March 15, 2005

Happy at Last in Israel

Thought provoking as always, the insightful Michael J. Totten writing on The Paradox of Terror tries to come to terms with an unsettling recent poll.

Three different countries were recently polled, and respondents were asked whether or not they were satisfied with their lives. The three countries were Israel, the United States, and Canada.

Now. Ask yourself which of these three countries is probably the happiest, and which is the most distraught. I would have guessed Canadians would be happiest, followed by Americans, and then Israelis. And I would have gotten it exactly backward.

In Israel 83 percent say they are happy.

In the United States 64 percent say they are happy.

In Canada only 45 percent say they are happy.

Totten speculates briefly on why this should be so and reaches the conclusion that terrorism is an utter failure if it seeks to create unhappiness in a society.

That is as it may be, but the item made me remember Louis.

Louis was a close friend in college when I was at Berkeley during the mid to late Sixties. And yes, it was all that you've heard about it and more. There are those that say that if you remember the Sixties, you weren't there. That is as it may be, but I remember them all too clearly. One of the things I remember is Louis' paranoia.

Louis was a radical. Louis smoked a lot of weed. Louis dropped a lot of acid. Louis started, and had no little success with, a publishing company that printed up a lot of radical images that proved very popular. As a result, Louis was paranoid. He was paranoid about his politics. He was paranoid about his stash. He was paranoid about his money. He was paranoid that "they must bust in early May,/ Orders from the D.A."

Louis was a history major, and Louis was an American Jew with communist parents. As Louis said, "I've got my reasons to be paranoid and they're not little ones."

These were paranoid times, with reason, but we all agreed that in terms of the Paranoia Olympics, Louis took the gold in a very crowded field in Berkeley.

Time moved on and, as usually happens, everyone in our little radical set drifted apart. I moved to New York and lost track of everybody. Then, one day at my magazine job, my phone rang. It was Louis, checking in after about 10 years.

We arranged to have lunch and catch up. "Where can I take you? I've got a killer expense account." "Doesn't matter," Louis said, "as long as it's kosher." "Kosher?" "Kosher. You know I'm a Jew, but now I'm really a Jew."

We met somewhere down near Hester Street at some blintz palace. Louis walked in looking tanned, rested, ready and decidedly unparanoid. In fact, he looked confident and happy for the first time in living memory.

He guided me through the menu and told me about his life since leaving Berkeley. In short, he'd gone back to Israel under the law of return and was living in Tel Aviv working for the Jerusalem Post.

I was flabergasted. "Louis,' I said, "let me see if I've got this straight. You are the most paranoid person I've ever known."


"Okay, but you were, right?"


"So, as a paranoid, pot-smoking, acid-head, radical communist Jew, you've moved to the one place in the world where it is most dangerous to be a Jew?"

"You got that right."

"Louis, have you gone finally insane?"

'No. I've gone sane. Israel is the best place to be if you're a paranoid Jew."

"Really. How come?"

"It's simple really. Isreal is the one place on earth where, if you are a Jew, you really KNOW who your enemies are. It's not vague. They're right there. You know where they live. At last, I'm someplace where I know what is what and who is who. Plus there's an extra benefit."

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"They give you a machine gun."

Posted by Van der Leun at March 15, 2005 10:10 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Where's my machine gun?

Posted by: RLS at September 21, 2003 4:29 PM

Ha! Great post.

Posted by: Solomon at September 21, 2003 6:22 PM

Fantastic post!

Posted by: Jeremiah at March 15, 2005 2:43 PM