Be Not Afraid

Be not afraid is my motto. There’s no idea or book or fact or theory I am not willing to confront and analyze (though some I don’t think are productive uses of my time). I have no sacred cows. To borrow a perspective from AA, there’s no place we can’t go if we have a good reason for going there.

I’ve read Mein Kampf three times. My happiness and sanity was not in the least affected. There were nights I let the audio version play for eight hours as I drifted in and out of sleep. I was always struck by Adolf’s childish desire for a magic key to unlock how the world works.

I’ve read The Communist Manifesto and the Koran and other dangerous books. I was not scathed.

Chaim: “Luke, just food for thought about responsibility when it comes to others behavior. What about ‘Lifnay Iver Lo titen michshole’ Leviticus 19: 14. “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.” Should we consider the blindness (maturity) discernability/wisdom/ propensity for bad behavior by our intended audience before introducing material to them?”

It’s a beautiful admonition. We should be heedful of our affect on other people, but not cross over to believing that we are responsible for their choices. We can’t control anyone but ourselves. The first thing I learned about in therapy was boundaries. Lack of them has been a lifelong problem. I instinctively want to take responsibility for stuff that is not my responsibility and shirk responsibility for stuff that is my responsibility. Through 12 step, I’ve learned where I end and others begin. And yet I often feel the old tug to feel guilty and involved in stuff that is not mine.

I’ve long found it easier to get all wrapped up in the lives of others instead of taking charges of my own. I still have vestigial tugs of dysfunction, an inner voice that keeps popping up, saying you should feel guilty over what you suggested to XYZ and how that didn’t work out for him, and my pre-frontal cortex bats that voice back down and says, no white guilt.

Pete: “What if the audience is a minor?”

If the audience is a minor, you still can’t control them. Parents can’t fully control a 2yo. Minors have less agency than adults in general (some smart 11yos have more agency than some low IQ adults will ever have) so we need to be more careful with them. If a 12yo decides to kill himself, that’s not usually the primary responsibility of his parents or his friends.

Chaim: “But the biblical injunction would find ethical fault with someone for let’s say inviting out a former alchoholic for a beer.”

There’s a world of difference between “ethical fault” and responsibility. If you knowingly invite an alcoholic for a drink, you don’t have responsibility for him. You have however exhibited an ethical fault.

Pete: “One question I do have for Luke: now that you’ve seen how someone with a PhD could respond to Mein Kampf, do you have any reservations about suggesting others study MK? Because it seems like there is empirical evidence that it is equivalent to suggesting someone try meth.”

No. Anyone who loses his mind after reading Mein Kampf has a pathology that the book becomes an excuse to exhibit. Without the Kampf, the pathology would simply exhibit itself in other ways.

Former Orthodox rabbi David Gruber told me in 2008: “A year and a half into my three year contract, I’d always been very liberal and skeptical. I’d always asked questions that other people didn’t ask and troubled by stuff that maybe didn’t trouble other people. I was pretty comfortable knocking those square pegs into round holes from time to time.

“Then something clicked. It was The Limits of Orthodox Theology by Dr. Marc Shapiro. He’d probably be devastated but what are you going to do?

[Marc Shapiro replies to my inquiry: “One never knows how people will be affected by what you write. But I would think that the book would show him that you can still be Torah observant and not have to be so strongly bound to dogma.”]

John: “The first wave of Norwegians to leave for America in any numbers were nonconformist Protestants. This because in the early 19th century it was illegal for a Norwegian to be anything but the Church of Norway. So all nonconformist Protestants were essentially bullied to leave. I still don’t think Melchy is an extremist. I just think Melchy is an eccentric, and like R. Spencer he thinks aloud on livestream. Which is a mistake if you work in academia. I don’t have any problems with people talking about in and out groups. Every age has its own dogmas though. The only man who participated in Charlottesville who I’ve gained respect for afterwards is Jason Kessler. I still don’t know how Jason Kessler’s legal battles is gonna go, but he at least made the effort.”

Chaim: “There is a list of banned books that I made some headway into. But they are all novels written in English like Ulysses, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Jude The Obscure. I read Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman at age 20, and realized I was not orthodox, or modern orthodox, not just lapsed but I’d say the book changed me in a profound way. I don’t know if this ‘redpilling’ was socially beneficial at the time. I was never the same again, but appreciated the bible in a new way, perhaps even appreciated its genius more as the work of men. I wanted to read it and feel confident I could expose myself to its questions. So I disagree there Luke.”

Do you think anyone who wanted to stay frum would have gone off the derech after reading that? I don’t.

Chaim: “Torah u’madah can’t survive critical theory of the bible, and the mocking of the Wellhausen model from then on seemed to be that of an ignoramus.”

Orthodox Judaism is the most powerful social model for Jewish life. Every other form of Jewish identity pales in comparison.

Pete: “The media bears responsibility too though. There is shared responsibility. People go there whole lives with repressed pathologies. Why help bring them it to the surface? I mean… who is inciting all these blacks to violence? Who is pushing false narratives of black victimhood on tv? Does Mein Kampf have a lesson for us here? Are there parallels?”

Nobody is rioting whose morals would preclude it. The only looters are those who want to loot and the media gives them blessing.

Chaim: “The enzyme metaphor is useful. It speeds up but does not cause a chemical reaction.”

If the audience is a minor, you still can’t control them. Parents can’t fully control a 2yo. Minors have less agency than adults in general (some smart 11yos have more agency than some low IQ adults will ever have). If a 12yo decides to kill himself, that’s not primarily his parents or his friends’ fault. There’s a world of difference between “ethical fault” and responsibility regarding “but the bibilical injunction would find ethical fault with someone for lets say inviting out a former alchoholic for a beer.”

Chaim: “What if you gave an STD to someone?”

You harmed someone but the party that chooses to participate in sex with you bears substantial responsibility for their choice. If you give your wife an STD, she bears responsibility for marrying you and for staying married to you and thus exposing herself to a man who makes poor choices. I doubt this STD is his first bad choice in the marriage that has harmed her.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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