Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Disclaimers and other profundity

-Amber asks, "Is there anything more pathetic than a stupid nerd?" This is, I believe, an overlooked major question of our age. Growing up, I remember that the strange or funny-looking kid in class was always commonly assumed to be brilliant, even if no one had any evidence of this, even if the kid got bad grades and never said anything sharp in or out of class. It's hard to accept that beauty and brains are not distributed equally by a fair-minded higher power; the number of ex-models roaming around PhD programs is but one example of life being unfair. But parents and teachers want children to respect their classmates, and so they imply that there's always an inside balancing out whatever is not going so great on the outside. This would all be well and good, except that it causes the attractive and intelligent (or moderately well-put-together and intelligent) not to be taken seriously. I suppose this stops a bit in adulthood, but in lower and middle school, I remember finding the dichotomy annoying. Not because I was much to look at at 12, but because it was so obvious that the kids declared geniuses were called this to help their self-esteem, while any actual intelligence (second disclaimer: not my intelligence, I was no prodigy) was interpreted as uppitiness by the teachers.

-En Belgique, things are a mess. Or are they? Either way, it's about time the Walloons parlayed their relative poverty and status as an oppressed-ish minority into a trendy global cause. Seeing as they're Francophone, they're well-positioned to adopt an official scarf, a Walloon keffiyeh of sorts, soon to be worn by hipsters in every fashion capital other than Antwerp.

-I asked why all the child stars are churchgoers, and New York Magazine... asked the same question, but nine days later... but with pictures and some concrete examples, so we're even.

-An inquiring mind wants to know why I'm a Francophilic Zionist. That's easy: cheese, shoes, Theodor Herzl, laicité, pastries, Bernard Lazare, national self-determination, and Agnes B. That, and I often find things to do with Jews more interesting if they also have to do with France, and vice versa. Necessary disclaimers: 1) I do not think "Zionism" is a viable term for anyone's political opinions in 2008. It makes no sense to think there should be a Jewish state in the land of Israel. There is one. But there's no catchy way of saying you're glad it's there, kinda want to live there, and at any rate want it to stay put. 2) I might be more of an Israelophilic France-ist, since there are things I like politically about France (secularism, not asking for race info. on official documents...) and others I like aesthetically about Israel (Hebrew, Israeli music, iced blended coffee, and of course there's Lior Ashkenazi). And I'm not sure how it all balances out. 3) Plus there's the not-insignificant matter of knowing French and only somewhat knowing Hebrew, which tilts my intellectual interests further to the Francophilic than Zionistic end of the spectrum.

-And finally, agreed.


Withywindle said...

Thank you! An interesting combination. It makes me wonder how many of the early ZIonists were also Francophiles--self-consciously trying to found an Israel with French elements--it seems to me all of a sudden that there are some parallels. I'm most aware of the German elements in Zionist thought, but some of those are second-hand French, and besides I'm tres uninformed of the complexities of ZIonist thought.

But would you be happy with Israeli cheese and French music?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I do also like Israeli cheese (feta) and French music (Serge Gainsbourg, French rap). But more the other way around.

Unknown said...

But saying that the state of Israel *should* exist in the land of Israel, does not necessarily infer that it does not already exist. Similarly, debating if child stars should be churchgoers does not mean that they are not already churchgoers.

Unknown said...

Also, on that Obama point. I think a lot of Jews see Obama as a Jimmy Carter wannabe. The more he talks about sitting down and talking with the Arabs and Iran, the more he sounds like Carter. And we all know how much Jimmy Carter talks about being ok with Israel, but is much much more concerned with apartheid in Palestine.

Anonymous said...

"An inquiring mind wants to know why I'm a Francophilic Zionist."

At the end of the day, the only really interesting civilizations on the globe are within the territory of the Res Publica.

If you want sexy people and yummy food in abundance, you need to locate yourself somewhere around Mare Nostrum. And France gets bonus points over Spain, Italy, Greece, and Israel due to croissants, cinema, and Serge & Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Zionism is nice because it offers easy optional Mediterranean citizenship to far flung members of the tribe.

It's all really a bit of a no-brainer.