The Future is Now (or coming soon)

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If you’ve known me for a little while you know I am an optimist. If we’ve talked about the conflict in the Middle East you know I am optimistic about that too.

For a little while now (at least a couple of years) I have maintained that the conflict will in effect, resolve itself, eventually.

Until recently, Gazans and West Bank Palestinians have heard one voice. A voice that told them in categorical terms that their life would be better under autonomous rule by Hamas or the PLO. Palestinians believed them. It created fanatics, fascists and suicide bombers. But people can only be told a lie so long as there is no evidence to the contrary.

If someone tells you that the world is flat you know he is lying because you have information that shows him to be lying. Information is king. Therefore, I have contended that my generation (Generation Y) is the information generation. My generation does not accept lies or legends at face value. We know there is a way to learn on our own to unmask lies passed off as facts or legends passed off as history. We are the Wikipedia generation. We know that the information is available and we are willing to find it ourselves.

So long as information can be controlled, the public will kneel to authority, corrupt or otherwise. But once information is freely available to the masses, the lies unravel, the legends are exposed and truth can prevail. Authority that told those lies and legends is discarded and the people want truth, a voice and democracy. I have been saying that my generation of Palestinians and Muslims in general who have access to information will undoubtedly prefer to join the West in its freedoms, capitalism and democracy.

When the choices are death or unilateral agreement with authority, the choice is easy. When the choice is money, entertainment, enlightenment or unilateral agreement with authority, the choice is even easier. With the wave of unbridled information entering the oppressed masses in Arab countries, fundamental fanaticism will be replaced with a thirst for information and the allure of modern civilization. A lifestyle of books and e-books, Facebook and Twitter, Playstation and XBOX, e-commerce and ebay sure as heck beats a Third World existence. This is why my generation will resolve the conflict. Conflict serves no one but the elite and corrupt leaders. It will mean out with oppressive rulers and in with freedom.

The beginnings of this movement has already been formed in Gaza. A few weeks ago the Guardian reported on a “Manifesto” written by disgruntled Palestinians. They don’t want Hamas, they don’t want Fatah, they don’t want Israel, they want freedom.

What happened in Tunisia and what is happening right now in Egypt is more of the same. The people will not be controlled by corrupt Heads of State who demand allegiance for no reason other than “I said so”. The people want their freedom. They want what we have in the West. And they will get it. (See: President Reagan’s Message for the Protesters in Egypt)

A little bit of patience and gentle prodding from the West will help the next generation of Arabs achieve their emancipation. I maintain that 9/11 was a final salvo. The fundamentalist establishment tried one last time to supress the free flow of information by trying to destroy it. They failed and freedom is around the corner.

Just ask the protestors in Tunisia and Egypt.

I do admit that the protests are not without flaws. It is entirely possible that the new leaders will be equally despotic as their predecessors. We can only hope that will not be the case. But even if it is, it won’t last long. Change is coming. The cat is out of the bag and freedom is like a drug that is addictive and readily available. The public won’t be satisfied until they can drink the elixir of freedom. And they will.

This phenomena has also affected the orthodox Jewish community. The more information that becomes available, the more the religious leaders are concerned about losing their authority. This is silly. The authority of rabbis was never binding except in a rabbinic court or perhaps via an uncontested responsa. It is a folly of this generation’s leadership (or its handlers) that asserted this unilateral power. It never existed and yes, with information this imagined power will disappear. This is why the Internet is so feared by these rabbis. That is why the Internet is banned in charedi circles. It is because of the information and free flow of ideas that the Internet provides which in turn minimizes their invented power. Orthodox Judaism does not depend on charismatic or authoritarian rabbis, it depends of individual commitment to Jewish law and theology. Information is a boon to that kind of religious practice. If we are confident in orthodox Judaism as a viable way of life, information must be a friend, not a foe. I know that I am confident, I can’t say the same for those who cower in fear from information.

The future is now, or coming soon enough. The Internet is giving people a thirst for freedom and independence. Totalitarianism cannot win against the almost infinite amount of information that is easily accessible from a device smaller than George Costanza’s wallet.

Say hello to the future.

Hello.

  • Henry Frisch

    All the youthful members of the Egyptian street crowds I have seen interviewed have expressed their view that Israel is propping Mubarack up.

    It is hard to be optimistic when the signs point BACK to the FUTURE via anti-Semitism.

    • None

      Rabbi Fink declares the fact that terrorism is caused by arabs not having access to the internet:
      “Until recently, Gazans and West Bank Palestinians have heard one voice. A voice that told them in categorical terms that their life would be better under autonomous rule by Hamas or the PLO. Palestinians believed them. It created fanatics, fascists and suicide bombers. But people can only be told a lie so long as there is no evidence to the contrary.
      If someone tells you that the world is flat you know he is lying because you have information that shows him to be lying. Information is king. Therefore, I have contended that my generation (Generation Y) is the information generation. My generation does not accept lies or legends at face value. We know there is a way to learn on our own to unmask lies passed off as facts or legends passed off as history. We are the Wikipedia generation. We know that the information is available and we are willing to find it ourselves.”

      Good going Rabbi Fink:
      “In 2002 alone, some 189 Israelis were massacred in 53 terror attacks. As the fence kept expanding, hostilities declined, until in 2009 they stood at zero. So these are the numbers. ”

      And today we see when Israel removes fences and barricades, the Arabs resort to their old behaviour:

      http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/142843

  • I am an optimist most of the time too.I appreciate reading something hopeful. Thanks for the post & your insights.

  • Anonymous

    Good post, too bad most of the conversation took place on FB instead of here on the blog.

    I have a critique, however, about the structure. You start your introduction with “the conflict in the middle east” and with a hopeful statement that it will be resolved soon. I share that hope. But then you go on with a discussion about Gaza, Hamas, Fatah for a few paragraphs. That could lead one to erroneously conclude that “the conflict in the Middle East” is between the Arabs and Israel, but that isn’t true. There are many conflicts in the Middle East (and beyond, yet still in the general area), almost always with Muslims on one side, the other, or both. And your conclusion that freedom is the antidote to those conflicts is spot-on! So let’s hope that Islam, the kind of Islam that is practiced in much of the Middle East, can become compatible with freedom as quickly as possible.

    • Mark: The most glaring conflict is in Israel but I believe the solutions here are solutions that will find themselves a place in all of the Muslim world.

      • Anonymous

        How do you define “glaring”? If you use any measure that includes “the people”, then it is nowhere near the most glaring. Measures like numbers killed, general standard of living, oppression, internecine conflict, government corruption, inability to get ahead despite better education, ferocity of warfare, etc.

        But I agree that information and freedom are the keys to the solution.

        • I mean, “in the news most often”.

          • Anonymous

            Aha. Why don’t you use another meaningful measure like “how often mentioned at the UN” 🙂

  • Sorry, but I disagree. The Tunisia revolt brought in an even more radical Islamist government. The Lebanese overthrew a fairly liberal government in favor of Hezbollah.

    Your premises is based on an erroneous idea that people in Arab countries believe in the same values as you do and crave Western culture. They don’t. Their values are very different from yours and the lifestyle of Arab communities in the US is case in point.

    • Anonymous

      Leah – Their values are very different from yours and the lifestyle of Arab communities in the US is case in point.

      I’m not sure what you are saying about Arab-Americans. Their community is much like the Jewish-American community of the early/mid 20’th century. Relatively new immigrants, working very hard, starting small businesses, living in enclaves, and ensuring that their children get professional educations (so they don’t have to work as hard as their parents). I daresay that their grandchildren, after wide exposure to the world at large, will also go OTD (“off the derech”) at some rate just as Jewish-Americans are experiencing today.

    • Have you heard of Dubai?

      • Yes, it’s rich and technologically advanced. No, it is not democratic

    • Israeli Mother

      Leah, your analysis is spot on — the biggest problem with most Americans is that they cannot understand that their culture is just that — their cultural worldview — and that many other peoples in the world really, really don’t share their ideas and values. I can’t comment on Arab communities in the US because I have been an Israeli citizen for almost 20 years but I am well acquainted with Arab culture and thought here in the middle east.

      When Arabs scream that they want freedom, they really do — freedom to attack Israel and destroy Jews and practice Islam to the best of their knowledge and not be beholden to the west or to the Israel that they hate. Arabs/Moslems don’t mean define the word freedom in the same way that Americans do and only someone who is either very naive or very foolish will not listen to the meaning behind the words of the common Egyptian.

      • You’ve missed the entire point.

        Whether you are correct or not right now is not the point. What will happen when they realize that they CAN have western freedoms is that they will WANT those freedoms and give up the position you’ve described.

  • S.

    >The authority of rabbis was never binding except in a rabbinic court or perhaps via an uncontested responsa. It is a folly of this generation’s leadership (or its handlers) that asserted this unilateral power. It never existed and yes, with information this imagined power will disappear.

    That is completely, thoroughly untrue. In premodernity the rabbis had legal authority to administer the Jews; not only that, all Jews had to comply unless they converted to Christianity or Islam, or moved to a place without rabbis, which meant without other Jews.

    If you mean that recently, in the past 200 or 100 years the authority was voluntary, this is true, but only until a point. Let’s say you live in New Square today. You play by the rules or you leave, but that could mean losing your entire family and all your friends. Not such a free choice, is it? And to a lesser extent this applies even to freer frum societies like Lakewood. Conform or lose your moorings. So although rabbinic authority has no force of law, and although people do push borders and flout it, it *does* exist – and it sure as heck did exist.

    • To clarify:

      Their halachic authority was never binding. I do not mean to say that the Rabbis had no authority. They had authority but as far as halachic practice goes, each person was always permitted to decide the law as they understood it.

      And as far as communities like New Square and Lakewood, it is completely voluntary to live there and to care what others say about you.

      In any case, that is entirely my point! The system of rabbinic control can only succeed if they also control information and reactions. That is ending. Slowly, but ending.

  • S.

    >The authority of rabbis was never binding except in a rabbinic court or perhaps via an uncontested responsa. It is a folly of this generation’s leadership (or its handlers) that asserted this unilateral power. It never existed and yes, with information this imagined power will disappear.

    That is completely, thoroughly untrue. In premodernity the rabbis had legal authority to administer the Jews; not only that, all Jews had to comply unless they converted to Christianity or Islam, or moved to a place without rabbis, which meant without other Jews.

    If you mean that recently, in the past 200 or 100 years the authority was voluntary, this is true, but only until a point. Let’s say you live in New Square today. You play by the rules or you leave, but that could mean losing your entire family and all your friends. Not such a free choice, is it? And to a lesser extent this applies even to freer frum societies like Lakewood. Conform or lose your moorings. So although rabbinic authority has no force of law, and although people do push borders and flout it, it *does* exist – and it sure as heck did exist.

  • None

    I heard your interview on the radio- I can’t believe you are comparing blood thirst terrorists bent on the Jewish People’s destruction, to the Rabbis or what you call the “handlers” of the Gedolei HaDor. And as a side point, please read the history books. The Arabs repeatedly SELF-IMPOSE dicatorship regimes. They do not want democracy, they want radical leadership who are willing to continue Hitlers goal in destroying the Jewish people (just read the “Democratic” constitution of Hamas, the leaders who were chosen when the Arabs were give freedom of information and self-destiny).

    • None

      But as long as YOUR optimistic 🙂

    • Well, first of all, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Second of all, I think you missed a few things.

      1) I did not compare blood thirsty terrorists to rabbis. I compared protestors in Egypt to orthodox Jews that are approximately 35 and under who will not relinquish their access to the Internet despite bans from rabbis.

      2) I think the self imposition of dictatorships is ending. That was my entire point. The generation of Arabs with access to the Internet and who sees Western civilization wants a freedom that is not yet present in the middle east. They want change.

      • None

        1) So you compared the “blood thirsty terrorists/protestors in Egypt,” to the “orthodox Jews that are approximately 35 and under who will not relinquish their access to the Internet despite bans from rabbis?” Still sounds kind of…difficult to read….no?

        2) Your whole thesis is that the “change” is positive, and for that reason you are optimistic. The problem is that every established national/international evaluation written regarding the current “changes” point in the direction of more chaos and bloodshed than ever before.
        Are you really such an “optimist” that you are ready to support the evil killers and neo-hitler leaders “change” the balance of power, just because they are doing it in a democratic fashion?

        • 1) not a difficult read at all

          2) so you mean to say that dictators are somehow better? Yes, if there is true democracy it is better. But true democracy takes time, patience and optimism. The French Revolution wasnt perfect and neither was the US Revolution.

          • None

            1) Are you serious? You really don’t have a problem comparing neo-nazi killers, to Jewish children who disobey their Rebbeim and freely surf blogs?

            2) Have you ever read about the Shah of Iran, a dictator? Do you think things better or worse for Iran and the world at large, when he was overthrown?

            3) Are you really comparing the French and US Revolutions, to an extremist revolution of people who wish to kill anyone who don’t agree with their understanding and acceptance of the Koran? How could you cheapen the value of the free open Western world society so easily?

            • 1) I would think that an educated person like yourself would be able to see the analogy without drawing ridiculous conclusions. Forgive me.

              2) I have read of this Shah you speak of. I am sure you know that the Iranian revolution occurred BEFORE the Internet. That is a big difference and again, is the POINT of this blog post.

              3) I am simply saying that revolutions take time to get it right.

              You might want to tone down the rhetoric too. It doesn’t really contribute to the conversation.

            • None

              And a quick challenge (and point):

              Historicaly, there have been many revolutions in Musilm countries

              Name one Islamic country in history that became a true democracy….
              ….right, its never happened….hummm… I guess it would be a little naive to think that this time would be different….no?

              • Again. It’s different when the people have seen Western democracies thriving. With the Internet, the leaders cannot hide the better life that is being deprived of Arabs under oppression.

                • None

                  1) So your thesis is that the reason why every Islamic country in history was bent on destroying the open society and culture of the Western World, was because they didn’t have Internet access to see how Democracy thrives?

                  2) Do you think Hamas (who’s members living in Israel have full access to the Internet) blows up innocent Jewish Women and Children because they don’t realize that living peacfully will be more profitable?

                  3) Do you think that the 9/11 hijackers murdured thousands of innocent people, because they didn’t have Wi-Fi at home?

                  4) Do you think that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and most other Musilm countries do not even allow Jews to enter their countries- because they don’t have Internet access?

                  5) Do you recognize that the vast majority of the Muslim world embraces the desire to conquer and replace the Western World, with their own non-democratic beliefs? That they don’t view Islamic dominance as oppression?

                  • 1) Close. The main point is that with increased, unfiltered communication people will demand freedom.

                    2) They haven’t blown anybody up in a long time. And young Gazans are not buying into Hamas either anymore. See the link in the post to the Gaza Manifesto.

                    3) No. I think it was a last ditch effort to show their fundamentalist brethren that the West was wrong.

                    4) Don’t oversimplify it and don’t misstate the facts. I have Jewish friends who have been to Dubai many times.

                    5) I think there are fundamentalists who believe that, but Muslims who live in the West with tolerance of others feel no differently about the “end of times” than their Jewish and Christian counterparts.

                    • None

                      “2) They haven’t blown anybody up in a long time. And young Gazans are not buying into Hamas either anymore. ”

                      I guess you don’t use you Internet access to see that the decrease in attacks (not attempts) have been due to Israel’s change in policy, no longer allowing the Arabs to have complete freedom of entering and leaving cities at will. Before Sharon tore into the PA and re-enforced a level of Israeli military control, the Arabs were using their freedom of movement (along with their access to the Internet) to murder Jews on an almost monthly basis.

                      The (not so) funny thing is, the terrorists have been known to use the Internet (that you think is their key to understanding the West) to plot 9/11 and many of the other global massacres they carried out.

                      I have a math formula which I would like to ask if you agree with:

                      A) Everytime more freedom and rights are given to Muslim extremists, they carry out more murders and massacres.

                      +

                      B) Everytime less freedom and rights are given to Muslim extremists, they carry out less murderes and massacres.

                      =

                      C) Don’t hand Muslim extremists more freedom and rights, and innocent lives will thus be saved.

                      Unless, you really don’t mind that innocent people are being butchered, as long as it’s being done by individuals who live in a “democracy.”

                    • You’re opinions are so strange. How is is that a despotic, fundamentalist leader is preferable to democracy?

                    • None

                      I think you should tackle this question in the democratic way 🙂

                      Put a voting poll on you homepage asking the following question:

                      In theory, which type of outcome would you prefer to see in the “new” Egypt:

                      a) A country run by a dictatorship regime, where there is no democracy, but it is not a source of bloodshed or terrorism.

                      b) A country run by a democratic government, where there is democracy, but it is a source of bloodshed and terrorism.

                      Let’s see how your esteemed readership feels.

                    • Lol.

                    • None

                      I was not joking. My prediction is, all sane people (who are untainted by political agendas) will choose option “a.”

                    • Of course, because nobody sane would disagree with you.

                    • None

                      Lol.

                    • What do you think of my other posts? Didn’t you read anything else on this blog?

                    • None

                      I figured this post was an example of your best work. After all, it earned you an interview on the Radio 🙂

                      But seriously, did you ever watch the film “Fitna”? (Hint: It presents how the Muslims who are living in freedom and democracy, are revolting against the Western World and the concept of Democracy).

                    • It’s not my best work. (Look on the sidebar for some of my personal favorites under Required Reading.)

                      I have not seen the film.

                    • None
                    • Thanks for the link.

                      When you start reading / commenting on other posts I will share my thoughts… 😉

                    • None

                      As long as you realize one of the crucial errors in your thesis (perhaps after watching the film), it is not neccessary for you to share your thoughts.

                    • So you went from “I would enjoy hearing my thoughts” to “not necessary”. A fickle one you are…

                    • None

                      “4) Don’t oversimplify it and don’t misstate the facts. I have Jewish friends who have been to Dubai many times.”

                      Ouch.

                      Perhaps you should begin by reading the following two sites:

                      http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79305

                      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4724807.stm

                    • None

                      Fickle:
                      k·le/ˈfikəl/
                      Adjective: Changing frequently, esp. as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.

                      Not sure what the contradiction or change is between “enjoying a chance to read an individual’s impressions,” but that it being “not necessary” if the individual feels the need to make strange conditions in exchange for hearing their thoughts…

                      Regardless, the word “fickle” seems out of place 🙂

          • None

            I don’t understand what you mean by “true democracy,” as opposed to “not true democracy”.

            By defintion it’s either an open vote, democratic society. Or it’s not. As far as I am aware, there is no such thing as “partial democracy.”

            Please enlighten me if you know otherwise (and please don’t compare murduring innocent people, to the civil rights movement).

            • A true democracy is where there is freedom of speech and when a party loses the election they don’t suspend the vote like what happened in Iran last year.

  • vladimir

    Rabbi Fink, I read your older thoughts and smile at your “So long as information can be controlled, the public will kneel to
    authority, corrupt or otherwise. But once information is freely
    available to the masses, the lies unravel, the legends are exposed and
    truth can prevail. ” As if you’ve lived once in Soviet Union, so on the money your words. I always feel welcomed and spiritualy aroused every time I enter your univers. Thanks.