German-Jewish poet, political scientist and sometimes-provocateur Max Czollek examines the complex dance between modern Germany and German Jews, Holocaust memory, minority identity, radical diversity, art and politics. His book “De-integrate Yourselves” has launched a thousand conversations.

This episode is part of a series made possible by the German Government which examines Israel’s relationship with the EU and European countries.

1 comment on “Identity, Dissembled

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    In geometries, one may get the same geometry with somewhat different axioms (or at least one or two different across sets); then what was an axiom in one beginning becomes a theorem in another, and conversely when you consider a second set of axioms yielding the same geometry. Sure, some axioms sets seem more natural than others. The Euclidian parallel postulate seems more obvious than some of the alternatives yielding that postulate as a theorem. But it’s the geometry as a whole which allows equivalent axiom sets; the whole that can be encountered is what is preserved.

    Everything is a construction, but we must construct. So is the act of construction a construction too? The German historicists, examining culture through genealogy in the 19th Century, also exposed to new cultures through nascent Empire, produced the fundamental problem of self reference: if all is constructed, why value any over others, or why even value the construction of genealogy itself? This dilemma flowers in Nietzsche, then Heidegger, and ends up, about the same time as the latter, producing fully independently, set theory paradox in Russell. Nietzsche accepted that all can be deconstructed. His self problem was then to create value. We’re still there.

    Here’s a possible example of where deconstruction lies (both as used and as leaving one with a lie). By the time the gospels are written, Rome had a motif of savior child, Ovid using it for Augustus. Matthew uses this myth by fusing it with Daniel, producing a Jesus birth story missing in the oldest gospel, Mark. Matthew is seen as the most anti-Semitic of the gospels, even though it parallels Jesus origin with Jewish religion. Is there here a tension between the Roman story and its imposition, by an elite writer, onto Jewish texts to create a new text, this gospel? Does the gospel distance from Judaism, or does it distance from Rome while capturing the Rome infant myth? Both, I guess. But you don’t need to know any of this to be a Christian. In fact, the net result of knowing all of this is to lose the joy of the story as shaped over 1000 years. If you knew the actual mechanism, in real time, of your taste buds could you enjoy tasting? Can you find a mate if you understand, the same way evolutionary biologists understand the mating of fruit flies, what that finding entails? Nietzsche had Pandora opened and knew it could not be closed. How then, do anything?

    Right leaning people hate this talk for such effect. They see it as nihilistic, and indeed Nietzsche did not embrace nihilism but warned that was where historicism went unless supplemented; his writings are in significant part an attempt to find a supplement, but he does so as a future prescription, so “a book for all and none.” He lives with a contradiction: to see underneath myth is to fall forever. The left, through constant deconstruction, faces Nietzsche’s dilemma. The one exception I constantly see is focus on saving lives. It’s an interesting focus, common as well to most action/adventure/sci-fi movies/shows, shunting out the problem of what those lives DO once saved. I think our integration now is in that: saving lives, letting them go on without our definition. If there is nothing after the saving it doesn’t matter, for we focus on the saving. Surely this is true in this pandemic, but it is common to our entertainments which, quite often, are based on violence and destruction, for that is all we know how to depict spectacularly.

    I see free speech similarly. I can enable your speech with no clue where you will take it. It’s as though we hope SOMEONE ELSE will create meaning. And maybe that is truly so, and maybe that is what liberalism really is, a handing off to others unknown. I would protect the interviewee’s work, but that is for the sake of its protection. I then, old man, walk away.

    Happy whatever to you. Whatever is OUT THERE, beyond every beyond myself, but not beyond you. So meaning returns, in your happy.

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