Sunday, July 27, 2008


They isolate themselves from society, holing up in villages. They treat women like another species, keeping them fully covered, separate, subordinate, dependent. They enforce their ridiculously medieval morality with the fervor that only a true fanatic can possess. They believe rainbows are a threat from God, dinosaurs are a trick played by God, and that the celestial firmament is merely an elaborate ceiling in their solipsistic diorama. Every waking hour is to be spent pondering ancient texts; anything else (besides purely procreative sex) is a distraction or an abomination.

Resurgent Taleban in Afghanistan? Another boy-buggering Pakistani madrassa? Evangelical numbskulls whooping it up at Jeebus Camp and the Creation Museum? Colorful Amish folk culturally walling themselves off from the corrupting influences of the "English"? Inbred child-bride FLDS compound out in the Texas scrub? Nope, this time it's the upstate New York shtetlers, the hardcore Hasidim who resolutely, forcibly shun all the trappings of modernity -- unless, of course, there's money to be made or power to be obtained. Then it's $6000 hats and local donsrebbes apportioning towns among their sons.

I dunno. They mind their own business and keep to themselves, generally. And at least they're not strapping themselves with Semtex and ball bearings and heading for the marketplace. Live and let live, even if your "contemplative" life seems like a tragic waste of poring over dead scrolls of authoritarian mysticism. But I recall reading in the late '90s about how the Taleban treated women and children, beat and humiliated and terrorized them into submission, to be unthinking, obedient automatons for Allah, their Allah. The sexual hangups in particular of this cult give me the same creepy feeling. But just in general, they seem so determined to suck all the joy out of life.

Even if the violence in this instance is emotional and spiritual (what sort of bastard teaches a four-year-old to fear rainbows?) rather than physical, it's still repellent. That's not life, that's just existence, lifelong indentured servitude to a capricious Levantine phantom. Gitty Grunwald puts it most aptly in the article, that these people never have to make another decision in their lives. I might hack on the bozos who waste their evenings watching fools humiliate themselves for money, but this shit is truly sad.

On the other hand, the Feinmans are great, almost enough to make up for the insular, overbreeding weirdness their goofball daughter got herself caught up in. Hopefully more of the grandkids follow their example.

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