Radical Second Things

"Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea." +Elder Sophrony of Essex

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Missing Jen, Three Years On

After the passing of his mother, Christopher Hitchens was quoted saying a number of less than stellar comments about her. When asked about her death in 1973, Hitchens was quoted saying "No. I think she was having a bad menopause, and she was losing her looks, which were pretty impressive."

Those comments are fairly bad, on par with Donald Trump's comments about Megyn Kelly "bleeding out of wherever." The motivation was quite different, however. Hitchens' memorial of his mother Yvonne, who committed suicide in a pact with a priest, was one of the best parts of his memoir Hitch 22. He clearly was fond of her and saw her as a critical part of his life, much more so than his stoic father. There's not a lot of support for grief and the "stiff upper lip" expectation of men, which feminists deem part of "toxic masculinity," can lead toward the expression of grief and other unpleasant emotions in ugliness or bitterness.

I have felt this since the passing of my wife, Jennifer Lauren Reimer. Like Yvonne, Jen was brilliant and inspirational. Like her, she was suicidal. It may not have been a direct suicide like a gunshot but surely a slow motion suicide by way of ingesting toxic drug combinations over a long period of time, combined with a mixture of reproductive disorders and anorexia.

It got a bit worse recently, while staying with a roommate who was bitter toward women for completely different reasons. Until I brutally was demonstrated what was happening by a friend, I ended up adopting his worldview and language (when you are around someone enough, you will do so).

I shook myself out away from crass misogyny as a response to grief but the emotions still overflow. (Nothing compared to what her father incurred but nonetheless substantial.) I tell people it wasn't a big deal but clearly that's a nonsense lie, burying the emotions and letting them come out in ugliness as Hitchens' did. I read and re-read Jen's writing regularly. Jen's website, Practice of Madness, was fairly successful and I'm a big part of whatever legacy it had with her fans (Sharon Cretsinger tells me she had/has many). One of her last essays was about me and the anxiety attacks she was having about me leaving her (note, the main menu of Practice of Madness is pretty accessible but the articles are not - I'm not the one in control of maintaining it).

Jen had talks with a book agent (who knows what stage that was actually at) and was moderately obsessed with me when she passed away. She took a number of blitzed out photoshop pics of me which still adorn my Facebook and hers. Her nightmare vision was of all of those things coming to an end, leaving her alone and abandoned, not of her frail, fragile body finally succumbing to her neglect during her sleep, next to someone who loved her, which is what actually happened.

Jen was a brilliant writer. Her article "Girl X," which she is most proud of, is one of my favorites. She had the skill of verbal illustration that any great writer has. For the years following her death, I have periodically searched for someone like her but not like her, who would be able to collaborate on something the way we did "The American Hikikomori." Girls don't particularly like this. "I have nothing to do with her!" and "Why do you keep talking about her?" have been thrown at me a few times. I get hit on a bit more than most guys, but I generally only pursue girls with creative spirit - and that type generally doesn't like being pursued.

People don't understand. When death happens, usually police or military bag the body behind yellow tape or an addict perishes quietly in a hospice or an old person in a nursing home. Humans have really creative ways of hiding the sight of death from polite society. I not only saw it but saw it in slow motion. Most of the time misogynist comments have bitterly come from my lips in the years since Jen's death, people, until they know me a lot better of course, have responded with "Women don't owe you anything!" or the like. Once they know me, they just nod their head whenever I mention it, politely changing the subject. They may understand it but they don't want to hear it.

I hope someday that I find a woman who had her writing skill, who could work with me like she did. I hope she was also satisfied toward the end, knowing that no outward stimulation matched the acceptance of love of another.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stars of Courage: Seraphim Rose and the "Abnormal Life"

Art by Jordan Denato

In my spiritual journey, I have openly looked at many different incarnations. I grew up in a non-demonational Christian household, with most of our time in a place of worship spent at the Catholic Church blocks from my mom's old house. I had a small exposure to Judaism growing up which I kept up as I put together my Jewish heritage and also worked at a Jewish magazine, Tikkun (where, oddly enough, I spent most of my time writing about Catholicism), when I was most open to religious ideas.

Nothing ever exposed me to the Russian Orthodox Church, however. The narrative about Russia in the 1990s and 2000s was pretty black and white - communism was godless and atheist and hostile to all religion. I had heard of the Greek Orthodox Church but never the Russian Orthodox. Honestly, it's only been in very recent years that it seems to have formed a place in the mainstream American consciousness.

The Orthodox Church has a rich and long history that extends through the Soviet Union. Whatever Vladimir Lenin may have said about religion, Josef Stalin found it beneficial to keep the church going, especially during the dark days of World War II. It has been a massive part of the ideology surrounding the rise of Vladimir Putin as Russian president - with Putin often taking press shots during mass or having Russian patriarchs accompanying him during press conferences and speeches.

Putin has said of the orthodox church that it is "closer to Islam than Catholicism is."  Indeed, one of the interesting ways that the Orthodox Church is so different is that much of its aesthetics are so exotic. They likely are mundane to anyone who grows up in it but their unique cross logo and the use of a headscarf to instill modesty in young women, much like within Islam, show a synergy of East and West. Much of the church's artwork is also simply gorgeous:

It did have a reach in to Western though as well. Just as the Catholic church had Thomas Merton as its American intellectual, so too did the Orthodox Church have Seraphim Rose. Born Eugene Dennis Rose in 1934, he died during middle age in 1982. In that time he made a series of talks that synthesized many of the beliefs of individuals like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who, despite his time in the gulag, was very hostile to "the misuse of liberty" that he reported from his experience with Western society. Seraphim Rose expressed this same sentiment in my favorite work of his - "The Abnormal Life:"

 At first, Seraphim's sentiments sound cliched. "The new generation has it easier than we did," that sort of thing. His talk of "children today" being treated "little Gods or goddesses" whose every need is taken care of certainly sounds that way.

However, when you juxtapose the world he grew up in, southern California, with the world in which he attracted to of Eurasia, his comments seem less trifling. Poverty and life on the edge of the earth breeds people who are much more likely to value and foster tradition, as opposed to rejecting or mocking it. Marriage occurs and lasts more often and family is much more heavily valued.

Rose gets at his most weighty in "The Abnormal Life" when he juxtaposes the faith he discovered with the "plastic" religion of countries like the United States, he is speaking in the context of the early 1980s. That period was when Ronald Reagan had just recently been elected to the presidency of the United States, riding on the wings of an invigorated Religious Right. It was a time when Billy Graham drew enormous crowds throughout the world and venues like Christian Broadcasting Network were first starting up. Rose, in an opinion that had to be extremely unpopular to most audiences back then, said that the atheist regimes of China and the Soviet Union were closer to the reality of life than the plastic theology practiced within much of the West.

Unfortunately, despite his influence, Rose didn't make a whole lot of other speeches like that one - not that I am aware of anyways. (If anyone more read about him than I knows of, please let me know.) We do seem to be entering an age that illustrates a return to orthodoxy in religion - Donald Trump's daughter is an orthodox Jew, while the Pope and Russian Patriarchs get more press and adulation than any contemporary evangelical leader. Perhaps another like Seraphim Rose will arise - this stuff, with the venue of social media and a much larger audience before him.

An Interview With Mohamed Zeeshan

It looks like I am doing a lot more posts for Radical Second Things than I usually do. Following is an interview with Mohamed Zeeshan. Mohamed has been my friend for a few years now, via Facebook, and I have seen him grow from a young intellectually curious kid from India in to a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia University! Mohamed contributed with the Hampton Institute alongside me and I am very proud of his success. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post. His views are a bit more centrist than you usually see on this website but I think that people will learn from them. 

As always, if you like interviews like this, please consider a donation to Radical Second Things. Donations allow for the freedom to not only conduct works like this but also to make the website more interactive and attract collaborators.
Donald Trump as president! Once this actually happened, I actually began to see the benefits. In my view, Trump is what America actually is like unfiltered and he isn't the worst the world has produced. You said you liked things he has said about China. What is your view of him?

I think it's difficult to form a coherent opinion of Donald Trump as yet. He's a complete outsider and has often walked back statements, so we don't quite know what his administration might or might not do.

About his comments on China, well, again, it's hard to quite know for certain what his administration's policy towards Beijing is going to be. Having said that, China has had a recent history of diplomatic impropriety, especially in the neighbourhood. It refuses to honour commitments made under international law in resolving the South China Sea dispute. It poked holes in India's claims over Kashmir by signing a deal with Pakistan to build a highway through that region - effectively offending India's sentiments of territorial integrity. It does similar things to threaten other neighbours, from Mongolia to Japan and the Philippines. So China is no great standard of diplomatic propriety, in my view. Along that line, I think it's important, for the cause of maintaining the balance of power in Asia Pacific, that the US takes steps to push back - militarily and politically - against Beijing's newfound belligerence.

The Syrian army took Aleppo. I remember you opposing the Syrian war when Obama wanted to intervene. What do you think Syria will look like a couple of years on?

I opposed Obama's policy of arming rebels in Syria years ago. I said at the time that it was potentially very dangerous to arm common civilians in fighting against a government, especially in a volatile region infested with radical elements. The proliferation of weaponry, coupled with the complete breakdown in law and order, has helped the rise of militancy and terrorism in the region, including ISIS. So I think that was always going to be a fatal strategic error on the part of the US - to arm common civilians who were not trained in military battle. What the US should have done instead was to politically organise the rebel groups, so that political dialogue could have taken place early on.

I think that the failure to politically organise the Syrian rebels and create an atmosphere for political dialogue has now effectively made Assad the only way to stability in Syria. Despite years of US intervention in Syria, we still don't have a political alternative to Assad. There's no one there who can keep the country together, save for Islamist radicals. If Assad leaves, the radicals will fill the vacuum and that will open a whole new can of worms. I think the US has to therefore rethink its strategy - and I don't see too many options at the moment besides some sort of a compromise arrangement that keeps Assad in power and works out a practical framework for his eventual removal.

The image of Russians liberating Aleppo reminded me way too much of Auschwitz, which the Soviets liberated. If we really are in an end of WW2 climate, what suggestions do you have for structures we should build after conflict has subsided?

Well, that's a hard question, because there's really no one-size-fits-all solution for this. The structure for Syria will have to come from within. That's why it was so important to politically organise the rebels. There's really no coherent or cohesive political alternative to Assad, and unless you create something of that sort which will really reflect Syrian society, you'll just end up back at square one.

The other issue is one of national identity. Germany had a national identity which kept its people together after WWII and allowed reunification to take place after the Cold War. But I'm not sure if Syria has a coherent national identity today. We're seeing sectarian sentiments that were long suppressed come out into the open and it's going to take a long time and much dialogue to bring all those identities back together. You have to start by stopping the violence and turning militias into political organisations capable of engaging in dialogue. Militias are not much good for state building.

How are you liking New York? What do you like about it and what do you not like?

There's not much to dislike about New York! I think it's a really charming city - it's got something for everybody. It's diverse, cosmopolitan and sometimes feels like an international city with an identity of its own.

How do you like Columbia?

Columbia is really enriching! I've enjoyed every moment of my time and there's so much that I've got lined up in terms of research over the coming months. It's really very exciting.

The Man in the High Castle Second Season Review

For its first season, I reviewed The Man in the High Castle, which portrays the United States in the early 1960s, in the aftermath of a Japanese and German victory in World War II, for the leftist Hampton Institute. My review was written in early 2016, just as Donald Trump's campaign was heating up in the Republican primaries. That was Trump, seen as a "proto-fascist" by many, at his nastiest - doing his best Biff Tannen (a character that, ironically, was based on him) impression, bullying a conglomerate of Republican candidates that didn't know what to do in defense of him.

As much as people laughed off what I said, I did believe Trump could win. I live in the United States - I see every day how bitterness and despair has settled in on many people who genuinely thought that if they worked hard, things would work out for them. Many people have multiple jobs and can't afford to live. Homeless people are everywhere in urban centers. Our national leaders of both stripes are immature and narcissistic (see Obama's deplorable scapegoating of Russia) while the ones who weren't were derided and told off (see Bernie Sanders).

I ended that original review with "The United States now is in unchartered territory for its history, but one we’ve seen before in other countries. For these reasons, “The Man in the High Castle” doesn’t seem as much like fictional, alternative history; but rather a portrayal of our near and possible future."

Well, we are here in that future now. Donald Trump will be president no matter what his critics say - he won election through the system, the Electoral College, that the United States has and has agreed upon. The response of much of the Left in the United States at least seems a bit like flailing - the sort that Donald Trump mocked so infamously - not quite understanding what has occurred.

Whatever their motivation, the writers of The Man in the High Castle do have intuition. The show takes leaps of storytelling way beyond the Philip K. Dick novel, including turning the simple character of Joe Blake away from a former Italian fascist that Juliana Crain casually hooks up with and transforming in to a very different central character in the show, a Lebensborn bred estranged son of a figure who attempts a post-Hitler coup attempt.

The first season was filmed in 2014, at the height of Ferguson and American racial tensions. The second season, which is much more nuanced and daring, was filmed in 2015, just as the climate that launched Donald Trump was coming to a head. The second season dares to go in some places that only our contemporary political climate would allow writers to dare to go - humanizing the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

In the second season, the Imperials are vastly more sympathetic than the "Resistance." Opergruppenfuhrer John Smith, played by Rufus Sewell, struggles with the Nazi policy of euthanizing the disabled as his son is stricken with muscular dystrophy. The sympathy is not even light weight - the scene where him and his wife speak frankly with their son about the condition is possibly the most sympathetic than any characters in either season ever appear.

On the other aside, the Resistance fighters seem nihilist, crass and vindictive. After Juliana Crain, played of course by Alexa Davalos, fails to apprehend one of the films the show centers around from Joe Blake, resistance fighters Lem Washington (played by Rick Worthy) and Gary Connell (played by Callum Keith Rennie) are seen chasing after her, screaming "Come here, bitch!" and shooting anyone in the way. A priest who speaks at a funeral that Frank Fink (played by Rupert Evans) attends tells him that "religion is a bunch of shit" after he complements his sermon. Sarah, a love interest of Frank's played by Cara Mitsuko, has a motivation for joining the resistance that doesn't really make much sense and George Dixon, played by Tate Donovan, threatens multiple times to use John Smith's sick son against him. The writers did this intentionally - I will leave it up to audiences to gather why they did so.

Despite all the material that is there, humanizing the Third Reich is something that most writers just couldn't do until recently. Biopics like The Rise of Evil made Adolf Hitler seem cartoonishly nefarious, as if all the dark energy in the world was only ever situated on this one man. The reality of the world seemed to settle in for the writers of The Man in the High Castle, however.

The few shots we see of Hitler show up shaking with a horrible tremer or having bouts of horrible anxiety (muted for cinematic effect), illustrating that some of his policies (such as euthanizing of the disabled) may have been riddled with self-hate. This is hardly empathetic toward him but it is a leap beyond how portrayal of the Reich has been in cinema.

Most interestingly, we see both the Reich and the Japanese evolve. Events in the second season are juxtaposed with the filtering in and out of reality of Trade Minister Nobosuke Tagomi, who, during meditation sessions, finds himself in our world. The parallels are succint - in one world, the Japanese and Germans are headed toward a potential nuclear showdown while in our world, the Soviets and Americans are headed toward such a showdown. Hippies and beatniks experiment with drugs in American cities like Berkeley in the 1960s, while they do so in Berlin in Man in the High Castle's 1960s.

Tagomi has direct access to the source for the films that make up the film's title. The films, and the filmmaker who we meet at the beginning and end of the film, has access to the same plane of reality - the films become a national security threat for clear reasons and, as you will see when you watch it (I can't spoil too much), are also used for career benefit by certain players.

The juxtaposing of our world and a world of Axis victory which is seen in this series makes for uneasy observations about our own world. It is ironic that populist authoritarianism is popping up in countries that fought hardest against fascism during the 1930s and 40s - America, Russia, the Phillipines. This could mean that there are not particular inherents to certain peoples that attract them to personality driven leaders but that certain events and conditions push people in that direction instead.

Indeed, it should make us not simply revise our knowledge of WW2 by simply being more empathetic of the other side but rather to finally look at that conflict as it was - as a brutal competition of various nationalist and economic ideologies, with Zionism, Americanism and Soviet  and Chinese communism winning out over Nazism, Fascism and Imperial Japanese ideology.

There are propaganda films made by Zionists during the 1930s, most notable being "The Land of Promise," that are loaded with anti-Arab racism - that film in particular made the claim multiple times that no one had grown anything in the Fertile Crescent since the Jewish exile. Many Nazi style science experiments and racialist brutality occured in the United States - it once was common practice to use electroshock therapy to "cure" homosexuality, for instance. Those sides won the war, however, and therefore were given a historical privilege that the losers were not. History really is written by the winners - it is acceptable for outgoing American president Barack Obama to avoid apologizing for the Hiroshima bombing, while it likely would not be for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to avoid an apology for the Nazi death camps.

However thought provoking it is, I still have serious qualms with The Man in the High Castle. We only see glimpses of the world beyond the United States - much of this series takes place in Berlin and there are appearances by people with British accents or, most interestingly, one Argentinian desperately fleeing Buenos Aires for the Reich. In the fictional map of the Man in the High Castle universe, Argentina (I imagine headed by Juan Peron) is part of a greater "Co-Prosperity Sphere" with Japan.

Italy, a much bigger ally of the Nazis than the Japanese, is not even mentioned in the whole series, which is really strange when specific elements of Nazism, like Lebensborn, which usually only political nerds know, are a big part of the storyline. We see absolutely nothing of Asia under the Japanese. We did see much more in this second season than the first. Perhaps this will be improved upon.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Few Questions for Sonnenkind

Sonnenkind is a German neofolk artist who has put together some really incredible music. I listen to it regularly, along with artists such as Spiritual Front, Sol Invictus, Mantus, Infamis and others that I think fit in that genre like Smashing Pumpkins or Loreena McKennit. This was my first time interviewing anyone in the genre and some parts of the interview went well whereas some areas need improvement.

RST: I only found your music on Youtube and not Spotify or Tidido or any of the streaming services. Do you have plans for an official release?

SK: I really have no clue about streaming services and I‘m also not interested in it. I personally almost never download music. I highly prefer physical albums, and I actually released two physical albums, "Völkerfrühling“ in 2005 and "Eulenspiegels Wiederkehr“ in 2013. Both are available via Discogs. There are also contributions from me on a few compilations, and I collaborated with artists as Porta Vittoria, Uwe Nolte, Qvercvs and Thulesehnsucht in der Maschinenzeit (TSIDMZ). At the moment a new album is not possible due to financial reasons, but maybe I will release a compilation of home recordings next year.

RST: I really liked your song "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh." My roommates did too and we listened to a whole bunch of Asian musicians doing different renditions of it. It was very hard to find an English translation or any translation for that matter. How did you learn this song well enough to play it? What about the history of the song appealed to you?

SK: I listened to far eastern folk music for many years now, and I was also interested in Mongolian throat singing. A Mongolian friend taught me some Mongolian phrases just for fun, and by looking for Mongolian music on YouTube, I found a version of "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh“, which I loved a lot. I showed this to my friend and said I wanted to make a version of this, and she gave me a rough translation, and then I learned it and sung it to her a few times and when she eventually said that it was all clearly understandable, I recorded that version in spring or summer 2015. I tried to find Mongolian guest musicians and a female singer, but the results were not satisfying, so I finally asked a friend to release that version on YouTube. Unfortunately until now it has not become famous in Mongolia, but who knows, maybe one day they‘ll discover it over there, hehe…

Btw, I also did two cover version of a Vietnamese song by singer/songwriter Trinh Cong Son, but I wrote German lyrics for it. Now it‘s named „Die Brücke“. Both versions, of which one is a collaboration with the fantastic Italian Avantgarde Pop band Porta Vittoria, can be found on YouTube. I also have the idea of recording some songs in Vietnamese language, together with a Vietnamese friend, who is a quite talented singer. Let‘s see.

RST: I have noticed much of the political content of your music and postings. Do you consider yourself part of the Alt Right?

SK: No, as I consider the Alt Right is very much a genuinely US-American movement, naturally trying to give an answer on American questions. Germany‘s political situation is different, and we have very different political and philosophical traditions. Then we have the question, what Alt Right actually means. It seems to be a very broad term for many various groups and ideas.

Somehow, if we assume, it just means "alternative right“, I could somehow agree, as I am probably a person with right wing views, and alternative, if we say that this means an alternative to the cliché of the right wing person, as portrayed by the mass media (and, of course, as every decent right wing person will admit, unfortunately corroborated by those who are mislead enough to identify with that hilarious image).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Assessing Donald Trump's Win


I was going to do a video blog but decided this was my more natural environmment. As a political and religious blog that I like to think is serious, I felt that I had to talk about the election of Donald Trump in all its facets and from my unique perspective. Feel free to comment!

I didn't vote in this election. After nearly two years of campaigning, I felt like I got to know both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump well enough to not like both of them equally for completely different reasons. Clinton flirted with World War - Russia baiting was rampant in the three debates, along with a good degree of hawkishness on the Middle East, with a particular obsession with getting rid of Bashar Assad, one of the only figures keeping Syria together.

The whole thing reeked of some level of scam too. I still think that, even though Donald Trump won. It still seems weird that people who knew one another for that long happened to run for president in the same year. It's anyone's guess what that scam was - many of Trump's proposed policies are actually very progressive and only clouded in conservative language. This went from his gun policy to health care, where the policies, when actually looked at, seemed more progressive than anything Obama ever proposed. It may be possible that they were covering all their bets.

I had just moved from Portland back to California and by the time I got here, the deadline for voting was approaching. I couldn't get myself motivated enough to do it in time, even if I found a polling place to vote for Bernie Sanders back during primary season. Apparently half the country's eligible voters felt the same way.

The social climate continued to deteriorate as Trump's brash campaign continued. I had a roommate who went insane in Portland, forcing me to leave. He talked about the world not getting any better and threatened to kill himself while talking both to me and to a friend of mine. I encountered someone just like him at the aforementioned friend's house. Friends seemed to snap and scream and shout at the smallest thing and I witnessed it with other people as well. Everyone sounded racist and weird. I have one person who blocked me as a consequence of Donald Trump's election as we speak (I won't go more in to that here).

One other friend of mine from Mexico recently said she'd like to visit me but that "the situation between my country and your country, I don't think so." I do lay the blame for that at Trump's feet, who took Mexico and its immigrants as a population to pigeonhole in order to gain power. There have been overt Ku Klux Klan rallies, a happy David Duke and riots as a result of this campaign. There have been even worse things in the world as a result of Hillary Clinton but these things can't be ignored.

Trump is a piece of shit, a con man and scumbag. Given that, such a man reminds people of reality. Whereas the charisma and perceived prestige of a man like Barack Obama belied many of the destructive policies that occurred during his reign, a scumbag like Trump might be so reviled that the absolute worst and least is expected. His agenda, absent the mass deportations, actually sounded good - his health care plan would benefit me much more than Obamacare did and his plan to rebuild infrastructure is something sorely needed in a country with creeking, collapsing bridges. Other scumbags like Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt managed to bring us trade with China and the National Park System when they weren't breaking in to hotels and being a "Bully," respectively, both legacies I prefer to Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's interventionist foreign policy in to five new Muslim countries, spurring a wave of jihadism like nothing previously seen.

I could be wrong. Glenn Beck could be wrong.  Neville Chamberlain was infamously impressed with Adolf Hitler, while many of Germany's Jews belied any harm that would come to them at the hands of the Reich. A man like Donald Trump either could be the absolute worst in the history of the United States (and the current social climate certainly makes that seem like a possibility) or he could be one of America's many scumbags, who managed to actually help the people because they enjoyed the attention and gratification.

Likewise he could be neither and just be a goofier and more verbally offensive version of the last two presidents - jettisoning his friendship with Vladimir Putin (something that would not be without consequence) for a continuation of the Middle East interventions that are necessary to keep America's petroleum based lifestyle going. (Obama talked about closing Guantanamo and the country's many Middle East wars when he ran for office initially.) We really don't know. It will be interesting to say the least.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Judaism, Catholicism and Carrying On Marx's Torches

I identify as a Jew. I look the part, as do many of my family members, and I suspect heritage on both my grandmother and father's side, geneaology that has been overlooked by alot of my mom's research. A great deal of my friends either are Jewish or grew up immersed in the world. I was playing with dreidels and lighting the menorah when I was a little kid, the whole thing.

It's easy to find who is Jewish in almost any intellectual group, even the most reactionary ones, by who conforms the least. Jews are natural iconoclasts and free thinkers - they come up with the ideas that later become cliches for everyone else. It's no wonder that reactionary movements loathed them - the Jewish enigma was unpredictable, creating new ideas of both left and right. People who wanted to go back, to before Christianity, communism or capitalism (all Jewish concepts) would naturally see the Jew as the problem.

Nevertheless, while Jews continue to be the social movers and shakers (even today, the film industry is dominated by Marvel projects, all created by the Jewish genius Stanley Martin Lieber AKA Stan Lee) in the world, the Jewish religious world is null and void. It's ancient - modern Jewish figures often looked at religious Jews with disdain (Moshe Dayan famously rolled his one eye at rabbis praying at the Wailing Wall, saying "What is this? Vatican?").

When I worked at Tikkun, a religious magazine in Berkeley, this really crystallized for me. While most the people working at the magazine were Jewish, the contributors were not. The most frequent contributor was Matthew Fox, a very venerated progressive Catholic writer. I contributed several articles about the Catholic Church, which was more dynamic than anything coming from the Jewish world in my view, at least.

It's true that religion has fueled so many wars in human history, continuing with the West's struggle with radical Islam. However, for most of the world, religious institutions still provide education, health and renewal. Catholicism, with the ascent of liberation theology, very clearly rooted in Marxism, to the point of papacy, seems the only religion to really absorb the goals and ideology of communism.

Catholic radicalism is really odd in that regard. The religious practices of Christianity are Jewish and liberation theology is rooted in the ideology of Karl Marx, who very much was a Jew in both ethnicity and ideological tradition, even if he rejected religious dogma (though his thoughts on the matter were more nuanced than those of his acolytes). It seems as if, whether or not they are aware they are doing it, many Catholic radicals have carried the torch of Jewish radicalism while others have simply turned Judaism in to another form of ethnic nationalism. By applying Marxist principles to a historically reactionary organization like the Catholic church, liberation theologians are putting the praxis of Marxism, i.e. "taking control of the means of production," in a very literal way. Pope Francis' daily addresses of solidarity seem in line with Marx while what you hear from Israel stops just short of the sort of talk that made its establishment necessary in the first place.

When you read a great deal of Jewish magazines, a really reduced ethno-nationalism seems present. While thought provoking Jewish magazines like Tablet or the aforementioned Tikkun continue in the US, out of Israel especially you will find publications like Jews News (yeah, it's really called that) or the Times of Israel that seem about as thought provoking as a nationalist newsletter from Sarajevo. The demonstration of several Jerusalem demonstrators chanting for American presidential candidate Donald Trump made me wonder if being "Jewish" in 2016 was little more than another form Eurasian style nationalism, albeit rooted in thousand year old landmarks in the Middle East.