Monday, 30 June 2014

"My swastika"

That disturbing phrase is the headline of this piece on an Economist blog. In an understated manner, the writer, a Jewish man, describes finding a swastika graffiti'd on his doorpost. In London. In 2014.

It is in the truest traditions of the Economist that the writer turns to the data and finds grounds for optimism (the Whig view of history is alive and well in the Economist): "modern Britain is indeed an almost uniquely benign place for Jews (lapsed or otherwise) to live", he says. It is good of him to say so. But I am disgusted.

Instinctively, I regard decent treatment of Jews as a good test for the decency of any gentile society as a whole. On analysis, I think that instinct is well-founded.

Testing how a society treats minorities in general is less revealing. Some minority groups are deserving of sympathy or special treatment in some way: the very poor, the badly disabled, criminals. It is interesting to know how a society treats these people, what we might call its weakest members, but one will always be looking at how a special case is handled, and sometimes hard cases make bad law. On the other hand, some minority groups are ones that might 'recruit' you or your children: drug addicts, Buddhists, the very rich, left-handed people. It is hard to generate a real 'them and us' feeling with such minorities. Equally, some minorities don't have clear entry criteria ('very spiritual' people) or any self-identity as a group (twins). Some minorities are only contingently minorities: Muslims and (practising) Christians are two minority groups in Britain now, but one was a majority and perhaps the other will be; but Jewish people will always be in the minority.

Jewish people are just people. They are not fortunate or unfortunate and there is obviously no reason why the law or society should single them out for any special treatment. But they are an identifiable minority, whom gentiles can in theory pick on without fear of picking on their own children and without fear of having the tables turned on them. In theory and, in too many places and at too many times, in reality too.

So my theory is that if you want to know whether a gentile society is a fundamentally decent society then you should look at the lives of its normal Jewish members. I like to think of Britain as fundamentally decent. I hope it stays that way.

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