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HOME > Classical Novels > On the Eve of Redemption > NATIONAL EXISTENCE AND NATIONAL HISTORIC LIFE
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 What is the essence of the historic life of a people? This question has been on the program of the ever since society began to free itself from the hold of the state. Prior to the French Revolution, when society and the state were interlinked by thousands of , the belief was current that the national state—particularly, the well organized, centralized state—is the essence of the historic life of a people. It was thought that as soon as a special form of government was overturned the people would turn loose like a of wild men. Then came the French Revolution and laid the prestige of the state low. A national society began to organize, outside the state, and became a historic factor of its own account. It then became evident that the state was not the only essence of the historic life of a people, that there were other factors equally, or even more important, and that no national historic life could exist without them. Only a short time before the French Revolution, a French historian said that the Chinese nation, despite its living a national life, is only existing in a historic sense, because it has no influence upon the historic process, and plays no part in the production of cultural values for the human race. In short, the Chinese nation lives outside the pale of history. Now then, if a people like that of China, numbering hundreds of millions of souls and living on its own soil under the of its own government, is placed in the category of nations that merely exist, other nationalities of smaller numbers and having no national government are certainly not to be classed as historically living nations.  
Liberal-minded thinkers, whose thought was influenced directly by the events of the French Revolution endeavored to minimize the historic glory of the state and reduce it to only one of the factors in the historic life of a people. The conservatives on the other hand endeavored to restore to the state its old glory. The was especially intense in Germany. Hegel, the father of conservative philosophy in Germany, raised the state to the pedestal of a , characterizing it as the aim and substance of historic development, in general, and as the most significant phenomenon in history. Johann Fichte, Hegel's contemporary and opponent, the father of the national in Germany gave society the first place, and looked upon the state as a necessary evil. He regarded culture, with the exception of art, as opposed to the state. The essence of historic life was to him not the political life of the people but its , science, religion and art. The state can have a positive attitude towards art alone—all the other elements, such as science, religion and ethics, must enjoy the freedom and independence which the state can not always grant to them. According to him, therefore, not political acts but scientific cognition and intellectual development are the driving forces in the historic life of a people.
Even Kant himself—who gave preference to the state—recognized a certain between ethics and the state. The state is the realm of law, while ethics has its origin in conscience. The romantic philosophy, which attempted to solve this problem from the standpoint of esthetics in the extreme individualism which found its highest[34] expression in the of Nietzsche. The superman, the great personality which a people produces is according to this doctrine the aim and end of history, and, naturally, that of the historic life of a people. Herder hinted at this conclusion, Schelling developed the doctrine and Nietzsche—the extremist of romanticists—perfected it. But this historic personality of the romantic philosophers is not only, as many are inclined to believe, an intellectual being. The great philosopher or the great artist is not the historic personality, but the man of great deeds; for history is first and foremost the realm of action and not that of thought. Nietzsche's "blond beast," that is, the man of great passions and great deeds, is the historic personality, that power in historic life, in general, and the life of the nation in particular.
If we look upon Jewish history in the Diaspora in the light of classic, or romantic, or even modern philosophy, we are bound to come to the conclusion that the Jewish people ceased to live a historic national life when it was exiled from its land. We have not lived a political life during the past two thou[35]sand years; hence we could not contribute to the civilization of mankind, for a national civilization is possible only in a national state. True, we have produced many great , but the Jewish great personality in the Goluth is not a great Jewish personality—in the majority of cases it is merely an intellectual personality: a poet, an artist, a philosopher, etc. Lord Beaconsfield certainly was a great historic personality; but who would dare claim this statesman as a Jewish historic personality—the product of Jewish culture? His deeds are chronicled in the history of the English people; his historic are the historic accomplishments of the English people. It was not the Jew Disraeli who the Suez Canal for the Jewish people, but the English statesman, the Lord Beaconsfield who acquired it for the English people.
The Jewish great personality displayed its talent in various intellectual fields, but did nothing in the political field, for which it lacked the necessary conditions. For two thousand years, we have lived an unhistoric life—the life of Chinese, with the exception that the Chinese live on their own soil and were spared the persecutions that fell to our lot. We out an existence; but we did not live. Hence the entire history of the Jewish people for the past two thousand years is a history of Jewish literature. Since the of the Jewish state, Judaism has been a literary tendency in general history; an interesting tendency, to be sure, occasionally even original, but not more than a literary tendency. Not our historic deeds but the abstract thought alone aided us in continuing our existence—our philosophy, poetry, ethics, and religious cravings kept us alive. We the bearers of that literary have been going a-begging for thousands of years. We wandered from land to land and from sea to sea without an end in view. All our political achievements have been concentrated in our memory for the past two thousand years. We remembered that we once were a people like every other people, and by the mere force of these memories we went wherever we were directed. Thus in our long travels we have become spiritualized, we have converted a system of national culture with laws and regulations about the state and its rulers to a system of theology. The ancient Hebrew culture which[37] is a culture became to us a sacred thing. The Hebrew prophets, who were historic personalities in the full sense of the word, because they were men of action, statesmen and of political battles, were raised by us to the category of saints in the theological sense. Thus the Hebrew culture was reduced to a mere theological system.
We lived in a Roman environment, that is, in an environment which draws its strength from ancient Rome, whose program was the state, practical civilization, wars, conquests, revolts, political reorganization, etc. In such an environment with its culture, there was no room for the ancient Jewish culture based on teachings, which, in order to be able to maintain its existence, was compelled to confine itself within the walls of the synagogue. In short, it is not only impossible to create new cultural values in the Diaspora but even to continue the thread of the ancient Hebrew idea, in essence an idea of civilization. In exile, more so in Roman exile, there was no past and no future for Judaism. Ancient Judaism was a historic and not a literary phenomenon; hence, since it has been the destiny of the Jewish people fo the past two thousand years to exist, and not to live a normal national life, it is even unable to preserve the memories of a historic past.
Then came Zionism. The nationalistic trend in history has influenced the Jewish people too. Zionism came not from the East, but from the West—from the centre of modern nationalism. Modern nationalism, unlike that of ancient peoples, is not a cultural nationalism; modern nationalism is nationalism in the sense of civilization and can be understood only in connection with the industrial revolution and the colonial expansion of the great nations. Zionism could not have come from the East; for the East is politically and industrially not developed to produce a movement which is both national and .
The Zionist platform is known to all: A publicly recognized and legally secured home in Palestine for the Jews. What is the historic meaning of this program? It is to convert an unhistoric people, that is, a people that does not live a historic life, to a normal historic people and to create for it all the factors necessary for a national civilization: a Hebrew administration, a national Hebrew economic life, a Hebrew education, a Hebrew social organization. The Zionist genius realized that there cannot be even national Hebrew culture without a national Hebrew civilization, for the culture of a people is only the roof on the of a national civilization, and to the culture which lays its foundation upon personalities and does not draw from the wells of the nation's civilization. At present there are only atoms connected to one another by the ties of national remembrances, spirit, tradition, and poetry. Zionism the building out of these atoms, which are throughout the world, of a national organism in the land of the Hebrews. And since every national polity and civilization is secular, with the exception of papal Rome and Tibet, the function of Zionism is to create those conditions which will again Judaism, and raise it to the pedestal of its ancient glory—to make it a historic force.
Goluth means: a scattered existence, and one of and affliction. Zionism means: a national historic life. And he who prefers a national life to a existence has no other choice than to join the Zionist ranks.

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