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Monday, December 2, 2013

A Promotion, and Maintaining Identity.

OK, a couple of unrelated Bible stories for ya this week.

Joseph got to show his dream-intepretation savvy to Pharaoh, and got a huuuuuge position in his Court.  I mean, going straight from being in jail to ruling most of the land, because he was able to predict that a famine would come, and warn the Egyptians to be prepared for it.  Good job!

So this is his chance to take a small amount of vengeance on his brothers, who threw him into the pit.  They had no clue that he was Joseph, and he was able to play the Egyptians vs. Hebrews angle for a while.

The lesson does go both ways -- one key to success is to possess knowledge that nobody else has, and demonstrate how well you utilize it.  Only Joseph was able to interpret dreams so well, and it landed him the ultimate government job.  However, once he got there, and had more power, he was in a position to completely take advantage of those who wronged him . . . that certainly can be done, but wouldn't it be a more constructive use of that power to help, and not hurt them?  That power is not a license to "get even" or "get back" at someone.  That's a page ripped from the alphaganda playbook, but it's not one that you need.

The fact that you can use it to throttle or intimidate those who put you down doesn't always mean you should use it that way.  Sometimes just having that power is enough.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, you may still need to take some action against the miscreants if it's a matter of mere survival, but in 99 out of 100 situations, merely living well and demonstrating your newfound strength is sufficient.

OK, got that one down, and now the holiday edition:

Chanukah is the celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple.  For those not aware of the story, the Maccabees fought a war, against the odds, against the Greeks, who wanted to Hellenize the Jews.  In the process, they descrated the Temple, knocked over the lamps, and put up statues of Zeus to be worshipped.  But after the Maccabees overthrew them, the Temple was re-dedicated.  And miraculously, despite the fact that there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one day, it stayed lit for a week.

(Biblical anomaly -- Judaism celebrates the events depicted in 1 Maccabees, but neither Maccabees book is is in the Tanakh -- discuss?)

The theme of this holiday is resistance to conformity.  At the time it was introduced, Hellenism was hip, cool, and funky, but the expectation was that the Jews were to completely abandon and discard everything that they once were to accept this new way of being.  The fact that the old traditions were maintained, albeit by a minority of Jews at the time, and through the need for an armed response, continues to be celebrated.  But is this always a good thing?

America was always celebrated as a Great Melting Pot.  A nation of immigrants that cultivated its own identity by a mixture of other cultures to form something greater.  This usually means a fair compromise between preserving a recognizable remnant of your family's culture of origin, and the acceptance and interaction with the modern culture in which we live.

For many of us, our culture of origin is obvious in our name, or from our physical characteristics.  It can be a source of pride, or something to be rejected, depending on your personal opinion.  However, it's an inescapable part of who you are, and if you try to deny or ignore it, it still remains.

As Americans, we have a culture that thrives on the combined sharing of several cultures.  Not only does this result in the formation of a unique American culture, but also exposure to the diversity of other people's cultures.

The idea is to have them both.

There are certain ethnic groups who feel it necessary to only maintain their separate culture of origin, reject what we know as mainstream American culture, and demand that America make allowances for that culture in spite of that rejection.  This is ridiculous.  And there are also groups who have deeply felt romantic ties to their own cultures of origin, but mock and condemn other groups for celebrating theirs.  This is ignorant.

Rather, a compromise is needed.  There's nothing wrong with acknowledging your forebears and the traditions they imparted -- but it cannot be at the expense and exclusion of everything else around you, because you then do your country a disservice.  There is also nothing wrong with celebrating everything that makes America great -- but if you completely reject, neglect, and ignore the fact that your forebears came to America for a good reason, you are doing yourself a disservice, because you're obviously trying to be something that you're not.

Only each individual can decide the percentages and proportions of each tradition to respect -- but you need both, plain and simple.  This is how you stay complete, this is how you interact with society, and this is how you remain true to yourself.

Those are my two cents -- and for a real Thanksgiving treat, I refer you to my November 2011 post regarding the sham known as Black Friday.  One of these years, people will wake up and reject this most disgusting perversion of the concept of gift giving.

Happy Monday!