I did this interview via email.
1. LUKE: How eager was the publishing world and then the reading public for the messages of your book “Into the Cannibal's Pot”?
ILANA MERCER: As is often the case, the “publishing world” was at odds with the reading public. The public was extremely eager for the message of “Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.” With the exception of the book’s heroic publisher, whose words of wisdom your readers can read on “The Cannibal’s” Amazon page (“This is a book about ideas and ideology,” he writes.) The courage and forethought of Stairway Press of Seattle paid off. The book has done well, given the fact that mainstream publishers ran from it horrified. The “Preface” to the book, available through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, details the ridiculous responses my agent received from what conservatives and libertarians consider their go-to imprints.
2. LUKE: What are the chief lessons for America from South Africa's decline?
ILANA MERCER: One crucial lesson, and I quote form the “Introduction” to “Into the Cannibal’s Pot,” is that “a highly developed Western society can be dismantled with relative ease. In South Africa, this deconstruction has come about in the wake of an almost overnight shift in the majority/minority power structure. In the U.S., a slower, more incremental transformation is under way. It began with a state-orchestrated, historically unparalleled, mass importation of inassimilable ethnic groups into a country whose creed is that it has no creed any longer.”
The US is fast becoming a mass of competing interests, in which the politically weak vie to keep more of their rightful property; the politically powerful fight to get their paws on that very property. Democracy is especially dangerous in such ethnically and racially divided societies, where majorities and minorities are rigidly predetermined and politically permanent. Like South Africa, America is destined to degenerate into a dominant-party state. Thirty years on, when the immigration Rubicon is crossed, the population of our country will be poorer, less educated and more welfare-dependent. One party will represent this majority. This party will serve as an instrument of perpetual oppression of the minority by a politically powerful majority, just as the African National Congress does in South Africa.
3. LUKE: Given the decline in South Africa since the end of apartheid, do you, in retrospect, give apartheid more credit? Do you think your father was right to protest apartheid?
ILANA MERCER: My book distinguishes between natural rights and political rights. Man is endowed with natural—but not necessarily political—rights. People fuss about apartheid having denied the majority its democratic rights (the vote). Citizenship rights, however, are not natural rights. It is natural rights that the law ought to always and everywhere respect and uphold. In denying blacks these rights, apartheid was reprehensible. To quote from “The Cannibal”: "In its police state methods—indefinite detention without trial, declarations of a state of emergency—apartheid destroyed the individual defenses of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus and various other very basic freedoms. That the apartheid regime contravened natural justice by depriving Africans of rights to property and due process is indisputable as it is despicable." (Page 231.) Dad was right and heroic to oppose apartheid before it became fashionable to do so; he was wrong to place his trust in the ANC and in what I’ve termed “raw, ripe democracy.”
4. LUKE: What do you think about Israel absorbing about 80,000 Ethiopians and calling them Jewish? Do you expect more non-Jews around the world to identify as Jews if it will get them into the prosperous modern state of Israel? Should Israel fall for this scam? Do you expect Israeli Ethiopian Jews to assimilate into Israel and to reach the same average levels of success as Ashkenazi Jews achieve? Do you think all peoples and races and religions are equally suited for flourishing in a first world economy such as Israel's or America's?
ILANA MERCER: I believe that very many Russians have done just that—immigrated to Israel for a better life claiming Jewish ancestry. Unlike America’s preferred immigrants, these Russians are said to be right-leaning and nationalistic. However, Israeli leaders seem far more inclined than America’s louts to do what’s in their countrymen’s best interests. Bibi Netanyahu wants to retain Israel’s national character. He said as much recently to members of Israel’s Manufacturers Association. And I quote the Israeli PM: “We suffer from a problem that actually stems from Israel’s economic success,” he said, explaining the problems that arise from the breached border with Egypt. “We have become almost the only First World country that can be reached by foot from the Third World. We are flooded with surge of refugees who threaten to wash away our achievements and damage our existence as a Jewish democratic state.”
Unlike the Demopublican quislings, Benjamin Netanayu doesn’t suffer any blind spots when it comes to the very real potential of Third-World refugees flooding Israel and transforming his country for the worse, forever.
As to the other part of your question: I’m not up on the Ethiopian issue, but I see societies as a reflection of the individuals that make them up, and individuals as a reflection of their actions. Thus, I have no doubt that certain Israeli Ethiopians will do very well in Israel. As an individualist, race as an organizing principle doesn’t work for me. Rather, the road to freedom lies in beating back the state so that individuals can regain freedom of association, dominion over property, the absolute right of self-defense; the right to hire, fire, and, generally, associate at will.
ILANA Mercer is a paleolibertarian writer, based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, “Return to Reason.” She is a contributor to the preeminent libertarian site Economic Policy Journal, and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank. Ilana’s latest book is “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.BarelyaBlog.com.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Friday, April 26, 2013
I’m reading the book The Father Factor and I want to do an exercise from it. Dad, I forgive you for not getting the help you need for your own stuff. You therefore couldn’t help transmitting to the rest of us your anguish and anxiety. You had parents who neglected you and therefore you were never able to be affectionate. I have no doubt that you loved me and I have no doubt that you did the best you could and you always aimed for upright behavior, but you’re uncomfortable with emotion and you’re fundamentally ill at ease with yourself and with others. You avoid emotion as much as you can and that has left me struggling with how to deal with emotion. You’re not demonstrative and affectionate. You’re not comfortable saying, I love you, unless you’re on a stage in front of people. Your inability to deal with emotion and to let people around you know that you love them left me feeling worthless. I’ve battled all of my life with a deep feeling of worthlessness. Much of the time, I feel like a horrible person. I forgive you for infecting me with your high levels of anxiety. I forgive you for not seeking the help you need. Jesus is not enough. Your own life proves that. Dad, I forgive you for putting your career ahead of my well-being and best interests. Dad, I forgive you for needing to be the center of attention everywhere we went. Dad, I forgive you for your insatiable need to stir up controversy so that you could have people talking about you. This constant tension in the home and everywhere you went was not in our best interests, but you were in the grip of your own emotional addictions and you were not willing to seek help. Dad, I forgive you for having a total block at learning anything from me. Dad, I forgive you for your inability to have a normal conversation. Your primary interest is in giving instruction rather than emotional connection. Dad, I forgive you for your inability to share much with me about your life beyond the pro forma. Dad, I forgive you for having a need for control so great that you would try to distort the reality around us by denying what was really happening in our home so that we could keep up appearances. Dad, I forgive you for speaking for me so often and not allowing me to say what I feel and to own my own reality. If I feel, you had to speak up and let everyone know I was ok, even if I was in great pain and wanting to speak for myself. Anything else is a minor detail.
Monday, January 21, 2013
William B. Helmreich writes: In 1964 the eminent sociologist Marshall Sklare declared Orthodoxy to be irrelevant. His view was that Conservative Judaism was the wave of the future in America. How wrong he was. Orthodoxy has become a powerful force in American Jewish life. And its power center is New York City, where, according to the latest census figures, the Orthodox comprise 40 percent of the Jewish population. At the same time, 60 percent of Jews living in the city are either nominally affiliated or have no religious identification with Judaism. A few months ago I chanced upon a remarkable book by Philip Fishman, A Sukkah Is Burning: Remembering Williamsburg’s Hasidic Community. It is a rich and detailed account of life in that Brooklyn neighborhood during the 1950s. The chassidim who came during this post-Holocaust period found an entrenched Modern Orthodox community with a different approach to Orthodoxy and, predictably, tensions ensued. Fishman, who is Modern Orthodox, was part of that community and attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, a school that became a flagship institution for a third community – strictly Orthodox or, if you will, yeshivish Jews. During this period the Orthodox community was weak. The Modern Orthodox were a small group and the survivors who made up much of the immigrant Orthodox were burdened with rebuilding their own lives. In that sense it’s not surprising that no one could foresee the movement’s future. How did it happen? How did a community seemingly marked for oblivion revive and thrive? The answers lie in an understanding of the internal dynamics of Orthodoxy and a comprehension of developments in the larger society.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
I am debuting my solo show "Eroticized Rage" February 3 at Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks at 7pm as part of Solofest! Tickets are $20 and are purchased at the door. Here are some my past writings and videos on my 12-step work for sex addiction. Here are 40 questions for self-diagnosis.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Orthodox Judaism is tough. There are so many required rituals, it can drive you crazy if you're not born into it. One thing that keeps me going is inspiring Torah study and my favorite teacher for the past decade is historian Marc B. Shapiro.
I've often gotten discouraged with my Judaism. I feel like I'm just doing things by rote. It's so hard. I feel like my mind is dying. Then I put on a Marc Shapiro lecture and I get excited again about Torah.
I've often gotten discouraged with my Judaism. I feel like I'm just doing things by rote. It's so hard. I feel like my mind is dying. Then I put on a Marc Shapiro lecture and I get excited again about Torah.
Marc B. Shapiro (Hebrew: מלך שפירא, born 1966) holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and is the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology. His writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. Shapiro is a popular on-line lecturer for Torah in Motion and often writes for the Seforim Blog.
Shapiro received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last of the students of the late Prof. Isadore Twersky. His father is Edward S. Shapiro who has published books on American Jewish history.
- Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London, 1999)
- The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Oxford, 2004)
- Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006)
- Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton, 2008)
- Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (scheduled for 2013)
- Ed. Kitvei Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, 2 vols (Scranton, 1999, 2004)
- Shapiro posts at the Seforim Blog
- Shapiro lecture at Yeshiva University - A Non-Orthodox Traditional Approach: Reflections on the Authority of the Moroccan Rabbinate
- Shapiro lecture - Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Halakhah
- Shapiro lecture - Eliezer Berkovits' Halakhic Vision for the Modern Age
- Shapiro lecture - Some Recent Discussions of Jewish Dogma
- Shapiro lecture - Some Recent Discussions of Jewish Dogma (video)
- Marc B. Shapiro lectures at Torah in Motion
- Marc B. Shapiro archive at YU Torah Online
- "Response to a Hagiographer's Review"
- "The Moroccan Rabbinic Conferences"
- "Glatt Kosher is Not All It is Cut Out To Be"
- "המחלוקת על הרבנות בפרנקפורט"
- "Mi-Yosef ad Yosef Lo Kam ke-Yosef"
- "?האם יש מקום להתיר את הפלגש"
- "Talmud Study in the Modern Era: From Wissenschaft and Brisk to Daf Yomi"
- "נשים במרוקו - עדותו של הרב שלמה משאש זצ"ל"
- "'Confrontation': A Mixed Legacy"
- "The Lithuanian Yeshivot: Yesterday and Today"
- "Of Books and Bans"
- "בענין לימוד תורה בליל ניטל"
- Review of David Zohar's book on R. Hayyim Hirschensohn
- "אודות הפולמוס בענין אתרוגי קורפו"
- "Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg on the Limits of Halakhic Development"
- "Maimonides Thirteen Principles: The Last Word in Jewish Theology?"
- "Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer's Program of Torah u-Madda"
- "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft"
- "Scholars and Friends: Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and Professor Samuel Atlas"
- "Torah im Derekh Eretz in the Shadow of Hitler"
- "Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Friedrich von Schiller"
- כתבי הגאון רבי יחיאל יעקב וויינברג, חלק א
- כתבי הגאון רבי יחיאל יעקב וויינברג, חלק ב
- "אגרת בקורת על ישיבת אייזנשטט"
- "Rabbi Joseph Messas"
- "האם מותר להכנס לכנסיה"
- Review Essay of Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar, Transforming Identity
- Review of Shaul Stampfer, Families, Rabbis and Education
- Review of Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider, Crown of Aleppo
- "האם יש חיוב להאמין שהזוהר נכתב על ידי רבי שמעון בן יוחאי"
- Credo 13 television series
- Jewish Press interview
- Luke Ford's excerpts from Shapiro's lectures and blogs
- Yiddish site devoted to Shapiro
- Marc B. Shapiro's website
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I don't want to go to bed with Rachel and wake up with Leah. I want someone who does not repulse me when I wake up in the morning and see her without make-up. I don't want to have to explain when I'm being sarcastic. I don't want to have to do a lot of explaining period. The more we have in common the better. I don't want a woman who's high maintenance. I'm not high maintenance. I don't need a ton of care and catering to. I'm solid. Reliable. My behavior isn't all over the map. I'm predictable. I want a woman who's reliable. Someone who reads social cues. Somebody who shows up on time, who pays her bills, is responsible and hard-working. Orthodox Judaism is hard work. I need someone who can shoulder the load. I want a woman who wants to take what I have to give and a woman who wants to give what I want to take. I want a good loving woman. I want someone who reads books. That way we're not likely to get bored with each other. I can bring to the relationship the qualities of the hard-working responsible man with good credit and good health. I'm well-read, curious about life, constantly seeking to grow and to improve. I'm committed to my weekly psycho-therapy and my daily writing, my daily Judaism and my daily 12-step work.
Love for me has primarily meant romantic love. Sexual love. Agape love is great in real life but it is not the stuff of fantasy. So love for me has primarily been a fantasy rather than a reality, an aching need rather than an actuality, a yearning, a wishing, a desiring, a song, a cloud floating by. My love always has an object, a young attractive female object, who takes away all my pain. Love meant to me connection, union, an escape from loneliness. Love meant rescue. Love meant transcendence from my self-destructive patterns. Love was a high, a fix, a pulsing rock song, a focus for my attention, an obsession. I first tasted steady reciprocation of my feelings at age 16. It was very sweet but its potential loss set off my jealousy, which doomed my fumbling connection. What do I think love is now? I fear that my emotional instincts and yearnings are not much changed from my earliest years. I want to suck that breast dry because I have no confidence it will be around later. My dad says propinquity breeds love. It's true. Women I've considered not worth a second look become over time the most attractive thing in the world. When I get to know a woman, her looks transform. My relationships have been sobering. I will never be able to relate to somebody on a different level of differentiation aka emotional maturity than myself. I'm stuck with my level. I can't climb. I'll have to love somebody as flawed and frightening and dangerous as myself. There's no escaping my limitations. There's no salvation in this life.
I was struck by these few sentences by Patrick Carnes in his groundbreaking book on sexual addiction called "Out of the Shadows": Addicts report that as children they felt desperately lonely, lost, and unprotected. Not only was there a lack of nurturing, but also there was no one to show them how to take care of themselves or keep them from harm. Not being able to count on, depend upon, the adults in one's life to meet needs is a key element in addiction. As the child matures, there begins a search for that which is dependable -- something that you can trust to make you feel better. Trust and dependency are the issues that determine personal strength and confidence of vulnerability to enslaving addiction. For in the lonely search for something or someone to depend on -- which has already excluded parents -- a child can start to find those things which always comfort, which always feel good, which always are there, and which always do what they promise. For some, alcohol and drugs are the answer. For others it is food. And there is always sex, which usually costs nothing and nobody else can regulate.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Sometimes I think I'm the court jester. Other times, I think I have a powerful role. More people read me than hear any Shabbos morning sermon. People don't treat me trivially. I remain an outsider. Almost group I join (with the exception of 12-steps), I'm still an outsider. I could do with ten times as much personal connection in Jewish life. People read my blog. They come to my talks. I'm a circus attraction. I have a freak appeal. I think I'm slowly moving towards normality, connection. At times, I fear I'm recreating my father's stirrer role in Adventism. Was there any comfort in converting to Judaism? I'm happier since I pulled it off, particularly the Orthodox one in 2009. Much of the rage has dissipated from my blog. Every day, I feel more a part of Judaism. I know my purpose, my community, my direction, and what I'm good at. I know what's available in Jewish life.
* I wanted to be part of the most effective group for making a better world. A group that had a divine recipe (Torah). * I wanted to improve myself. * I wanted to belong to a transcendent community (without sacrificing my rational inquiry). * I wanted to benefit from a wise tradition where God was the author. * I wanted some of that higher quality of life that Jews have. * I wanted to feel at the center of the world. * I wanted to get close to Dennis Prager and other great role models I met in Judaism. * I wanted to get emotionally and intellectually engaged with a tradition, a people, a text, and a country. * I wanted to be inspired, stimulated and pushed to be more. I wanted guidance and direction. * I wanted something worthy to struggle with.
I was blessed with a good father. My dad is righteous. He's a rock. He's reliable. He's predictable. He's stable. And with my mother (who died of cancer before I turned four) and my step-mother, he gave us three kids a much better upbringing than he had. I'll always be grateful. My father taught me right from wrong. I didn't always listen to him, but he implanted good values within me. More importantly, he lived them. Dad took a great interest in my intellectual development as well. By age eight, I was in love with reading. Dad suggested many great books to me. He tried to dissuade me from wasting so much time following sports and watching TV. When I was nine or ten, he took me to the Avondale College library and explained how it worked. When we moved to Pacific Union College in 1977 when I was 11, he showed me how that library worked as well. Libraries became a second-home for me. Even though dad always had a frantic schedule, he frequently took time to play with me, be it soccer or Monopoly or the like. Dad had clear priorities. Number one was God (embodied in Jesus). Number two was family and religious community and health and learning. Dad never had hobbies. He had too much to do. Dad would rest and relax at times but only for the sake of accomplishing more in the long run. From an early age, I sought the mentorship of older men. I wanted people I could discuss politics and sports with. I wanted to just hang out. Dad was very busy and while he'd always make time for me when I asked, I didn't want to be a bother. It was easier to seek out other men. From grade school on, I was frequently more interested in hanging out with the fathers of my friends than with my friends. I loved to just kick back and talk. I always picked good friends and I always picked good mentors. Even though I've never been particularly righteous myself, I always had a good sense of the decency of others and always prefered to surround myself with those who wouldn't needlessly hurt me.
I've been going to 12-step groups for the past 18 months to find recovery from my emotional addictions. An integral part of meetings is the "share." Many meetings will have a lead speaker who'll give a share from 8-15 minutes on average. He'll talk about how his addictions ruined his life and how he found recovery through working the program. A good share is brutally honest. The person talks about his own struggles and which specific parts of the program helped him. A mediocre share is filled with advice-giving, theory and quotations from spiritual masters. Advice-giving is not the 12-step way. Instead people are encouraged to speak about their own experience and to not give cross-talk commentary on others shares. Two months ago, for the first time, I was asked to give the lead share. Then a couple of weeks ago, I walked into a meeting and five minutes before it was due to start, I was asked if I would mind substituting for the scheduled speaker who couldn't make it. On my first talk, I had a few days to prepare. This time I had but a few minutes. My talk wasn't as smooth, but I just spoke from the heart, shared what I had struggled with, and related how I had worked the 12-steps and which ones were the most difficult for me, starting with step one. I grew up a preacher's kid. I heard hundreds of sermons. Some were inspiring, some were boring. Right now, I prefer the 12-step share where people open up about how their addictions have destroyed their lives and then describe how a power greater than themselves restored them to sanity. As a writer, I rarely feel comfortable prescribing for others. I'm much more comfortable sharing my own struggles and things that have helped me. Take it or leave it. Your mileage may vary. My personality, my writing style, my life position, all feel much more comfortable with sharing rather than preaching.