What often gives the world's prestigious clubs their prestige is the mystery lurking behind their acronyms. I asked an economics expert for the precise meaning of OECD, the name of the club that Israel was admitted to this week. Although the initials stand for Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, my expert promised me that our admission to this club is actually SOS, or - pardon the expression - the Same Old Shit. Or perhaps it is also VVAV, which stands for what King Solomon, the wisest human being who ever lived, wrote - i.e., "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2 ) - as a warning to posterity, knowing how much the Jewish nation longs for the glitter of international prestige.
I sighed, "OY," which is short for "oy-oy." After all, what are the principal features of these developed nations under whose roof we have been welcomed? High unemployment among the youth. A lot of refugees and asylum-seekers attracted to the bright (but false ) lights of the big city. The bankruptcy of the welfare state. High taxes. A new breed of slavery in the form of mortgages, overdrawn bank accounts and credit cards.
And most important: Whoever is accepted into this exclusive club of developed countries adopts the same contemptuous sneer when you have to dirty your hands with any kind of productive work. "Why should I have to work? Let the Chinese do the dirty work!" Granted, everyone has long been having their underwear sewn in China, and I am not just talking about the developed nations. The Chinese also assemble everyone's washing machines, toys, pencils and pens. However, those who belong to the OECD send the Chinese their dirty work with a cleaner conscience. Because they have the legitimacy to do so. After all, they are aristocrats, and aristocrats are not supposed to do what any ordinary Chinese can do for one-tenth of the price.
There is only one kind of work that citizens of the developed world are permitted to do: They can sell each other illusions. But only to other citizens of the developed nations.
"I will sell you a cellular phone for next-to-nothing; all you have to pay is 365 installments, interest-free. And, in return, you will sell me an amazing package of goodies, including a spa on the Dead Sea and, for a little extra, you can use all the points you have saved up on your credit card. I will buy from you a 250-inch plasma TV and you will buy from me all the recycled garbage that is broadcast on its screen. I (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ) will give you a speech about 'indivisible Jerusalem, our eternal capital' and you will give me authorization to destroy our relations with the United States, our historic friend."
Well, what can you do? There have been a few problems recently in the common-sense department. And that can happen even in the most developed countries.
The truth is that not everyone can be admitted to the OECD. You have to have real talent, even a certain kind of genius, for buying dear and selling cheap, for promising the Palestinians two states for two peoples and promising the settlers a Greater Israel, for supplying an air conditioner in 554 easy installments with a built-in Chinese midget who sits all cramped-up inside, waving a fan and singing classic Israeli bonfire songs in a lovely voice. And supplying a Filipina woman who does not need much more than a cup of rice a day and who will change diapers as well as launder underpants (sewn in China, as mentioned above ). "What, you mean that I of all people should change my father's diapers? Let the Filipina woman do it!"
There is something about this new-fangled method that sounds oddly familiar. Do any of you remember SHTETL, which stood for the East European Jewish village, those prestigious clubs which Jews in Galicia and other places belonged to - Jews who made their living off one another, as they cheated one another, as they scratched themselves and lolled about, waiting for the Messiah? They considered themselves more advanced than their neighbors who were stupid enough to grow KARTOFEL, which stands for potato in Russian, drink EDV (which stands for eau-de-vie, or brandy ) in their spare time and, when the spirit moved them, to grab a Jew and give him a beating.
In other words, my friends, while the inhabitants of France, Germany and America were still climbing trees, we the Jews of SHTETL had already invented the idea of the exclusive club of developed nations. So our admission this week to the OECD club is simply the righting of an historic injustice: official recognition that we were the first ones to come out with the patent!
And to top it all off, the Hebrew Bible, in its final pages, tells us about initials that appeared on the wall in the palace of a certain king, one of the most developed during that period. The king was unable to decipher the writing on the wall and so he summoned the Prophet Daniel, who immediately understood the message. "Yes, you are the head of a developed nation," Daniel told the king, "but the Persian army is at your gates, and tomorrow it will turn you into skewered meat and then your OECD will be worth you-know-what."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now