Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anti-Semitism isn't what it used to be

Old-fashioned European and American anti-Semitism, which envisaged a sinister conspiracy, global in its reach, implicitly ascribed special powers - supernatural or demonic - to Jews. How else could such a relatively small number constitute a serious threat to Christian civilization (which, after all, had God and His angels on its side)?

This (ultimately) medieval outlook has faded in the West as other forms of religion or irreligion - less rooted in European history - have come to prominence.

Besides, as wealth moves from west to east, it's clear that the chief beneficiaries of the global financial system (and, increasingly, the key players) are more likely to be east or south Asian than Jewish.* If there was a secret Jewish plan to control the world, it has clearly failed!

Oddly, the absurd view of Jews as arch-evil villains, long since abandoned in mainstream circles in the Christian and post-Christian West, flourishes in sections of the Islamic world due in part to the continuing influence of 19th and early 20th century Muslim thinkers who blended elements of European thought (including fascism and European-style anti-Semitism) into their political theology in an attempt to revivify and - irony of ironies - modernize their religion.**

Anti-Semitism was a dark strand in European history which once spawned potent fictions capable of inducing even intelligent men and women to suspend their disbelief. But in the context of today's world it can only ever be a fringe phenomenon, a magnet for small minds and a tawdry cover for fanatics with a taste for violence.

* The latest Boston Consulting Group global wealth survey showed that Singapore has the greatest concentration of households with investable assets in excess of $1,000,000. The number of millionaire households in the United States is falling. The number of millionaire households in China is surging.

** Last year I wrote a little on this movement, prompted largely by my reading of Paul Berman's The Flight of the Intellectuals and Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. (See, for example, 'Islamic death cult' and 'Islamists and Nazis').


  1. I love a good thought well expressed. That last paragraph is a fine bit.

    1. Thanks for saying so.

      I appreciate it. (Unlike Steven Landsburg when one of his commenters said how much they enjoyed his posts on mathematics. He responded - only half-jokingly I think - by asking what was wrong with the non-mathematical posts. So I am definitely not asking what's wrong with the other paragraphs. The thought didn't even cross my mind...)

  2. Since I like the conclusion, I must have liked the premises too.