The Coming Anarchy and Jewish Talmud’s Erich Fromm’s Sane Society Perspectiv​e — Written 06/07/12

“How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet.”   “From the bestselling author of Balkan Ghosts and The Ends of the Earth comes a fascinating new book on the imminent global chaos that is as brilliant as it is necessary, as original as it is controversial.

“The end of the Cold War has not ushered in the global peace and prosperity that many had anticipated. Environmental degradation is causing the rampant spread of famine and disease, and a rising number of nations are being torn by violent wars of fierce tribalism and trenchant regionalism. Our newest democracies, such as Russia and Venezuela, are bloody maelstroms of violence and crime, while America is beset with an alarmingly high number of apathetic citizens content to concern themselves with matters of entertainment and convenience. Bold, erudite, and profoundly important, The Coming Anarchy is a compelling must-read by one of today’s most penetrating writers and provocative minds.”

” “The Coming Anarchy” published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1994 about how population increase, urbanization, and resource depletion are undermining fragile governments across the developing world and represent a threat to the developed world was hotly debated and widely translated. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called Kaplan one of the “most widely read” authors defining the post-Cold War era, along with Francis Fukuyama, Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington, and Yale Professor Paul Kennedy. Kaplan published the article and other essays in a book with the same title in 2000, which also included the controversial article ‘”Was Democracy Just a Moment?” His travels through the Balkans, Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Middle East at the turn of the millennium were recorded in Eastward to Tartary. Also written in 2000 was another controversial essay, entitled “the Dangers of Peace,” in which he described an America falling under peacetime’s “numbing and corrosive illusion.” Writing in the New York Times, reviewer Richard Bernstein notes that Kaplan “conveys a historically informed tragic sense in recognizing humankind’s tendency toward a kind of slipshod, gooey, utopian and ultimately dangerous optimism.””   “I said in the beginning that we didn’t know if the invasion of Iraq was going to be a success or a failure. But even if it turned out to be a success, sending several hundred thousand troops off on a land invasion was not a model we were going to be able to follow in the decades to come. So I proposed an alternative model: one of light and lethal Special Forces, area experts who speak the local language and intimately understand the culture. We were going to find these area experts by being more open-minded on immigration, by allowing people from exotic countries to enter our country more readily.”   “Rumsfeld’s long-term vision for the U.S. Army ground forces was somewhat similar to what I’d proposed in “Supremacy by Stealth.” You can look at how we got bin Laden, how we carried out the campaigns with the use of not just drones but Special Forces on the ground in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. And you can see what Leon Panetta has been doing — the former CIA director, now the new secretary of defense. It’s recently been proposed that the size of the U.S. Army is going to come down by about 100,000 troops.”   ” I know it isn’t a popular thing to say that Rumsfeld was right, but in this particular instance he seems to have been.”   “The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, “enlightened”) is a name given to several groups, both real (historical) and fictitious. Historically the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776. In more modern contexts the name refers to a purported conspiratorial organization which is alleged to mastermind events and control world affairs through governments and corporations to establish a New World Order. In this context the Illuminati are usually represented as a modern version or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati.”   “Sanity (from Latin: sānitās) refers to the soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind, as opposed to insanity. A person is sane if they are rational. In modern society, the terms have become exclusively synonymous with compos mentis (Latin: compos, having mastery of, and mentis, mind), in contrast with non compos mentis, or insane, meaning troubled conscience.”   “In The Sane Society, published in 1955, psychologist Erich Fromm proposed that, not just individuals, but entire societies “may be lacking in sanity”. Fromm argued that one of the most deceptive features of social life involves “consensual validation.”:   “It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth… Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”   “Central to Fromm’s world view was his interpretation of the Talmud, which he began studying as a young man under Rabbi J. Horowitz and later studied under Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow while working towards his doctorate in sociology at the University of Heidelberg and under Nehemia Nobel and Ludwig Krause while studying in Frankfurt. Fromm’s grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father’s side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother’s side was a noted Talmudic scholar. However, Fromm turned away from orthodox Judaism in 1926, towards secular interpretations of scriptural ideals. The cornerstone of Fromm’s humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, and that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.”   “Beyond a simple condemnation of authoritarian value systems, Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an allegorical explanation for human biological evolution and existential angst, asserting that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This is why they felt “naked” and “ashamed”: they had evolved into human beings, conscious of themselves, their own mortality, and their powerlessness before the forces of nature and society, and no longer united with the universe as they were in their instinctive, pre-human existence as animals. According to Fromm, the awareness of a disunited human existence is a source of guilt and shame, and the solution to this existential dichotomy is found in the development of one’s uniquely human powers of love and reason. However, Fromm distinguished his concept of love from unreflective popular notions as well as Freudian paradoxical love (see criticism by Marcuse below).”   “Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of “true love.” Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of “falling in love” as evidence of one’s failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Drawing from his knowledge of the Torah, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society had respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly wanted and needed.”   “Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms was the root of psychological conflicts. Fromm outlined three of the most common escape mechanisms: automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one’s ideal self to conform to a perception of society’s preferred type of personality, losing one’s true self in the process. Automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from self to society. Authoritarianism is giving control of oneself to another. By submitting one’s freedom to someone else, this act removes the freedom of choice almost entirely. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole, all to escape freedom. Fromm said that “the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it”.”   “The word biophilia was frequently used by Fromm as a description of a productive psychological orientation and “state of being”. For example, in an addendum to his book The Heart of Man: Its Genius For Good and Evil, Fromm wrote as part of his Humanist Credo: “I believe that the man choosing progress can find a new unity through the development of all his human forces, which are produced in three orientations. These can be presented separately or together: biophilia, love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom.” Erich Fromm postulated EIGHT basic needs: “Relatedness Relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge.Transcendence Being thrown into the world without their consent, humans have to transcend their nature by destroying or creating people or things. Humans can destroy through malignant aggression, or killing for reasons other than survival, but they can also create and care about their creations.Rootedness Rootedness is the need to establish roots and to feel at home again in the world. Productively, rootedness enables us to grow beyond the security of our mother and establish ties with the outside world. With the nonproductive strategy, we become fixated and afraid to move beyond the security and safety of our mother or a mother substitute.Sense of Identity The drive for a sense of identity is expressed nonproductively as conformity to a group and productively as individuality.Frame of orientation Understanding the world and our place in it.Excitation and Stimulation Actively striving for a goal rather than simply responding.Unity A sense of oneness between one person and the “natural and human world outside.”Effectiveness The need to feel accomplished.””Fromm’s thesis of the “escape from freedom” is epitomized in the following passage. The “individualized man” referenced by Fromm is man bereft of the “primary ties” of belonging (i.e. nature, family, etc.), also expressed as “freedom from”:   “”There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual…. However, if the economic, social and political conditions… do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.” (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36–7. The point is repeated on pp. 31, 256–7.)”   “Fromm also spoke of “orientation of character” in his book Man For Himself, which describes the ways an individual relates to the world and constitutes his general character, and develops from two specific kinds of relatedness to the world: acquiring and assimilating things (“assimilation”), and reacting to people (“socialization”). Fromm considers these character systems the human substitute for instincts in animals. These orientations describe how a man has developed in regard to how he responds to conflicts in his or her life; he also said that people were never pure in any such orientation. These two factors form five types of malignant character, which he calls Receptive, Exploitative, Hoarding, Necrophilous and Marketing. He also described a positive character, which he called Productive.”   “The culmination of Fromm’s social and political philosophy was his book The Sane Society, published in 1955, which argued in favor of a humanistic and democratic socialism. Building primarily upon the early works of Karl Marx, Fromm sought to re-emphasise the ideal of freedom, missing from most Soviet Marxism, and more frequently found in the writings of libertarian socialists and liberal theoreticians. Fromm’s brand of socialism rejected both Western capitalism and Soviet communism, which he saw as dehumanizing and that resulted in a virtually universal modern phenomenon of alienation. He became one of the founders of socialist humanism, promoting the early writings of Marx and his humanist messages to the US and Western European public.”   “The Sephirot (also spelled “sephiroth”) (singular sefirah) are the ten emanations and attributes of God with which he continually sustains the universe in existence. The central metaphor of Man’s soul is used to describe the sefirot. This incorporates masculine and feminine aspects, after Genesis 1:27 (“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them”). Corresponding to the last sefirah in Creation is the indwelling shekhinah (Feminine Divine Presence). In the sefirot, performance of mitzvot unites the masculine and feminine aspects of supernal Divinity, and brings harmony to Creation. The description of Divine manifestation through the ten sefirot is a defining feature of medieval kabbalah, alongside their male and female aspects, and the concept of downward flow of Divine Light through the chain of Creation. The sefirot correspond to the Four Worlds of this spiritual descent, Atziluth, Beri’ah, Yetzirah and Assiah.”   “According to Lurianic cosmology, the sefirot correspond to various levels of creation (ten sefirot in each of the Four Worlds, and four worlds within each of the larger four worlds, each containing ten sefirot, which themselves contain ten sefirot, to an infinite number of possibilities), and are emanated from the Creator for the purpose of creating the universe. The sefirot are considered revelations of the Creator’s will (ratzon), and they should not be understood as ten different “gods” but as ten different ways the one God reveals his will through the Emanations. It is not God who changes but the ability to perceive God that changes. Altogether, eleven sefirot are named. However Keter and Daat are unconscious and conscious dimensions of one principle, conserving 10 forces. The names of the sefirot in descending order are: Keter (supernal crown, representing above-conscious will) Chochmah (the highest potential of thought) Binah (the understanding of the potential) Daat (intellect of knowledge) Chesed (sometimes referred to as Gedolah-greatness) (loving-kindness) Gevurah (sometimes referred to as Din-justice or Pachad-fear) (severity/strength) Rachamim also known as Tiphereth (mercy) Netzach (victory/eternity) Hod (glory/splendour) Yesod (foundation) Malkuth (kingdom)”

It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth… Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.[4]

“Divine creation by means of the Ten Sefirot is an ethical process. They represent the different aspects of Morality. Loving-Kindness is a possible moral justification found in Chessed, and Gevurah is the Moral Justification of Justice and both are mediated by Mercy which is Rachamim. However, these pillars of morality become immoral once they become extremes. When Loving-Kindness become extreme it can lead to sexual depravity and lack of Justice to the wicked. When Justice becomes extreme, it can lead to torture and the Murder of innocents and unfair punishment.”   “”Righteous” humans (tzadikim) ascend these ethical qualities of the ten sefirot by doing righteous actions. If there were no righteous humans, the blessings of God would become completely hidden, and creation would cease to exist. While real human actions are the “Foundation” (Yesod) of this universe (Malchut), these actions must accompany the conscious intention of compassion. Compassionate actions are often impossible without faith (Emunah), meaning to trust that God always supports compassionate actions even when God seems hidden. Ultimately, it is necessary to show compassion toward oneself too in order to share compassion toward others. This “selfish” enjoyment of God’s blessings but only in order to empower oneself to assist others is an important aspect of “Restriction”, and is considered a kind of golden mean in kabbalah, corresponding to the sefirah of Adornment (Tiferet) being part of the “Middle Column”. Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, wrote Tomer Devorah (Palm Tree of Deborah), he presents an ethical teaching of Judaism in the kabbalistic context of the ten sefirot. Tomer Devorah has become also a foundational Musar text.”



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