If you regularly read this blog, you may have noticed in recent posts that I’ve started to express my position on political and diplomatic matters a little more. The recent elections in the United States have created in me the desire and the need not to hide anymore under a cloak of objectivity. I saw so many celebrities choose to publicly support one of the contestants (mainly Hillary Clinton), and I realized that personal opinion is legit. If someone chooses to veto me or my books because of my thoughts, or because I'm from Israel, then I'm very sorry for that person.
In this post, I want to address an international phenomenon, the reason I think so many people in the United States were overwhelmed by the fact that Donald Trump won. Humans are fixated on human patterns. Hillary voters had labeled the Trump voters as "white trash," uneducated, and unable to understand complex political issues, and thus couldn’t believe that Trump could win. According to the pattern that they’d created in their minds, it was unacceptable for educated women, African-Americans and Hispanics to vote for Trump. When they found out that, after all, quite a few women, African-Americans and Hispanics did vote for him, giving him victory, their amazement was made even greater by the fact that Trump actually won. Such a response is very harmful; it gives the impression that he’s an idiot (and he is not!).
I know that feeling firsthand. Israel has rather tumultuous elections almost every time. Israel is also divided into two main camps almost equally (in recent years, there has been a greater tendency to the Right, the equivalent of the Republican camp) and every election is a passionate and stormy business. I want to go back a bit in time to 1995, a year in which there were numerous murderous terror attacks in Israel. The terror attacks in central Tel Aviv and other cities were carried out after the signing of an historic peace agreement with the Palestinians (the Oslo Agreement) and Yitzhak Rabin received the Nobel Peace Prize. The feeling of many Israelis was horrible. We, the Israelis, relinquished control in many areas, and in return we received terrorism. We gave peace, but received bombs and death. On November 4th, 1995, Yigal Amir shot Yitzhak Rabin in central Tel Aviv. This was at a rally in support of peace, following many rallies and demonstrations against the peace agreement. The murder shocked Israel. Before the murder, the polls had predicted a great victory for Benjamin Netanyahu in the forthcoming elections. After the murder, the shock was so great that the results were reversed. In fact, I don’t know if people changed their minds because they were embarrassed, or if they were afraid to admit that they supported the Conservative camp and Benjamin Netanyahu. I remember well the feeling of fear, and the fear of expressing an "unpopular opinion." I don’t support violence, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin shook me, like many other Israelis, but still I couldn’t forget the fact that the government ignored the frustration of people who suffered so many terrorist attacks and continued peace talks with the Palestinians.
Elections were held about six months after Rabin's assassination. In May 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu defeated Shimon Peres, RIP, with a very small majority. People from the Left were shocked; they couldn’t understand how such a revolution could have taken place. They completely forgot the fact that, if Rabin had not been murdered, the results would have been the same, only with much larger margin.
I didn't hide my views. At that time, I was studying architecture at the Technion – the Israeli equivalent to MIT. I studied architecture for three semesters, until I changed direction and went into the financial sector. At the Faculty of Architecture, you could count the Benjamin Netanyahu supporters on the fingers of one hand. Faculty members were obviously highly educated people, but, unfortunately, some of them were narrow-minded in terms of political perspective. I remember how we all sat together - we students, with our tutor, an Architecture PhD, in our studio - discussing the election after the results were published. Our professor ignored the guidelines prohibiting academic staff members from making political statements, and cried, "Can someone explain to me how such disaster happened to us?"
One student pointed at me and said: "Ask the Likudnik." (Likud is the name of Benjamin Netanyahu's party.) She turned to me (it was a studio, rather than a traditional lecture room), opened her eyes and asked in a shaky voice, "Can you please explain to me how an intelligent woman could vote for Benjamin Netanyahu?"
I did not answer, of course.
I wasn't set in the right pattern in my teacher's eyes. I was accepted into one of the most prestigious faculties in Israel, and therefore, according to her logic, would "have to" vote for Shimon Peres. I remember I had mixed feelings: on the one hand, I enjoyed having an independent opinion; on the other hand, I didn’t like the fact that my teacher actually doubted my intellectual ability.
By the way, I don’t entirely agree with the pattern of many right-wingers, either, who also have a need to create templates. Many right-wingers are people who believe in a religious God, while I'm an atheist who completely separates Church and State. Nor can I ignore the plight of others, even if they’re not my people - for example, Palestinians, and foreign workers.
Distribution to "Right" and "Left" is also used in economics; here, if you define yourself as right-wing, you’re immediately counted as a corrupt capitalist. I define myself as a capitalist because I think that any healthy person (in body and mind) needs to take care of himself and not expect the state to support him financially. The economic model of equal distribution of all resources proved to be a failure - both in the USSR and in the Israeli experiment, the kibbutz, which is a failed concept. There is no kibbutz today that’s still working under the framework of a full cooperative. But those who see how I live wouldn’t understand how I define myself as a capitalist. I’ve rejected a number of offers and opportunities for senior positions. My father has a CPA office, which I refuse to inherit. I don’t want to be a rich person. I want to be a happy person. (Incidentally “happy” and “rich” sound exactly the same in Hebrew; there’s a difference of one letter.) I want to have enough money for what I consume. Very surprising - I know. I really don’t fit the "pattern" of a "capitalist."
ccc Once people realize that other people aren’t necessarily painted in two colors, not everything is black and white. Perhaps they’ll be less surprised that someone doesn’t think exactly like them. And, most importantly, they won’t think that, if someone thinks differently, they’re less intelligent. Please respect others as you would like them to respect you.