I’ve noticed that this ongoing blog of mine is being monitored by the CST - the self-styled ‘Community Security Trust’ (see the anonymous Comment attached to my February 22nd blog). I’ve been wondering over the last few weeks what to make of this, and how to respond. And I’ve also been doing some casual research on who exactly these people are, who claim that this organisation ‘represents British Jewry to Police, Government and media on antisemitism and security’ (see their website www.thecst.org.uk . (Incidentally, I've found that you can tell quite a bit about someone's - or a group's - attitude towards authority from the words they choose to give a capital letter to in their writing).
I’m sure the CST do valuable and necessary work. They enjoy cross communal support and co-operation in their stated aim, to ‘provide physical security, training and advice for the protection of British Jews’. In addition, they assist ‘victims of antisemitism’ and monitor ‘antisemitic activities and incidents’. (By the way, and I’m sorry to be pedantic, it is actually ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ – I know in these laissez-faire days, of texting and Twitter and email, almost anything goes in regard to language and spelling and grammar, but I happen to be attached to the outmoded view that language reflects the soul, and that imprecision of language reflects imprecision of thinking. And in these shriven times we need as much clarity of thinking as we can muster. And the so-called ‘people of the Book’ (capital letter) have a historic responsibility as guardians of language. But, as usual, I digress).
So the CST are significant players on the national scene. And increasingly so, as they are pleased to report. Their website boasts of an increased number of offices and staff. In other words ‘antisemitism’ [sic] is good for business. And that’s my problem (or one of them) with the CST. The ambiguity at the heart of their enterprise is that it’s security for us - and it’s jobs for the boys. The greater the perceived risks, the more they say they are needed. But who monitors the self-appointed monitors of anti-Semitism? To whom is the CST accountable? I just ask.
For there is a curious absence of such key information on the CST’s website, a slick affair that contains much practical and helpful information but is as revealing in what it doesn’t say as in what it does.
So just who decides – and how? – what constitutes an ‘incident’? Does a child who hears something in a playground and tells her mum, who then complains to the school, become another ‘victim’ of another ‘incident’? And does the fact that there’s a piece of graffiti scrawled on a wooden fence near my home (look away now if you are easily offended) – Gas Jews Cunts – mean that when I pass by it, as I have done nearly every day for the last five years , I too have become witness to another anti-Semitic ‘incident’? Again, I just ask.
The CST is a charitable trust. Established as such in 1994,they have been recording anti-Semitic incidents in the UK since (a nicely Orwellian touch, this) 1984. And anti-Semitism is real. And we can be thankful that there are those who are prepared to take that reality seriously (though I always thought that this is why we have a police force, and counter-terrorism units, and the rest of the privileges, paid for out of our taxes, of living in a security-conscious democracy). We know there are people who dislike Jews. We know there are those who even hate Jews. This isn’t paranoia, it’s just the grim facts of life.
But somehow it just isn’t good enough for my anonymous Comment-poster to add, as his (why do I know it is a ‘his’?) final words: ‘Just because one’s paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get one’. This genteel British variation on the old cliché - I do love that pseudo-refined use of ‘one’ – does rather give the game away. Because the problem with paranoia is that ‘one’ genuinely cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, ‘one’ cannot distinguish between real aggression directed at ‘one’ and projected aggression that originates from inside ‘one’s’ psyche - yet feels as if it is coming at ‘one’ from another person or group. Particularly a group, an undifferentiated ‘they’ (as in his quote above). No wonder the ‘ blogosphere’ has to be monitored so scrupulously – who knows how many ‘they’ are?
Let me be clear here. The CST does important work for the Jewish community. They need our support, particularly financially. Do give them this support if you are so minded. (You can donate online). But don’t suspend your independent-mindedness, your critical thinking capacities in the face of the rhetoric of increased levels of ‘threat’.
I take to heart what the CST says on its website: ‘The ethos of the CST is that the Jewish community is responsible for its own security’ . But I happen to think that my security is also served by asking questions, raising concerns, voicing my hesitation before going along uncritically with unexamined notions of ‘threat’. If there are vested interests at stake in the promotion of a lurid picture of rising ‘antisemitism’ [sic] in the UK, then the issue of what threatens us becomes rather more complex than it might seem to the casual observer.
An over-zealous promotion of the notion of threat is bad for our mental health and our emotional well-being. We can get trapped in a hall of mirrors where we don’t know what is real and what is a mere reflection of our own aggression. And in the long run it could prove counter-productive to our physical safety – as our puffed-up self-assertiveness gives rise to real antagonism at our self-justifying stance and victim-mentality language and behaviour.