Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Political Stilts

I came to Israel with the intention of finding my people. I wasn't sure exactly what that meant to me, and I'm still not sure, but whether that means Jewish people, political people, social justice people, artists, or just young people, these are all aspects of this person I am learning by being here. Yes, some deeper part of me longed to be a member of a community where everyone walking the streets shares a common ancestry, perhaps not genetically, but somehow it was still something I expected to be physically palpable - even self-validating. My purpose is self-indulgent in this way, I look to glean some larger lessons about myself by being here.

But it is more than just this. I think there are certain shared realities, especially as our world continues to become this contiguous planisphere of virtual knowledge, which have come to define a new generation. Access to information is exponentially distancing people at opposite ends of the factors responsible for dividing the developed world. More than ever before, we commonly share global happenings. This is the progeny of the internet and digital cable, where on-demand is quickly becoming a way of life.

Is it just access though? There are millions of Americans, particularly young Americans, who do everything they can to inundate themselves with popular culture as a means of shutting out the stuff with substance. It really is a broader symptom of my generation, this desire to anesthetize ourselves with the material techno-gadgetry, pop palettes and designer fashions of our global marketplace. The nature of the "news" is changing. With the advent of 24-hour channels particularly devoted to specific kinds of information (CNN and Fox News, ESPN, E!, MTV...), what was once the "news," is really just bad news - mainly reports of catastrophic failures and disasters. Occasionally there is a public interest story, but by and large it is just plain tragedy. I can understand why my grandfather tells me that the world is going to hell - although, he has caught on to the food network.

I wanted to be in a place where there was less of a buffer between myself and the harsh realities of the world at large. What better place than Israel? A country many consider to be itself the buffer, a thorny Middle Eastern quagmire poking its way into hostile territories.

Coming to Israel, I was under the impression that young Israelis are civically engaged. Young people here vote in higher numbers, I figured this to be indicative of a population more in tune with its political environment. But what I have come to find is an Israeli political experience defined by the harsh realities of wartime survival instinct. An existence that constantly in flux, and perhaps more bizarrely, an existence that prodded, distorted and questioned by watching their lives play out through the eyes of outsiders looking in. International media sources, primarily American, broadcast here 24 hours a day. It is a profoundly dislocated association to self, this is what I am coming to understand about being a young Jewish Israeli. Young people here are so attuned to how they are perceived by the rest of the world, they have almost no room to just be. And it is what I am coming to understand. Young Israelis, I think given the choice, would almost all tell you that they would love to be totally apolitical. Political aspiration is an American luxury, here politics are just a burden.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I definitely feel that post. Part of me is scared of going back to a place I once considered my 2nd home because I don't want to get there and feel like it's a poor imitation of where I live now. I hate to label things good or bad, but overall I feel ok saying that the Americanization of Israel is straight up bad. Obviously it's more complex, but I find no upside to that process.

Also, you told me drunkenly over the phone to leave you my email for Imri to get at me when he returns to the states: It's and you got my phone # so give him that too. Ben B-K is living there right now actually, so he can get in touch with him too if he wants at ... Anyway, keep posting them deep thoughts, son.
Peace - DZ

7:44 PM  

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