Sunday, May 22, 2016

Detective perspective – Ironside vs. Gibbs

Television provides a perspective of society, granted a circus-mirror one with some distortion. Viewing reruns of the 1960’s (1967-1975) detective series Ironside brought into focus how much society had changed in 50 years, especially in the background of a modern equivalent, NCIS.  Both series featured gruff crime-solving top police officers but working in completely different worlds.

The visual difference is the world around them. Ironside’s San Francisco has no Japanese or European cars or any vehicle smaller than a small yacht or more aerodynamic than a box. Apparently, the traffic and parking situation in SF was much better than as he has no problem finding a parking spot for his van, which resembles a Brinks armored vehicle. As for the clothes, no show is complete without one set of psychedelic colored garments just to remind us that hippies existing in the 1960’s. Curiously, there is almost no mention of the Bay Area gay community. Apparently, this was a bit risqué then

The social interactions reflect a major shift in the status quo.  Ironside has quite a different rapport with his assistants than Gibbs with his chief aides. Politically correct has definitely changed over more than half a decade. Gibbs may be direct and blunt in his critique of his team but it is directed at their work. He certainly does not question their genetic background and is even supportive of women in his own way. By contrast, Ironside is downright abusive to his female and black assistants. At least once an episode, he remarks that if she stops being so female, she should might make a good cop. Today most women would not put up with such verbal abuse and sue the department.  Even worse, Ironside treats Mark, his personal aide, not much better than a slave, feeling free to wake him up any time and constantly questioning his intelligence.  Mark in return often expresses resentment but for some reason does not quit the job or tell Ironside what a jerk he is. In the 1960’s, apparently, female and black officers still had to prove themselves and were willing to accept such abuse, at least in TV land.  What is more disturbing in a way is that, as a kid, I didn’t find this dialogue offensive. Audiences have changed also.

In terms of police work, the series are a world apart. In NCIS, McGee and DiNozzo have instantaneous access to all sources of information due to the computer while the lab can supposedly identify traces of anything. Alas, Ironside and his team had to use their feet (and chair) and head. They had to physically get all information and figure out whodunit on the basis of motive only without any micro tools. Life was much slower but much simpler too in TV crime. The criminals themselves in Ironside’s day were much less likely to call for lawyers or be involved in organized crime.  Ironside also felt much safer as AK-47’s were not typical tools of the criminal trade.

The world has truly changed since Raymond Burr was replaced by Mark Harmon. In terms of race relations and social tolerance, it has become better. On the other hand, TV land criminals were much less of a public threat in the days before Ben Laden and friends. I am looking forward to seeing detective shows 40 years from now.  What will there be, robots?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Yes, but, patriotically speaking

A casual observer might reach the conclusion that Israelis hate their country.  Everybody from left to right seems to constantly criticize it. Any decision or avoidance of decision is basis for derision of the government at all levels. No one is immune, from the Prime Minister to the street cleaner.  Every citizen seems to have at least one opinion.  There is an old joke about Ben Gurion’s visit to the USSR in the 1950’s when Israel’s population was less than half of today’s 8 million.  After being shown the magnificent achievements of Russia, Ben Gurion asks Stalin if anybody objects to these massive changes.  Upon hearing Stalin’s answer that there were around three million critics, Ben Gurion retorts by saying that he has the same problem.

That being said, Israelis are very patriotic.  Just this weekend, the Israeli flags at the Eurovision contest were larger than any others. Any international athletic achievement attains top news status even if the person involves does not become a hero. Average Israelis spontaneously defend their country throughout the Internet. During Independence Day last week, I saw countless people take time from the barbeques and watch the flyover of Israeli air force planes.  Even those who have emigrated from the country are vehemently pro-Israel.

 The basic and unique reason for this underlying consensus is quite simple. These are our airplanes, whether I agree or not with their use. These are our athletic achievements whether I believe athletes should be subsidized or not. This is our government, whatever my opinion of prime minister, not one does a favor to protect the Jews. This is even our humus, one eaten even by anti-Semitic leftists in the UK and France. 

This feeling of “our” exists for most countries but not in the same sense as for Jews. For more than 2000 years, Jewish physical existence was dependent on the “kindness of strangers.” The results were often disastrous. 68 years of nationhood have changed little in terms of security.  Yes, we may disapprove of many of its policies, but it is our country. We appreciate its existence.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Roamin Times

To begin, I was a classic “wandering Jew”.  My relatives from at least two generations took their legs and immigrated to a different country, not always by choice. One grandmother went from Russian to the United States while the other emigrated from Poland to France. My mother left France for the United States. I came to live in Israel.  I am fairly certain that my daughter will leave Israel to live in the United States, which she likes more than I do. So, there is a genetic factor there.  From the time I left home to go to college to the day I started my life in Karmiel, Israel, a period of more than ten years, I never lived in any city for more than three years.  A short list of these cities includes Santa Cruz, CA, Paris, France, Los Angeles, CA, Eugene Oregon, Portland, Oregon and Ashkelon, Israel.  I didn’t have to join the navy to see the world and became a bit of an expert on how to get started in a new city.

That being said, I can safely say that all cities are not created in equal in terms of ease of entrance.  The key factor is the percentage of residents not born in the place. On one extreme, there are villages and small cities that you are still considered new after three generations because, to mangle Einstein, everything is relative. On the other extreme are places like New York and Los Angeles, where the sheer number of “foreigners”, both domestic and foreign, is so large that your source of origin is merely a way to start a conversation and of little other significance. A peculiar situation is Paris. Half of the city consists of French Parisians while the other half are outsiders, both French and foreign.  I was quite lucky being half French and half “ericain” that I could enter both worlds, that of my Parisian family and that of the temporary and permanent émigré community. I felt quite at home and would still do today even if I believe Paris is an unhealthy city to live due to the stress and diesel fumes, no matter how exciting it is be there.

My way of starting anew was to do what I enjoy, Balkan folk dancing. Wherever I went, I found the local group or groups, joined them and immediately had a social circle.  I once unashamedly (at the time) crashed a wedding a few days after my arrival in Portland, merely following my new found acquaintances to the wedding even though I had never met either the bride or groom.  Nobody said anything to me, whatever that means. Between my hobby, work and studies, I was able to quickly create a social circle. Being young, male and a good dancer didn’t hurt either. I suppose newcomers join churches and synagogues for the same reason.

I have now lived in Karmiel, Israel, a small town of 50,000 people in the north, for over 27 years. I have been married twice and raised my daughter here. Since the town was founded only in the late 1964, the number of native born residents is still relatively small. Curiously enough, I have no desire to roam anymore. During the Second Lebanese War, it was bit like the line of the Star Spangled Banner here, “And the rockets in air…” I preferred  being under effective house arrest in my own house in Karmiel than being at a five start refugee at a hotel in Herzeliya further south, much to the angst of my parents. I cannot tell you what exactly changed but my sense is that everybody has a time to roam and a time to create a nest. I enjoyed my days of exploration and appreciate my days of attachment.