Israel and the World at the Dawn of 2017
Report of a OPUS Listening Post® held in Tel Aviv on 19thJanuary 2017
PART 1: THE SHARING OF PREOCCUPATIONS & EXPERIENCES
In this part, the Listening Post participants were invited to identify, contribute, and explore their experiences in their various social roles, be they: in work, unemployed or retired; as members of religious, political, neighbourhood, voluntary or leisure organisations; or as members of families and communities. This part was largely concerned with what might be called, ‘the stuff of people’s everyday lives’: the ‘socio’ or ‘external’ world of participants.
PART 2: IDENTIFICATION OF MAJOR THEMES
In Part 2, the aim collectively was to identify the major themes emerging from Part 1.
Ten out of 12 participants who had responded to say they were attending were present with two conveners. There were 5 Ofek members and 5 paid guests. The other 2, both women, non Ofek members, did not arrive. The first part was dedicated to collecting themes that came to mind, associatively, when participants think of their society at this time. However in practice some participants felt that there was little room for real associative work.
A few themes recurred during the evening:
- the difficulty to stick to the task
- the wish for togetherness, the nostalgic drive to merge with others and the need for tagging to preserve some differentiation
- the preoccupation with what is not being talked about;hate? desperation?
During the LP little verbal explicit reference was made to the experience of anxiety present in the room and it expressed itself in the difficulty to bring and stay with associations, and later on to build hypotheses. Instead of these, slogans and recommendations for action took the scene. At the same time the issues referred to were all expressions of anxiety: Trump, Brexit, the deterioration of the Western World, ISIL (Daesh), catastrophes, the impossibility of multiculturalism and political correctness.
-The evening opened when one person wondered how truly heterogeneous this group really was. So few people actually want to think and learn. It is too big of an ideal and it is so frustrating to do so. Only left wing people think about our society.
-Another voice (a participant from the general public presenting himself as being more than 80 years old and also the oldest member present) reminds us that we did so much in the past because we were together in solidarity and oneness. It’s the “togetherness and solidarity” without God that built the state (of Israel).
He recalled and described that the previous day he had attended a concert of the Russian Red Army Choir with his 13 year old granddaughter. He described the power of togetherness and solidarity in this group of musicians. We should come back to our “being together” to face what the western culture is bringing to us now: a deterioration of the western civilization, “Yeshurun waxed fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15 Israel is called Yeshurun). The efforts at multi-culturalism and at being politically correct bring only fakeness. Trump and Brexit are a kick to the Muslim World and to political correctness. We should come back to ourselves, back to our sources.
-Trump is not Yeshurun!
-Brexit, Hitler Youth, white trash are not Hillary Clinton’s people! The people are fed up with surprises and have no respect for our Western Values.
-A plea is made by an Ofek member that we want associations and not political analysis and slogans.
-At any moment there will be a catastrophe. There is no air to breathe, and we are approaching a bottomless pit.
-Another plea for associations from another Ofek member.
-Because of lack of understanding and how complicated it is to think, slogans ( סיסמאות) take over. The more we feel loss of control of our reality the more slogans take over and we give in to their grip.
-The anxiety over the general uncertainty promotes tagging: left wing/right wing, etc. It becomes deterministic and does not allow thinking.
-Being a member of Psycho-active (the organization of mental health professionals for human rights), I sometimes feel that am dragged into feeling right wing and it makes me shiver. She described a situation when Municipality officials checked a suspicious car and driver, who looked like he might be an Arab citizen, “are they protecting me or doing just the opposite? Racial profiling protects? But it is not PC (Politically Correct)! So no good?
-The Red Army Choir is here. Their marching reminds me of the Nazis. My mother came to Israel in 1949, and went straight from the ship to the war. Most of their friends died then.
-This reminds me of North Korea. My father came from Syria in 1934 before the State was declared and felt that the treatment of Arab porters and Jews from Middleastern countries was prejudiced. He continued to live and work in Palestine (As the Jewish prestate was then called) for another 7 months. His experience was difficult and he left not to return until 1977.
-One of the ensembles of the Red Army Choir while flying fell into the Red Sea because of bad maintenance of the airplane or a badly trained pilot. It shows the limitations of power. Right wing people often forget the limitations of power! Tomorrow I have a memorial service for my 2 dead parents and a dead brother. The parents, both of European origins, had survived concentration camps and the Red Army. They celebrated Israel Independence days. That generation died out.
-Back to our oldest member, what should we tell our grandchildren? We plant in them our frustrations, bad memories or should we encourage building a better future. None of you have any idea how long and terrible the wars that took place in North America before and after their independence; how much the weaker parts of society were taken advantage of and exploited. There (in North America), it was a colonization by individuals. We here in Israel had an organized colonization. But this colonization (ours) was healthier and had fewer victims. At the declaration of the State we were only 600,000 here. I was an only child, son and went to the Army. The mothers were the true heroes. We had no thesis, no explanation, and no program.
-A woman present said “I was born during the war, and all my life war continues. I loved what you said about being “together”.
-Another woman continues we have more positive energies and life forces than it appears from the negativism we are discussing… I don’t agree to be led. I will go where I want! What does making peace mean? I participate in the movement “women waging peace”, and decided to make peace with my “ex”(husband), I took the initiative, met him and made peace. One has to start with one’s own surroundings. The love word is so easy and maybe banal. For example to say “I love coffee”.
-How old are you asks an older man in wonderment?
-Another male member continues: naming and categorization are ways to deal with the uncertainty. In war we need to know who the enemy is. Not only in Israel. Tomorrow we’ll have a president we don’t know about. Trump might be a Russian agent!
-Giving up and going into nostalgic feelings are ways to lose one’s identity. Sometimes nostalgia is an extreme surrender to the “together”. Give up strength. Togetherness creates the enemy without.
-In or out?
-Like the story of the Syrian Jew who felt unwelcomed in pre state Israel.
-Hours of dancing are so addictive, feeling such togetherness!
-Strength and Power!
-To feel in place. Euphoric.
-Like the Red Army plane going down.
-The US killed Native Americans. Israel kills some and displaces Palestinians. My stomach hurts!
-Trump, ISIL (Daeesh)
-We kill off the previous generation.
-It’s the law of nature, its social Darwinism. We survive or have salvation or we don’t.
-Psychology is lacking, people don’t understand themselves and they don’t understand others. More psychology is needed in management and politics.
-I differ from you in that I am at peace with my “category”, I couldn’t care less what others think.
-The together is a fake. How do you establish contact, together or apart? To be together with others, part of cosmopolitism and globalization. Each one has his own “together”. The social texture deteriorated and togetherness happens only within the small groups (homogenous?).
My Rabbi when 17 could not sit comfortably in a bus in Israel there were so many languages and the differences so stark.
Pairs, solidarity togetherness a comfortable falsehood.
The themes as collected by the participants working in small groups included:
- The hope and desire for coherence and togetherness; the need to look back to the giants of the past; the need to stick together in small tribes that preserve homogeneity but don’t integrate strengths
- The difficulty to understand present reality and the use of dogmatisms to cover the unknown
- The feeling that Social Darwinistic drives lead to a destruction of the past without really building new leaderships and not bringing our strengths together
- Having lived most our lives during wars, it is only Women that can wage peace
Themes by groups of participants
The hope and desire for coherence and togetherness
Categorization as a survival mechanism
Generation of giants; in the age of the Giants who are the fallen beings?
Being omnipotent as a way out, an escape
Together, we threaten the other
What we didn’t talk about? Hate and desperation. Is this a theme? What we didn’t talk about
Reality is worse that every fantasy: the police, the red army
Lack of control and lack of understanding of reality leads to dogmatisms
When together there is no separate identity. People get together in groups inside which they found solidarity and cohesion
We need to investigate what is “together”. Is it different from integrating strengths?
How do we keep differentiation, individuality, the freedom to be authentic
What kind of together are we looking for
Is categorization automatic? Together vs. differentiation
Homogeneity vs groups
Less heterogeneity with less together
The wishful thinking of the ruling class
Tagging, identifying friend or foe is necessary for war.
Nature consistent with Social Darwinism.
Love and Peace who does it? Women usually sometimes but less often men.
How flexible is identifying friend from foe? How automatic the process?
PART 3: ANALYSIS AND HYPOTHESIS FORMATION
In Part 3, the participants were working with the information resulting from Parts 1 & 2, with a view to collectively identifying the underlying dynamics both conscious and unconscious that may be predominant at the time; and developing hypotheses as to why they might be occurring at that moment. Here, participants were working more with what might be called their ‘psycho’ or ‘internal’ world: their collective ideas and ways of thinking that both determine how they perceive the external realities and shape their actions towards them.
Analysis 1: there is no way by which one can hold complexity at this time and therefore there are speedy runs into classifications and tagging which further deepens the splits.Whoever tries to deal with complexity is attacked by the right and left which results in no middle ground, there are two groups and deep hate between them resulting in not being able to come together
Hypothesis 1: Whoever tries to deal with complexity is attacked by the right and by the left, which results in the difficult (impossibility) to build a middle ground where understanding could develop
Analysis 2: as the world is too complex, how does one live with chaos and keep some sense of personal identity in the present time. The thought that there is not a sure way to win, and therefore the will to do so gets lost with the giving up of an omnipotent fantasy. Our impression was that there was much difficulty attempting to formulate hypotheses and that some participants opted for directions for action instead of hypotheses, for example:
To overcome the stress and the chaos the centre has to get together; right and left are no longer relevant as they represent a tribal experience and the need now is for getting together around the Centre. The difficulty in getting together around the Centre is the feeling of losing one’s identity, and the resistance to dealing with fear and envy. The resistance to building a common civil identity in order that the tribes will not disappear led to the hypothesis that Israeli society is in a process of development at an adolescent phase. We look up to the USA, but can we learn from them? Another hypothesis, maybe there is a place and country that we can learn from but we don’t want to learn. There is a feeling that we can only learn from ourselves, otherwise what will we tell our grandchildren?
Hypothesis 2: The experience that the world at this time is too complex to hold in mind, creates a sense of chaos that speeds the tagging that deepens the splits.
Analysis 3: We did not speak about leadership, but as there is a lack of leadership, there is a hopeful look to the past generation of heroes that succeeded in holding the narrative together and deal with survival anxiety, this being an example of idealization. Lack of leadership or lack of trust in the leadership generates fear that may develop into action or also into not-action (paralysis). One could hypothesize that the lack of action in the Israeli side and the Palestinian side reveals fear as well as a retreat from action
Hypothesis 3: There is a feeling of lack of leadership and also that we cannot trust those leaders that are, therefore look for the idealized giants of the past, while feeling that they are no more. A sense of lacking, of void, takes over that promotes paralysis, little political action with change and learning in mind, the fear that we have too little to leave for our grandchildren.
There was a feeling that this particular LP was an impossible experience. It was difficult to stick to the task, although there was a desire to work. This conflict brought antagonism and tension to the room, that was not talked about, and put a question mark on our desire to learn.
It was not clear that the leadership in the room (the conveners) were really able to stick to the primary task. And yet, although this was not a group relations conference, the participants felt that there was learning in the session. It enabled agreement on the issues at stake, but less on the hypotheses.
Convenors: Dr. Joe Djemal and Silvia Silberman