Sunday, March 3, 2024

#63 / Equations

When I teach classes in legal studies (and, not infrequently, when I post something on this blog), I say that the following expression is an "equation" that explains how the world works. The way I see it, what I am calling an "equation," as presented immediately below, outlines  how the "political world" works - and that "political world" is the world we most immediately inhabit:

Politics > Law > Government

To understand this "equation," we need to begin at the right, and work towards the left. "Government" is "how the world works." How we "govern" the world, or how the world "is governed," to employ a more passive voice pronouncement, is what we mean by "government." This is something we all know about. We experience it.

When we consider how the world works, we come to understand that our "laws" define the operations of  our "government." To change how the world works, we need to change the laws. To take one example, if we wanted to have our world provide housing, health care, education, and employment for everyone, we would have to change various laws, including, specifically, the laws that determine who gets taxed, and how much. So, our "government" is defined by the "laws" that, in an analogy to the "Laws of Nature,"are the "laws" that will determine how the world we most immediately inhabit operates.

Many people, it seems to me, pretty much stop their analysis right there. They more or less assume that the "laws" define and determine what the "government" does, and thus how our world works. They can see that is true, and their relationship with the world is mostly defined, for them, by their role as "observers." However, we are not only observers. We are "actors," too, and (we all really know this) our laws, unlike the "Laws of Nature," are not statements about what must inevitably happen. Our "laws" are "political," and our "political" actions result in the laws that determine how our world works. We live, thus, in a "political world," and we can change how it works when we take political action.

On December 24, 2023, the day before Christmas, last year, The New York Times ran a column by Lisa Schwarzbaum, a former film critic for Entertainment Weekly. Schwarzbaum's column was a review of an eighteen-year-old movie, Munich.  Her column was titled, "The Best Movie About Israel and Gaza Now Came Out 18 Years Ago."

Those who are reading this blog post might, or might not, be able to read the column. This will depend on the potential reader's relationship to The New York Times, and to its paywall policies. Here is an excerpt upon which I want to comment: 

Avner [an undercover agent of Israel, whose mission has been to avenge the assassination of Israelis killed by Palestinians], having successfully completed his vengeful mission and now living in Brooklyn with his wife and child and still reeling from the toll his assassination assignment has taken on his soul, meets up with his Mossad handler, Ephraim, played by Geoffrey Rush, on a stretch of Queens waterfront. The two men talk. Despite their differences about the place of Israel in their hearts, Avner invites Ephraim, a fellow Jew, to dinner in his home. Ephraim declines. And as Avner walks away, the camera pans matter-of-factly across the skyline, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center still stand.
In 2005, with memories of Sept. 11 still fresh and just a year after images of prisoner abuse in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were made public, the image cut like a knife of grief. The message was unmissable: Violence begets vengeance begets violence, and the road to further tragedy stretches to the horizon. That road leads to right now: Israeli hostages who are still in mortal danger and untold thousands of Palestinians dead.
At first sight, the glimpse at the end of “Munich” of a skyline that no longer existed reopened a raw wound. It was supposed to. It still does (emphasis added).
The highlighted text contains a different kind of "equation." Let's recognize it as such: 

Violence > Vengeance > Violence

This "equation," too, describes "how the world works. This "equation," too, reads from right to left - but it is equally true whichever way it's read. To change the operations of this governing equation, we will need to muster up our will to make "political" changes - but we will have to do something else, too. We will need, somehow, to be able to sit down at the table with those whose presence in our lives powers that self-perpetuating "equation" just outlined. 

We need, in other words, not only "political" change (though we do need that). We need that "metanoia" that is the word that names the kind of spiritual changes we must summon. Still somewhat fresh in a "New Year," let us search for that. Let us dismantle, at last, this "spiritual" affliction, this equation that drives us always to disaster, that is premised on the lie that we are not "in this together." 

We are. And may we realize this soon. This year in Jerusalem!


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