The Double-Edged Sword of Chauvinism
More on the controversial “scientific” study of Jewish genetic intellectual superiority — a study Sander Gilman has mellifluously called “bullshit” — by New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior. She limns the pseudo-science and explores the rising trend in racial genetics, revealing the lovely fact that one of the study’s authors has pipe dreams of producing something of a “Jewish Drug” to make Jewish intelligence accessbile to all. Seriously.
Of course, there are dark corners behind every positive racial stereotype. A choice nay-sayer quote, from population geneticist Neil Risch: “Jews have been accused of being frugal, cheap, aggressive. There’s a clear survival advantage to those traits too. Why not pick on those?”
To put another way, as the sublime Sarah Silverman sings in a New Yorker profile: “I love you more than bears love honey/I love you more than Jews love money/I love you more than Asians are good at math…”
Towards the end of her article, Jennifer Senior gets to the heart of the anxiety over Semitic superiority:
Jews may take tremendous pride in their aristocracy, but we fetishize it at our own peril; to suggest that we’re chosen, rather than that we make our own choices, curdles quickly into a useful argument for anti-Semites who’d love to claim that the objects of their derision are immutable vermin. It can’t be an accident that the most aggressive debunkers of Jewish essentialism, including the participants in this story, are generally Jews themselves. The arguments come in handy when the ugly stuff is trotted out, too.
A much more cerebral assessment — of modern-era Diaspora accomplishment, at least — comes from Eric Hobsbawm in the London Review of Books. He focuses on the post-Emancipation spur towards accomplishment, aided and abetted by friction with the larger population, rather than by genetic selection of Smarties. (I think; I skimmed it. But I’m an Ashkenazic Jew, so I shouldn’t have to do more than skim.)