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Hopes for The Cabal

Cabals and manifestos. The two things have an affinity primarily in their common association with transgression. Transgression is the greatest vice and virtue of political thought and action; it is positive since desirable social and political change is by definition … Read More

By / November 6, 2007

Cabals and manifestos. The two things have an affinity primarily in their common association with transgression. Transgression is the greatest vice and virtue of political thought and action; it is positive since desirable social and political change is by definition a transgression of the old order and negative since misplaced transgression often spells the downfall of progressive politics. Transgression is my preferred lens for thinking about a personal manifesto for this new Jewcy offshoot, The Cabal. I don't speak for any of my fellow bloggers. We sign off on our posts individually for a reason. Writing is to each of us, I'm sure, something different, even if we most likely all agree on the virtue of free press to democracy, the joy of expression and other such well-worn yet true notions about why writing about the world outside matters. There would be no need to write, to discuss, converse or disagree if any of us believed we had a monopoly on the truth. There would be no need to do so, either, if truth were purely a matter of discursive formations, and power relations, of ideas relative to privileged cultural difference. At such a point all is solipsism and isolation—nothing but disconnect and separation. I write here out of the desire to connect. Not only to connect, but also expressly to clash—to watch brains meet with brains, making a dialectical mess out of which things grow like innovation, comprehension, and revision. I count my opponents as first and foremost the superstitious, and superstition I find creeps into the political world primarily in the form of the false sense of superiority and entitlement. Messianic Jewish cults, Islamist murderers and their apologists, Christian theocrats and proponents of ID, Stalinists, and certain portions of academia each draw their strength from the belief that they possess arcane knowledge. The skeptic is always met with condescension—the reply that he or she did not read deeply enough, pray hard enough, or get felicitously born into God's tribe. Nothing about me is Jewish save for my first name, and this has always been illuminating when writing for Jewcy. I've been labeled a self-hating kapo Jew, a gentile moron, and a neocon (just to name a few). Amazing what ethnic, religious, and ideological distinctions your name can win you. One's enemies are always as telling as their friends and I find that, since anti-Semitism is a distinctly pungent form of hatred, speaking about politics from an ostensibly Jewish publication always gives you an excellent chance to hear when your challengers are also bigots. As much as one may value conversation and the dialectic, in the 21st century it's safe to say that if somebody believes their race or religion entitles them to mistreat other human beings, they may as well be alchemists or astrologers—in other words, barely worth the time until they've got up to speed with the basics. Writing for Jewcy about an argumentative dynamic, one that's fanned by sensitive topics. But why Judaism? First off, because Judaism can claim both the origin of monotheism and conspiracy theory. On monotheism, practicing Jews are my opponents. As the subject of the world's first conspiracy theory still trying to debunk it to the day, they are my allies. Jews also can claim a close association to the birth of left revolutionary and socialist politics as well as to its corrective impulses. So many 20th century platitudes need to be housecleaned, as do old ways of defining oneself in the world. Technological and economic evolutions mean that identifying as 'left' or 'right' loses a great deal of meaning. The so-called Jewish experience emanates with the feeling of not-at-home-ness. If I've found myself writing for a political magazine that grew out of a magazine called Jewcy, it's most likely because I identify with this almost caricatured nomadic cosmopolitanism. Simultaneously at home everywhere and nowhere. I hope The Cabal is more than an ironic catching of the joke before it's been made. Intrigue is generally associated with a cabal and I think that a spirit of intrigue will best animate new visions of our emerging world out of which new and more appropriate distinctions can be made. More so than outmoded paradigms, labels and party distinctions, that spirit is the key to exciting and productive political discourse. Intrigue is also key to the scientific imagination, to the drive to imagine what might be known, and to the motivation to find out. This is the opposite of superstition and the best kind of transgressions are borne out of knowledge so derived. I'm honored to share such distinguished company here and look forward to being intrigued.

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