Discover more from Mindset Shifts—Essays by Barry Brownstein
We No Longer Live in Modern Times
When the sideliners finally see they can’t sit it out, will it be too late?
For this essay, let’s start at the end; then, we will see how we got to this terrible place. Writing in the UK’s The Spectator, Julie Burchill observes about growing antisemitism:
No one will be allowed to sit this one out. Sooner or later, we will all have to pick our side. Or that side will pick us, as the mob – young and strong – gains velocity and the madness of crowds seeks to finally finish what it started so many times before. I know which side I’m on – but then, I am an old lady now, one who chose her side when she was a child, back in those wonderful days when only bad people screamed ‘Death to the Jews’. Back when we truly lived in modern times.
Do we no longer live in modern times? I agree with Burchill’s alarming conclusion. Poverty, war, suffering, and hatred have always been a sad undercurrent of humanity’s progress, yet for most of us growing up in the West, freedom and progress has mostly colored our life experiences. “Modern times” has been a great epoch to live in. Modern times have ended. Today, a tide of terrible times is rising.
The same people who were quick to label as fascist anything they did not like are now cheering antisemitic slogans and sharing their joy for the actions of Hamas baby burners.
Burchill wrote, “Anti-Semitism has become deeply fashionable. You might say it’s all the rage.” She added, “When you think about it, there’s a dismal predictability to anti-Semitism’s popularity with today’s kids. In the past, the younger generation always craved more freedom, but this one wants less.”
If you’ve read my recent essay, “If You Hate Jews, You Hate Freedom,” the connection between antisemitism and disdain for freedom is not news to you.
Wanting less freedom, Burchill observed, the younger generation supports “the policing of language (when the Labour party promise two years in jail for ‘misgendering’, it knows the age group most likely to vote for it) and the persecution and cancelling of those with rebellious views.”
Burchill referred to a 2019 survey that found "two-thirds of 25-34s would prefer a ‘strongman leader’ who does not ‘have to bother with parliament’.” These illiberal attitudes manifest in disdain for free speech.
Burchill added, “How weird it would be if the demographic who have spent the last few years screaming that everybody they don’t like is literally Hitler turned out to be quite keen on Hitler.” Today, people openly express calls to "gas the Jews" and "finish what Hitler started."
Burchill warned, “If the 18-34 cohort surveyed are increasingly anti-Semitic, there’s every sign the next generation will be worse, raised as they are on the BBC telling them that Israelis kill babies in hospitals when it was actually ‘friendly fire’ by some particularly cretinous jihadis.”
We can be equally concerned about American students being instructed by Marxist professors who, as Jennifer Sey wrote, put “Jews in the ‘white/oppressor’ category.” Sey was brand president of Levi Strauss before being forced to resign after publicly criticizing school closures during COVID. Sharing insights into the mindset of the woke, Sey wrote:
In the woke racial pecking order, Jews are the most oppressive, supposedly because they have outsized money, power and influence (an antisemitic trope). Jews do not deserve sympathy and they certainly do not deserve the status that comes from victimhood. They don’t even deserve to be viewed as human. Their mere existence is violence, according to anti-racism ideology.
Jew haters hiding behind the banner of being “antiracists,” Sey observed, “grow bolder every day.” Sey warned, “Decolonization — a euphemism for the slaughter of those marked as oppressors… ends with ‘elimination,’ that is viewed as not only necessary, but just and righteous.”
In his seminal work, The True Believer, Eric Hoffer exposed how totalitarians exploit our character flaws and hatreds. Many are all too eager to blame their flaws on others, in this case the Jews. Hoffer explained,
Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.
Jew haters deceive themselves. Haters want to escape “the rational.” Hoffer wrote, “The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others.” Haters ask to be deceived. Hoffer quoted one observer of Germans under Hitler: “[They] pray not only for [their] daily bread, but also for [their] daily illusion.”
Here is a law of human behavior that you can notice when you have even a minor grievance: The more you nurse grievances and deceive yourself by blaming others, the bigger the story you will construct to justify why you are right. The more elaborate your false narrative, the stronger your desire for allies to corroborate your deceit. The more allies you identify with, the stronger your belief that those you accuse deserve disdain. The more anger you have, the worse you feel and the more you lose touch with the best parts of yourself.
Presently, the Jew haters have relinquished their humanity, and Hoffer’s work reveals why they will intensify their hatred twofold and threefold in the coming days, months, and years:
The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination. We cannot pity those we have wronged, nor can we be indifferent toward them. We must hate and persecute them or else leave the door open to self-contempt.
Totalitarians prey on those frustrated by their own failures. The frustrated, Hoffer observed, exhibit “a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible.”
Today, in American cities and European capitals, Jew haters march. Scapegoating, Hoffer explained, is a “desperate effort to suppress an awareness of [their] inadequacy, worthlessness, guilt and other shortcomings of the self. Self-contempt is here transmuted into hatred of others—and there is a most determined and persistent effort to mask this switch.”
Haters seek to infect others with their hatred. If others agree, the haters surely hope they are not leading as worthless a life as they secretly fear. Hoffer explained, “The most effective way of doing this is to find others, as many as possible, who hate as we do. Here more than anywhere else we need general consent, and much of our proselytizing consists perhaps in infecting others not with our brand of faith but with our particular brand of unreasonable hatred.”
It has shocked us to hear support for pedophile Hamas rapists in all walks of life, chanting slogans such as “by any means necessary.” Their Jew hatred unifies them, and illiberal elements in society are taking full advantage. Hoffer observed:
Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements. To share a common hatred, with an enemy even, is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance. Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made a similar use of anti-communism.
We no longer live in modern times because too many good people—people we know—think they can sit this one out. I am sure, as is Burchill, they can’t. Terrible times are arriving with growing antisemitism. When the sideliners finally see they can’t sit it out, will it be too late?
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