At the End of the Day

Criticising from without while fitting in

When he was a young man in England, Benjamin Disraeli wrote three highly acclaimed novels that shone an interesting light on society at the time. They did so, I’ve always suspected, because the man later to become the first Jewish Prime Minister of the British Empire could see more clearly than most the mismatch between those in the higher and lower strata of Victorian english culture.

Being a heavily anglicised Jew, Disraeli brought insights to bear on the pack hierarchies and hatreds that go with being of the species Homo sapiens. He was apart from and yet within: a member of an at times despised minority, and yet a man in the end beloved of the English – who paid him the inestimable compliment of giving the Outsider a nickname – ‘Dizzy’.

One of my favourite Jewish jokes is about how in the 1970s a well-established British Jew gets his uncle Jacob out of the USSR, and discovers – on the old bloke’s arrival at Heathrow – that he’s hassidic full-on Kosher cowboy. So he tells him look, in Britain you have to fit in. So he takes him to Savile Row, gets him kitted out in English tweed, then shuttles him over to Claridges to get a long on the top short back and sides public school haircut.

As the uncle’s ringlet sideburns are clipped and fall to the barber’s floor, his British nephew notices that the Russian immigrant is weeping. Suddenly, he is overwhelmed by a sense of having bullied this poor chap into being anglicised. He hugs him in the chair and says Uncle Jacob, how could I be so crass – I’m so sorry I did this: I’m so sad to see you crying about losing your hair.

“Hair?” Jacob responds, “I’m not crying because I lost my hair…I’m crying because we lost India”.

A recurring theme in the history of immigration into the UK is about “trying to be more British than the British”. And a lot of the modern history of Jewish diaspora is about a unique ability to adapt, get along and not become a target. This is what makes Jonathan Miller’s line about “I’m not really a Jew – I’m just sort of Jewish” a golden nugget of genius in the English context. It also explains the black humour of the two Viennese Jews about to be shot by the SS after the Anschluss.

“You are about to die Jews,” says the SS Ubersturmbannfuhrer, “Have you any last requests?”
“Yes,” says Abe, “I’d like a blindfold”. His companion looks at him in horror.
“Heimy,” he pleads, “How many times I have to tell you: don’t make trouble”.


How does this potted précis of complex recent history inform where the world is at today? I think it does so in two ways; and as so often with this blog, I have no doubt that I will lose some valued followers, gain bigoted followers I don’t want, and be the recipient of angry emails as a result of making these two observations.

But here goes anyway.

First, Disraeli’s thoughts about social class and pack hierarchy led him to come up with one phrase – ‘Two Nations’ – to describe a Victorian culture in which the working man from Spitalfields might well have been from the Planet Mungo as far as the noblewoman in Oxfordshire was concerned…..and vice-versa.

Benjamin Disraeli invented ‘One Nation Conservatism’ as the gradualist alternative to revolutionary Socialism in 19th Century Britain. As such, he helped influence everyone from George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde to Harold Macmillan and Ted Heath. His remedy too was one of genius…and over time – a long time, I might add – it helped the UK move peacefully from Empire to Commonwealth. It provided a degree of consensus when the alternative was division, violence and descent into dictatorship. He came in the end to personify the rise from nothing to embrace the fears and aspirations of everyone.

I think we have lost that. And I wonder if now more than ever our need in Britain might be for another Outsider with Dizzy’s decency and genius to apply the same macroscope to our dilemma of a divided Opposition that perpetually fails to resist a devilish Corporatism.

Second, I would say to all those on the Left and/or dedicated to Islam and/or in the so-called peripheral EU States, did it ever occur to you that the global Jewish success so many of you envy is based not on a Zionist conspiracy, but rather on an ability to adapt, accept, cooperate, engage and reflect….rather than dismiss, repel, attack, alienate, and reject?

Equally – and yet to some extent conversely – after discussing these matters with Jews across Europe and America over seven decades, I have over time realised that their denialism of the Jewish genius gene is not a valid “deconstruction of stereotyping”. I think that assertion to fly in the face of facts, and I also find it neurotically defensive: for it is based on that ancient fear, “don’t make trouble”.

There is no Jewish ideology. There is a Zionist ideology, and it is just as unreasonable as Socialist, neoliberal, pc, feminist, Islamist and Christian fundamentalisms. The few Zionist Israelis I’ve met strike me as atypical: they lack the insightful introspection of ‘real’ Jews, Muslims, Christians, mixed economists and crossbencher politicians.  Ideologists (nearly always the activists) are above all almost completely devoid of an eclectic sense of humour. They despise people who enjoy themselves.

We should welcome the Outsider who offers constructive criticism of our tribalism while laughing at his own. Jews do this better than most….as do the Irish. But then, being half-Irish and brought up among Manchester Jews, I’m obviously biased.

Earlier at The Slog: Round the Bend and Behind your Back

14 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. i have to question the ‘the ability to adapt, accept and cooperate… engaging and reflecting’ all in an apartheid state. i wouldn’t mention it JW but i do respect you and your blog enough to do so..


  2. We certainly need someone who is both fearless and gifted with a formidable sense of humour; also, of course, they would need to be honest. It’s a tall order and, unfortunately, until the current meme has run it’s course and we have learnt that globalist corporatocracy, try saying that without your teeth in, is not such a good idea, it’s hard to see how such a person could emerge or would have the slightest interest in active political engagement. Perhaps we need a crisis so that comes the hour, comes the individual; it seems we’re courting a variety of these which is both encouraging and frightening in almost equal measure. Having both Irish and Jewish blood, I identify with both races – except the Zionists and the little gurriers from Dublin who stole my car radio – particularly with their use of linguistic imagery. Both races have survived for long periods by using their wits and by being witty as a defence against the world, but there is also a deeper and more spiritual alignment with destiny. I do have concerns, however, about circumcision and whether people from Cork are too condescending.


  3. Anyone who is a threat would get the Corbyn treatment,it was always logical that the accusers integrity honour & honesty is destroyed by themselves,but that will only leave a small window of opportunity for anyone needing to show the traits that are needed before the anarchy sets in. although other opportunities will arise over time!This is the reality of a legislative & propaganda machine out of control!


  4. “How does this potted précis of complex recent history inform where the world is at today? I think it does so in two ways; and as so often with this blog, I have no doubt that I will lose some valued followers, gain bigoted followers I don’t want, and be the recipient of angry emails as a result of making these two observations.”

    John spot on observation. How much of your observation is made more acute by living in former feudal rural France which we wealthier Brits could afford while the rural poor of France had to sell up? I feel the poverty of German/Bavarian original thought. All the wealth down here – and there is a huge money down here – is “Opa’s Geld”. There isn’t the mentality to question, destroy, rebuild down here either. Europe will always be a serf culture.


  5. If stereotypes are to be believed, Billy Gruff will throw wonderfully boozy parties ….. but won’t pay for any of it.


  6. “There is no Jewish ideology. There is a Zionist ideology, and it is just as unreasonable as Socialist, neoliberal, pc, feminist, Islamist and Christian fundamentalisms. ” Exactly. The problem of course is that it is an ideology like the others listed that requires devotion to the cause and the demonisation and destruction of its ‘enemies’. Unlike the other ideologies however, Zionists dominate almost all mainstream media in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and any politician that opposes them knows that he or she is unlikely to go far in any political party. The success of Corbyn has been despite the wishes of the Labour establishment. The power wielded by AIPAC and British Labour/Conservative/LIberal Democrat Friends of Israel, is undeniable, but to point out this power is itself deemed anti-semitic by Zionism’s adherents. Many prominent British Jews in the late nineteeth and early twentieth century were opposed to Zionism, mainly because they saw themselves as British first and jewish second, and because they realised that to support the Zionist cause was to open them up to the charge of dual-loyalty. It seems they were prescient as jewish voices that speak up about the crimes of Israel are now condemned by the Zionist mouthpieces as ‘self-hating’. Identifying with and defending the actions of the Israeli state is seen as synonymous with ‘jewish’ identity. One has only to look at the ostracisation of such principled men as Richard Goldstone, Norman Finkelstein and Gilad Atzmon.

    As to the ‘Jewish genius gene’, It is undeniable that there are extremely intelligent people who identify as Jewish – indeed many of my heroes would fit this description, and there is evidence to suggest that the IQ bell curve is shifted higher for Ashkenazi jews. I am unconvinced that this and the adaptability and perceptiveness of the outsider completely explains the overwhelming overrepresentation of Ashkenazi Jews in media, finance and politics. It would not surprise me if a sort of tribal loyalty to which we are all subject plays a role. I would expect Jews, just like any cultural or genetic group of the species homosapiens, to run the gamut between good and evil, empathetic and sociopathic, intelligent and stupid. The role of prominent jews in the MSM, high finance, science and politics cuts both ways of course. I briefly stayed with a Jewish family and the children of the family used to delight in identifying the number of Jews that appeared on the telly in different prominent positions. I suspect that the reason that JW’s friends do not like to speak of the ‘Jewish gene’ is because for every Einstein, Dylan or Salk, there is a Kaganovich, Meyer Lansky or Blankfein. The history of Jewish contribution to Western history over the past century is mixed to say the least and to celebrate the good would risk a frank acknowledgement of the darker side.

    On another topic, I do find it interesting that JW identifies the ‘Left’ with some sort of anti-semitism. For most of the twentieth century, communism and socialism were identified with ‘the Jew’ as many of the prominent leaders on the left were themselves Jewish. Hitler portrayed himelf as the bulwark against ‘Jewish Bolshevism’. Indeed, most of the Neoconservatives currently wreaking havoc around the world started off as Trotskyites.


  7. We certainly need more elignthend men like Disraeli, whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Irish or from any other tribe.

    Alas I feel the issue does not like with great leaders, but with an insouant population. Maybe the right leader can indeeed raise your common couch potatoe from his slumber, but I suspect there are too many vested interests. I would have to question the life expectancy of such a person, should he/she ever come to prominence.


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