RADICAL EDITORIALS
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THE GOLEM PRINCIPLE

by Robert Carl Cohen

Although brought up in a rationalist rather than a religious household, as a child fascinated with mythology and
folk stories I'd read about a supernatural
being called the Golem, supposedly created by the legendary Rabbi Lowe
(Lion)
of Prague back in the 16th Century; and said to have been the inspiration forthe "Frankenstein" tale.

Although there were various versions with differing details, simply put the story went like this: As was the practice
in
Christendom in those days, whenever the Rulers felt the need to divert public attention from famines, epidemics,
catastrophes or other disturbances, the cry
would go out that "The Jews are responsible," and soldiers would be
sent to
the Ghetto to rape, pillage and burn. In response to pleas for help from the members of his congregation,
eventhough he knew that such things had been
forbidden by the Council of Rabbis, Rabbi Lowe decided to utilize
his
knowledge of Kabbalistic (magical) principles to create a giant figure out of clay. Once the clay being, or Golem,
was completed, the Rabbi inscribed
certain Hebraic characters on its forehead; causing it to spring to life. The Rabbi
then taught the Golem such things as how to fetch water, chop wood, and
perform other utilitarian tasks. The next time
that the soldiers came to
attack the Ghetto, the Rabbi told the Golem to fight them; and it killed a soldier. The other
soldiers, seeing that the Golem was invulnerable to their
swords and arrows, panicked and fled in disarray. Believing that,
at last,
there was someone who could protect them, the Jews hailed the Golem as their hero. But the Golem, now having
learned how to kill, proceeded to kill a Jew -
one of the very people the Rabbi had created it to protect. Realizing that
he'd unleashed something terrible, Rabbi Lowe searched the Ghetto until he found the Golem, which was in hiding
because it had by then acquired enough of
a conscience to realize that it had done something wrong. When the Rabbi
changed the Hebraic character which stands for  "Life" on the Golem's forehead to that which stands for "Death," the
creature was transformed back into
inanimate clay.

It wasn't until I'd completed the public education system, earned a couple of college degrees, done my time in the US Army, and
was engaged in post-graduate studies in Social Psychology that I began to understand what the Golem legend really was: an
allegory which cautions us about the pitfalls which we must strive to avoid when we use our knowledge of the world around us
to develop constructs and systems which, while intended to serve us, may wind up doing the opposite. Just as we've learned how
to shape clay into ceramics, weave things out of fibres, sharpen wood and stones, or mine, smelt, and form metals into such useful
things as containers, clothing, knives, spears, automobiles, spaceships, computers, etc., so we also invent procedures, organizations,
etc. which we believe are necessary to make our lives better. We pride ourselves on thusly being able to use our intelligence to provide
ourselves with more certain and satisfactory supplies of food, shield ourselves from the extremes of heat or cold by making clothing
and building houses, protect ourselves from predatory animals, and defend ourselves against attacks by other human beings.
But just as the Golem, having been taught how to kill in order to defend the Ghetto, then killed one of the very people it had been
created to protect, so we must always be on guard that the very systems we invent to enhance our security don't endanger it themselves.
There is nothing mysterious about understanding the dangers of the Golem Principle - for every day we try to anticipate and avoid
being injured by the very things we create to assist us - making traffic laws, signals, crosswalks, etc. to keep from being injured by our
motor vehicles, etc. The first steam engines tended to explode when the pressure grew too great for their boiler walls to contain.
This problem was solved by designing safety valves which cut down the fuel supply or otherwise reduced the pressure when it
approached the danger point. Our nation's Founding Fathers, anticipating the danger of the concentration of power into the hands of
an individual or small partisan group, established our system of checks and balances. Congress was supposed to have the sole power
of drafting legislation. The Administration was authorized to carry out those laws. And the Courts were the only body which could rule as
to the conformity of said laws to the national Constitution - which is essentially our code of ethics.

However, just as Doctor Frankenstein unwittingly implanted the brain of an executed criminal in his creature, so we all-too-frequently
discover that our security organizations themselves have been taken over by corrupt if not outright criminal opportunists, such as was
recently the case with Ames in the CIA and Hansen in the FBI; an organization whose founding Director, J.Edgar Hoover, himself is
reputed to have amassed secret scandal files which he used to blackmail leading politicians in order to stay in power. The USA is not
alone in this regard. Practically every nation's security organizations have had their high-level traitors and perverters: Philby, head of
British Counter-Intelligence, was a Soviet agent; Penkovsky, Soviet Premier Brezhnev's son-in-law, was executed for spying for the
West; and Beria, head of the KGB, was a rapist and mass murderer. Is it that such people tend to gravitate to such positions,
or is it by their very nature that such organizations, which in the name of secrecy are often closed to all oversight and criticism, provide
a fertile environment for such persons?

To protect ourselves from the former in the past we've tried to make certain that no one in a position of authority, and this includes the
Chief of State, is above the law - as was borne out in the Watergate Affair and the subsequent resignations of Vice-President Agnew
and President Nixon.

I fear that, panicked by such things as the horror of the attacks on the World trade Center and the Pentagon, the mailing of anthrax-laden
letters, and the possibility of even worse assaults by religiously-inspired "Martyrs" armed with weapons of mass destruction, we are creating
our own, 100% American, Golem. The events of September 11, 2001 have caused a blind stampede on the part of our Congress to hand
over their law-making power to the Administration and, in the name of national defense, George W. Bush has enthusiastically authorized
his minions to violate almost every protection guranteed by our Bill of Rights. His appointee, Governor Ridge, whose face (coincidently?)
resembles that of a blocky chunk of stone, is answerable to no one but Mr. Bush, who is pressuring Congress to okay Ridge's spending of
thirty eight billion dollars of the taxpayers money without any oversight whatsoever.

The Germans fell victim to their own Golem back in 1933. First there was their defeat at the hands of the Allies in World War One, then
came the collapse of the imperial system and the flight of the Kaiser, then the severe reparations insisted upon by France's Clemenceau,
and the breakdown of the economy and runaway inflation, all of which led to increasing hardship and desperation. Hitler and his National
Socialists (Nazis) declared that only they could save the German nation from being taken over by Thalmann and the Communists. Then
someone, it has been charged that the Nazis did it themselves via a tunnel from the offices of Minister of Justice Hermann Goering, set fire
to the Reichstag (German Parliament). Panicked, the members of Parliament, including the Social Democrats, who had previously been
opposed to the Nazis, joined in the stampede to "Save The Nation" by giving Hitler the right to make all laws on his own. Hitler's well-
known policies then led to the destruction of much of Europe and the murder of tens of millions, including the deaths of approximately
eight million Germans themselves. In the name of "National Defense" Germany destroyed both its neighbors and itself.

After the end of World War Two, having learned from the tragic mistakes of others, the US leadership tried to avoid such errors. Back
during the Korean Conflict we, as a nation, were faced with the possibility of being sucked into a war against China when General
MacArthur took it upon himself to order our advance units to cross over to the north side of the Chosin Reservoir and enter Chinese territory.
When his actions resulted in the Chinese, whose Communist leadership had come to power only the year before in 1949, entering the conflict
in large numbers and hurling our forces into a costly retreat, General MacArthur wanted to use atomic weapons. Despite the fact that
MacArthur had powerful financial and political supporters and was a popular hero here at home, faced with the possibility of his actions
igniting World War III, Truman was forced to fire him.

Now, a half-century after Truman fired MacArthur, we are told that, to defend ourselves against what Mr. Bush tells us is an "Axis of Evil"
which includes Iran, Iraq & North Korea, our military appears to be preparing to attack Iraq and overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.
But this time the danger isn't some professional militarist who only knows how to make war, our nation finds itself under the control of a
man who behaves as if he is answerable to no one. When our Supreme Court itself acts to stop the counting of disputed ballots, effectively
appointing someone President who failed to gain the majority of the popular vote, and that person then exploits the present emergency to
cut funds from social programs in order to give billions of dollars in tax cuts and defense contracts to his backers, who has the power to
intervene?

The present situation makes it imperative that we insist upon there being some sort of non-partisan body which can stop our vast military
and security systems from being unleashed without careful consideration as to the consequences. This is especially the case when those
responsible for the 9-11 attacks are not the leaders of a specific nation, but of an international movement whose elusive membership is
worldwide. There's no question but that we must defend ourselves, the question is by what means? Secret arrests and imprisonments
where revealing the identities of those arrested itself can be considered a crime, warrantless searches and seizures, military tribunals
where the rules of evidence and the right to appeal do not exist, electronic surveillance of everyone, especially those who dare to question the powerful.

Are these the only means by which we can save the nation? Are we so frightened that we are ready to be ruled by the Golem itself?
Any construct which is not constrained by a paradigm involving a basic ethic can all too easily injure those it was intended to protect.
Let us demand that our elected representatives stop catering to the tiny minority of avaricious nihilists, corporate cannibalizers and
other special interests whose "campaign contributions" have corrupted them, and reassert themselves as representatives of all of
"We The People" so that the US is not conned into a war for control of the world's oil supply or becomes a repressive police state
ruled by those whose sole ethic is the insatiable drive for power and profit, and the suppression of all who dare to oppose them.

     


Copyright (C) 2008 Robert Carl Cohen

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