Saturday, March 15, 2008

Schopenhauer the Hedgehog

Schopenhauer the Hedgehog: In 1851, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer expounded his conception of "The Hedgehog's Dilemma" in his work Parerga und Paralipomena. For the most part, this dilemma is concerned with the idea that hedgehog's can only get so close to one another before they inevitably hurt each other with their spiny backs. (In fact, just for clarification, hedgehogs do not possess "large" spines on their backsides. There might have been an error in translation from the German to the English with regard to porcupines and hedgehogs.) Regardless, Schopenhauer takes this apparent paradox in the animal rationale and applies it to the human condition. That is, when two people become close with each other, most likely married couples or good friends, the potential for hurting one another is a lot greater than if the two people were unacquainted. At the same time, if two people who know each other well remain apart for a long period of time, then the mental anguish of loneliness may start to consume them. In coping with this dilemma, man is often inclined to turn inward and become anti-social, as this act appears to be the best way of safeguarding his dignity. Needless to say, the hedgehog's dilemma has become a popular concept in psychology, as couples seeking marriage counseling are made aware of this contradiction. The ultimate solution to this problem of human interaction seems to involve the locating of an optimal distance between subjects. In other words, finding a so-called "comfort zone" is the key to coexistence.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Zion and Its Elders

Zion and Its Elders: Pictured above is Theodor Herzl, the man who is often considered the primary founder of modern Political Zionism. He was a Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist living in the latter half of the nineteenth century. At the time, Europe saw the rapid growth of anti-Semitism in numerous countries like Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. Even France could not eradicate its virulent anti-Semitic forces, as it plunged into a decade-long dilemma known as the Dreyfus Affair. It was this incident in France that caught the attention of Herzl. As a result, he decided to dedicate his time and effort to the creation and promotion of a back to Palestine movement (Zionism) for the Jewish peoples around the world. Such a concept was not new, it had existed ever since the days of the Jewish diaspora. However, the most novel feature of this movement was the fact that it contained vast socio-political implications for the European Jewry. As the rise of nationalism swept over Europe throughout the nineteenth century, the Jews were consistently set apart from any sort of grandiose nationalistic vision, which tended to be vaguely "Christian" in nature. And since they were frequently seen as a nation within a nation, European Jews needed a refuge where they could be free from the persistent persecution that they faced in the form of pogroms. Unfortunately for Herzl and other Zionist leaders, securing a place for the Jewish people in an area that was dominated by Muslims of the Ottoman Empire would prove quite difficult.