Sunday, July 08, 2007

On Making Offensive Generalizations

This is one of the most offensive articles I have read in a long time: link

In it, Jonathan Rosenblum accuses professionals in general as having less faith than businessmen. Rosenblum's claims come from, from what I can tell, a total lack of experience in the corporate world. Or, at least, from experiences that vary dramatically from mine. From what I know, his description of the corporate world is correct for many people in their first few years of working, and maybe for a minority throughout their careers.

First of all, successful professionals are, essentially, businessmen. Whether we are discussing lawyers or accountants who become partners in their firms, or investment bankers or traders who need to make deals and sell products, or politicans who need to broker agreements, etc. etc.

Second of all, I personally chose my major (Math) based on my own abilities and the career possibilities. I also know doctors who chose Pre-Med for the same reason. I actually can think, right now, of only one person who chose his career path based on noble reasons, which, to some degree, is probably a sad commentary on me and my friends.

Third, people in the corporate world lose promotions and jobs, just like businessmen lose fortunes. Some of the computer programmers I know have gone to work every day for the past few years thinking (correctly) that there is a good chance that they will be told upon arriving that they have been fired. Not to mention that, for many, the bulk of their income comes from bonuses which vary greatly from year to year, often based on many factors that are beyond any individual's control (such as the multi-national company's overall success in the year).

Fourth, I do not have the statistics handy but my impression is that the vast majority of huge philanthropists in the Jewish community -- think people with institutions named after them -- live at the top of corporate ladders.

Fifth, pardon me for trying to read Rosenblum's mind but this article seems to me to be an attack on college education. He seems to be saying that people don't need a college degree to make a living. They can just buy a business and work it to success. That is true for a minority of people in the community. Those who are good at business do not necessarily need a college education. But God gives everyone different sets of skills and those who were not given business acumen will generally not succeed financially without a college education.

Let me add, and this is only slightly related to the article, that there seems to be an unrelenting attack on balebatim in the Yeshivish world that I don't think existed 25 years ago. The general impression given at every possible opportunity is that if you aren't a professional Jew, learning in kollel or giving millions of dollars to yeshivas then you are a bedi'eved Jew, a necessary evil to be pitied and denigrated. In my opinion, this is not only contrary to thousands of years of Jewish tradition, it is unwise because eventually such people will look elsewhere for leadership rather than endure second-class citizenship. The article under discussion here is essentially following this party line, which is understandable given Rosenblum's position in his community. So I do not blame him. Yet, I sense that this attitude is self-destructive; and that gives me little comfort because, while waiting for this community to implode under the weight of its lack of foresight, I see real people's lives and spiritual well-beings being destroyed as well.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More