The Jewish Century

23 Jul 2022 10:32 - 17 Jun 2023 08:29
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    • book by Yuri Slezkine, I feel this book had a huge influence on me, its point of view revealed so much about the world. I'm probably giving it too much credit and I'm sure it has severe critics.
    • The basic ideas, as I remember them:
      • You can split human cultures into two different groups with very distinct characteristics:
        • Apollonians, who are the settled, agricultural, nationalist, normie types
        • Mercurians, who are the nomads, traders, and those who provide vital specialized services to the more settled farmers. These are inherently rarer but you can find examples of them everywhere; aside from the Jews he lists the Roma, overseas Chinese groups, and I don't remember the others.
      • Jews until recently were an example of a very successful Mercurian group, that had forged an uneasy symbiosis with the "native" cultures.
      • Modernism, for many reasons, had the effect of making humanity more urban and cosmopolitan in a way that Jews were well-adapted for. The balance of power started to shift from the Apollonians to Mercurians.
      • So intertwined was modernity with Jewishness that the Jew is kind of the prototype for a modern person, a liberal, skeptical, ironic, educated, cosmopolitan sort of being, as opposed to the stout, sincere, but rather dim and narrow-minded farmers.
      • You can map this distinction onto the current sociopolitical conflict, with the Blue tribe obviously heavily urban and Jewish in attitude, the Red tribe at least pretending to rural values and opposed to cosmopolitanism on principle.
    • For some reason this really clarified the culture war for me. It makes it seem like it is indeed a war between different cultures, ones that have been living in uneasy symbiosis since forever, usually to mutual benefit but with an ever-present possibility of hostility and violence.
    • Old mentions

      • (twice at Ribbonfarm comments, I am really repeating myself)
      • The very first sentance of Slezkine's introduction is: "The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieeth century, in particular, ins the Jewish Century. Modernization is about everyone becoming urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible". OK, he doesn't say "liberal" or "progressive" explicitly, but the connection seems clear, at least in the context of modern US politics. Nobody is going to associate George Bush with the articulate and intellectually intricate. Of course not all Jews everywhere are liberal/progressive, life is more complicated than that.