A New Long Hot Summer: Is Ferguson the American Spring?

Some on the left are viewing the Ferguson uprising as the the long awaited American Spring in which resistance to the routine murder of black youth becomes the wedge cracking open the system revealing itself to be rotten to the core.

It may become that. What happened to Michael Brown was all too typical and while his life was cut short by real bullets, so too does an entire generation see its prospects figuratively murdered as Wall Street consigns it to a future of permanent debt slavery abetted by militarized police forces crushing any attempts at mobilizing in opposition to it. 

If a movement can connect the dots then it has a chance to galvanize a movement of the 99% back into the streets.

But there will be a lot of opposition and much of it will come from those who Brittany Cooper referred to as “figureheads of the movement” now claiming to speak for Michael Brown and the Ferguson protesters.  Among those having shown themselves as “friends of those with political power rather than fighters for real change” has been Reverend Al Sharpton who, according to Cooper, presided over the Brown funeral by

“stick(ing) to safe truths, convenient ones, about the problem of militarized policing, particularly in black communities.  Sharpton chose not to be a prophetic voice for the people of Ferguson but rather to do the work that the Obama administration sent him to do. That work entailed the placating of the people by ostensibly affirming their sense of injustice, while disaffirming their right to a kind of righteous rage in the face of such injustice.”

More troubling was Sharpton’s appearance at the funeral for Eric Garner the day before where, according to Byron York in the Washington Examiner,  pro forma criticisms of the NYPD functioned as an introduction to hectoring his audience with the “bootstraps” line associated with Bill Cosby and Sharpton’s increasingly close confidant President Obama.

“We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too,” he said. “We have to be outraged at a 9-year-old girl killed in Chicago. We have got to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our killing and shooting and running around gun-toting each other, so that they’re justified in trying to come at us because some of us act like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”

Many in the audience were “enraged, among them Eddie S. Glaude Jr., professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton who “found the middle part of the eulogy profoundly disturbing.”

 

What remains to be seen is whether a new generation of black leaders will be able to step forward and not only give voice to this rage, but, to make strategic alliances with the 99% out in the streets two years before, and who were brutally suppressed creating a war zone in lower Manhattan which bore striking similarities to the that seen recently in Ferguson.

 

Should they do so, they will be sure to confront the full force of political and financial elites and their first lines of defense in the uniformed services.

 

When this potential was most actively present, nearly a half century ago, Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover made their names in infamy.

 

That role is sure to be adopted by Obama and Holder, who will assume the same role in blackface.

 

That black faces in high places now are fully capable of doing the work of elites up to and including smashing the faces of those who dare to challenge it has long since become obvious.  Ferguson, a relic of Jim Crown in its apartheid white governance of a black majority is a distraction from this reality.

 

The movement will need to look beyond this superficial difference between black and white servants of the plutocracy and see the naked fist which revealed itself in Ferguson and Zuccotti Park as the same one.

 

If it learns to do so, then we can look forward to the American Spring and many desperately needed long hot summers to follow.

Richard Wolff on Immigration

The following is a transcription of Richard Wolff’s remarks on immigration from the August 16th installment of Wolff’s Economic Update (audio here).  The view he is expressing, that immigration and “immigration reform” serves the interests of economic elites by creating increased competition for available employment, while often ignored, is neither new or original. What needs to be better understood is his observation that the charge of “racism” against workers concerned about the threat which immigration poses to their livelihoods is often cynically exploited by the same elites who benefit from an increased labor surplus. Worse is when self-described leftists parrot the same charge thereby doing the work of the ownership class though much more effectively as it is delivered in good faith from supposed friends of the working class rather than its enemies.

The issue I want to discuss now is the economics of immigration. And I’m going to use the United States as an example although what I’m going to say applies to many other countries that are experiencing an immigration process in their society.

The vast bulk of immigration into the United States for most of its history has been working people. People who leave a country because the economic conditions for them are difficult, getting a job is difficult, working on a farm is difficult, the income you earn is really not enough the prospects for you are very poor, you can’t support a family or you can’t support them the way you wish you could, you would like to offer a better life for your children than is available.

And so you hear about economic conditions in the United States and you make a wrenching decision to yank yourself out of the family you’re part of, the community you’re part of, the church that you’re part of, the friendships you’re developed, the neighborhood, and go to another country often whose language you don’t speak, whose customs you’re not familiar with, whose religion may be different from your own, and so on. A very difficult, a very painful, a very frightening decision, mostly made for a better economic chance.

Yes, there are some people who come because they’re politically persecuted, or persecuted because of their ideas, and that’s important but the bulk of people who have come to the United States are coming because they want something very unsurprising: they want a better economic deal-a chance to work, a chance to earn an income, a chance to live a reasonable life.

That tells you why they leave where they come from. Why do they come here?

Those folks would not come to the United States, or any other country, unless they were told by somebody, and told repeatedly-you don’t make this kind of wrenching decision based on one idea that somebody tells you over a drink some night-they only come if they are told and retold that there is an employer waiting for them. That there’s a job waiting for them. That they can earn a living; that their labor is desired.

Or if they’re a child of someone, that they’re the child of somebody whose labor is desired.

This gives us a clue to one of the key causes of immigration: the desire of employers to have either more workers that are available in their own country or workers whom they can pay less money to than the ones they have in their own country. One or the other or both things have to be true if employers are going to send out repeated messages directly and indirectly to countries from which people are leaving that you ought to think about coming here to the United States for example, or to Britain or to Canada or to Sweden or to wherever we’re talking about.

That means that one of the economic drivers of immigration, is the employer, corporations, those who want to see the workers come because they need more workers or they need cheaper workers or they need both. They’re not very interested in whether or how these workers get along with other people, whether they can find good or mediocre or awful housing, good or mediocre or awful education for their children, safe or not so safe neighborhoods-that’s really secondary.

They want to know whether they can get these workers to come here to work, preferably for less than they’ve had to pay workers who’ve been here a while or who were born in the United States.

So the more the merrier you might say is the attitude of the employer class toward immigration.

Now let’s look at it from the point of view of the workers already here-either born in the United States or been here for a while although having come as immigrants at some earlier point.

They look upon immigrants very differently. And that’s not because they’re different people, but because their situation in the economy is different. So for them, they say to themselves, first, oh my goodness! all these immigrants are coming and they’re going to compete with me for my job.

Number two: these folks are poor. They are coming from a place where they’ve gotten by with much less than we expect here in the United States so I’m afraid they will be willing to work for less than I’m willing to work for. And that they’re going to therefore be the choice of my employer at my expense.

Number three: if these are poor folk and they crowd in as poor folk usually do into the housing they can barely afford, we’re going to get a number of folks like this who may become dependent on government assistance of one kind or another and that’s going to come out of taxes on me because that’s the way our American tax system works: the rich get out of their share, the corporations who want these people won’t pay the extra taxes but I will be required to pay the extra taxes to support the public services for a person who may threaten my job. Plus i don’t want crowded neighborhoods near me, it makes life hard in the schools.

You can see where the arguments go: the point here is not whether these arguments are accurate or not. In some case they are, in some cases they aren’t.

But the point is that workers are in a fundamentally different structural position than are employers when it comes to the immigration of adult people who come looking for the job that the employer would prefer to give at a lower wage than whoever it is he is employing now.

And so we have here set up an ugly and unattractive struggle. And it gets more ugly and unattractive because there are groups in our society-and I don’t want to justify them or excuse them in any way-who are hateful towards immigrants-not for reasons of economics, they don’t like the religion of the people coming in; they don’t like the skin color. That is, they’re racists or bigots for various reasons.

They now find, these folks, who are always there to some degree, but they now find a new audience among the working class folks who are worried about immigrants not because of their color or their religion about which they care little or nothing. But they want someone to push back because they are fearful of what immigration will mean for them economically.

So they’re begins to be a coming together of the working class opposition to immigration-anxiety about immigration-and the racist or bigoted groups that are set against them. Meanwhile-and that gets ugly-there’s another kind of ugliness. The people at the top-the corporate leaders, the wealthy, the people who attend to them-their servants-directly and indirectly-begin to reproach the working class as if its opposition to immigration were racist or bigoted. As if your average working person had some moral lapse that a big wealthy person could reproach them for.

This is really ugly now. You are now casting the working class, whom you had endangered with immigration, whose risks at immigration you are precisely pursuing, because it advantages your profits. But instead of facing what threat you represent to working people you dismiss them all as racist and bigoted, which they never were and which they aren’t now.

I told you it gets ugly.

Well, what should we do? Let’s look for a minute historically at what has happened and then we can talk about what we ought to do.

Most of the time the employers win. We know why that is: they’ve bought the two political parties, you can see it being played out in Washington now as the Republicans and Democrats fiddle and faddle over immigration legislation-they never quite make a decision-mean time, millions and millions of people come to the United States, more or less able to continue to do so, often under terrible conditions, particularly recently with the children, but this is an old story.

What I’m saying to you is the corporations win. They control enough of the political system that when they want heavy immigration from poor places they get it.

For most of the history of the United States, it was poor people from Europe who came here. Since the second World War the Europe movement has slowed and largely collapsed but we get now from Latin America and from Asia and Africa a growing flow again, in the main, poor people. People looking for work, even those with degrees who come from higher levels of income in other countries, they also come looking for work. And they are also prepared to work for lower than the comparable salary or wage in the United States.

Workers have occasionally fought back with enough political muscle to stop immigration. Or to slow immigration. Or to limit immigration. But that’s been rare.

The victors have mostly been the corporate elite. And so we’ve had immigration. And so we’ve had an endless succession of tensions in our community of divisions in our working class along ethnic lines that are not so different from the lines between native born, recent immigrants and long ago immigrants.

With all the tension and all the injustice and all the pain and hurt that that has meant particularly for the immigrants but for everybody else involved.

Is there a better way? is there a solution? And the answer, as always is, of course there is.

If we want, and it ought to be “we” who make the decision democratically-if we want to open our nation, past and presents and future, to immigrants from other countries, then we ought to do so but provide the mechanism so that their arrival is not a threat to the people here but is in fact a blessing and a benefit as it brings more diversity, more variety, into the food, the dress and the ways of thinking of the American people-it enriches us with the cultures of diverse populations rather than threaten our working people. And the way you do that is, no one here loses a job or lowers their income because of their coming. An immigrant comes in and he or she will be provided with a job-an additional job-not a substitute job, at a decent income that’s comparable to what people here get, so that there’s no question of what people here are getting being reduced because of the competition from an immigrant.

You bring in immigrants without threatening the American working class and those immigrants will not have epithets shouted at them, will not have their children driven away, they’ll be welcomed for the diversity and the difference that they bring to enrich this society. You want immigration to work better, then do it properly. And who should pay for it? Of course, the people who wanted the immigrations in the first place. You want more workers? Fine. You want more workers for less? No, that’s not available. Let’s bring immigrants in if we need more workers, fine, bring them in in a way that enriches their lives and ours. And make those who benefit by having an available labor force pay the freight for making it work properly. No more folks at the top giving lectures on racism when the exacerbation of racial tension is precisely what they’ve produced by bringing poor people in to replace workers in this country. Anything else is insincere, duplicitous and dangerous in more social ways than I can count.

Asking the Hard Questions on Ferguson

A lot of outrage now about Ferguson-all of it righteous and all of it legitimate.

But there are bigger questions which need to be asked and answered.  For example,
  • Why are all five of its top administrative officers white?
  • Why, in a city with long standing tensions between the police and the African American community,  was a white former cop elected to serve on the Ferguson City Council?
  • Why is it that the city council is not only majority white, but, from all appearances, represents mainly Ferguson’s white minority?
While I haven’t studied the voter rolls, as a former local official, I can speculate on why this might be so.
First, the rate of participation of African Americans in local elections is almost certainly pitifully low.  This is not, as Democratic Party operatives would have you believe, entirely or even mainly due to voter suppression efforts by Republicans.    A lot of it has to do with local machines themselves discouraging participation, failing to mount voter registration drives or get out the vote campaigns.
Their reason for not doing so, as I observed first hand in New Haven, a city which shares some similarities with Ferguson, is because it gives the constituencies which reliably support machine candidates (mainly those revolving around black churches) disproportionate influence.  They are perfectly happy when their own handpicked candidates return to office with tiny numbers of votes rather than have to deal with potentially disruptive challenges which might emerge with more participation.
A second factor has to do with what the Black Agenda Report has pegged as the black misleadership class   There is nothing in any of the previous public statements of Ferguson’s African American Mayor James Knowles III which indicate any concern with police brutality, institutional racism, or anything beyond the most bland and uncontroversial “quality of life” initiatives.  In this, he takes his cue from black misleader in chief President Barack Obama who has still, predictably, failed to make a single statement expressing concern over or even awareness of the mounting destruction.
This gets to a larger point which is that the militarization of local police forces has been proceeding for at least a decade now with virtually no opposition on a local level a process which began with the receipt of surplus military equipment made available to localities.
They, or I should say we, were not required to accept it. And knowing how the guns, stun grenades and ammo would be deployed, there should have been unanimous opposition not only from the left but from anyone who is minimally concerned with civil liberties.
As far as I know, there was no such opposition not only in Ferguson but anywhere in the country. Based on my brief tenure as a local official, I’m pretty certain that the public safety committee hearings where the acquisition of the humvees, assault weapons and kevlar vests were discussed were almost if not entirely unattended by members of the public.  I also know from my experience that just a few calls to a local official would have resulted in, at least, some of the hard questions being asked about the wisdom of putting this gear in the hands of local police and quite possibly the rejection of some of the proffered gear.
Why did the left fail to act when it could have, and almost certainly would have mattered?
The answer is that the left has long since stopped caring about local politics even though our having obtained these positions, as we have seen, could have prevented the drift towards militarized police forces and their now routine suppression of protest.
There is one point of light in this-the Seattle city council campaign of Kshama Sawant whose path to victory began with the most notorious instance-the federally coordinated destruction of the Occupy movement.
Let’s hope that the left has now recognized that local campaigns, far from being “electoral extravaganzas unworthy of the attention of serious activists” are the first line of defense against the imposition of what can only be called a police state, operated by and serving the the interests of the one percent.

Hipster Hasbara: Klezmer Revisited

My father Morris, who turned 91 a couple of weeks ago, has fairly uncontroversial tastes in music.  The one exception is his attitude towards Klezmer, one of the favored styles of recent years.  Morris hates it-and eventually I began to understand why as it became an increasingly familiar part of the musical landscape of the 80s and 90.

 

Prior to that Klezmer, would be visible to those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s as innocuous Jewish folk songs sung on LPs by Theodore Bikel, Ruth Rubin and Pete Seeger. When it re-emerged in something closer to its raucous original form, it would do so as one wing of the world/ethnic music wave which brought to prominence various forms of West African pop, Bulgarian women’s chorus, and Tuvan throat singing among others. Of these styles, Klezmer was, arguably, first among equals-embraced across the board from conservative to “cutting edge” musical circles, quickly establishing itself and gaining acceptance, like the Jews themselves, in many different corners of the musical world, some quite prestigious.

 

To give some indication of the variety of niches it inhabited, one the first and best known repertory ensembles, the Klezmer Conservatory Band would be founded in 1980 with the support of the New England Conservatory and its powerful director Gunther Schuller. Several successful groups would spin off from the KCB, most notably the Klezmatics who would establish themselves in the then flourishing “downtown” scene.  Another NEC alumnus Don Byron would champion the music of bandleader Mickey Katz infusing Klezmer into the avant garde jazz scene at a time when relationships between the African American and Jewish communities were becoming increasingly fraught. Another downtown luminary John Zorn, would mine the Klezmer vein through his highly praised ensemble Masada at New York’s Knitting Factory in its heyday.

 

Klezmer would also establish a presence in traditional “uptown” quarters of the classical music world through new works by a then younger generation of composers. Among the most prominent of these was Oswaldo Golijov whose Klezmer influenced works would become among the most performed concert music works of the last decade. Golijov’s Prayers of Isaac the Blind served as a vehicle for many notable clarinet soloists including Giora Feldman, David Schiffrin and David Krakauer the latter of whom would play a seminal role in the revival through his group Klezmer Madness.(1)   Also drawn to Klezmer was one of the last remaining bona fide classical music celebrities, Itzhak Perlman, who would endorse the genre through his recording “In the Fiddler’s House” accompanied by both the Klezmatics and the Klezmer conservatory band.

 

Some of this activity was financed by grants and awards from arts agencies and non profit foundations as well as subsidized gigs on university campuses. But Klezmer, unlike many other musical styles, was able to bat from both sides, as it were, functioning equally effectively in the for profit sector of the musical economy as well. A fraction of many musicians’ bread and butter, mine included, was derived from performing with Klezmer bands at weddings and bar mitzvahs, often for Jews “returning to the fold” now eager rather than reticent about celebrating what they took to be their roots.

 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this: appropriation and cross fertilization is the life blood of music and there is a lot right with being able to make a living performing, whoever pays the bill.

 

And even if there were something wrong with it, how could anyone object to the kinetic, virtuosic, joyous flurry of notes which is Klezmer?

 

***

 

But Morris, and his generation did object and they had their reasons. For him, the high dudgeon wailing of Klezmer was the music of the shtetl and all that implied, which is to say, rabinically enforced illiteracy, bigotry, intolerance, and misogyny little different from what one would encounter in theocratic hamlets in rural Arkansas, Saudi Arabia or Albania.(2)  It was Klezmer, loud, uncouth, hyperactive, after all, not the subtle urbanity of Mendelssohn or Mahler which would form the basis of stereotypes brandished by those eager to erase from history Jews’ role in the forefront of European cultural ferment.  My father’s family was deeply connected with precisely that which much of the fascist right found most threatening: educated, assimilated, secular Judaism. It was the bearded, skull capped village Shylock which they caricatured in most anti-semitic stereotypes, not chemists, engineers or poets. From my father’s perspective, a definition of Judaism imposed by its oppressors should not be embraced, it should be repudiated and while those who have been victims of shtetl life shouldn’t be looked down on, that doesn’t make their vicitimization any less tragic or their backwardness any more worth celebrating.

 

My point here is not to defend my father’s attitudes (which I have some ambivalence about) but only to note that they were prevalent among Jews of his generation and background. That their existence needs to be reasserted is due to their having long since been made invisible by rose-colored glasses the donning of which was made inevitable by Hitler.  The profound divisions which characterized my father’s relationship to Judaism have understandably but by no means always defensibly been replaced by the myth of a Jewish national identity which papered over the chasm separating Jews of differing classes and profoundly different outlooks.

 

The main ideological force behind the attempts to unify Jews under a single national flag was, of course, Zionism, the success of which required that Jews look beyond their extreme and obvious differences seeing themselves primarily if not exclusively with respect to their historical victimization of which the holocaust was one of many albeit the most extreme manifestation. As has been frequently noted, the construction of a national identity was not so easily accomplished.  Unlike other nationalities, Jews were geographically dispersed, did not share a common language, or even, since the rise of secularism and reformed Judaism, believe in anything like the same god.  What commonalities there were resided in the amorphous category of culture though it was often unclear, given the extent to which Jews were assimilated whether their contributions should be seen as expressions of their Jewish identity or better explained as attached to national traditions which many Jews warmly embraced.

 

The perception of a core Jewish culture, albeit with multiple expressions, was necessary for the success of the Zionist project. Among those taking the lead in reifying it were Jewish Studies programs established in the post war years at many of the country’s most prestigious universities.  Wikipedia identifies thirty two of these which are often augmented by cultural centers sponsoring events, conferences, films and concerts promoting “Jewish life” on campus.  The Klezmer revival was nurtured by these as it was by non-academic institutions such as the Lowell Milken Archive for Jewish Music formed with the objective “to preserve and disseminate music related to the American Jewish experience, . . . encourage academic research . . .  as well as encourage the performance of American Jewish music.”  The organization specifically references its support of both David Krakauer and John Zorn and their role in the downtown Manhattan “radical Jewish culture” movement as well as Klezmer influenced works by composers Paul Schoenfeld, Robert Starer and Yehudi Wyner.

 

In this light, Klezmer can seen as one wing of the broader project of Jewish self-definition and as among its most successful.  Sons and grandsons of Jews who, like my father, would have dismissed Klezmer as vulgar and entirely foreign to their identities as modern, liberal and enlightened now embraced it in the concert hall, in movie soundtracks, in jazz clubs and at their weddings and bar mitzvahs dancing the hora as if they were characters in Fiddler on the Roof.

 

In addition to helping to address the centrifugual tendencies in Judaism itself the popularity of Klezmer also served a related purpose: to humanize and make palatable an ultra-orthodox shtetl culture which was not only backward and impoverished but also deeply strange and alien not only to Jews but even more so to non-Jews. The rabbinically enforced adherence to Talmudic law in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Israel is now only with great difficultly seen as belonging to a shared Judeo-Christian culture. More significantly, the enforced rigid separation of the sexes, forbidding of secular literature and suspicion of outsiders bears a much closer relationship to reviled theocratic states such as Saudi Arabia than Western liberal democracies.  For this reason, the ultra-orthodox were a liability in attempts by Zionists to portray a Jewish state meriting of the financial and military support of the western powers.

 

By celebrating the music of the shtetl culture, Klezmer not only softens what would appear to be repressive and forbidding aspects of the ultra-orthodox, it succeeds in turning them on their head.  The charismatic gesticulations accompanying Hasidic Torah recitations, not much less bizarre than the snake handling and speaking in tongues of a backwoods evangelical, become aestheticized as impassioned virtuosic pyrotechnics in Golijov’s Isaac the Blind.  The nigunim (prayer songs) take on a neutral identity as secular earworms when recontextualized in Steve Reich’s Tehillim. The skull caps, forelocks, scraggly beards and black cloaks of Hasidism appear not as they were intended, as antithetical and/or hostile to what initiates regards as a secular, decadent West, but, when paraded on stage by the Klezmatics, as hipster alternative fashion statements. (3)

 

While by no means its leading edge, the Klezmer revival thereby functions, knowingly or not, within the wider public relations (or, as it is increasingly better known, hasbara) strategy, to smooth the rough edges of ultra-orthodox Jewish elements. By helping to consign to the attic ultra orthodox intolerance and misogyny, known and sometimes harshly condemned by Jews themselves, Klezmer universalizes what would otherwise have been seen as a Jewish experience far removed from Western liberal tradition.

 

***

 

The goal of connecting Judaism and Jewish culture to the root of universalist conceptions of Western liberal democracies has been shown to be easily elided with promoting the role of the state of Israel as the front line of defense against Eastern fundamentalist, barbarism and terror.  To cement this equation as conventional wisdom is, of course, a longstanding objective of what has become known (albeit somewhat problematically) as “the lobby”, one which it has undertaken with remarkable success.

 

An indication of its success is finding even those most committed to secularism endorsing an explicitly religious state. These include “new atheist” Sam Harris, who is comfortable asserting that “The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.”

 

Along similar lines, Elie Wiesel in a recent advertisement submitted to several newspapers describes the conflict as “not a battle of Jew versus Arab or Israeli versus Palestinian. Rather, it is a battle between those who celebrate life and those who champion death. It is a battle of civilization versus barbarism.”

 

Wiesel’s crude attempt to consign the Palestinian population to dark, irrational infamy while promoting what is increasingly becoming a pariah state of Israel as the beleaguered defender of life-sustaining civilization was rejected for publication. That it was even considered has much to do both with the successful demonization of the Islamic “other” and with the longstanding polishing of the reputation of a religious state claiming to speak for Western values.

 

Klezmer has done its part by affixing a happy face on some of the least attractive and most alienating characteristics of Jewish tradition, one whose adherents such as the Jewish Home and Shas parties comprise a majority component of the right wing coalition committed to a de facto policy of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian minority.  For those becoming all too familiar with the brutality, violence and cynicism, a few clarinet high F’s and augmented seconds are all that is necessary to evoke this depressing reality.  My father never wanted to hear these sounds again, and, after a while, neither will many of us.

 

 

(1) Krakauer has written perceptively about his role here.

 

(2) Norman Cantor, in “The Sacred Chain: the History of the Jews”, pp. 224-225 is among those willing to look beyond Broadway musical conception of shtetl life: “What you do not learn from Sholem Aleichem is the superstition and the ignorance and the general ambiance of cruelty and deprivation, of fatalism and magic, and of comatose squalor that characterized the culture of the shtetl.”

 

(3) Perhaps the most conspicuous prior instance of the selling of ultra-orthodox as superficially unfamiliar but ultimately woven within the fabric of modern western, indeed, American culture were the series of books by Chaim Potok widely assigned in high school curricula during the 60s and 70s.  In the best known of these, The Chosen, the son of a Hasidic Rabbi decides to withdraw from rabbinical studies in order to become a Freudian Psychoanalyst.  The father, while initially opposed to the son’s decision eventually reconciles himself on the grounds that as a psychoanalyst, his son “will be a Tsadik, not just to his congregation but to the world.” Hasidism is therefore shown to be fully consonant with liberal, enlightened ideals, albeit those of the Upper West Side circa 1974.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case of Norman Cazden

Freddie DeBoer’s letter protesting the administration’s disgraceful termination of Steven Salaita’s appointment to a position at the University of Illinois references the McCarthyite smearing of two UI faculty members in the 50s. One, DeBoer’s grandfather, was protected by tenure. The other, composer Norman Cazden, was not. He lost his position and would eke out a living for the next 15 years, according to wikipedia, giving private piano lessons and doing hack arranging and continuing to compose prolifically. Cazden was, from all accounts, an impressive musician and scholar, and while I don’t know his music, it is said to be of very high quality. Interestingly, just yesterday when I was at NYU’s Tamiment Library researching the history of the music curriculum of New York City’s now completely forgotten Jefferson School for Social Science.  There was Cazden listed on the faculty in, I believe, the year 1948. Here are the pages from the Jefferson School course catalog listing some of the music courses offered. This should give everyone some idea of the kind of artistic and intellectual ferment which existed in left circles at the time and which has been completely written out of history. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone were to write about this subject.

cazden