Which was the first Western country to impose highly discriminatory immigration laws targeting Ashkenazi Jews? Britain. The French, because of the Dreyfus affair may have been more vocally anti-Semitic, but in England the thing suddenly became eminently fashionable.
Consider Keynes's reaction to meeting Einstein-
'He is a naughty Jew boy covered with ink –that kind of Jew – the kind which has its head above water, the sweet, tender imps who have not sublimated immortality into compound interest. He was the nicest, and the only talented person I saw in all Berlin, except perhaps old- Fuerstenberg, the banker Lydia liked so much, and Kurt Singer, two foot by five, the mystical economist from Hamburg. And he was a Jew; and so was Fuerstenberg and so was Singer. And my dear Melchior is Jew too. Yet if I lived there, I felt I might turn anti-Semite.
This is rich! How much more anti-Semitic could this Old Etonian cunt have turned?
For the poor Prussian is too slow and heavy on his legs for the other kind of Jews, the ones who are not imps but serving devils, with small horns, pitch forks, and oily tails. It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains. I vote rather for the plump hausfraus and think fingered Wandering Birds. But I am not sure that I wouldn’t even rather be mixed up with Lloyd George than with the German political Jews
Britain had more than its share of 'political Jews' in the Cabinet at the time. Come to think of it, Reading got a better deal from America during the First World War than Keynes would manage during the Second.
Why was British, or American, anti-Semitism relatively ineffective compared to what happened in Germany? The answer, obviously, is that Britain and America did sensible things and thus remained secure and prosperous. Germany did stupid shit. Since persecuting Jews is stupid, they naturally went in for it till they were defeated, partitioned, occupied and forced to get rich by doing boring stuff.
Turning to the subject of this post, it is a remarkable fact that, whenever Ram Guha reads a biography about somebody famous, he starts believing he himself is the 'ibbur' or partial incarnation of that personage. Moreover, he has an urgent message from that famous person for India which is currently in exactly the same position as Germany under Hitler or Italy under Mussolini.
Guha now believes he is Einstein- who, as a Zionist, had a problem with Muslims attacking his people some years before Jews in Germany themselves became subject to attack- writes in Scroll.in.
I present a selection of striking remarks
they are not striking. They are anodyne shite.
by Albert Einstein excavated through Fritz Stern’s research.
Stern is critical of Likud and tones down Einstein's Zionism. The fact is, Einstein, like Tagore, had a loathing of the 'fanatical' Muslim even though both in Palestine and East Bengal, the 'turbulent pugnacity' of the Muslim peasantry was economic in motivation rather than an expression of religious bigotry. However, it is true that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem joined hands with Hitler during the Second World War. But then, so did Netaji.
These deal not with science
on which Einstein made interesting remarks
but with matters of morality and politics.
which he had no knowledge about.
My first quote dates to the year, 1901, when Einstein was in his early twenties. It has him saying: “The foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”
Foolishness is not conducive to the search for truth. But 'faith in authority' is not foolish. It is 'Muth Rational'. Einstein had faith in the authority of the German Universities which were to a greater degree, than in the Anglo-Saxon world, under State control and direction. That's why Einstein- who had changed nationality to avoid military service- happily applied for Austrian citizenship to secure a post in Prague before effectively resuming German citizenship to hold a yet higher post in Berlin. However, it is not clear whether Einstein regarded himself as German rather than Swiss. True, he was given a German diplomatic passport but, at a later point, he was able to travel on a Swiss passport. However, he did take definite steps to relinquish German citizenship after settling in America. He became an American citizen in 1934 by a joint resolution of Congress.
To sum up, Einstein's smart handling of issues related to his nationality, show he had a sound understanding of legal issues related to citizenship. Moreover, in criticizing Germany, he was acting as a Swiss citizen- because that is how he saw himself.
On the other hand, Einstein understood the role of State authority in protecting and fostering the various Universities which hosted him. That wasn't foolish at all. Indeed, it was rather clever of him to keep changing his faith so as to advance his career. However, it was his great merit which opened doors for him. He truly was an ornament to any country which granted him citizenship.
One presumes that Einstein here principally had scientific authority in mind.
Scientific authority is established by 'crucial' experiments. It would be foolish to dispute such evidence.
Yet, for young adults, a foolish faith in parental authority can also be misplaced,
No. Such faith can be forgiven. It is a 'mitigating factor'. Displaying a paranoid suspicion of Mummy and Daddy's intentions is not just foolish, it is the kind of thing that gets you locked up in a padded cell.
whereas for men and women of all ages and all nationalities, a foolish faith in political authority is not always to be recommended either.
Being foolish is bad- unless, like Ram Guha, that's how you earn your bread. Still, if you have no faith in political authority, you are condemned to being a vagabond. You can't put down roots. You can't pursue any mentally demanding scheme of research. You will spend your life on the que vive for an abrupt descent of the polity into either anarchy or tyranny. People will consider you a paranoid nutter and give you a wide berth.
Born in the German Empire, Einstein moved to Switzerland in his teens.
He took Swiss citizenship to avoid conscription. On moving to Berlin, he stipulated for retention of Swiss nationality because he was still young enough to be called up for military service. By the end of the War, Germany was so hated that Einstein gained by being seen as Swiss though he did not dispute that as an employee of the Prussian State, he was automatically a German citizen.
His early scientific work was done in Zurich. In 1913, when he was in his thirties, he was persuaded to move to Berlin, the capital of Germany and of German science. Einstein liked his new scientific colleagues, yet he found the conformity of the German public, their uncritical devotion to the Kaiser and the Fatherland, deeply problematic.
No he didn't. Otherwise he'd have returned to neutral Switzerland.
In January 1914, he wrote that “the free, uninhibited view is generally something alien to the [adult] German”.
Lots of Germans kept saying that. But they stayed in Germany if that was advantageous to them.
Elsewhere, Einstein spoke of the “inborn servility” of the Germans. (These comments resonate with the state of India and of Indians today.)
They resonate with the state of Karnataka where the CM is very servile indeed to Rahul.
The First World War broke out later that year. Einstein was appalled by the jingoism around him.
To be fair, the Brits were worse. Lots of academics- philosophers in particular- felt they had to attack German thinkers with might and main. British propaganda against the 'Hun' was far more fierce and effective than anything the Germans could come up with. Even the British Royal Family changed its Germanic sounding name.
In 1915, the physicist asked the war-crazed Germans to learn to treat “power-hunger and greed” as well as “hatred and bellicosity” as “despicable vices”.
No he didn't. He kept very quiet while carrying on with his, admittedly, path-breaking research.
The Germans professed to be Christians and boasted of their commitment to the Christian faith and claimed to be acting in consonance with it. Einstein called out this hypocrisy when he told them: “Honor your Master Jesus Christ not in words and hymns, but above all through your deeds.”
But Einstein didn't consider that carpenter's son his own master- did he? Incidentally the German 'Hymn of Hate' was written by a Jew. Indeed, Jews enlisted in the German Army with greater enthusiasm than the Christians. It simply wasn't true that German Jews were not patriotic or had participated in any so called 'stab in the back'.
In the same year, 1915, the Goethebund of Berlin, a forum of artists and scientists, asked Einstein his views of the war. Einstein replied: “The psychological roots of the war are in my opinion biologically founded in the aggressive characteristics of the male creature.”
Lions aren't aggressive at all- right? That's why they don't have Armies and Field Marshalls and big big wars.
The fact is, outside his specialist field, Einstein was a simpleton. That was fine because it went well his image as an absent minded professor detached from reality.
Of course, the male propensity to violence does not manifest itself only in wars between nations; consider, again, the India of today, where young men are at the forefront of violence enacted in the name of religion and/or politics.
When was not this case? In which country do you find most assaults are carried out by elderly ladies?
Among Albert Einstein’s correspondents was the Swiss-French novelist, Romain Rolland, incidentally a friend also of Gandhi and Tagore.
He later became a worshipper of Stalin.
In August 1917, Einstein wrote to Rolland that Germany’s military victories in the late 19th century had left the country with “a religious faith in power which found in [the hyper-nationalist and anti-Semitic historian Heinrich von] Treitschke an appropriate, not an exaggerated, expression.
Treitschke started off as a Liberal. Then he realized that the Hapsburg and Romanov Emperors would make common cause against a Liberal, Democratic, Germany, while France- fearing a rival power on the Rhine- too would join a 'Holy Alliance' to crush Liberalism. Von Bernhardi, a Prussian General, could be considered Treitschke's successor and there was an attempt to attribute 'War guilt' to him. Nothing came of it because, truth be told, all the polities of Europe- Cantonized Switzerland excepted- had similar designs on the territory of their neighbours.
'This religion dominates the minds of almost all of the cultured elite; it almost completely extruded the ideals of the Goethe-Schiller era.”
There were no such ideals. There was merely 'Sehnsucht'- i.e. adolescent yearning. It was obvious that France wasn't going to export Democracy or Liberalism. Bonaparte just wanted to make all his brothers and sisters Kings and Queens.
Once more, the parallels with contemporary India are depressingly visible.
Fuck off! India doesn't want to conquer its neighbours. On the other hand, it evinces little desire to be conquered by jihadis or ruled by a half-Italian dynasty. Guha finds this very reprehensible.
The power-crazed religion of Hindutva has become so influential as to largely extrude the ideals of the Tagore-Gandhi era.
Exclude. What Guha is extruding is a turd. Tagore demanded that Hindus unite to combat Islam and Christianity. His was a voice in the wilderness. Gandhi demanded that the Brits hand over control of the Army to the INC because, he said, Hindus are non-violent and thus without the Army to protect them, the country would be ruled by Muslims and Punjabis.
Fritz Stern himself remarks that Einstein had “contempt for nationalist narrowness in any form”.
He thought Indians were biologically inferior. It would be a pity if Indian nationalists prevailed.
At the same time, Einstein did believe that the continuing persecution of Jews in Europe made their own search for a homeland justifiable.
More particularly if this involved taking land away from 'biologically inferior' people. This was the Liberal view- shared by Keynes and Bertrand Russell- back then.
He supported the migration of Jews to Palestine in the belief and hope that “there should be a tiny speck on this earth in which the members of our tribe should not be aliens”.
What is better is if no Jew or Gentile is treated as alien despite holding citizenship, simply on the grounds of creed or colour. Einstein had no problem settling in Jim Crow America.
He was in this sense a Zionist, who endorsed the creation of a Jewish State in the Middle East.
He turned down the Presidency of the new State. He was no fool. Israel at the time was poor and weak. Few would have predicted its rise as a STEM subject super-power.
Nonetheless, he did not want the residents of this state to be selfish and parochial in the way he had witnessed the Germans to be.
No doubt, Guha thinks Jim Crow America wasn't 'selfish' or 'parochial' in any way. African Americans were lynching themselves because they enjoy that sort of thing- right?
Thus, as Einstein wrote in October 1919, “one can be internationally minded, without renouncing interest in one’s tribal interests.”
The context was Einstein's support for Zionism and the immediate creation of a Jewish State in Palestine.
(This formulation, we may note, is not dissimilar to that of Tagore who, likewise, sought to blend an inclusive and non-jingoistic nationalism with an openness to the world.)
Tagore kept warning his people that they would lose their property and lives in East Bengal. The bhadralok needed to keep the Brits around.
Einstein opposed the race-based nationalism of the Germans
but was cool with the 'tribal' nationalism of the Zionists. On balance, he was right. Germany is better off not being nationalistic. Without Israel, Jews in the West might still face a lot of persecution.
and had reservations about Jews adopting this template in the new homeland they wished to create.
To be fair, it looked as though the Jews could get 'mawali' or protected status from a Hashemite Kingdom which might unite the Arabs. The problem was that the Jews would then become a class of middlemen and professionals in the Cities of the Levant. Herzl's ideas was that they should become an agricultural people. The sturdy yeoman makes the best soldier- or so people thought at that time.
In 1929, after there were violent clashes between Arabs and Jewish settlers in Palestine,
German and British Jews blamed Russian and Polish Zionists for alarming the Palestinians by their 'maximal' rhetoric. However the trigger for the riots was a religious issue involving Jewish access to the Wailing Wall. Einstein, like Tagore, had no great love for the 'fanatical' Muslim.
Einstein wrote to the leading Zionist, Chaim Weizmann (later the first president of Israel), that “if we do not find the path to honest cooperation and honest negotiations with the Arabs, then we have learned nothing from our 2000 years of suffering, and we deserve the fate that will befall us”.
At the time, this was a reasonable belief. Many Jews had internalized the view that their people weren't cut out to be soldiers. Still, Einstein would have been delighted to witness Israel's military successes.
What is happening in Israel today bears witness to the wisdom of Einstein’s remarks.
Fuck off! What we are witnessing is the wisdom of Jabotinsky's views. Israel is simply a State like any other. If it defends itself and pursues sensible economic policies, then its erstwhile enemies offer it the hand of friendship.
With a fanatical right-wing government in power, and liberal Jews on the retreat, Israel is further than ever before from finding that necessary path towards honest cooperation with the Arabs.
Which is why Israel will do fine. Truth be told, there is no need to curb the Israeli judiciary. If you closely examine any decision favourable to the Palestinians, you find that the Bench hasn't actually given them anything. They may appear to be shutting a door over here, when, in fact, they are knocking down the whole wall over there.
Hopefully, the Chinese will broker a deal such that the Israeli knowledge-economy gets its mits on the hugely intelligent and talented youth of Palestine. These are the guys we need working on clean energy and de-salinification and smart stuff of that sort.
All through his life, Einstein meditated deeply on how an individual should relate to the world.
Nope. He meditated deeply on a unified field theory- one which would be valid even if there were no human or other conscious beings in the Universe. He knew nothing of Econ or Poli Science or Sociology.
He deeply cherished human relationships
who doesn't? Even Johnny-no-mates cherishes his relationship with Mummy and Daddy.
and, unlike other great scientists who were exclusively focused on their work and career,
which ones? There were plenty of great scientists who had other interests.
made many close friends.
He was a celebrity and enjoyed being a celebrity. He had an active sex life. Good for him.
He knew that an individual life found meaning in the web of connections it built with other lives.
He also knew that it was nice to get a salary from an Institute funded by a Jewish philanthropist.
While the Western capitalist society of his time celebrated what Ayn Rand famously (or notoriously) called “the virtue of selfishness”,
Nonsense! Ayn Rand only became famous after the failure of Roosevelt's New Deal. The Economy recovered because of the War but more and more Americans chafed at the regulatory regime whereby the Government controlled industry.
Einstein, on the other hand, sought – not always with success, of course – to practise what we may call the virtue of selflessness.
No, he didn't. He looked after number one- which was cool because he was doing amazing work.
Einstein’s anti-chauvinist and anti-narcissist philosophy was beautifully expressed in his funeral oration for his fellow physicist, Rudolf Ladenburg, in Princeton in 1954.
1952. Guha isn't good with dates.
I quote: “Brief is this existence, as a fleeting visit in a strange house. The path to be pursued is poorly lit by a flickering consciousness, the center of which is the limiting and separating.
This sounds a bit like a line from Beowulf. I suppose the Germans were up on that sort of thing.
“The limitation to the I is for the likes of our nature unthinkable, considering both our naked existence and our deeper feeling for life. The I leads to the Thou and to the We – a step which alone makes us what we are.
Einstein was also a friend of Martin Buber.
And yet the bridge which leads from the I to the Thou is subtle and uncertain, as is life’s adventure.
I suppose Einstein had noticed that anybody can sound profound in a non-STEM subject. Not Guha. Whatever he writes is always foolish.
“When a group of individuals become a We, a harmonious whole, then the highest is reached that humans as creatures can reach.”
But, in STEM subjects, disharmony is even better than harmony.
However, let me end this column not with Albert Einstein’s words
Words like these-
Today I have been made happy by the sight of the Jewish people learning to recognize themselves and to make themselves recognized as a force in the world. This is a great age, the age of liberation of the Jewish soul, and it has been accomplished through the Zionist movement, so that no one in the world will be able to destroy it.
but with those of the author of Einstein’s German World.
Stern asked Einstein whether he should study Medicine, as his parents wanted, or History. 'Medicine' Einstein replied. 'History is not a Science'. Since Stern had low IQ he chose History and did well enough in that field because he simply didn't understand why German anti-Semitism became so virulent. The short answer is Catholicism. The Junker could adopt anti-Semitism to win over the Catholic minority. In any case it was 'the Socialism of Fools' and Germans were plenty stupid. Pretending, as Arendt did, that it had something to do with Holfjude (Court Jews) transmuted into Bankers or Industrialists is simply silly.
Himself an exile from Hitler and the Nazis,
His parents emigrated when he was 12.
in reflecting on the painful, tormented, hate-and-violence-filled history of his times,
The America he emigrated to had plenty of hate and violence for African Americans and Hispanics, not to mention the indigenous people.
Fritz Stern remarked: “No country, no society, is shielded from the evils that the passivity of decent citizens can bring about.
Fuck off! Britain is plentifully shielded despite having a very polite and courteous citizenry. Constitutional Checks and Balances under the Rule of Law, together with sensible Economic and Defence policies are all that is required.
That is a German lesson of the twentieth century – for all of us.”
When Indira Gandhi locked up her opponents and instituted a Dictatorship, Guha & Co were entirely docile. Narendra Modi wasn't. That's why he is Prime Minister while Guha is dreaming of himself as the Indian Einstein.
The plain fact is, the 'German lesson of the twentieth century' is that decent citizens of a Democracy should be passive provided the Rule of Law obtains. If politicians screw up the economy, kick them out at the ballot box. But decency is not enough. If the people believe crazy shit, crazy shit is gonna happen one way or another
In Germany, between 1880 and 1945, 'decent citizens' believed that conquest was the path to security and prosperity. The transition to Democracy- or 'Social Democracy'- proved disastrous on two separate occasions. Germany only became prosperous and secure after 'decent citizens' turned their backs on 'political engagement'. They concentrated on making nice cars or machine tools or other deeply boring stuff of that sort. The Germans do have some Historians and Economists and so forth but none as stupid and ignorant as Guha. Clearly, this is a great shortcoming which they must urgently rectify.