Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stuck in Verbal Mode

Back when I was younger there was an acronym that some males used in describing females who weren't very "accommodating." That acronym was NATO--no action, talk only. Forgetting its origins for a moment, that acronym ought to be put back into use today, but let's apply it to huge swathes of Klal.

It is the nature of the Internet that the communication that takes place on it is verbal in nature. We "talk" to each other via our writings. And yes, there is an awful lot of that talking going on. Even face to face encounters are verbal ones--we talk to each other. Both online and in the real world you cannot help but listen to/participate in the talk about the problems that are facing Klal. We have a tuition crisis, we have a shidduch crisis, we have a chumrah crisis, and on and on. We decry what is going on, and yes, I'm one of those decriers as well. Yes, the talking needs to be there. It is through discussing problems, through delineating the parameters of those problems, that possible solutions can come about. But here's the thing--we have been talking about some of those problems for what seems like forever. What has not been done is the taking of any action, or taking such poorly thought out action that the effect of that action is nil. So what is the result of all that talk? So far, virtually nothing. Why?

Well, one reason is fear. Yes, fear. Many are afraid that any action they take, even if warranted, will have repercussions on them and on their families. At best you'll be called a trouble maker, and who wants that label? And yup, they might just label you an apikores or soneh Yisroel. Your social life might suffer. And for sure "they" are going to tell you that it's going to be bad for shidduchim for your kids. So we continue to suffer, not in silence with each other, but without doing something about the pain that afflicts us.

I remember once getting a rather nasty splinter embedded deep in my finger. Almost immediately the area around that splinter swelled up. It was hard to use my hand with the splinter in place. I tried some home remedies first, hoping it would pop up and out, but when those didn't work I finally went to the doctor to have it removed. This was no longer a problem I could handle by myself and I was going to need some help from others. He told me that first he was going to have to pop the blister and remove the pus. Oh yuk. But that was only step one and is analogous to all the talking we do about the problems facing us. He warned me that popping the blister was not going to solve my problem. He could drain the blister today but it would be full again tomorrow. The only permanent fix was to take out the splinter. Because the splinter was so deeply embedded this was not going to be a simple job. There was going to be some cutting of skin and underlying tissue involved and yes, some pain as well.

Well, I didn't really have a choice at that point. That splinter was only going to keep on giving me problems if I left it in. So I bit the bullet and he prepared to cut the splinter out. There was no way to get the splinter out in one piece. The doctor ended up having to remove each fragment of the splinter one piece at a time. No, it wasn't fun and yes there was pain. And no, the pain did not go completely away as soon as the splinter was out. Where the splinter had been there remained a sore spot and it was going to take a while for new , healthy skin to grow into place. But here's the thing--that healthy skin did grow and the finger was perfectly fine. But it took some pain and time for that to happen. And that is akin to the actions that we try to avoid to solve our problems.

Not taking on the problems head on doesn't mean they will miraculously go away on their own. Yes, there is some pain involved in removing those "splinters" that are making life uncomfortable for some in Klal, but you need to ask yourself the hard question: is it better to go through life with a splinter embedded that is always flaring up or to face some pain in removing it and letting it heal?

What remains is for people to ask themselves the following: Is the pain of tuition, for example, something that's like a little ache that's annoying but it can be lived with, or is that pain like that deeply embedded splinter, bad now and getting worse? If it's like that splinter then we're going to have to bite the bullet and take it out, even if it comes out in small pieces, one at a time.


Tuvi said...

Interesting moshul using the splinter but let me carry it further. For some of the problems the Jewish community is facing trying to remove the splinter is too late. The finger is going to have to be amputated if not the whole hand. The problems are beyond repair--they need getting rid of altogether.

Like what? Like the insistence on sleep away camps for everyone and heading off to Israel as a must for all kids. Like insisting that all boys HAVE to sit and learn for years after high school before the schools might, maybe consider letting them train for some kind of work. Like the craziness that represents how smachot are made in our communities.

Tuition may be in some cases like that splinter but for some people the pain is so bad that amputation may be the only answer.

Anonymous said...

How about this. You know that you need to get help and you know you need a doctor. But all the doctors are busy doing something else and there's no one to help you and you can't take care of things by yourself. And then you finally find one doctor but what he is suggesting just doesn't sound like what you need. So you go and see other doctors and each one has a different solution to your problem and none of them fit what you want or need or can afford. Your trying to get help but it's just not available or help that you can live with. What then? Seems like there's no agreement among the doctors as to what the cure should be. But everyone would love to have you be the guinea pig to experiment on.

BE said...

Not so sure that the time for talking is over. There's been a lot of complaining and even some suggestions for alternatives thrown out, but so many of those suggestions just aren't going to be acceptable and don't really solve anything.

Saying that public school is an alternative to yeshiva education is not a viable suggestion for the whole community and even not for most people. Those who would send to public school would do so whether or not the community approves. The others won't. So how is that a workable solution?

Home schooling is an option for only a very small part of the community. Some parents just don't have the knowledge or ability to do it. And then there is the fact that we have a large number of working mothers. Just who is supposed to be doing that home schooling?
It's time for some real plans with a whole lot of details on how they would work to be put out. And in those plans I'd like to see some working suggestions about how parents could force the current yeshivas to change what they are doing. Not enough exploring how to do that that has been done.

Yossi said...

It's not just a problem for the jewish communities, this talking but not acting. You see it in the secular world also. Things are wrong, lot of things but you don't see all that much action in bringing about a change. Seems that people today are just not into being the force for change although lots of them would like the changes to be there.

I tried in shul to get people in my minyan to sign a letter that would go to one of our local schools. The letter was asking for a tuition freeze for the next two years. The letter said that the people signing the letter all wanted the freeze and wanted a meeting with the board telling us what might have to be changed to get that freeze. Couldn't get more then 3-4 people who were willing to sign. A lot said they might sign if they saw hundreds of names on the letter but they weren't willing to make themselves targets for the yeshiva by being only a few people. If you can't gert people to sign a simple letter then how are you going to get them to take a larger action?!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:05: A more apt analogy is your finger is swelling and turning green and starting to ooze some puss so you call your local doctor and he is booked solid. Your friend suggests you call his doctor. You do so, but he is not taking new patients. You try your mother's doctor, but he has just retired. There is a new doctor in the area accepting new patients. He is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, went to Harvard Medical and did his residency and fellowships at Johns Hopkins but he's not frum, (heck maybe he's reform or a gentile and his name sounds foreign), you would have to drive a few extra miles and none of your neighbors or members of your shul have gone to him and his office is in strip mall. You are also afraid that someone might see you going into a strange doctors office. So, you wait until your regular doctor can see you. By then the infection has spread up your arm and it has to be chopped off.