The Flower Blooms

In Standpoint, Jonathan Kay writes on how “The American Mind Continues To Close”. I disagree with 80% of Kay’s interpretation of Allan Bloom, and Kay’s overt ethnocentrism is quite striking:

Which brings me back to Bloom — who was Jewish and gay, and the child of social workers whose own parents escaped Europe’s murderous anti-Semitism. These are not incidental biographical details. Bloom came to the defence of traditional Western literature and philosophy without the baggage of colonialism and racial supremacism that weighs down your average gentile to the point of intellectual paralysis. And if Bloom’s surname were Smith or Jones, I’m not sure The Closing of the American Mind would have been written.

Similarly, I do not think it is a coincidence that many of the most influential and vigorous critics of liberal orthodoxy to emerge since that book’s publication also have been Jews — a list that includes Richard Bernstein, Alan Dershowitz, John Podhoretz, Jonah Goldberg, Andrew Breitbart, David Brooks, Christopher Hitchens, Charles Krauthammer, William Safire and Ben Shapiro. Since 9/11, in particular, it has disproportionately fallen to Jewish commentators (and sometimes gay men or women) to sound the alarm against the normalisation of Islamist anti-Semitism, misogyny and homophobia. If the people with the least moral standing in arts and letters are seen to be straight, lily-white WASPs, and those with the most are visible minorities and indigenous peoples, then the Jew (perhaps especially a gay Jew) falls exactly in between.

The question of whether Jews are truly “white” or not is a semantic tangent that I will leave to others. But my own experience as a Jew is that we occupy a betwixt and between place in the marketplace of ideas. On the one hand, as Bloom’s example shows, we heirs to Maimonides, Spinoza, Freud and Einstein are bound closely enough to the Western intellectual tradition that we feel both proud and protective of it. On the other hand, we are not so saturated with colonial guilt that we are ashamed to assist in its defence. When Kipling wrote of “the white man’s burden”, and implored Washington to “send forth the best ye breed”, he was not speaking of Bloom’s grandparents.

It was only after I left my last job, where I was the only Jew in an office of several dozen (white) gentiles, that I realised how much my religious background had contributed to the ideological gulf between me and my colleagues.

That last sentence is a doozy.

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