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'the jews' was a work by French post-modernist Jean-Francois Lyotard, which was half of one volume called "Heidegger and 'the jews'", written in 1990 as yet another salvo in the ongoing debate about whether or not Martin Heidegger was or was not a nazi. However, knowledge with or concern with Heidegger's philosophy or nazism is not neccesary for reading the first half of the book.

The main theory of 'the jews' (which Lyotard intentionally did not capitalize, because he said the book did not refer to Hebrew people as much as it referred to marginallized groups, be they Gypsies, artists, homosexuals or actual Jews, is that European society can never confront the presence of minorities in its midst. The way he expounds this argument is fascinating.

While I personally don't feel that comfortable with attempts to explain the Shoah, since I think it is beyond any ability I could imagine to explain, Lyotard's work can explain many more 'minor' forms of racism, such as the racism of my own country.

Lyotard's conception of the beginnings of what I will call racism (but including persecution and marginalization of any minority group) takes some interesting premises as its starting points, drawn from various European thinkers. One of these notions is the Kantian notion of the Sublime, a notion that Kant meant to be used in describing works of art.

Lyotard instead uses this notion to explain legal and social concepts, instead of artistic ones. He states that European society had always depended on these concepts to provide a blueprint for a society where everyone could be fulfilled. However, these concepts have always failed because they are sublime, that is they are concepts that can be imagined and thought of, but can never be represented or pictured or described.

For example, most of us in North America and Europe depend on a concept of justice on a day to day level, so that we can go about living our sane normal lives without someone sticking a knife in our gut without too much reason. And although this type of justice, at least for myself, is evident, the actual justice, the justice that normal everyday justice depends on, is a sublime concept, something we can't actually put into practice.

This inability of the driving concepts of "Western Civlization" to actually become manifest, even after 2500 years of trying, creates a tension in society. This knowledge that the very things we depend upon are the things that can't actually be described causes an insecurity.

Now, there is no way I can talk personally about how this would relate to murdering millions of people. But according to Lyotard, the historical Hebrew people were persecuted because it was them who brought the notion of an unknowable God to the Europeans. This continued reminder that there was a greater reality underlying what they thought was reality angered the German people. As long as there was this greater reality that had to be taken into account, there was always the possibility that there best laid plans would not fit together and bring them fulfillment, no matter how good it looked on paper. And this, eventually, caused them to want to supress this facet of their reality. This took many forms over the years, ending (at least for now) with the Shoah.

While I don't know if this is the best argument for the attempted destruction of the Jewish people, I think it does explain much of the racism I see around me. The continued presence of people who either can't or won't be assimliated into the American system, despite the fact that its educational and social system promise fulfillment for all, is evidence that its plans are not working as well as they should. Thus, these peoples greivances must be repressed and ignored.

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