How fear, racism and violence rule the world, again!

We look at the present through the rear-view mirrorThe epigraph at the beginning of my book, Literary Hypertext, is that of the Canadian researcher Marshall McLuhan, “We look at the present through the rear-view mirror. We march backward into the future.” McLuhan was referring to the quick technological developments, of which we are continually trying to catch up with. That is precisely how I’m feeling about life in general — the feeling that every progress that has been made suddenly goes backward.

For instance, driving-culture in Israel; Since Israelis started driving abroad, there has been a tremendous improvement in road culture. Drivers say thanks to each other, allow to fit-in, let other drivers park and wait patiently, and stopped honking all the time. But last week I was dumbfounded. I drove innocently on one of Tel-aviv’s main streets. Suddenly, the green light turned yellow, and I stopped. The car behind me went over to the next lane, right along with me, and the driver started screaming. When I rolled down my window, it turned out that he was yelling at me, his throat hoarse and his face contorted with hatred, “Why did you stop?” “It changed to yellow,” I said. “So what, you could have crossed!” He kept screaming in a violent attempt to scare me.

That started a week of screaming that I haven’t had for a long time. Lately, I have not heard people yell at each other, so I thought to myself that shouting on the road “doesn’t count.” We went to a theater performance, and the lady sitting in front of me took out her mobile to check it. The unbearable glare was bothersome. It drove nuts the lady sitting next to me. She started yelling, her face distorted with hate: “Turn it off, now! Turn it off, right away!” She did not think that she might be disturbing the show. Waving her finger, she couldn’t stop screaming, so much so that the whole audience hushed her.

The same is true for hatred and racism — for instance, the issue of Mizrahim (Sephardi Jews) vs. Ashkenazim (European Jews). The discrimination of Mizrahim was a massive issue in the sixties and seventies with the establishment of the Black Panthers movement. It subsided and calmed down towards the end of the 1990s. It was revived, even though so many Sephardim are married to Ashkenazim and vice versa. Politicians refuse to let the issue go away, as we can see today in America. Donald Trump sets ablaze the hatred of Jews, Afro-Americans, and every person that is not a white Christian. This plays on the deepest fear of people, fear of diversity.

On my youngest son’s first day at high school, at lunchtime, he asked me hesitantly: “Mother, are we Mizrahim?” Until then, the subject had not occurred to him and his friends. In our neighborhood, Ashkenazim and Sephardim lived in peace, and the matter was a non-issue. What led to my son’s question was the “educational integration” program that was practiced at the time, and with it, the issue was immortalized for the future. Students from both ends of the town were driven to a distant school to learn together, to get to know each other, and create the Israeli famous “melting pot.” From the south came the Sephardim, according to the municipality’s definition. From the north came the Ashkenazim students, according to the same definitions. At the end of every school-day, integration ended as all students returned to their neighborhood friends.

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King

The same is true in the USA. It seemed that the achievements of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks reached their peak with Obama’s election as President of the United States. As though the relationship between “blacks” and “whites,” “slaves and gentlemen,” as Michelle Obama aptly defined, got a new start and racism subsided. However, the horrifying reports of the continued murder of “blacks” by quick-trigger “white” policemen, and the shocking death of “white” policemen by “black” people tell a different story. Trump’s election for president is explained as a reaction to Obama’s government, a return to white supremacy, and there is no doubt that he has raised the level of racism and hate against all minorities, including Jews, to new heights.

All those cases made me pause and think, what happened to people, to us? I concluded that the continuous flow of negative information about the ongoing violence inflames the atmosphere and affects all of us without even feeling, and slowly but surely, poisons us. The violence we witness all over the world is what drives people crazy and makes them behave accordingly. One distinct line connects the incitement between the Ashkenazim and Mizrahim in Israel, the Europeans and the refugees in Europe, or the “whites” and the “blacks” in the United States. That line is the line of fear and hatred toward the other.

Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan as portrayed by Playboy Magazine

Marshall McLuhan was the head of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. He was the prophet who predicted the digital technology revolution. One of his most outstanding ideas was that technology allows for the expansion of man’s abilities and senses. For example, the radio is an extension of the sense of hearing, television is an extension of the sense of vision, and the computer is an extension of the brain, etc. McLuhan coined the term “global village” in which we live today. He claimed that the media caused “too many people to know too much about each other.” Thus, the media, in his opinion, make us more responsible and more accountable for each other! Nevertheless, nowadays, we see the exact opposite situation. The media empowers negative feelings – fear, hate, racism, and violence.

The last word: “America preaches integration and practices segregation” Malcolm X

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