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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Integral Cultural Criticism
A Genealogy of Anti-Semitism
The message of the Jewish prophets to the Jewish people was for them to reflect on their faults and shortcomings
Just as things can go wrong in individuals, things can go wrong in cultures. This usually results from an imbalance in the social relations within that culture where one faction gains influence and ultimately domination over other factions, in a kind of intra-cultural warfare.
We see this in the recent hegemonic alliance of liberal-elite managerialism with the woke social justice warriors, which in America is the democrats (orange) in alliance with the mean green meme. Of course, progressively speaking, they are preferable to win in the battle with the republicaffn oligarchs (mean orange), who are in alliance with the mean red and blue memes. So there's lots of angry, mean, and nasty going on all around.
More broadly speaking, cultures also have more enduring traits that are more deeply entrenched and are more historically long term characteristics. In America two such traits that are deeply entrenched are arrogance and narcissism. Of course, these traits are in all cultures, as we are all humans who share these traits as biological features of our potential self-constitution. And yet, undeniably (or some would say arguably), arrogance and narcissism can be said to be prominent features of American culture, demonstrable in the personalities of many of its members.
Sometimes these personality traits can be vividly demonstrated in certain public personages like Trump, putting the full ugliness of American culture on display, and the same applies to any culture. In the case of Jewish culture (trigger warning) one could say (arguably, as in the case of American cultural traits) that Harvey Weinstein, one of the most notorious sexual predators of Hollywood, and Bernie Madoff, one of the most notorious financial predators of Wall Street, could be indicative of some Jewish cultural traits that get manifested in some of its most prominent cultural members. But I just said above, these traits are in all of us to some extent, so isn't it rather that these are human traits instead of Jewish cultural traits?
Well, not so fast, because American arrogance and narcissism are also human traits present in all of us, and yet (undeniably, arguably) they are also enduring cultural traits in a broad swath of Americans, and the same could be said of some traits that are present in all cultures with more and less prominence, particularly evident in prominent cultural personages, as they are in Trump for American traits. So what we need to do is explore these traits further, and see if they might reasonably be characterized as Jewish cultural traits, traits that are in all of us, but that might be given special prominence, and for good reasons, in Jewish culture.
Let's take two other examples that are closer to home for integral circles. Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen are both Jewish and have had close ties to integral thought. They are also the two most infamous and notorious figures in the history of the integral movement for the alleged abuses they have committed. That in itself is a remarkable fact given that the representation of Jewish people within specifically integral circles is a small minority. Thus we have anecdotal evidence from Hollywood, Wall Street, and the integral movement itself that some of the most notorious deviants of recent memory (if the accusations against them are true) have been Jewish, despite their small representation in the larger population. What are the odds of that, and what might this tell us about some of the worst aspects of Jewish culture (not Jewish culture as a whole, but it's most ugly aspects)? And crucially, why might these cultural traits be there in the first place?
In the personages mentioned above we can of course discern positive traits, and they are human beings so we must be careful not to dehumanize them, nor degrade any culture to which they or others may belong. At the same time we must be open, honest, and truthful to the best of our judgement about any negative traits in both the people and the cultures under consideration. Holding these rules in mind, we can discern in the persons mentioned above the negative traits of predatory exploitation, greed, bullying, opportunistic manipulation, and deception. Again, these are potential traits in all of us, but we find them in prominent and egregious display in these figures, and as in the case of Trump and American culture, they may be (undeniably, or arguably) expressive of these figures as they were shaped by Jewish culture.
But why might these be negative traits of Jewish culture in particular, even if they are traits of all humans and the cultures that shape them? If one notices, these are traits that people often use to get ahead in life and in their careers, to “get one up” on the competition, so to speak. These are the traits in other words of highly ambitious people, albeit in pathologic form. And they are the kind of traits that we can see in many of the most successful people, the ones who have “sold their souls” to get ahead. In fact psychological studies have shown an over-representation of psychopathic traits in some of the most successful people of all—corporate executives and leaders of powerful institutions.
It is no secret that Jewish people as a group are probably the most successful people in the world in many areas, from science and academics to wealth and leadership positions within powerful institutions. Their numbers in academic prizes, ownership of media, and leadership at banking and entertainment institutions are unrivalled and simply off the charts compared to other ethnic groups in terms of their proportionate representation. The chart below and the link in the endnotes shows estimates for what those disproportions may be by approximation, and even if the numbers are exaggerated, they are astonishing.
What this suggests, if not that Jewish people are proportionately smarter and better than the rest of us by interbreeding genetics (otherwise known as eugenics), is that Jewish culture has such a drive toward ambition that it instils in its members a remarkable compulsion to succeed. And if it does, then a high proportion of the members of that culture relative to other cultures will be driven to succeed by any means necessary, generating in disproportionate numbers the kind of pathological cultural traits that we see within the wider society in people like Bernie Madoff and Andrew Cohen (love to Andrew, I hear he has been on a recovery course).
Of course, this is just an anecdotal hypothesis. But what concerns me about it is that, if true, it means that Jewish culture is a breeding ground for pathology in the wider institutions of global society (in partnership with the Euro-American Calvinist drive toward signs of being chosen), in particular within the neoliberal-neoconservative corporate state (NNCS) where the disproportionate representation of Jews is off the charts, as represented in the chart above, and where the philosophy of American exceptionalism (“We can do no wrong”) fits rather nicely with Jewish chosenness and immunity to criticism under threat of cultural and societal cancellation. Such an NNCS is extremely dangerous to humanity and is at the core of many global problems today, including the war in Ukraine and the nuclear armageddon it brings us closer to, not to mention the climate armageddon that we are rapidly heading toward.
It is easy to see why Jewish culture might have this drive of ambition and the pathologies that accompany it—they were an enslaved people almost from their origins, and they were discriminated against particularly by Christians for many centuries, meaning that the Jewish people have struggled to survive by any means necessary for nearly their entire existence, and sometimes as a condition of their very survival. They were only allowed to study and to trade when they weren't enslaved, and they excelled at these practices. However all of this came at a price, and that price was an overly ambitious culture for worldly success that now haunts the lobbies of corporate banks, big media studios, and government institutions, leading the world to the brink of “any means necessary”, or at least “any means you can get away with without getting caught”, which Nietzsche called slave morality. And perhaps most importantly for Jews, this may be an empirical source for much of (but by no means all of) the antisemitism from those on the receiving end of pathologic traits in Jewish culture, just as colonialism and imperialism was the empirical source for the receiving end on 9-11. As innocent as those victims were, their government and corporate leaders were not so innocent.
Whether any or almost all of this is true is not something that can be definitively and factually determined with complete confidence here, as it is informed speculative anthropological sociology, not a scientific study. But it's crucial importance for understanding how global pathologies may be rooted in cultural pathologies means that it is something we all need to consider within our own culture as we head toward the brink. And in particular I think Jewish people themselves need to look at their own culture, not just outside critics like myself who are likely to be labelled as antisemitic anyway, and thus deflate and diffuse the self-examination of possible cultural shadows.
The message of the Jewish prophets to the Jewish people was for them to reflect on their faults and shortcomings, and to ask whether they can and should make a course correction for their own good, and for the good of humanity and the cosmos. I think the Jewish prophets would be on my side of the argument here. Given the many powerful positions occupied by Jews in the world today, they may have the potential to be either the anti-christ, or the messiah. The choice is for the chosen ones to make.