misfortunes that happen in your life are misfortunes that would have happened no matter what you do. 25% of your misfortunes will be perpetrated on you by others, and 25% of the misfortunes, unfortunately, will be your fault. Even for the 25% that will be your fault, just remember, the overwhelming majority of people will do no better than you, and encounter just as many moments when they are failed by both their character and their intelligence; and the smarter and better the people they are, the more chance they'll encounter failure because more skills they have, the more will be demanded of them. So whenever you fuck up, and you will, accept it much better than I have.    

But the nature of perspective is that as you grow older, you begin to see how you fit in the larger story of your world. You begin to understand how the world preselected certain conditions of your life that could not be helped from the moment you were born -  the temperament and intelligence level which interprets how you experience the world, the family responsible for you and for whom you become responsible, your social class and income bracket, your religion and race and ethnicity. All those characteristics predetermine an enormous part of your worldview from the moment you are born, and you have to interpret for yourself how all those characteristics which you had no choice in affected you. Some people choose to celebrate their background, some people choose to rebel against it, some people are simply trapped within it no matter what they do, and some people choose to rebel against it. So even the most elementary choices of your life are somewhat limited, and sometimes that choice is made for you. None of that absolves you of responsibility for what you can change, but it also means that you shouldn't feel shame over whatever doesn't work out. 

You can only think your own thoughts, nobody else's. If someone tells you you're no good, don't believe them. If someone tells you you're the most talented person in the world, don't believe them. You decide for yourself how good you are at anything, no one else. Short of doing something literally stupid and attempting things that are literally impossible with no chance of success, you determine how good you are at anything by the dedication with which you pursue your skill at it. 

Whether in this letter or elsewhere, you will come to learn large parts of my story, but for the purposes of right now, we'll say that I was born with certain skill sets that were over and above everyone I knew. I was also born to other skill sets that were so far below others that the humiliation caused me unbearably gigantic depression, palpably vivid delusion, and unfathomable levels of rage. It is a miracle that I am alive, and it may be a miracle that others are alive too. Any hope I had as a young man to hone the skill sets with which I was born was dashed by the extent of my mental duress. But at the very lowest ebb of my teen years when nothing at all seemed possible, I discovered the full capacity of my talent for writing, and I'm positive this ability saved my life dozens of times. I cannot guarantee that it will save my life dozens of times yet, but so far, it is my most reliable palliative to a life beset by the persecution of my own head. 

Another enormous part of what regrounded me to reality was the study of history, of politics, of the world. For better or worse, I have a gigantic and obsessive capacity for memorizing facts. Over the years, many people have suggested I am on the autistic spectrum, but no diagnosis was ever given and given my obvious psychotic symptoms, I'm positive that I have far more properties which conjunct to that spectrum. 

Whatever the impossibility of perceiving the truth within our own heads, facts matter, and there is such a thing as the objective truth. There are times in every head that all is chaos, but facts are true, they are clean,  they're order in a world where nothing else makes sense. It's true that we have no way of verifying the actual truth of any fact for ourselves, but we have the next best thing: literally millions of people devote the entire meaning of their lives to compiling statistics in good faith, because if they didn't try with utmost effort, their lives would have no meaning at all. 

(elaborate more here)

There are two particularly unfortunate phrases of our time. One is that people 'tell their truth,' which often means the denunciation of abuse perpetrated on them or refers to their coming out with their true sexuality. Another of the most unfortunate phrases of our time is 'alternative facts,' which is a conservative phrase meaning that every fact reported by the media has a liberal bias, and therefore conservatives have an obligation to tell how they believe it really happened - and if how it happened is not how the conservative media reported it, that is no worse than any biased fact reported by the 'liberal media.' 

People do not 'tell their truth', they tell one of three things: they tell 'what is true about them' or they tell 'the truth that happens to them' or tell 'the truth about what they did.' And part of how we know this phrase is sinister is that people never 'tell their truth' about what they did themselves, because 'their truth' which they tell always flatters them and blasts others. And in the same way, there are only 'the facts,' and facts can have no bias, people can only have bias against facts.  '

'Telling my truth' means that each person defines what truth is, nobody can tell them what they believe is false, and so true is their perception of the truth that the law should be at their disposal to enforce their personal conception of the truth. That is a recklessly extreme manipulation of the truth by fanatics who meant to give people an outlet who correctly felt their concerns being marginalized, but the problem with extreme measures is that they're inevitably used for ever more nefarious purposes. There is a lot more to say about this issue, but I don't feel quite know how tackle it yet. Hopefully it will come to me in the next few drafts. 

In the meantime, I could be wrong, but I do believe that in what we now call 'Blue America' - meaning coastal and liberal America, the time is coming when the law itself can be contorted into penalizing people for things which are not objectively true - but can be considered as 'truthy' because the person was made to feel as though violence was being done to them. The misfortune that happened to them, the circumstances of their identity, that is 'the truth', not 'their truth.' The truth belongs to the world just as we belong to the world.  

(elaborate more here about both alternative facts and telling their truth)

 Politics is the practical side of thought, and understanding politics is as hard as trying to understand the ways of god. Like the divine, most of what we think we understand about politics is false, but we think about politics because we need to understand why we live in the circumstances we live, and the more we misunderstand our circumstances, the worse our lives get. 

The closest we get to understanding how lives happen as they do is by seeing politics in action on the largest scale: elections, corporate mergers, terrorist attacks, wars, bankruptcies, blackouts, technological breakthroughs, soldier deployments, shootings, peace summits, government shutdowns, space launches, even natural disasters... not everything is political, but every one of those is a political act that affects the lives of every person you'll ever meet in a thousand different ways, 999 of which they'll never know about. These are all events that happen not in history books, but in real time. We are their participants. Trillions of things happened before them to make everything happen that we experience, and everything we experience will enable new trillions of things to happen. When we're sitting in our houses going about our lives, it's impossible to understand that unless we're mid-pandemic.  But whenever we read the news, we watch the world happen in real time, and when flux is at its most dynamic, the change of the world is something awesome and terrible, and each of us can only interpret what we see for ourselves with only our experience to guide us. The history of the world is a book, and this is our chapter of the book; we are simultaneously its characters, its audience, and its author. 

There are moments in life when you'll find the experience of the world terrifying - not just personal moments, but world events that could have a colossal personal effect on those you love; and I fear you'll live through many more moments of that ilk than we have. Some people find this experience so terrifying that they simply give up and submit to what they think is their inevitable demise. But if you want to minimize that terror, you have four options: 

1. Just live your life as though the world outside your life doesn't matter, because there's a chance that ultimately, it doesn't. And so you do everything you can to ignore the world, politics, and historical events. You ignore it even if you have to figure out why your friends are so angry all the time over things that don't seem to affect them, or why there are places you'll no longer be able to work at or hang out at, or why you just lost all your income, or why friends are suddenly disappearing for no reason, or how to survive a war or famine.

2. Come to the decision that one predetermined set of ideas is right, and another set of ideas is wrong. Convince yourself that people who follow your set of ideas hold at least two thirds of the world's virtue, and people who follow a different set hold at least two-thirds of the world's evil. Read websites every day that confirm your point of view. Become angry when a website tells you to be angry, and be happy when the internet tells you to be happy. Become convinced that any source of information which does not editorialize on behalf of your movement is a biased source that withholds the real truth. Base all your friendships on shared values, live in the same neighborhood as them, find a job that brings us all closer to making real the way you want the world to be, adapt certain words into your daily vocabulary that signal to like-minded people that you're one of them, live in a very specific kind of house, choose a form of transit that advertises to the world the type of person you are, dress a certain way, eat specific foods, and teach these values to the next generation of your family, and if your family departs from your values enough, consider cutting them off. 

3. Start believing that most people are evil, and become obsessed with proving that you particularly are an oasis of virtue in a sea of sin. Become sufficiently bitter that you assume lying is the general state of the world, the most powerful liars among which conspire to run the world in ways we know nothing about and pull the wool over our eyes with misinformation so that they can accumulate still more power, unimpeded by any objections in the wider population. Once you realize that 99% of people you meet dismiss your view of the world without a fair hearing, become convinced that no one understands the world but a small clique of other minds like yours who realize as you do that the world is mostly liars who mean ill. Find obscure points of connection between many organizations and powerful entities that seem to have nothing in common to anyone who isn't deliberately looking for points of connection. Come to believe that in order to find the truth, you need to interpret every statement of certain powerful people that seem especially nefarious to you.  Make revealing this truth a goal of your life, because it will demonstrate definitive proof to anyone who has made you feel inferior that you are in fact superior to them in the way that counts most because you alone saw the way the world is when they only saw lies and called them true. 

4. Really try to understand the world. Not just the world you're familiar with, but the parts of the world about which you don't know anything, and read about those unfamiliar places and subjects so that you might become more than your life experience. Read about the world, and read about it from differing point of view: history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and literary fiction. Read the introductory books that give you the overview, which a number of family members can certainly provide you, and then read about specific problems that interest you. Read two books about the same subject by ideologically-driven authors whose conclusions are completely the opposite from one another - they're often the easiest to read... and then read other books about that subject whose interpretations are more complicated. Read books from different generations so that you can trace the development of how people perceived the subject. The more you know about a particular subject, the more perceptively you can decide what point of view is correct, and you can come to complicated conclusions that are entirely your own - not mine, not your parents or the rest of the family, and not your friends, and not random internet posters; just yours, and are always evolving. 

We're all probably supposed to take path #4, but the truth is, even the best intentioned and smartest of us usually don't. It's very, very hard to do, and all of us sometimes take each of the four paths and it's nothing worth feeling too guilty about. At the end of a #4 level search, there's no guarantee that your conclusions will be any more correct than they'd be if you'd only thought about these questions for five minutes. You will probably live the happiest life if you take options 1 or 2 one-hundred percent of the time. 

Option #1 is the life of a person who grows up with enormous privilege - but if even if you grow up in a life of privilege, and your youth will take for granted a level of privilege 99% of other Americans don't have, that way of living life will not prepare you for when life gets hard, and everybody's life eventually gets  hard. 

Option #2 is what strict adherence to a religion is, and whether that religion is a divine religion like Judaism,  or a material religion like free enterprise or social justice, you will be much happier for having something so solid to believe in; but in your being happier, you might make a lot of of lives much worse for the people who do not believe as you believe. Without even realizing it, you will have an outlet for rage that enables you to be nicer in your personal life. Contrary to what people believe, it's easier to be nice when you believe that most of the badness in the world is in other people and most of the goodness is in you. Every religion needs its enemies, and even in Judaism, there will always be people whom you are pressured to hate for reasons you don't understand, and you will have to just accept on faith that as a believer, you should do what you can to make your enemies' lives worse. Furthermore, there are many practitioners in any religion who don't actually believe in it but feel forced to pretend they do, and they are some of the saddest people in the world because they have no one in their lives to talk to who would be sympathetic to their problems. And worst of all, if people who truly loathe your religion end up running your country, your life could be in serious danger. 

Option #4 is obviously the life of a person devoted to studying the world, but option #3 is what happens when people turn into conspiracy theorists, and the more people choose option #2, the more people there are within them who feel like misfits, and their loneliness makes them believe that the world is an evil place.  What makes option #3 so nefarious is that sometimes, option #3 seems a lot like option #4. There are fields of study which are prestigious in one generation, taboo in the next, and prestigious again a century later. And one in a thousand times, people who devote their lives to option #3 are proven right. But if you've lived your life correctly, that one-in-a-thousand moment will shock you, because as the cliche goes: even a broken clock is right twice a day, and occasionally even a person who knows nothing can correctly ascertain what experts can't. It's better to be wrong for the right reason than right for the wrong reason. 

But the point of reading and studying is not just knowledge for its own sake. We are not on this earth so that we can appreciate ideas - which is what Greek philosophers like Plato believed. Ideas can make people better (though many don't), but people are not ideas, people are people, and if an idea does not have a demonstrable utility that improves the quality of your life in a way you can demonstrate, it's probably not an idea worth devoting your time to or believing in. 

What matters in life is not politics but getting through daily life and getting through it with people whom you love and love you. So many relationships are senselessly ruined over politics: romantic relationships, friendships, family... politics can even ruin your ability to treat yourself well. It only gets in the way, and yet the wider world is literally everywhere you look, and it affects you in quadrillions of ways of which you're not aware. I have no guarantee that by learning about it, you'll make better decisions, but I can almost guarantee that even if you don't think yourself a particularly intellectual person, these questions will eventually occur to you to ask, and if you don't try to answer them, you will begin to find the world a very scary place. 

Life is not supposed to be easy, life is supposed to be lived. The object of life is life, not happiness. We're here to survive, and we're here to help others survive. That is the goal, and whether in the form of illness or violence, survival to a full allotment of years can much harder than it seems, and given our historical precedents, how much harder might that goal be for Jews? 

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Brief Comment on 'Sound Ideals' in Trad Classical Music

 The Seoul Philharmonic and Markus Stenz doing more Haydn and Beethoven. We'll save the Kurtag they play for later, this is as good a week to cover Gyorgy Kurtag as any so maybe that'll be the next focus of videos.... But for tonight, this is a good moment to make a further brief comment on 'ensemble culture' and 'sound ideal.'

The Haydn (104 - the London Symphony) is particularly magnificent by any standard. This is not a particularly polished performance. It's not unaccomplished technically, but it's not exactly 'beautiful' by any traditional metric, either of modern performance or of historically informed. It's far better than that. Whatever the transparency or lack thereof, nothing here is treated as piece of Orchestral music, it is treated as a piece of Music for orchestra.
What makes music vibrant is not the sound of the ensemble but the personality and character with which the music is played. Listen to the strings in the Haydn, particularly the violins. What makes this performance extraordinary is not the lack of vibrato or the bow strokes, what makes the performance extraordinary is how the musicians use those techniques to play Haydn for twenty-five minutes in a style resembling Hungarian folk fiddling. The playing not particularly clean, but at its essence, it's music; it says something. Most performances stop at music's phonology, but music is not only its sounds. To form phrases it requires syntax, to articulate meanings it requires semantics. And past there, great music speaks as we speak in a complete language, and within the language of music, every musician communicates in their own idiom.
Sound is only the first dimension of language. The second dimension is its grammar - in music, that is its phrases, rhythms, harmonic content, and form. Music that does not bring out what features in the sound are of interest is not music. The third dimension of music is its meaning. Meaning in music is obviously trickier, but musical meaning is there. Sometimes that meaning is extra-musical (and that's true more often than any music professor ever told us...), but whatever the meaning of music, when music means something, we know it instantly because it requires even the bored among us to take notice and listen.
And then we get to that elusive fourth dimension of art, past even meaning: idiom. When the average person arrives at that fourth dimension in how they use language, they are able to communicate the idioms of their language in ways that are unique to them, and are therefore no longer cliches. Idiom is what happens when many meaningful phrases and sentences are bandied about by people together in the same place for years until they arrive at a shorthand. These idioms can be cliches, and in the hands of mediocre musicians, they are cliches, and even in the most sophisticated classical compositions, form has any number of cliches - perhaps even more than the usual number because every rule needs to be set in order to be broken.
But when a musician truly arrives in that fourth dimension, they are able to take those idioms and evolve them into something truly unique, not conforming to someone else's definition of what art should be, but a definition unimaginable within any ear but the artist's own. There is no great artistry without individuality. Everything before that, no matter how skilled, is just artisanal craftsmanship. It's nice when you can get it, but it's not art.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l03Zq1rJ4XY

Dear Eli Part 2 - Second Draft

 


Before I keep going with this Eli, I think you need to understand certain things about any rebuttal through the years which other people you know would have to anything I mention here; particularly people we both know very well. 

Over the course of your life, lots of people will preach to you about the good old days or the good old land, please do everything you can to not believe them. American conservatives will paint for you a golden age of America between 1945-67 when prices were affordable, streets were safe, and Americans could become anything they wanted. This is an incomplete picture conjured in bad faith: every single American of your grandparents' generation lived until they were forty amid the dread of a nuclear war that could wipe them out in an instant. Few Americans of color were free to become what they wanted, and few American women could become what they wanted without work so colossal that it was almost not worthwhile to try. The prosperity was made possible by taxes being the highest they've ever been in American history and being used to send nearly 8 million World War II veterans to college for free. The US economy was so secure because the US was the only world power whose entire infrastructure had not been bombed out. Relative to the rest of the world, the US had so much money that the entire world seemed almost literally designed to serve the USA, and yet the mental state of Americans was such that while they worked hard, they could not function amid the stress without consuming colossal numbers of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages which killed millions of them decades before old age. Black people couldn't even get served at many restaurants and stores until 1954. Worst of all, within their consumption and production lay the seeds for the global warming pollution which could kill millions or many more within your lifetime. There are many glories of that era, but there is no such thing as 'good old days.' Everything in life is purchased at a steep price. 

And in the same way that there is no 'golden age,' there is no far off 'golden land' where everything is as we dream life could be. Lots of American progressives will conjure for you a golden land in Northern Europe, where government distributes such amenities to their citizens that there is barely such a thing as poverty. In this vision, every worker is productive because a good worker is the same as a happy worker, and government laws allow them fair amounts of pay, proper amounts of time off for raising children and vacation, strong labor laws, good universal medical care, guaranteed education loans for university, public transit and infrastructure, and full government subsidies for humanities, science, and journalism. This too is a vision painted in bad faith. The prosperity of Northern Europe is only made possible because the United States funds its defense, and when the United States stops (and it probably will very soon), much of their prosperity will disappear as they deal with the reality of relying on their own military to deal with a Russian threat that would love nothing more than for their prosperity to end. Furthermore, their prosperity is purchased at the expense of Southern Europe, which is entirely dependent on Northern Europe's purchasing power for their economies. In Southern Europe, everybody used to work on farms, but the farms have foreclosed. The only reliable jobs in Southern Europe is manufacturing products for Northern Europe. If you can't get a factory job, you either have to move elsewhere or accept that you'll spend your life without a job. Unemployment in Southern Europe is often nearly 30%, and in the European South, violent protests are just a fact of life. Northern Europe is tremendously expensive,  and per-person debt, national and personal, often exceeds our own. These Northern European countries are almost entirely white, with some of the strictest immigration laws on earth, and when governments offer asylum to more than a few people from more troubled parts of the world, many of these socialists turn into something not unlike national socialists willing to harass the new immigrants and even be violent towards them. Again, there are many wonderful things about Northern Europe, but the utopian vision of Northern Europe is a whitelie no less dishonest. 

So yes, many family members and also many friends feel differently about the world from me, probably even the majority. That does not mean that they are any less good, or loving, or supportive, and it doesn't mean I love them any less. It just means, from my perception, that their perceptions and priorities are wrong, which is clearly how they perceive me too. 

It's as important not to understate the severity of the disagreements as it is to not overstate them. When people see the world so differently, there is an overwhelming temptation, one that I think exists among most families and friends, to read implications into those disagreements about the caliber of each other's moral character. One can claim that these disagreements are not personal, but the truth is they're nothing if not personal, and based not on intellectual conclusions but the emotional experience of living our lives. There's such thing as an impartial judgement, but that only comes in the form of dusty archives and the cold calculation of statistics. 

Leave the impartial judgements for scholars; though if you become a scholar, don't believe any teacher who tells you that impartiality is impossible. In your personal life, what's important is your own experiences - not just how your experiences make you feel, but how your experiences make you think. None of us can perceive more than a twelfth-or-so of how the world works (I'm using 12 because that's a concept in Jewish mysticism), and by reflecting on your experiences, you can get to know your twelfth so well that you can be an authority on it for people who come from the world's other eleven tribes. 

Furthermore, the deepest insights you'll ever get into how life works will happen because the ways you were proven that your view of things was wrong, not right. Whether it's world events or your closest family members or people at the peripheries of your social life, every component of your world will surprise you all the time if you're open to it. Being proven wrong doesn't mean that you knew nothing, and it doesn't mean that your perspective was always wrong; but on the level of personal experience, there's no such thing as 'the whole truth.' The truth is asymptotic, you get closer and closer to it but you never arrive because there are always new perspectives to assimilate and new bits of information you didn't previously know. So whether you think you know the people you love most or hate most, whether you think you understand your childhood and your family, whether you think you understand your children and their friends, there will always be information you don't know that would completely change your perceptions of them. Sometimes you will discover it and sometimes you won't. Some of that information would make them more sympathetic, some will make it less; but people should live their lives as though they could find information about the people they hate most that would make them seem more lovable, and find information about the people they love that would make them seem more hateful. 

That doesn't mean to stop loving the people you love or stop hating the people you hate, but it does mean that to a certain extent, we all need to do what Ronald Reagan always said: "trust, but verify." As you get older, you should still assume that the people you love will always come through for you, but still make preparations for what to do in case we don't. Even the most loving person in the world has extenuating circumstances that can make them unreliable as caregivers. Sometimes, every parent misunderstands what their children need, every good friend misunderstands their friends, every good leader misunderstands their society. There is certainly such a thing out there as 'bad parents,' 'bad friends,' and 'bad leaders,' and some of them are deliberately bad; but occasionally, even the best intentioned of all three can be as damaging as those who mean to exploit you, and nothing any benevolent person in your life can do to you is as damaging as the one thing they all never mean to do - die prematurely. Nothing is less reliable than life itself, and if the world itself gets more unreliable, there is always that horrible chance that some of us might not be around for much of your life and you'll be called on to rely on yourself hundreds of times more than any of us ever were. 

In people who disagree with us so fundamentally, we are all reminded of the reasons we think our lives are not better than they are. How much more true is that when these disagreements come from within our own families? I believe this is even more true in most other families than ours, and are true to the point that branches of families stop speaking to one another for entire generations rather than have yet another fight.  

So no matter what conclusions you draw in life, nothing is more important than to understand the conclusions of the people who disagree with you most strenuously. There are many people in your family who believe that their quality of life was severely depleted by losing the world of security that millions of Americans had before the late 1960s. They believe that the generation of your parents' grandparents, tempered by World War II and The Great Depression, was coerced by tragedy into a more realistic perception of the world's problems, and therefore built a much more secure, prosperous world through colossally hard work and shared sacrifice. They also believe that around 1968, this world vanished; lost unnecessarily because a new generation of liberals grew up within a standard of living so much higher than any human beings had in any time or place in world history, and their quality of life was so high that it conditioned the 'Baby Boomer' generation to believe that life entitled them things they never worked for.  

People like me drew a very different conclusion: that American prosperity was brought about by a very particular set of circumstances which deposited the majority of the world's good fortune into America and propelled a hundred million Americans into the middle class who were formerly poor. This prosperity would not even have been shared among any but the wealthy without the highest taxes this country has ever experienced so that the government could distribute some prosperity to the hundreds of millions who deserved it. And however equally the prosperity was distributed, this idyllic world was always bound to end at some point for a hundred different reasons, the most important of which was this; while many people of my grandparents' generation worked extraordinarily hard, there are many people around the world who worked every bit as hard but who did not achieve anything like their prosperity, and eventually they would come upon some solution that successfully transfers the money of the American middle class into someone else's pockets. 

This letter will grow into still thousands more words if I describe all the debates around social programs of that time, or the debates around big business in our time, but what's undeniable is that around 1968, life in America underwent an enormous and shocking change - nearly as shocking as the change of American life around 2016-2020. We'll get to why all that is later, but like many of life's more personal shocks, people can only speculate about why life changed so much and so quickly, and are drawn to replaying the shock in their minds the way bugs are to light. 

And since many people I know insist on talking about those changes with me all the time, that's extraordinarily aggravating for me, as I'm sure my sometimes incensed reactions are for them. I have no doubt that there is an overwhelming temptation to internalize the disagreements as the way we think of each other more generally, but no matter how great or small the fracases, the love does not go away; and in the long run, it bonds us to one another further. These disagreements are part of our chapter in the family story, and the differences in how we interpret the world is part of the legacy we pass on to you and how you pass on legacy to the generation after you. 

My perception is obviously different from theirs. The perspective held by most of our family is born of a forced relocation to suburbs from a mid-20th century city mobbed by crime. I'm sure I don't know the whole story, but what I know of my family's experience in the Baltimore of the 1950s and 60s is terrifying, and not my right to tell. One can easily imagine internalizing a lifelong perspective from their experience that believes that Jews should remain in the suburbs where they remain safe from crime, and basically associate with no one but other Jews.  

My perception is born from being a mentally ill person in the America of around the year 2000 in an all-Jewish suburb. No authority figure in my life seemed able to understand the simple and slight alterations to their values that could have improved the agonized mental state of my formative years; and if they did understand, they didn't seem willing to change; which in turn, made me crazier; I felt like an animal tortured for reasons beyond his understanding, which, like a tortured animal, made me lash out in a hundred ways that haunt me to this day; which in turn, retrenched them in their beliefs even further because they thought they had hard evidence that you would have to be crazy to dispute their decisions. 

Both sides of this divide look across an unbridgeable chasm of perspective, and see in one another the entitlement and poor character of millions that seemed to cause so many of our lives' problems. That can't be helped, but the truth is, like hundreds of millions of Americans, both perspectives have legitimate reasons for believing what we believe, and like tens of millions of Americans, both sides of this family could probably approach these disagreements in better faith than we ever do. That does not mean that both sides are equally right or have approached issues in equally bad faith, but it does mean that bitter disagreements are absolutely inevitable and simply part of living a life. 

Eventually, through whatever struggle and suffering you undergo, you begin to wonder how it happened. Whatever your misfortunes, probability tells us that 50% of the misfortunes that happen in your life are misfortunes that would have happened no matter what you do. 25% of your misfortunes will be perpetrated on you by others, and 25% of the misfortunes, unfortunately, will be your fault. Even for the 25% that will be your fault, just remember, the overwhelming majority of people will do no better than you, and encounter just as many moments when they are failed by both their character and their intelligence; and the smarter and better the people they are, the more chance they'll encounter failure because more skills they have, the more will be demanded of them. So whenever you fuck up, and you will, accept it much better than I have.    

But the nature of perspective is that as you grow older, you begin to see how you fit in the larger story of your world. You begin to understand how the world preselected certain conditions of your life that could not be helped from the moment you were born -  the temperament and intelligence level which interprets how you experience the world, the family responsible for you and for whom you become responsible, your social class and income bracket, your religion and race and ethnicity. All those characteristics predetermine an enormous part of your worldview from the moment you are born, and you have to interpret for yourself how all those characteristics which you had no choice in affected you. Some people choose to celebrate their background, some people choose to rebel against it, some people are simply trapped within it no matter what they do, and some people choose to rebel against it. So even the most elementary choices of your life are somewhat limited, and sometimes that choice is made for you. None of that absolves you of responsibility for what you can change, but it also means that you shouldn't feel shame over whatever doesn't work out. 

You can only think your own thoughts, nobody else's. If someone tells you you're no good, don't believe them. If someone tells you you're the most talented person in the world, don't believe them. You decide for yourself how good you are at anything, no one else. Short of doing something literally stupid and attempting things that are literally impossible with no chance of success, you determine how good you are at anything by the dedication with which you pursue your skill at it. 

Whether in this letter or elsewhere, you will come to learn large parts of my story, but for the purposes of right now, we'll say that I was born with certain skill sets that were over and above everyone I knew. I was also born to other skill sets that were so far below others that the humiliation caused me unbearably gigantic depression, palpably vivid delusion, and unfathomable levels of rage. It is a miracle that I am alive, and it may be a miracle that others are alive too. Any hope I had as a young man to hone the skill sets with which I was born was dashed by the extent of my mental duress. But at the very lowest ebb of my teen years when nothing at all seemed possible, I discovered the full capacity of my talent for writing, and I'm positive this ability saved my life dozens of times. I cannot guarantee that it will save my life dozens of times yet, but so far, it is my most reliable palliative to a life beset by the persecution of my own head. 

Another enormous part of what regrounded me to reality was the study of history, of politics, of the world. For better or worse, I have a gigantic and obsessive capacity for memorizing facts. Over the years, many people have suggested I am on the autistic spectrum, but no diagnosis was ever given and given my obvious psychotic symptoms, I'm positive that I have far more properties which conjunct to that spectrum. 

Whatever the impossibility of perceiving the truth within our own heads, facts matter, and there is such a thing as the objective truth. There are times in every head that all is chaos, but facts are true, they are clean,  they're order in a world where nothing else makes sense. It's true that we have no way of verifying the actual truth of any fact for ourselves, but we have the next best thing: literally millions of people devote the entire meaning of their lives to compiling statistics in good faith, because if they didn't try with utmost effort, their lives would have no meaning at all. 

(elaborate more here)

There are two particularly unfortunate phrases of our time. One is that people 'tell their truth,' which often means the denunciation of abuse perpetrated on them or refers to their coming out with their true sexuality. Another of the most unfortunate phrases of our time is 'alternative facts,' which is a conservative phrase meaning that every fact reported by the media has a liberal bias, and therefore conservatives have an obligation to tell how they believe it really happened - and if how it happened is not how the conservative media reported it, that is no worse than any biased fact reported by the 'liberal media.' 

People do not 'tell their truth', they tell one of three things: they tell 'what is true about them' or they tell 'the truth that happens to them' or tell 'the truth about what they did.' And part of how we know this phrase is sinister is that people never 'tell their truth' about what they did themselves, because 'their truth' which they tell always flatters them and blasts others. And in the same way, there are only 'the facts,' and facts can have no bias, people can only have bias against facts.  '

'Telling my truth' means that each person defines what truth is, nobody can tell them what they believe is false, and so true is their perception of the truth that the law should be at their disposal to enforce their personal conception of the truth. That is a recklessly extreme manipulation of the truth by fanatics who meant to give people an outlet who correctly felt their concerns being marginalized, but the problem with extreme measures is that they're inevitably used for ever more nefarious purposes. There is a lot more to say about this issue, but I don't feel quite know how tackle it yet. Hopefully it will come to me in the next few drafts. 

In the meantime, I could be wrong, but I do believe that in what we now call 'Blue America' - meaning coastal and liberal America, the time is coming when the law itself can be contorted into penalizing people for things which are not objectively true - but can be considered as 'truthy' because the person was made to feel as though violence was being done to them. The misfortune that happened to them, the circumstances of their identity, that is 'the truth', not 'their truth.' The truth belongs to the world just as we belong to the world.  

(elaborate more here about both alternative facts and telling their truth)

 Politics is the practical side of thought, and understanding politics is as hard as trying to understand the ways of god. Like the divine, most of what we think we understand about politics is false, but we think about politics because we need to understand why we live in the circumstances we live, and the more we misunderstand our circumstances, the worse our lives get. 

The closest we get to understanding how lives happen as they do is by seeing politics in action on the largest scale: elections, corporate mergers, terrorist attacks, wars, bankruptcies, blackouts, technological breakthroughs, soldier deployments, shootings, peace summits, government shutdowns, space launches, even natural disasters... not everything is political, but every one of those is a political act that affects the lives of every person you'll ever meet in a thousand different ways, 999 of which they'll never know about. These are all events that happen not in history books, but in real time. We are their participants. Trillions of things happened before them to make everything happen that we experience, and everything we experience will enable new trillions of things to happen. When we're sitting in our houses going about our lives, it's impossible to understand that unless we're mid-pandemic.  But whenever we read the news, we watch the world happen in real time, and when flux is at its most dynamic, the change of the world is something awesome and terrible, and each of us can only interpret what we see for ourselves with only our experience to guide us. The history of the world is a book, and this is our chapter of the book; we are simultaneously its characters, its audience, and its author. 

There are moments in life when you'll find the experience of the world terrifying - not just personal moments, but world events that could have a colossal personal effect on those you love; and I fear you'll live through many more moments of that ilk than we have. Some people find this experience so terrifying that they simply give up and submit to what they think is their inevitable demise. But if you want to minimize that terror, you have four options: 

1. Just live your life as though the world outside your life doesn't matter, because there's a chance that ultimately, it doesn't. And so you do everything you can to ignore the world, politics, and historical events. You ignore it even if you have to figure out why your friends are so angry all the time over things that don't seem to affect them, or why there are places you'll no longer be able to work at or hang out at, or why you just lost all your income, or why friends are suddenly disappearing for no reason, or how to survive a war or famine.

2. Come to the decision that one predetermined set of ideas is right, and another set of ideas is wrong. Convince yourself that people who follow your set of ideas hold at least two thirds of the world's virtue, and people who follow a different set hold at least two-thirds of the world's evil. Read websites every day that confirm your point of view. Become angry when a website tells you to be angry, and be happy when the internet tells you to be happy. Become convinced that any source of information which does not editorialize on behalf of your movement is a biased source that withholds the real truth. Base all your friendships on shared values, live in the same neighborhood as them, find a job that brings us all closer to making real the way you want the world to be, adapt certain words into your daily vocabulary that signal to like-minded people that you're one of them, live in a very specific kind of house, choose a form of transit that advertises to the world the type of person you are, dress a certain way, eat specific foods, and teach these values to the next generation of your family, and if your family departs from your values enough, consider cutting them off. 

3. Start believing that most people are evil, and become obsessed with proving that you particularly are an oasis of virtue in a sea of sin. Become sufficiently bitter that you assume lying is the general state of the world, the most powerful liars among which conspire to run the world in ways we know nothing about and pull the wool over our eyes with misinformation so that they can accumulate still more power, unimpeded by any objections in the wider population. Once you realize that 99% of people you meet dismiss your view of the world without a fair hearing, become convinced that no one understands the world but a small clique of other minds like yours who realize as you do that the world is mostly liars who mean ill. Find obscure points of connection between many organizations and powerful entities that seem to have nothing in common to anyone who isn't deliberately looking for points of connection. Come to believe that in order to find the truth, you need to interpret every statement of certain powerful people that seem especially nefarious to you.  Make revealing this truth a goal of your life, because it will demonstrate definitive proof to anyone who has made you feel inferior that you are in fact superior to them in the way that counts most because you alone saw the way the world is when they only saw lies and called them true. 

4. Really try to understand the world. Not just the world you're familiar with, but the parts of the world about which you don't know anything, and read about those unfamiliar places and subjects so that you might become more than your life experience. Read about the world, and read about it from differing point of view: history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and literary fiction. Read the introductory books that give you the overview, which a number of family members can certainly provide you, and then read about specific problems that interest you. Read two books about the same subject by ideologically-driven authors whose conclusions are completely the opposite from one another - they're often the easiest to read... and then read other books about that subject whose interpretations are more complicated. Read books from different generations so that you can trace the development of how people perceived the subject. The more you know about a particular subject, the more perceptively you can decide what point of view is correct, and you can come to complicated conclusions that are entirely your own - not mine, not your parents or the rest of the family, and not your friends, and not random internet posters; just yours, and are always evolving. 

We're all probably supposed to take path #4, but the truth is, even the best intentioned and smartest of us usually don't. It's very, very hard to do, and all of us sometimes take each of the four paths and it's nothing worth feeling too guilty about. At the end of a #4 level search, there's no guarantee that your conclusions will be any more correct than they'd be if you'd only thought about these questions for five minutes. You will probably live the happiest life if you take options 1 or 2 one-hundred percent of the time. 

Option #1 is the life of a person who grows up with enormous privilege - but if even if you grow up in a life of privilege, and your youth will take for granted a level of privilege 99% of other Americans don't have, that way of living life will not prepare you for when life gets hard, and everybody's life eventually gets  hard. 

Option #2 is what strict adherence to a religion is, and whether that religion is a divine religion like Judaism,  or a material religion like free enterprise or social justice, you will be much happier for having something so solid to believe in; but in your being happier, you might make a lot of of lives much worse for the people who do not believe as you believe. Without even realizing it, you will have an outlet for rage that enables you to be nicer in your personal life. Contrary to what people believe, it's easier to be nice when you believe that most of the badness in the world is in other people and most of the goodness is in you. Every religion needs its enemies, and even in Judaism, there will always be people whom you are pressured to hate for reasons you don't understand, and you will have to just accept on faith that as a believer, you should do what you can to make your enemies' lives worse. Furthermore, there are many practitioners in any religion who don't actually believe in it but feel forced to pretend they do, and they are some of the saddest people in the world because they have no one in their lives to talk to who would be sympathetic to their problems. And worst of all, if people who truly loathe your religion end up running your country, your life could be in serious danger. 

Option #4 is obviously the life of a person devoted to studying the world, but option #3 is what happens when people turn into conspiracy theorists, and the more people choose option #2, the more people there are within them who feel like misfits, and their loneliness makes them believe that the world is an evil place.  What makes option #3 so nefarious is that sometimes, option #3 seems a lot like option #4. There are fields of study which are prestigious in one generation, taboo in the next, and prestigious again a century later. And one in a thousand times, people who devote their lives to option #3 are proven right. But if you've lived your life correctly, that one-in-a-thousand moment will shock you, because as the cliche goes: even a broken clock is right twice a day, and occasionally even a person who knows nothing can correctly ascertain what experts can't. It's better to be wrong for the right reason than right for the wrong reason. 

But the point of reading and studying is not just knowledge for its own sake. We are not on this earth so that we can appreciate ideas - which is what Greek philosophers like Plato believed. Ideas can make people better (though many don't), but people are not ideas, people are people, and if an idea does not have a demonstrable utility that improves the quality of your life in a way you can demonstrate, it's probably not an idea worth devoting your time to or believing in. 

What matters in life is not politics but getting through daily life and getting through it with people whom you love and love you. So many relationships are senselessly ruined over politics: romantic relationships, friendships, family... politics can even ruin your ability to treat yourself well. It only gets in the way, and yet the wider world is literally everywhere you look, and it affects you in quadrillions of ways of which you're not aware. I have no guarantee that by learning about it, you'll make better decisions, but I can almost guarantee that even if you don't think yourself a particularly intellectual person, these questions will eventually occur to you to ask, and if you don't try to answer them, you will begin to find the world a very scary place. 

Life is not supposed to be easy, life is supposed to be lived. The object of life is life, not happiness. We're here to survive, and we're here to help others survive. That is the goal, and whether in the form of illness or violence, survival to a full allotment of years can much harder than it seems, and given our historical precedents, how much harder might that goal be for Jews?