Saturday, May 17, 2008

Why Israel is the world's happiest country

Excerpt below from a very original article by "Spengler" ("Spengler" keeps his identity hidden but he sounds like a very elderly German Jewish survivor of Hitler's holocaust. His pseudonym appears to be an allusion to Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West" ("Der Untergang des Abendlandes"). The present "Spengler" also sees great weakness in Western civilization)

Envy surrounds no country on Earth like the state of Israel, and with good reason: by objective measures, Israel is the happiest nation on Earth at the 60th anniversary of its founding. It is one of the wealthiest, freest and best-educated; and it enjoys a higher life expectancy than Germany or the Netherlands. But most remarkable is that Israelis appear to love life and hate death more than any other nation. If history is made not by rational design but by the demands of the human heart, as I argued last week , the light heart of the Israelis in face of continuous danger is a singularity worthy of a closer look.

Can it be a coincidence that this most ancient of nations [1], and the only nation persuaded that it was summoned into history for God's service, consists of individuals who appear to love life more than any other people? As a simple index of life-preference, I plot the fertility rate versus the suicide rate of 35 industrial countries, that is, the proportion of people who choose to create new life against the proportion who choose to destroy their own. Israel stands alone, positioned in the upper-left-hand-quadrant, or life-loving, portion of the chart [2]. Those who believe in Israel's divine election might see a special grace reflected in its love of life.

In a world given over to morbidity, the state of Israel still teaches the world love of life, not in the trivial sense of joie de vivre, but rather as a solemn celebration of life. In another location, I argued, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations." Still, it is remarkable to observe by what wide a margin the Israelis win the global happiness sweepstakes.

Nations go extinct, I have argued in the past, because the individuals who comprise these nations choose collectively to die out. Once freedom replaces the fixed habits of traditional society, people who do not like their own lives do not trouble to have children. Not the sword of conquerors, but the indigestible sourdough of everyday life threatens the life of the nations, now dying out at a rate without precedent in recorded history.

Israel is surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves in order to destroy it. "As much as you love life, we love death," Muslim clerics teach; the same formula is found in a Palestinian textbook for second graders. Apart from the fact that the Arabs are among the least free, least educated, and (apart from the oil states) poorest peoples in the world, they also are the unhappiest, even in their wealthiest kingdoms.

The contrast of Israeli happiness and Arab despondency is what makes peace an elusive goal in the region. It cannot be attributed to material conditions of life. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia ranks 171st on an international quality of life index, below Rwanda. Israel is tied with Singapore on this index, although it should be observed that Israel ranks a runaway first on my life-preference index, whereas Singapore comes in dead last.

Even less can we blame unhappiness on experience, for no nation has suffered more than the Jews in living memory, nor has a better excuse to be miserable. Arabs did not invent suicide attacks, but they have produced a population pool willing to die in order to inflict damage greater than any in history. One cannot help but conclude that Muslim clerics do not exaggerate when they express contempt for life.

Israel's love of life, moreover, is more than an ethnic characteristic. Those who know Jewish life through the eccentric lens of Jewish-American novelists such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, or the films of Woody Allen, imagine the Jews to be an angst-ridden race of neurotics. Secular Jews in America are no more fertile than their Gentile peers, and by all indications quite as miserable.

For one thing, Israelis are far more religious than American Jews. Two-thirds of Israelis believe in God, although only a quarter observe their religion strictly. Even Israelis averse to religion evince a different kind of secularism than we find in the secular West. They speak the language of the Bible and undergo 12 years of Bible studies in state elementary and secondary schools.

Faith in God's enduring love for a people that believes it was summoned for his purposes out of a slave rabble must be part of the explanation. The most religious Israelis make the most babies. Ultra-Orthodox families produce nine children on average. That should be no surprise, for people of faith are more fertile than secular people, as I showed in a statistical comparison across countries.

Traditional and modern societies have radically different population profiles, for traditional women have little choice but to spend their lives pregnant in traditional society. In the modern world, where fertility reflects choice rather than compulsion, the choice to raise children expresses love of life. The high birthrate in Arab countries still bound by tradition does not stand comparison to Israeli fertility, by far the highest in the modern world.

The faith of Israelis is unique. Jews sailed to Palestine as an act of faith, to build a state against enormous odds and in the face of hostile encirclement, joking, "You don't have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps." In 1903 Theodor Herzl, the Zionist movement's secular founder, secured British support for a Jewish state in Uganda, but his movement shouted him down, for nothing short of the return to Zion of Biblical prophecy would requite it. In place of a modern language the Jewish settlers revived Hebrew, a liturgical language only since the 4th century BC, in a feat of linguistic volition without precedent. It may be that faith burns brighter in Israel because Israel was founded by a leap of faith.

Two old Jewish jokes illustrate the Israeli frame of mind.

Two elderly Jewish ladies are sitting on a park bench in St Petersburg, Florida. "Mrs Levy," asks the first, "what do you hear from your son Isaac in Detroit?" "It's just awful," Mrs Levy replies. "His wife died a year ago and left him with two little girls. Now he's lost his job as an accountant with an auto-parts company, and his health insurance will lapse in a few weeks. With the real estate market the way it is, he can't even sell his house. And the baby has come down with leukemia and needs expensive treatment. He's beside himself, and doesn't know what to do. But does he write a beautiful Hebrew letter - it's a pleasure to read."

There are layers to this joke, but the relevant one here is that bad news is softened if written in the language of the Bible, which to Jews always conveys hope.

The second joke involves the American businessman who emigrated to Israel shortly after its founding. On his arrival, he orders a telephone, and waits for weeks without a response. At length he applies in person to the telephone company, and is shown into the office of an official who explains that there is a two-year waiting list, and no way to jump the queue. "Do you mean there is no hope?," the American asks. "It is forbidden for a Jew to say there is no hope!," thunders the official. "No chance, maybe." Hope transcends probability......

If the Israelis are the happiest country on Earth, as the numbers indicate, it seems possible that they will do what is required to keep their country, despite the odds against them. I do not know whether they will succeed. If Israel fails, however, the rest of the world will lose a unique gauge of the human capacity for happiness as well as faith. I cannot conceive of a sadder event.

More here


Is there any hope for McCain?

McCain is behaving like a wild mustang, untamed and unbridled, which gives support to his claim of maverick status. Republicans are being told to toe the line and be loyal Republicans. Often mentioned is an admonishment not to speak evil of fellow Republicans. But enough is enough! I am concerned about the liberal-light leanings of the Republican Party at a time when liberals are attempting to emasculate the Republican Party. Republicans leaders seems not to realize what is happening. Three safe Republican seats have already been lost to Democrats who sounded more Republican than the Republicans they defeated.

Although I cringe at the thought of an Obama presidency and the unwelcome and disastrous changes that would be ushered in, how can I be sure about John McCain? I am told that he would be good on taxes, appointing judges, and the war on terror, but if McCain faces a Democratic Congress could these issues have a happy ending for Republicans?

Sadly McCain has hammered another nail in a coffin that is already pierced with all manner of doubt and distrust with his courtship of West Coast swing voters on Monday, May 13. His was a call to action on global warming and an indictment of the Bush Administration's failed policies to combat global warming. His proposal to develop a cap-and-trade system designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in his belief that CO2 is behind global warming, would ultimately destroy this nation's free market system and capitalism, raise the cost of energy, destroy smoke- stack industries, and rob us of our liberties -- all in the name of phony science.

McCain's surrender to the extreme environmentalists, when he must surely know that a large chunk of his party's conservative base remains skeptical about the science of climate change, puts him in tandem with both Hillary and Obama. Even so, McCain's radical proposals of May 12 are being ripped by environmentalists as not going far enough, as just a beginning.

What are Republicans to do in November? Our goose seems to be cooked whichever way we turn given McCain's embrace of a liberal approach to something that does not even exist and would not make a bit of difference even if the fixes were put in place.

Sadly the absence of conservative leadership over many years has caused this frustrating dilemma for many Republicans. McCain has no overall set of beliefs of philosophy that can be embraced by his party faithful. Can John McCain be tamed and brought back into the fold of Republicanism or has John McCain and the Republican Party tacked so far to the liberal left in a belief that doing so will win elections, that Republican values and doctrine have been cast aside?

I am willing to give John McCain a chance. It is up to John McCain to prove to Republicans like me that he would be a responsible leader. That he knows what must be done to keep this nation secure and economically vital, while at the same time preserving our individual freedoms. McCain is counting on the fact that we have nowhere else to go, so we can lump it. Perhaps you might say that McCain cannot count on everyone who dislikes Obama or Clinton to bother to vote for him; they might just stay home and let God sort it out. Certainly, conservatives will be reluctant to put their time and money into electing him. At best, he will get our vote -- maybe.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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