Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sophistication Unto Death (Sorry Soren)

Of course, Professor Landes is not the only one who invents, or recasts, phrases. In thinking about Tel Aviv semi-literati (and their French/British/Scandanavian/American compatriots), I like to describe them as 'sophisticating themselves to death' (Hebrew: מתחכמים את עצמם לדעת). As the Palestinian/Muslim World strikes blow after blow, in their wisdom they will ever so nuancedly understand, appreciate and empathize with suicide bombings and God knows what else. (The comments to this post, not the post itself, are another case in point.)

This kind of mindset, however, is not confined to the political realm. Here, for example, are MK(Labor) Professor Yuli Tamir's oh-so sophisticated remarks on female circumcision:

Clitoridectomy is obviously a deplorable practice. It is, among other things, an extremely painful, traumatizing mutilation of young girls that leaves them permanently disfigured and deprived of sexual enjoyment. We should express no sympathy toward those who practice it, and support those who struggle to end it.

But we also should be suspicious about the role of clitoridectomy in current political debate. Despite their liberal appearance, references to clitoridectomy commonly reveal a patronizing attitude toward women, suggesting that they are primarily sexual beings. Moreover, those references involve a certain degree of dishonesty. They intentionally widen the gap between our culture and those in which clitoridectomy is practiced, thus presenting those other cultures as incommensurable with ours. The effect of this distancing is to disconnect criticism of their practices from criticism of our own, and turn reflection on other cultures into yet another occasion for celebrating our special virtues. We should resist such self-congratulation. And if we do, the debate about clitoridectomy takes on an entirely different cast.

Of course, Tamir is against this practice. Her loud 'but,' however, is louder and more resonant than her opposition.

And they say religious people (and others who believe in absolute values) are casuistic and primitive.

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