Saturday, 25 February 2017

Hatred or Prejudice, who benefits?

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

Both hatred, and prejudice have plagued humanity since early days. Unfortunately, they still do.

Since we all have our own different conception of what they mean, we decided, for the sake of this article, its clarity and its endeavor to share our opinion and view on its subject, to provide an objective definition of the two terms.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines Hatred as: “an extremely strong feeling of dislike.” “Prejudice” is defined by it as: “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling when formed without enough thought or knowledge.” 

The common denominator these two terms share, as we believe the readers will agree with us, is that they both reside in the domain of emotions, not the rational one in us, humans.
 We also believe that almost everyone today acknowledges that these are sentiments that tend to be destructive and should, therefore, be put in the past in favor of fact, objectivity and rationality. Yet they are not. They are with us. It is a shame that, in this day and age, we need to discuss “hatred” or “prejudice.”

Moreover, we both feel that the problems they present are growing, not diminishing.  All one needs to do is look around the world. And while looking, one should try to understand why there is prejudice and why there is hatred, and maybe most of all ask, who benefits from both?

We all have our preferences, some rational, some not. So long as none of these preferences are imposed on others to their disadvantage, we could all live with it and practice the dignity of difference. Prejudice and hatred, as we suggested above, operate on an irrational plane. They motivate through unthinking emotions, no matter how well rationalized by those employing them or the damaging behaviours they produce.

Many studies have shown that prejudice is learned. Others have suggested that prejudice is innate. Whatever its source is, one fact remains clear, however. It is the taking of natural affinities and worries, and turning them into methods humans adopt to defend what we perceive as our interests or feed our egos irrationally where there is really no advantage for us.

Hatred, on the other hand, is something a bit simpler. Hate is the response to loss and to fear. People hate those that take something from them, those that injure them and those that hurt their interests. People hate anyone or anything that causes them to lose something.

Unfortunately, too often people hate what they have been taught to hate. In some cases, hatred is acquired and built upon our innate prejudices which some elements outside of us capitalize upon, stoke and simmer to the full fire of hatred. Those who fall prey to such destructive influences are oblivious to them, and are involuntarily fulfilling some socially demanded rule. By doing so, they become part of something bigger than themselves. Hatred, in these cases, gets the victims of such antics nothing, neither compensation for loss, nor justice, nor any reward.


Whatever and wherever the trigger for hatred is or rests, whether it’s racial bigotry, Anti-Semitism, Xenophobia, or hate against a political figure, one needs to study the source of the force, outside of oneself, that exploits and utilizes these emotions.

Unfortunately, in many cases, one will eventually find out that they fell victims to one’s twisted agenda. It can be the agenda of a ruling group which refuses to change the comforts of its status quo, or of an interest faction which feels threatened by an outsider, or perhaps even by a biased media that fails to differentiate facts from opinion.

One should never underestimate that interesting question, who stands to benefit from fanning the flames of prejudice and hatred?

The odds are, dear readers, that it is not the average person on the street, you or anyone of us! 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Giving Credit

“Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man.”  - William Howard Taft

Without diminishing the importance of Taft’s wise words, allow me to add that failure to render credit is a weakness not only in any man but in any nation as well. It is the essence of humility, individual and national.

As a Jew, I am proud to belong to a tradition, to a heritage that has shared much with world civilization. What makes me ever more proud of it is that it never fails to give credit where and when credit is due.
This week’s Parasha (Torah portion) is a great example of it. It is entitled “Yitro,” (Jethro in Greek). Yitro is a non- Yisraelite who later becomes Moshe’s (Moses) father in law. He is a dedicated father and family man and is the governing leader of the tribes of Midian, to where Moses escapes from Egypt as a young refugee. After rescuing his daughters and their herds from hostile shepherds, grateful Yitro invites Moshe to break bread with them and offers him his daughter Tzipporah as wife (Exodus 2:21).
Following the liberation of his people from slavery in Egypt, Moshe, now a powerful and famous leader, returns to Midian where Yitro guides him on how to govern his people. Yitro advises him of the need to appoint magistrates and judges to assist him in the task of administering justice to Am Yisrael. (Exodus 18:17ff). Yitro fulfills his task as Moshe’s mentor with grace, elegance, sincerity and honesty. In return, he receives Moshe’s utmost respect and deference.

Yitro’s modesty and humility are further demonstrated in Numbers 10:29-30 where he is invited by Moshe to join Am Yisrael where he would be respected and honoured. Yitro courteously declines by entreating his responsibilities and duties to his own tribe in Midian.

Later in this week’s Parasha, we are told that the Children of Yisrael camp at the foot of mount Sinai where they are preparing to receive the Torah as G-d has chosen them to be His “kingdom of priests” and “Holy Nation.” That is where the children of Yisrael first become a Nation, Am Yisrael after they proclaim “Naaseh V’ Nishma “(we shall do all that G-d has spoken).

The giving of the Torah is, undoubtedly, the most important event in the timeline of the history of Am Yisrael and the Jewish people. It is the event that has connected our Past, Present and Future as a Nation.

When undertaking the task of dividing the Torah into fifty-two portions, our Rabbis elected to name this most important Torah portion after no other than Yirto, a Midianite, a non-Jew, an outsider.
Why, some of you may ask?

And this is where one of the greatest gifts of our Jewish nation lies, the essence of our strength. Yitro’s name was chosen precisely because our Rabbi’s followed one of the most important tenet inherent in our Jewish culture - giving credit where credit is due. Yitro, as we witnessed throughout the Parasha, was very instrumental in shaping our destiny and help us make it a reality. He provided Moshe with refuge when he escaped the hostile environment in Egypt, gave him food, shelter and coached him into becoming one of the greatest leaders Am Yisrael has ever had. His contributions to who and what we are today are immense. He is what we, Jews, call "A Righteous Gentile."

Yitro’s credit was not only given to him, it was well earned and well deserved.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Made in the USA is good not just for America

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

One of US President Trump’s policies, which he is already in the process of implementing, is to support American businesses and American jobs.

For far too long, outsourcing has been the common practice on which many of us thrived. Cheap labour resulting in cheap merchandise is a dream come true for many. Our consumptive nature thrived on it. Yours truly, likewise, enjoyed it benefits, selfish and mundane benefits.

Has anyone of us ever stopped to wonder what it took to lower the costs of the goods we purchase? How about questioning the motive behind the constant flow of outsourcing while we were roaming through malls, spending our money and probably never stopping to contemplate the issue?

The answer is clear. It all boils down to cheap labour.

We have seen that cheap labour in countries like Egypt. We witnessed it in countries like India and China. It came in the form of young children sitting in factories instead of attending schools. Rotting in dark rooms instead of playing outdoors in the sunshine. It came in the images of women toiling and bent over for machines. It was reflected in the reflected shadowy images of men whose sad eyes continue to haunt us until this very day.

But America and the rest of the Western world continued to enjoy the cheap merchandise.

Some will come back and say, “But we provided work for those poor souls. We helped improve their lot.” Nice excuse, we say, for those who enjoy their cushioned existence, refuse to remove their blinders for fear of rattling their comfort zone. Life is beautiful as it is, so why change it, why acknowledge some truths?

Wake up people, the only lot you have improved is that of the rich who got richer. Those pour souls whose life outsourcing was allegedly supposed to improve remain in the perdition. They never left it, not even for one second.

But America and the rest of the Western world continue to enjoy the cheap merchandise.

There is, unfortunately, a cost to all this consumerism that goes beyond the price of the latest pair of jeans.   In every Western Nation, unemployment and under-employment has become a serious problem, cushioned only by the growth of welfare systems that have driven Western nations into unbelievable levels of debt that at some point becomes a vicious cycle of economic and social decline following which come other problems.

One such problem is the importing of cheap foreign labor to replace higher cost local workers without consideration of social consequences.   In the USA, companies have fired American workers while exploiting foreign workers imported at a fraction of the wages, providing them with barely livable places to sleep, through a misuse of the H-1 B visa guest worker program, a program designed to fill gaps where American workers were not available.  Those favoring illegal immigrants and mass immigration tend to be those who want cheap labour; ignoring the social problems this may lead to.    In Europe, ghettos of non-Europeans, somewhere police refuse to go, have been the result of big business and industry seeking cheap labour, also ignoring social and cultural consequences.

But America and the Western world continue to enjoy the cheap merchandise.

What we believe is even worse is the fact that cheap labour, in foreign locations or imported into advanced countries, is counter-productive to the development of technologies.  Why seek cheaper and better solutions, when one can find it expedient to just fire American or European workers and ship their jobs elsewhere?

What Roger and I fear is that we might end up with are societies, whole nations, with the middle class disappearing, the poor getting poorer, the wealthy getting much more wealthy, and a vastly growing national debt. We already see it happening.

But America and the rest of the Western world continue to enjoy the cheap merchandise.

For now, however, the problem is that this kind of economics has a limited life span.  Unless Western nations start to turn matters around and worry more about their future than about how many pairs of jeans they have in their wardrobes, the point will come where the whole economies will grind to a halt. That is, in our view, exactly what President Trump aims at preventing.

Of course, matters and attitudes can change direction.  A bit less narcissism.  A bit less consumerism.  A bit more hard work and pride in work.  This might just prevent catastrophe.

As many economists in Europe and the USA have said, the US is the economic engine of the world, and if there is no growth in the USA (which has been the pattern of the last 8 years), Europe, Japan and other countries will have less than no growth. Conversely, if the US economy grows, if the size of the pie grows, then the world will have a chance to grow as well and solve problems for the benefit of all.

With that in mind, the world should be looking to any US President who wants to do what is necessary to encourage faster growth --- whether its elites currently exploiting it like it or not.