Fundamentally Freund: Our slow, steady slide toward narcissism

Israel's 'me, me, me' obsession is tearing us apart. It's time to do something about it.

By
October 23, 2007 23:31
4 minute read.
Fundamentally Freund: Our slow, steady slide toward narcissism

michael freund 88. (photo credit: )

There is something wrong - something very, very wrong - going on here. Something has happened to Israeli society over the past few years, something that is slowly and inexorably changing the way people relate to one another. You can see it in the little things, and in the big things, too. It is there when you are waiting on line at the bank, or when you go before yet another lethargic clerk to fill out still another tedious bureaucratic form. The daily headlines reflect it as well, as burning issues ranging from rocket attacks to widespread poverty to strikes in the educational system elicit little more than a shrug of the shoulders as we turn the page and move on. As frightening as it sounds, it seems as if the bonds that hold us together as one nation and one people are beginning to wither away. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when this process started, let alone when (and how) it will end. But it is almost as if the glue binding society has started to weaken, threatening to come undone before our very eyes. How did this happen? How did we go from being a society that cared - to one that is increasingly so callous? The answer, I think, is surprisingly simple, and it can best be summed up in one very short and simple, little word: me. No, I don't mean "me" as in myself, Michael Freund, the author of this article, but "me" in the sense that each of us has increasingly turned inward, to some extent shutting out our responsibility to one another as Jews. Values and ideals such as patriotism, Jewish pride and love of country are increasingly being replaced by a narrower mode of thinking, one that is focused far more selfishly on what is best for me, myself and especially - for I. How else does one explain our indifference to the fate of Sderot, which continues to suffer near-daily barrages of Palestinian projectiles? Or the lack of public pressure to return Israel's missing servicemen? It is almost as if we have subconsciously adopted the attitude that as long as something doesn't directly affect our own personal daily existence, then it simply does not matter very much at all. There are thousands of Jews in the Negev living under constant threat of mortar fire? Hey, not my problem, those rockets can't reach me. Gilad Schalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are all being held in captivity for 15 months and counting? Sorry, but can't you see I'm busy watching TV? Is this really the kind of society we want to live in? Take, for example, the tragedy of Gush Katif. It has now become acceptable, even tolerable, to throw Jews out of their homes. Of course, just as long as it isn't my home or yours that is under the gun. Even after Gaza's Jews were expelled, their fate fell out of sight, swept far away from the public's consciousness. I'm not sure which was crueler: forcing them out or forsaking them once they were gone. HOW DO we stop this slide toward narcissism and self-absorption? How can we turn back the clock on conceit, selfishness and pride? Here is a little formula that might be worth a try. When you start off your morning, and plan your daily schedule, stop for a moment and ask yourself a very straightforward question: What will I do for the Jewish people today? Not for the Jewish person staring back at you in the mirror, but for the nation of Israel as a whole. What activity, what action, what amount of time will you spend doing something, doing anything, for your people today? How you choose to answer this query is not my affair. We must each take an honest look at ourselves, our talents and our abilities and come up with a suitable response. But just asking ourselves this question each day will challenge us, however briefly, to look beyond ourselves, toward the greater good around us that is so badly in need of repair. There is so much that is twisted and wrong with our government and the way things are done, that many of us often find ourselves at a loss as to what to do. We want to get involved, we want to make a difference, but it just doesn't seem to matter, as our national predicament only grows worse. But fending off frustration and doing something focused and concrete is a sure-fire way to start to improve the situation. For if at the end of each day, we can look back and say that we did something positive and productive for the people of Israel, it will reignite the sense of purpose and meaning that lies dormant within us. Even if our actions do not appear to have any noticeable effect on the course of events, just by getting involved on behalf of the Jewish people, we will at least succeed in changing ourselves. And that, in and of itself, is already a step in the right direction.


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