Thursday, June 29, 2006

The book "To End War: A New Approach to International Conflict" by Robert Woito has a chapter called "Non-State Actors." That includes international non-government organizations, international corporations, and individuals.

The phrase "non-state actors" reminds me of a course I audited at Ohio State in the Jewish Studies department that was taught by a visiting professor from Israel named Frisel, life will be good if I can remember or find his full name.

He was as a person in day to day life a conservative Israeli, thinking his government should be tough and tougher.

He was also a historian. One time in class he flipped into historian mode and said something like this. Nationalism is probably a very transient phenomenon. Taking nations so very seriously is probably something that will be seen in the future as something like a passing fad. Jew in founding Israel may have gotten into this fad very late and in the future that may not be seen, by Jews, as a great idea.

This is very different than the way he usually talked about the country Israel, its importance, and how it should act. But who among us can put all our forms of intelligence together in one tidy package. Usually super tidiness intellectually means you leave out fairly big chunks of intelligence.

The course I audited from him was about something like "Intellectual Currents in Jewish Thought in Europe in the Late 19th century." The big question dealt with was "Can Jews survive in Europe?"

The way historians play their game we were not allowed to talk in that class about the Nazi death camps because the people we were reading didn't know about them.

(I pause and say from a whole other way of looking at things, some of the people we were reading clearly did, in effect know about them, because the camps were a predictable, if your were intensely pessimistic phenomenon, or because something that huge, some people can feel it coming, and see it. This is not a way of looking at things permitted in this, or any, graduate history class.)