Jul 7, 2010

Feeling Good

Fox News reported:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world. Please tell me he isn't serious!

Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel. No explanations as to how this will happen when Moslems get zero credit for any advances in space travel made to date.

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering ," Bolden said in the interview. Now this is post-worthy!

Never mind that Moslem contributions in recent centuries are negligible and the claims made about inventions associated with Moslem countries are so far in the past that many of them have no reliable confirmation.  Let's put aside, for the moment, the extremely alarming attitude our president has towards the nations of the world and his groveling before our enemies and focus on just how far the self esteem movement has gone.

All those books, articles, and speeches on self-esteem that we have been subjected to, in and out of the frum world, are not just about positivity and confidence. It goes much, much further than that. It's all about "feeling good about yourself" just l'sheim feeling good.  Can you imagine people in the shtetl or wherever Jews lived throughout the ages, being asked: Tell me, do you feel good about yourself? For that matter, l'havdil, any non-Jew past a certain age finds this sort of talk odd for this is very, very new talk.

In days gone by though not so long ago (1973-1983), heading the list of qualities that American parents said they most valued in children were:

obeys parents well
has good sense and judgment

followed by being responsible, considerate and other similar values.

My guess as to what today's American parents would say as their #1 priority for their children is a toss-up between "their being happy" and "having self esteem."  And how are children faring today as compared to a few decades ago? In the frum world we seem to be suffering from a multitude of problems that no, I don't think were merely hidden before and were there along to the extent we have them today.  I think we are experiencing an explosion of destructive, counter-productive, undisciplined, un-Jewish behavior.  I don't attribute all our problems to the promotion of self-esteem as opposed to G-d-esteem, but it definitely ranks up there as a major contributor to our lack of well-being

The focus in Avodas Hashem is, or ought to be, Hashem, not self. It's not about feeling good about yourself, but about whether Hashem is happy with you.  Time to get back to basics.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the reason that the promotion of self-esteem has hurt frum society is that frum society is built on a hierarchy of authority that will naturally put some members of that society on a lower rung. In America where all are made to feel equal, a subculture in which all people are not equal has a hard time existing.
    The functioning of frum society also depends on its members giving up the "self" to contribute to the group as a whole. That means dressing like the group, donating money to the group, and accepting the role that the group assigns (example, women are not picked as shul officers).
    Promoting self-esteem and individualism doesn't work in a society where all must accept the leadership of the one or ones in charge. Men wear black hats, not a choice of colors. Our customs don't change with the change in fashions. If we do that, our communities fall apart and we are just random Jews in general society without the backing of a cohesive groupl