When All Narratives Are Created Equal

Universal values have lost their validity - and that includes the very notion of tolerance itself.

Grandma, nobody is going to eat your doughnuts this year unless you make them from whole-wheat flour, fry them in organic oil, and fill them with sugar-free jam that doesn't have any food coloring. Grandma's mouth drops open and she bursts into laughter. Then I wake up from the dream. Fortunately for her, my grandmother passed away at a ripe old age 30 years ago.

In those days, everyone knew his place. Grandmothers made doughnuts at Hanukkah and Hamantaschen at Purim and not the other way around; mothers called their children home to eat dinner from the kitchen window; Negroes weren't African Americans; and Berlin was not a hip destination but a despised place.

Then the "post" era came along - postmodernism, post-Zionism - and every possible meta-narrative was declared bankrupt. Alongside the narrative of the War of Independence, the Nakba narrative settled in as an equal among equals. Alongside the narrative of the family came the narrative of then-new-fangled in-vitro fertilization. Alongside the narrative of the ingathering of the exiles came the narrative of Shas and the disadvantaged Mizrahim; alongside the narrative of security sprang the narrative of Palestinian oppression.

In other words, we were all called upon to accept things that would have made people's hair stand on end in my grandmother's day. Such as: Hanukkah doughnuts filled with dulce de leche! It really all began to go wrong when those dulce-de-leche-filled doughnuts showed up. Whoever heard of such a thing? It was all downhill from there. Teens began to avoid army duty because their conscience did not permit them to oppress Palestinians. Skullcap-wearing youths were protesting because their conscience did not permit them not to oppress Palestinians. And among the craziness, Haredim, too, decided that women and men should not mix on streets or buses.

What makes this craziness different from the others God only knows. But it, too, is entirely a product of the new age, where universal values have lost their validity - and that includes the very notion of tolerance itself. Suddenly people began to ask: If I impose equality between women and men on everyone, in the name of tolerance, maybe this will be considered colonialist: i.e., the imposition of Western Enlightenment ideas on groups with ancient, non-Western customs, who consider women to be unequal and believe they should cover themselves in a veil, or with a scarf, or walk on their hands.

After all, such a perception - that the West, in its colonialist manner, constantly forces its values upon the rest of the world and calls such oppression tolerance - was promoted by that "pope" of thought, Edward Said, and others were quick to follow. And now, when our intellectuals swear in the name of Said, or Michel Foucault, or some other postmodernist thinker, they must also accept (albeit with gritted teeth ) that in the name of anti-colonialism, Haredim also have every right to force their women onto the back benches of buses, because that is what their ancient customs dictate.

Therefore woe be the People of Israel's rejoicing over that daring lady who violated Haredi customs and sat in the men's part of the bus a few days ago. That act did not actually constitute a declaration on behalf of individual freedom: Indeed, nothing could be more reactionary. This whole incident takes us back 30 years, if not 50, to the days when freedom was considered a universal right, and when tolerance was primitively perceived as acceptance of anyone who agrees with me. As for the rest, they should first learn to be human beings like me, and then go make their demands.

Well, those days are gone for good. The new tolerance holds that even those whose lifestyles I secretly or openly loathe, such as the Muslims in Europe or the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, may live their own way, which indeed bothers me and offends me just as I bother them and offend them. And all this offense can lead to a pretty good doughnut, with organic jam and dulce de leche - but also sugar and food coloring.

But for that, we need the wagging tongues to understand once and for all that all narratives are equal. The secular narrative, or the leftist one, or both, are - what can you do? - merely one narrative among many.