Jews aren’t smarter (I lift my curse, and yours)
(Mondoweiss) -- by Philip Weiss --
...Looking back on it, part of the deal with being inside the Jewish community was a few great modern covenants. They come with the territory, believe me. We are smarter, we have been persecuted, we are exceptional. I believed all these things. I genuinely believed them in my bones. And these covenants/beliefs worked for the Jewish individual on a very practical level. Jews were – and this is objective/factual—predominant in many elite callings, from media to finance to politics, and if you were in the gang, more power to you. I have written about Jewish kinship networks. There can be little question that one of the reasons I got ahead in life was because I’d met so many smart and accomplished Jewish friends in college. They gave me opportunities, for instance in the network of the New Republic, even when my writing was (as Mike Kinsley told me, with the gift of straightforwardness) murky and incoherent. They believed in me and I believed in them, and a big part of it was ethnic discrimination. Stay Jewish, one of my editors once said to me when I was beginning to doubt the rightness of Jewish ethnocentric identity. We all knew each others’ jokes, cadences, ironies– the mental patterns. In Hollywood I understand there is prejudice against non-Jews, and I’ve seen it in New York circles too.
But this discrimination, isn’t it meritocratic? Aren’t Jews smarter? Commentary (stacks of which I grew up surrounded by in an academic household) says it all the time. IQ. Nobel Prizes. And I have said that on this site many a time. Because I still believed it. I believed that Jews are smarter. And this was another part of my grief; I felt that I had gotten off the smart team and on to the dumb team.
Most important, I am hardly the only one who believed it. Everyone in the American power structure came to believe it. And the belief was persuasive. WASPs believed it; they were stunned by the passionate killer bees of the Jewish meritocracy and that is one reason they yielded place. They accepted the idea that Jews are smarter. My wife tells me that she believed it (even as she was studying Freud and going to Jewish therapists and working for only Jews). I bet many Muslims believed it. Many second-rate Jewish writers believed it; and that belief allowed them to elevate their game.
In retrospect I see that as a kind of curse; we were all laboring under a belief that some wise people had cast, and whether false or not is not the question, the belief was governing everyone’s behavior.
This post is prompted by the fact that yesterday morning I ran into my wife’s office to tell her about something I was writing, and when she said, Who told you that? I mentioned the two people who had helped me, and one was an Asian-American Christian, the other an Asian-American Muslim. And I realized that they are dear colleagues of mine in the space that you are in right now, the internet between your ears, and they are both wicked smart, creative (and yes privileged) thinkers, and as Jewish as Paris Hilton.
As I spoke to my wife, it occurred to me that I no longer actually believe that Jews are smarter. I think a ton of people are smart. And god knows I am meeting a lot of them; and having lost my community of mutual enforcing belief, I have found another, by ending that belief inside myself...
I have said this kind of thing before, but I never really believed it. I continued to believe that Jews were born smarter. I continued to believe that I had lost a superior community and gained a lesser one. I no longer actually believe that. And I have many smart friends to show for it...MORE...LINK
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