Friday, May 20, 2005

Guilt, Philip Roth, Masturbation-It all makes sense

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (1969) features a neurotic 33 year old Jewish social worker from Newark who spills his twisted tale of identity-conflict, love, and familial guilt to Dr. Spielvogel, his psychologist. Read it. You'll never laugh so hard.

After publication, Roth was branded a literary anti-Semite, like Wilhelm Marr and Treitschke, whose work provokes more Jew hatred. He received death threats, stacks of complaint letters-Gershoem Scholem, the Kabbalist researcher, wrote: "For 2,000 years the goyim have tried to write an anti-Semitic novel-It took a Jew to finally make it happen."

To his detractors, Roth makes a sound argument, and I think the first recognition of what's been plaguing me these last couple of days. To say that his work is anti-Semitic, is an irrational, victimized argument that only contributes to intolerance and anti-Semitism. Blacklisting and banning Roth bans honesty, truth and enlightenment about Jews. Portnoy's Complaint shows that Jews are humans, who like everyone else, commit moral crimes. Jews are NOT what Gentiles say they are. Sholem, like other Rabbis, are stuck in a world of victimization and yes, GUILT, who prefer to believe that Jews, and the world, will always be stuck in 1939, and therefore, must defend themselves against any instance of anti-Semitism, potential or real, from Gentile or Jew. It's time for us to accept that we're a people (the Chosen :), and that the only route to further acceptance from others requires smashing barriers of non-communication and ignorance. No one read Portnoy's Complaint and started a pogrom in Long Island. No one paid 6.95 (which was a lot in those days. PC was second to the Bible in books sold), read it, and said "Ah-Hah! So it's all true! Those greedy, sex crazy Jews!"

The rabbis sent him death threats because they were afraid. Afraid of the truth, afraid of human situations that were so untypical for Jews to engage in, and afraid that all this uproar WOULD form the basis of the next Holocaust. It's quite simple what propelled these rabbis to brand Roth a self-hating Jew: Pain gives people a reason to go on, a motivation to survive. You strip that away and things become too easy, too mundane. People become less observant. But I'd rather live in peace and tranquility, even without God, then as a victim who fears for his life all the time. Because that's no longer true.


At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Tov said...

and then Woody Allen goes and does the same thing, but we just laugh at him...

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

allen's finished. he's stereotypical victimization is obsolete. and his new movies, SUCKED.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one crucial thing youve hit on...the fact that fear is part of what drives us, what forces us to survive. so while its nice to live peacefully, its terribly unexciting (1) and (2) it doesnt give a person that urgent need to continue. and as unhappy as it is, thats whats allowed the jewish people to survive for this many generations. and its that continued fear, albeit somewhat unneccessary and certainly directed toward the wrong people/issues, that will allow the jewish people and our culture to survive well beyond all those half-assed, mainstream and accepted ones.


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