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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pour 'Em Out!

Hey All -- another Sunday come and gone, just like the temporary spring-like weather we had in NYC.

Today is a minor Jewish holiday known as Purim.  For the kids, it's a little like Halloween, because they're encouraged to wear goofy costumes for fun.  For the adults, it's a little like St. Paddy's Day, because we're encouraged to get so hammered that we get the characters in the Purim story confused.  And since it often happens around the same time as St. Paddy's it's cool to share some Buds or Guinesses with those already celebrating!  :)

Which brings me to the story of Purim -- taken from the Scroll of Esther.  It commemorates a time when the basic Jewish Holiday formula was again put into effect as follows:

(1) Someone tried to kill us;
(2) They failed most pathetically;
(3) We won;
(4) So let's eat already!

It takes place sometime after the First Temple was sacked, and the Jewish Nation was exiled to Persia.  Centuries before Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Israel, the Persian Empire was ruled by a King sometimes known as "Artaxerxes," and sometimes as "Ahasuerus," and who simply got manipulated by other forces in issuing his executive orders.

The King had his first wife executed for disobedience, and needed to search for someone new.  The winner of his royal beauty pageant was a young Jewish woman named Esther.  She was the niece of Mordechai, leader of the Jewish people in exile, who warned her to not let anyone know her background.  Mordechai, in the meantime, had a few issues happening because a high-ranking nobleman named Haman felt dissed when Mordechai wouldn't bow down to him in public.  So dissed felt Haman, a descendant of the Amalekites, that he convinced the king to issue a royal edict to massacre all Jews in the Persian Empire.

So Mordechai asked the new Queen to use her new influence to convince the king otherwise.  As background, Mordechai had already made a good name for himself by thwarting a royal assassination, but without Google or Bing, that information was not as readily available as it could have been.

So in order to get on the king's good side, Esther invited the King and Haman to a state dinner, with a promise that she had a "special request" for the King.  On the way home, Haman saw Mordechai and felt dissed again, so he built a gallows in his front yard, anticipating that he was going to convince the King to have Mordechai executed.

That night, the King couldn't sleep, so he asked his servants to "Google" from the records the names  of those who'd done the right thing, and there he was reminded how Mordechai saved his bacon.  So he calls up Haman, asking, what's a cool thing to do to honor someone who goes above and beyond?  Haman described for him exactly what he would want, and the King says, let's do all of that for Mordechai, he's the man!  Haman got dissed again!

So that night, there was another state dinner requested by the Queen, again with the King and Haman.  Now that the King knows that a Jew did the right thing for him, Esther reveals that she herself is Jewish, and that Haman seeks to destroy the whole Jewish nation, including her.  So the King orders that Haman be hung from the gallows he built for Mordechai, gives Mordechai Haman's vacant seat, and lets him draft legislation to rescind the royal edict to massacre all Jews in the Persian Empire.

Yeah, that story is a little convoluted, but I've summarized it just to get the point across.  Other than Esther herself, nobody in this book is a real hero -- the King flip-flopped worse than Bill Clinton and had the morals of Caligula.  Mordechai was a righteous man, but he was also an opportunist.  And Haman was so filled with hate towards those who didn't bow down to him, he tried to abuse his power and influence to have those who dissed him, and all those like him, suffer consequences.

As documented in my earlier anti-bullying posts, we've all had to deal with someone like Haman.  Someone who can only become powerful by seeking to plunder and destroy.  Someone who gains strength and power from stepping on people along the way.  And someone who seeks favor with those who could grant him that power by pointing fingers at others to make them look worse, and subject them to punishment.  And even worse, someone who seeks to silence all dissent through force.

In ancient biblical texts, those who do this are guaranteed to face consequences for their actions promptly.  In real life, they often get away scot-free.  And sometimes people give them even more accolades than Haman received.  Depending on their circumstances, sometimes real-life Hamans not only elude punishment for the misdeeds, they sometimes get rewarded for them quite handsomely.  Obscene, isn't it?

Well, the first step that we Betas have to take is to acknowledge that the Hamans we call alpholes are not being set up by the Almighty for an instant downfall, at least not the way we wish they were.  In real life, they get a lot of followers, a lot of sychophants, and a lot of hangers-on, and we usually don't.  This not only increases their strength, it also provides them with protection.  If anyone actually has the guts to call them out, the way Esther did, there will almost always be a loyal throng that will blindly follow their fearless leader no matter what horrors they've wrought.  In a way, this makes them even more powerful than the real Haman.

There is not much we can learn from the other characters in this story about how to take down real-life Hamans.  The rest of us don't get an audience with a King who outranks a Haman and can be so easily persuaded.  Instead, the key lies in how the story is told.

Normally, Jewish children are taught to behave properly in synagogue.  But when the Scroll of Esther is read on the evening of Purim, they're taught to get really loud at certain points.  Specifically, whenever the name of Haman is read, they are encouraged to make as much noise as possible to drown out his name.

Yes, this does sound a little bit foreign.  But the concept works.  Part of the reason why these real-life Hamans get so powerful is the above-referenced throng keeps talking about them.   They talk about them wayyyyyy too much.  They get too famous.  They get too popular.  They get around too much.  Too many people know their name.

I've often discussed how bullies and alpholes become who they are because they have enablers.  Let's counter that phenomenon by being disablers.  DON'T discuss them.  DON'T bring up their names.  DON'T waste time with stories of what they do or don't do.

Don't advertise them.  Delete them.
Don't make them famous.  Make them anonymous.
Don't be affected by them.  Be apathetic to them.
Don't gossip about them.  Talk about people better than them.
Don't listen to people talking about them.  Go off on a tangent and change the subject (my friends in the "we don't care" crowd are experts at this move)
Don't care about them.  They need you to, and they'll die out if you don't.

There is no law saying you have to bow down to these jabronies.  You can refuse to do so, and nobody will seek to hang you.  You can tune them out, you can seek better company, you can render them irrelevant.  Yes, you can also drown them out with noise, like the children in synagogue, but it's even harsher to them to drown them out with silence.

And remember, gentlemen.  As Betas, we are able to be alone for long periods of time.  For the Hamans of the world, solitude will suffocate them worse than any gallows can.

Good night everybody!