Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Machen Zich Nisht Visindig

In my last posting I reprinted the wonderful story of 'The Emperors Clothes'. I thought the text was useful because it brings out very poignantly how something can be in front of our eyes and not be acknowledged. In Yiddish we call this phenomena 'machen zich nisht visindig', making yourself (as if) not knowing. Another colorful Yiddish phrase is 'machen zich tamavatte'(?), making yourself stupid, naive. ( The great Sidney Morgenbesser once said "Yiddish is such a versatile language...it has so many ways of expressing negativity.")

The Kolko story is a story of how many good people made believe they did not know something which they clearly did know, and ought to have acknowledged.
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Yeshiva people have an equally clever and sharp expression. They describe the phenomenon of turning away from/cutting someone as 'not being GOIRITH' the person. They don't read him, as if a person was a philological error, a corrupt text, as it were.(An older person experiences this situation every day. When I walk along the lake I follow the custom to nod/smile to the people coming at me, especially when I think they might be locals. College & high school kids hardly ever smile at me, even when I smile at them. They see right through me. I say to myself 'Northwestern & ETHS are not goirith me'. )

Slifkin and Kolko are different from the central Freudian case of knowing something traumatic and repressing it, so that there is no memory of the event.

There is an interesting midrash on/ (variant of) the Hans Christian Anderson story. The little boy blurts out the truth, the crowd beats the boy to death, ('what a shande, a real chilul ha-emperor, what will the goyim say'). Years later the death is not remembered by anyone. Now THAT story is echt Freud.

I want to go on and talk about Slifken, The Documentary Hypothesis, intermarriage, Ugarithic, and much more. All of these will provide a new opportunity to raise questions about denial, horizontal splits, forseen but unintended consequences of actions, and other hot hot hot intellectual questions. I imagine my imaginary reader, needs a break or my imaginary reader will remain forever my nonexistent reader. I'll lighten up for a while.

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