The Loss of Civic Virtue and its Consequences

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9 Responses

  1. Shanks says:

    Well, as usual, I disagree with Jonathan Rosenblum’s piece. But I see that today, there are some important things we surprisingly agree on. It is important for Israel that military service be compulsory in order to mature young people out of thinking that they’re entitled to the government giving them money, even though they’re not contributing to the wider society and not holding down jobs.

  2. Shimon L. says:

    I made aliyah for purely religious reasons, but I did also recognise the relatively more healthy society in Israel as compared to the UK and saw it as a major side-benefit. After learning in kollel for a year I started working in Tel Aviv. I can tell you that even the typical Tel-Avivian chilonim I now work with really do seem to have a value system far more advanced than the supposedly ‘cultured and progressive’ non-Jews I used to work alongside in London, who have nothing more in their lives than their career and the next pint of beer (the sole purpose of the one, presumably, to pay for the other.)
    Obviously the chilonim in Tel Aviv still have a way to go to get to the real emes. But thinking beyond the next drink, actually recognising that there is such a thing as ‘values’, and generally being much more ‘menschlich’, is certainly a positive indicator.

    I also get the general sense, as Jonathan alludes to, that while the real committed secularlists in the media et al try their hardest to import as much Western narishkeit as they can to show that they’re ‘like everyone else’, the masses still don’t take these things as seriously as the ‘liberal elite’ would like. Compare, for example, attendances at sporting events in Israel to those in the Western world. They know there are more important things in life.

    The question is whether all this is down to compulsory military service, or if it’s simply the inner Jewish neshomo in all of them that searches for truth even if they try to deny it.

  3. Miriam A says:

    “They have never tasted a morsel of food or worn a garment paid for by money earned. But far from breeding gratitude, welfare has only left them with a sense of entitlement to more…”

    I would be curious to hear Rabbi Rosenblum’s thoughts on how this relates to the welfare state in Eretz Yisrael

  4. shaya says:

    It’s very interesting to see you draw on sociological research (though Murray is not considered credible by many because of his controversial views on race). One comment:

    I’m surprised to see the suggestion that the longer working hours, the better. This is contrary to both empirical results and the Torah. In Avot 2:2 and elsewhere Chazal clearly indicate that one should work part-time, or keep work to a minimum, and spend as much time as possible on Torah study and other religious pursuits. In our high-technology society there is no rational reason why people need to spend 50-60 hours a week working to make ends meet, yet that is the case in America, making the masses tired and miserable (and too numb and exhausted for in-depth religious or spiritual involvement). Only some European countries suffer from joblessness — others high high employment, lower hours, and high quality of living. The task of Israel should be to create a civilization in which one can easily work part-time in any profession, making it possible to be a true Torah scholar or tzaddik (or give birth and raise a large family) while also being a physician or engineer making important practical impacts on society (as many great rabbis throughout the ages, such as Rambam, Rambam and Ramchal, did in their day).

    Beyond this, though, civil vitality is not just about working hard. It’s also about strengthening civil society by creating numerous civic organizations applying reason and values to all areas of life. When people work less, but have a strong commitment to their community and trust their fellow citizens, they can combine to combat all manner of social problems. This civic ethic was once strong in the United States. It may be relatively strong in Israel, but traditional religious communities–in particular the most conservative and inward-looking–could benefit from a greater appreciation for the benefits of civic participation in organizations trying to improve some aspect of the country, their community, or the environment or animals.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Powerful elements in many American minority communities (and not only the poor ones!) disdain any sign of civic virtue as a surrender to the white oppressor’s values. In such surroundings, growing up to become a responsible, constructive citizen becomes very difficult. Even staying alive becomes difficult. The escalating percentage of out-of-wedlock births among non-minorities shows how the societal breakdown has now expanded beyond the ghetto.

  6. Allan Katz says:

    ‘ We frequently pay so much attention to character, personality, and individual responsibility that we overlook how profoundly the social environment affects what we do and who we are.

    Specifically, we’re apt to assume that people who commit crimes are morally deficient, that the have-nots in our midst are lazy (or at least insufficiently resourceful), that children who fail to learn simply aren’t studying hard enough (or have unqualified teachers). In other words, we treat each instance of illegality, poverty, or academic difficulty as if it had never happened before and as if the individual in question was acting out of sheer perversity or incompetence.’ Alfie Kohn

    The fraud scandals and other financial crimes, evading army service , bullying ( beit shemesh) have got more to do with the ‘ system ‘ than individual character

  7. Liora says:

    “The provision in Obamacare allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance until 26 symbolizes the indefinite prolongation of adolescence.”

    …Or maybe it is a compassionate and realistic way to address the fact that the many recent college graduates who have tried and been unable to find full-time work with medical benefits in this terrible job market still need health insurance. Those in Israel who benefit from equal access to healthcare should not be so quick to deny that same protection to American citizens with no such safety net.

  8. dovid2 says:

    Shaya: “civil vitality is not just about working hard. It’s also about strengthening civil society by creating numerous civic organizations …”

    Historically, there has been a tight correlation between working hard and civic ethic. The “civic ethic was once strong in the United States” that you mentioned was evident when people in the US still worked hard. There was no food stamps, medicare, etc.

  9. cohen y says:

    ‘Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest, writes, “I don’t know of any great power in history that lost its foothold or decayed because of external reasons; internal social dysfunction was to blame.” Certainly that was Gibbons’ diagnosis of the fall of the Roman Empire.

    I understand Garfinkle to mean that human capital is crucial. The term usually refers to the educational attainments of the population. But it means more than that. Less quantifiable, but no less crucial is the moral character of a people’

    The post and the commenters seem to concentrate on work and money.

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