The Etiology Of Hate: Anti-Semitism And Anti-Tamil Brahminism

The Etiology Of Hate: Anti-Semitism And Anti-Tamil Brahminism

by Reality Check India - Monday, August 29, 2022 12:01 PM IST
The Etiology Of Hate: Anti-Semitism And Anti-Tamil BrahminismJean-Paul Sartre.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre calls anti-Semitism a criminal passion; how we can draw a parallel with the anti-Tamil Brahminism.

When you come face to face with public expressions of malevolence which defy conventional explanations such as difference of opinion or prejudice, you know it is time to go a bit deeper.

A search into the psychology of the hater will yield the answers. Only by confronting the etiology of hate and the psychological makeup of the hater can you start building a proper response.

While my primary concern is the anti-Brahmin or more precisely the anti-Tamil-Brahmin (ATB) in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, this post is about sharing a well known analytical framework.

What is the in the depths of the mind? In the next post, I will describe how these dimensions manifest in the Dravidian ATB individual. This post is about introducing a particularly deep piece of work that already exists in the domain.

Jean-Paul Sartre — The Anti-Semite And Jew

Jean-Paul Sartre is one of the leading lights of the philosophical world known for his contributions to existentialism. A fierce thinker of the kind the world hasn’t seen, he even refused to accept the Nobel Prize for fear of unconsciously losing his free thinking.

In 1944, shortly after the liberation of Paris from German occupation, some of the French Jews started to pour back into Paris and surroundings.

In the wake of this jubilation, he was dismayed that hardly anyone in the media was talking about the Jews, who had somehow managed to scrape through the nightmare. Was it a fear of angering the anti-Semite?

This question prompted him to write a profoundly deep essay “Réflexions sur la question juive” later translated to English as “Anti Semite and Jew – An Etiology of Hate”.

I have read this multiple times and it stuns me how well it fits as a general psychological analysis framework even outside the specific European war context. I want to share this with my readers here.

This essay is divided into four parts roughly:

1) A psycho pathological analysis of the anti-Semite

2) The democrat liberal response

3) the authentic and inauthentic Jew and

4) a discussion about the religious locality and Zionism. The first part, the psychology of the ant-Semite is a spectacular piece of work that still commands influence decades later. That is what I will be focusing on.

A PDF of this essay is available, Google for “Anti-Semite and Jew”

The only way to do justice to the essay is to post the whole thing. But here are some relevant excerpts. Once again, I encourage people to read the essay. You will thank me later.

Is It A Prejudice? An idea? An opinion?

Others [Fakenheim] have pointed out that anti-Semitism is more than just a prejudice, because unlike a genuine prejudice anti-Semitism does not seem to disappear when knowledge comes on the scene.

A ‘pre-judice’ is a ‘pre-judgment’ that is like a default position based on incomplete knowledge. An act of prejudice might be you assume someone is incompetent, then he performs well, then that prejudice disappears. Does this ring a bell?

There is no fact or correction you can make to the various ‘anti-pretexts’ to help. The pretexts of hate are themselves tenuous and might just be a wilful misinterpretation of events. If it is not a prejudice then what is it?

Here is where Sartre’s genius comes in — he says it is not a prejudice it is not even an opinion such as those that are protected by freedom of speech. Strong words on foreign policy, economics, abortion, social justice, religion, are opinions. Sartre:

…here we have a case of holding an opinion on the administration of things. But I refuse to characterize as opinion a doctrine that is aimed directly at particular persons and that seeks to suppress their rights or to exterminate them. The Jew whom the anti‐Semite wishes to lay hands upon is not a schematic being defined solely by his function, as under administrative law; or by his status or his acts, as under the Code. He is a Jew, the son of Jews, recognizable by his physique, by the colour of his hair, by his clothing perhaps, and, so they say, by his character. Anti‐Semitism does not fall within the category of ideas protected by the right of free opinion

If it isn’t prejudice, not is it an idea in the sense of something that can be protected by free speech.

What is it? Sartre calls it a “passion” a “criminal passion”.

Indeed, it is something quite other than an idea. It is first of all a passion. No doubt it can be set forth in the form of a theoretical proposition. The “moderate” anti‐Semite is a courteous man who will tell you quietly: “Personally, I do not detest the Jews. I simply find it preferable, for various reasons, that they should play a lesser part in the activity of the nation.” But a moment later, if you have gained his confidence, he will add with more abandon: “You see, there must be something about the Jews; they upset me physically. … (Passion) It is an involvement of the mind, but one so deep‐seated and complete that it extends to the physiological realm, as happens in cases of hysteria.

He goes on to build his case that these involvement is not based on experience — a non-Jew has a bad experience at Furrier and hence hates all Jews instead of hating Furriers. A non-Jew loses a college spot where there are 10 non-Jews ahead of him but only the Jews ahead of him cause him to hate all Jews. A young actor without talent who accuses the Jews of keeping him out of key roles, they stack stories and experience such as this to justify their passion. He notes:

Far from experience producing his idea of the Jew, it was the latter which explained his experience. If the Jew did not exist, the anti‐Semite would invent him.

Then he goes on to buttress his point saying the actual historical record itself is not as important in front of the anti-Semite. You can see the parallel in Tamil Nadu Dravidian rhetoric — history does not inform the anti-Tamil-Brahmin (ATB) but it is the ATB that informs history. This can be seen by re-interpretation and fabrication in tune with the ATB sensibilities. More on this in my next. For now, here is Sartre:

…therefore the idea of the Jew that one forms for himself which would seem to determine history, not the “historical fact” that produces the idea. People speak to us also of “social facts,” but if we look at this more closely we shall find the same vicious circle. There are too many Jewish lawyers, someone says. But is there any complaint that there are too many Norman lawyers?

Choosing To Think Wrongly. A Thirst For Impenetrability

One of the most brilliant lines comes next. Now the basis for the hate is on specious and thus tenuous ground. The reasoning defies logic, but the question is “How can anyone choose to think wrongly?” I ask this during so many interactions with ATB.

Sartre, explains that there is a longing for impenetrability — a solid mass like a rock that is impenetrable. The passion is a lifestyle choice, the anti-Semite chooses to be impenetrable by not entering the plane of logic. Sartre:

How can one choose to reason falsely? It is because of a longing for impenetrability. The rational man groans as he gropes for the truth; he knows that his reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may supervene to cast doubt on it. He never sees very clearly where he is going; he is “open”; he may even appear to be hesitant. But there are people who are attracted by the durability of a stone. They wish to be massive and impenetrable; they wish not to change. Where, indeed, would change take them? We have here a basic fear of oneself and of truth. What frightens them is not the content of truth, of which they have no conception, but the form itself of truth, that thing of indefinite approximation.

Trying To Reason And Debate With The Anti

How does talking to an anti-Semite by means of reason and debate? Do they believe in words and reason? Here is Sartre.. I find it stunning how directly it applies to the ATBs who come forward to defend their point of view.

How brilliant is Sartre that he could develop this psycho analytical model that applies so well to a completely different setting — because it is the psychology of passion. Here is how trying to reason with a anti-Semite will be:

If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse. I mentioned awhile back some remarks by anti‐Semites, all of them absurd: “I hate Jews because they make servants insubordinate, because a Jewish furrier robbed me, etc.” Never believe that anti‐ Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

The anti-Semite and indeed the ATB is a terrifying person, everyday people want to assuage his anger and make peace.

They don’t know the depths or the lengths or the violence potential that underlies this hate.

It is possible for someone to go so far out in hate speech without being backed by violence potential?

It is like people fear the madman because they don’t want to test him. What if he has nothing to lose?

The political benefits of anti-Semitism can be explained psychologically. Another question is how is a group made to hate another group?

The answer lies in the psychology of persuasion. Through an incessant bombardment of canards and defamation and elevating such demagogues to very high levels such as textbooks and universities and landmarks, masses can be persuaded.

The Jewish issue with Christ is just one such mechanism. There is a general mass psychology at play here. This is from a recent book by Amos Kiewe (The Rhetoric of Anti-Semitism)

Mass Psychology Persuasion Offering Yourself As The ‘Anti’ Of The ‘Undesirable’.

It is possible to see how by attributing the opposing view to community, then maintaining a barrage of defamation of that community, you can gain political power by simply persuading the public to support the NOT-community. The non-demonised.

This strategy is crude but works spectacularly in low grade societies. This is in fact the trump card of the ATB (Dravidians) — they just have to link any issue to Tamil-Brahmins and go to the people and persuade them to adopt the stand that is the opposite, ie, their own stand.

The Etiology Of Hate: Anti-Semitism And Anti-Tamil Brahminism

Feeling of oneness. For the few hours the anti-Semites or ATB meet in their halls and pour venom on the other. For those few minutes the king and the pauper are in unison. It is mostly found in the petty-bourgeoisie... in our context middle class white collar.

For the truly elite, they have better things to do since they are the ultimate beneficiaries anyway. They can even feed the beast and play the property games.

Thus I would call anti‐Semitism a poor man’s snobbery. And in fact it would appear that the rich for the most part exploit this passion for their own uses rather than abandon themselves to it — they have better things to do. It is propagated mainly among the middle classes, because they possess neither land nor house nor castle, having only some ready cash and a few securities in the bank. It was not by chance that the petty bourgeoisie of Germany was anti‐Semitic in 1925. The principal concern of this “white‐ collar proletariat” was to distinguish itself from the real proletariat.

The Jew is absolutely necessary to the anti-Semite, if some really powerful Jew is nowhere to be found he will simply elevate the ones of far lower stature, because .. let’s see how Sartre puts is:

To this end he finds the existence of the Jew absolutely necessary Otherwise to whom would he be superior? Indeed, it is vis‐à‐vis the Jew and the Jew alone that the anti‐Semite realizes that he has rights. If by some miracle all the Jews were exterminated as he wishes, he would find himself nothing but a concierge or a shopkeeper in a strongly hierarchical society in which the quality of “true Frenchman” would be at a low valuation, because everyone would possess it. He would lose his sense of rights over the country because no one would any longer contest them, and that profound equality which brings him close to the nobleman and the man of wealth would disappear all of a sudden, for it is primarily negative.

Anti-Semitism is not to be found among the workers, but ironically among the very same parasite professions.

The majority of the anti‐Semites, on the contrary, belongs to the middle class, that is, among men who have a level of life equal or superior to that of the Jews, or, if you prefer, among the “non‐producers” (employers, merchants, distributors, members of the liberal professions, parasites). The bourgeois in fact does not produce: he directs, administers, distributes, buys, sells.

Raising The Temperature Against The Common Enemy As A Uniting Function

Sartre, notes that political action cannot be directed against individuals. I suspect this means that you cannot bring a civil defamation case against a passionate hater whose expression is artistic freedom by penning a caricature, an obscene representation of women of the hated group, talking rudely etc.

It is the crowd, the mass. Even if you punished one that would be of a low quality when there are hundreds who will use that as proof of why their passion is even more required.

There are also political gains to be had. The temperature of anti-Semitic rhetoric can be adjusted to compensate for the presence of class or caste differences. The higher the temperature the more closer the lord and his servants are united against the common enemy.

We have demonstrated that anti‐Semitism is a passionate effort to realize a national union against the division of society into classes. It is an attempt to suppress the fragmentation of the community into groups hostile to one another by carrying common passions to such a temperature that they cause barriers to dissolve. Yet divisions continue to exist, since their economic and social causes have not been touched; an attempt is made to lump them all together into a single one — distinctions between rich and poor, between labouring and owning classes, between legal powers and occult powers, between city‐dwellers and country‐dwellers, etc., etc. — they are all summed up in the distinction between Jew and non‐Jew. This means that anti‐Semitism is a mythical, bourgeois representation of the class struggle, and that it could not exist in a classless society.

Do you see the similarity here?

If you removed the ATB rhetoric you will just be a serf and your leader will be the owner — because that hasn’t disappeared at all.

Why would you otherwise bother about 3 per cent or 5 per cent when you have a classless 95 per cent?

In The Very Depths Of His Heart, A Criminal The final analysis is of passion, a passion of hate — that which is chosen of their own free will. They decide for themselves to think, argue, and reason wrongly. They are willing to accept the humiliation of being caught out. They want the annihilation. Hence Sartre terms anti-Semitism as not a prejudice, an idea, or an opinion but a passion— a criminal passion. He doesn’t create anything new even though he has it within himself to do so in a snap. He seeks only to cleanse what exists. What else can explain the Dravidian failure to simply solve to a great extent the ritualism by creating their own temples and own liturgies? This is how Sarte explains:

A destroyer in function, a sadist with a pure heart, the anti‐ Semite is, in the very depths of his heart, a criminal. What he wishes, what he prepares, is the death of the Jew. To be sure, not all the enemies of the Jew demand his death openly, but the measures they propose — all of which aim at his abasement, at his humiliation, at his banishment— are substitutes for that assassination which they meditate within themselves. They are symbolic murders. Only, the anti‐Semite has his conscience on his side: he is a criminal in a good cause. It is not his fault, surely, if his mission is to extirpate Evil by doing Evil. The real France has delegated to him the powers of her High Court of Justice. No doubt he does not have occasion every day to make use of them, but we should not be misled on that account. These sudden fits of anger which seize him, these thundering diatribes which he hurls at the “Yids” are so many capital executions. The anti‐Semite has chosen to be a criminal, and a criminal pure of heart.

The Mild Ones, The Elites

Okay, so the profile of the anti-Semite is now complete. But that person is not everyone. Passion is a spectrum, those with such real passion are the true believers who will be few.

Those are the vanguard elements. What about everyday non-Jew people ? Those who do regular jobs, are not particularly offensive, nor inoffensive, at home with the hard anti-Semite in a flippant sort of way.

This non-Jew is described perfectly by Sartre – they are not persons at all. And as second-hand anti-Semites. They can drop in an instant and turn into an aggressive personality.

If some of those who readily assert that they detest the Jews do not recognize themselves in it, it is because in actual fact they do not detest the Jews. They don’t love them either. While they would not do them the least harm, they would not raise their little fingers to protect them from violence. They are not anti‐Semites. They are not anything; they are not persons. Since it is necessary to appear to be something, they make themselves into an echo, a murmur, and, without thinking of evil‐without thinking of anything ‐ they go about repeating learned formulas which give them the right of entry to certain drawing rooms. Thus they know the delights of being nothing but an empty noise, of having their heads filled with an enormous affirmation which they find all the more respectable because they have borrowed it. Anti‐Semitism is only, a justification for their existence. Their futility is such that they will eagerly abandon this justification for any other, provided that the latter be more “distinguished". ‘For anti‐Semitism is distinguished, as are all the manifestations of a collective and irrational soul which seek to create an occult and conservative France. It seems to all these featherbrains that by repeating with eager emulation the statement that the Jew is harmful to the country they are performing a rite of initiation which admits them to the fireside of social warmth and energy.

The second hand anti-Semites draw on the energy to gain a personality for themselves. Or to have that latent snarling aggression.

It permits them to put on the externals of passion and, as has been fashionable since the Romantic movement, to confuse this with personality. These second‐hand anti‐Semites can provide themselves at little cost with an aggressive personality. One of my friends often used to tell me about an elderly cousin of his who came to dine with his family and about whom they said, with a certain air: “Jules can’t abide the English.” My friend doesn’t recall that they, ever said anything else about Cousin Jules. But that was enough.

Time to wrap up this long post. I have not done justice to Sartre in the places where I tried to rephrase him. You need to read the entire essay for yourselves.

There is a certain contextual element here that makes it all the more relevant for Tamil Brahmins in particular to be aware of this work, but all others should do well to read it.

Any society in which such a strong element of hatred exists in the mainstream, that society cannot have rational discourse. All choices and debates can be easily shouted down by the ‘ANTI’ group by linking it to the primary demonised group.

I just covered 30 per cent of the essay here. The other part which I found fascinating was the description of the inauthentic Jew. A Jew who sheds his image to conform to the anti-Semitism. Sartre calls it ‘avenues of escape’ but exhorts the Jew to ask exactly what it is that he is running from?

More on this soon.

This article was first published here.

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