The Big Hairy Hunter And His Little Brother

Now Esau was a rough man’s man, an alpha male perhaps, who brought home, in a manner of speaking, the bacon. His delicate brother Jacob was a mommy’s boy. Esau was straightforward to the point of stupidity, Jacob was a tricksy bastard. But whose was the posterity? Jacob is the patriarch of the Jews, Esau is the forefather of the Amalekites their enemies. In other words, the Jews fancied having the smooth douchebag as their ancestor, not the hairy hunter. And if we say that our entire civilisation descends from Jacob, then we Gentiles are in it too.

Later anti-Semites fastened on all the characteristics of Jacob and found in him everything that they did not like; the self-identification backfired. But to what does a preference for Esau commit us? Being straight rather than crooked is no doubt a good thing, and being a mighty hunter is a good thing too in many contexts, though not all. But Esau was also stupid. Poor impulse control was one thing, but he could not see things coming either. Now, it is a little-observed fact about the 19th-century racial theories that ultimately bred the Holocaust that the northern would-be supermen never attributed to themselves superior intelligence. On the contrary, they cheerfully admitted superior brains in all sorts of other peoples: the Jews, of course, but also the Mediterraneans and the Chinese. Given their connection between intelligence and duplicity, this is not as complimentary as it looks.

So what can we say about these spiritual heirs of Esau in opposition to the con-artist Jacob? They admitted that they were slower of speech and thought, but that only meant they were right. Because in their view being right has nothing to do with intelligence, only with character. You get this assumption also in what has been called “muscular Christianity” (Let Brits think of Baden-Powell and Americans of Teddy Roosevelt), not all of whose proponents were thick and not all of whom were racialist. Yet this strange idea, that rightness comes from not thinking very hard, or not being able to, has taken deep root. I would suggest that the driving force is this: attribute to yourself intelligence and you may be called upon to prove it; attribute to yourself “character” and you won’t be, as character is only discernible in non-laboratory situations – or was, until Milgram’s experiment. In other words, it is easier and more gratifying to boast of being an Esau – muscular, straightforward and stupid – than of being a Jacob – a conniving shit, but undoubtedly smart.

As for me, I think I am intelligent, or at least learnèd, which need not be the same thing, but I detest liars; I do not see the great antimony. Why cannot you be both intelligent and truthful? Had I lived in the time of Isaac, I am sure I would have hated both the brothers.

Posted on January 4, 2014 at 08:31 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, The Anatomy Of Stupidity

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