Sunday, April 21, 2013

Richard Wagner's Jewish Friends

Something people do not normally expect is that people's attitudes often are quite out of line with their actual behavior.  Psychologists have known of the "Attitude/behavior discrepancy" since the 1930s and it is particularly seen in anything to do with race relations. 

Going further back -- into the 19th century -- we also see there some curious combinations.  The communist Karl Marx was furiously antisemitic, even though he was himself Jewish!  His essay, "Zur Judentum", is well known in that connection but his hate of Jews  emerges powerfully in his correspondence with Engels too. 

And the man who coined the term "antisemitism" (he thought it was a good thing) -- The German Leftist Wilhem Marr -- three times married Jewish ladies, despite his furious antisemitism.

And the article below details a similar disjunction between the attitudes and behavior of composer Richard Wagner.

So what do we conclude from that?  In a word: caution about generalizing.  And no-one generalizes like Leftists.  Their scattergun accusations of all sorts of things being racist are simply empty-headed.

What I conclude is that it is only behaviour that matters. Words are just not useful as predictors of evil deeds.  So it is only a person who does actual harm to another person solely because of that person's race who is a real racist.  It is deeds, not words, that count.  Judging by his deeds, Wagner was actually philosemitic, rather than antisemitic

Richard Wagner, the 19th Century German composer of opera, has long been noted for his strident expressions of anti-Semitism. The most opprobrious of these has been his infamous Judaism in Music, an essay published in 1850 at the age of 37. Apart from the racist tone, it states in essence that Jews were capable of neither creating nor appreciating great art. It is with justification that he is today deemed a racist, thorough and through, with the bulk of his contempt directed at the Jews as a sub-population in his native German land.

Little noted by modern writers however is the fact that his racism seems exactly the opposite of the modern variety. Post Hitler almost no one admits to harboring such tendencies, even the many exhibiting obvious racial or religious prejudice in their daily lives. It was the opposite with Wagner. He expressed in speech and writing his overt animosity toward many groups, most explicitly toward the Jews, whom he seemed to target as a group, like some amorphous entity. Strange to say, but a fact nonetheless, in his dealings with individuals, he judged by only one attribute, namely whether the individual supported him in his life’s work, or opposed him. What ultimately mattered to him was not race or religion, but the realization of his artistic goals, his concept of art. Good and bad, right and wrong, were judged by that one criterion. With many of his close associates, including many Jews, he developed warm, close, and empathetic relationships.

We might begin with one young Jewish man named Samuel Lehrs, a struggling philologist. Lehrs was one of three of Wagner’s close friends during the composer’s two year sojourn in Paris as a young man, beginning almost ten years before his infamous essay. He, like his three friends was battling for recognition and even for basic survival. Wagner, hopelessly in debt, and earning next to nothing, was helped by the labors of his wife Minna. But his empathy for his very sickly friend, Lehrs, was boundless. In April 1842, Wagner and his wife left Paris for Dresden, but his concern for his friends centered most on Lehrs, whom he felt he would not see again. In his autobiography, written about 30 years later, in his mid-50s, he credited Lehrs with his own introduction to and absorption with philosophy, and in large part with his interest in medieval poetry. It was also Lehrs who had furnished him with source material for two of his early operas.

He continued to correspond haltingly with Lehrs, and with his other Paris friends, to whom he eagerly sought news about Lehrs and his condition, chiding them when they sent what he felt to be insufficient information. He ended one of his letters with “I don’t want to know anything about you, only about Lehrs.” He finally heard again from Lehrs directly about a year after leaving Paris. Wagner responded “Be of good courage, my dear brother. Sooner or later we must be together again… enjoy the beautiful spring air which will bring you strength.” Lehrs died a few days after receiving the letter, and Wagner wrote his younger sister that the news left him dumb, speechless for almost 8 days. It was “heartbreaking… This brave wonderful and so unfortunate man will to me be eternally unforgettable.” In his autobiography, begun at age 55, he said his relationship with Lehrs “was one of the most beautiful relationships of my life.”

Another of Wagner’s unforgettable relationships began in May 1858. The 45 year old composer was living in Zurich as a fugitive from Saxony, having participated in an unsuccessful uprising. The new friend was a 16 year old Polish Jewish lad, a student of Wagner’s friend, Franz Liszt, and an extraordinarily talented pianist. His name was Karl Tausig, and he bore a letter of introduction from Liszt. He exhibited to Wagner his virtuosity on the piano. That meeting came 8 years after his infamous essay about the Jews.

Wagner was almost literally swept off his feet by what he heard. The childless composer took not only an immediate deep interested in the youth for his musical skills, but also a surprising paternal interest. He assisted in finding him nearby living quarters. The boy was a frequent visitor in Wagner’s home where they took many meals together, and together they often made mountain hikes in the towering Alps that abounded in the Swiss countryside. In letters to his wife, then living temporarily in a hospital, as well as to Liszt in Weimar, Wagner waxed most eloquently about the virtues of his new friend. They parted in August when Wagner left for Venice alone. The stark incompatibility between him and his wife, surfaced again after her release from the hospital, and finally resulted in separation.

In Paris, he also had a very close and friendly relationship with the Jewish composer Jacques Halévy, a composer, 14 years his elder. Wagner tells us in his autobiography that he had a very high opinion of his “masterly talent,” and that he enjoyed his many talks with the “peculiarly good hearted and unassuming man.” He also explained that it was Halévy’s candor, in assessing the worth or lack of it in contemporary music that “justifies the participation of all Jews in our artistic concerns.” While writing for a musical journal in Paris, Wagner’s essays were filled with laudatory comments about Halévy’s operas.

Wagner again met Tausig in May 1861in Vienna, Wagner’s residence for the next three years. In Vienna, as in Paris, he had also had three close friends, two of whom, this time, were Jewish. One was the 26 year old Heinrich Porges, a musician of some talent, but whose greater talent seemed to be writing about musical matters. The other was Tausig, at 19, no longer merely boyish but, in many respects, more an equal of his famous composer friend. Tausig soon introduced him to Peter Cornelius, the only non-Jewish member of the new triumvirate. Cornelius was then 38 and had his own plans to write opera.

About Tausig, Wagner wrote to Minna that “the confounded boy” was just as amusing as ever, but not so insolent. He wrote a little later to her that “Little Tausig… helps me now and then to a playful smile.” About a year later the three friends gave a three concert series of his music in Prague. Wagner laughingly told Porges that this was the first money he earned from his compositions.

In 1864, Wagner’s fortunes changed dramatically. One of his most ardent admirers, Ludwig II ascended to the throne as King of Bavaria upon the death of his father. Ludwig was willing, even eager to help the increasingly frustrated composer, finances being one of the means of doing so. Tausig, at this time, was heavily engaged with other matters, both artistic and romantic, but Wagner quickly wrote to both Porges and Cornelius asking them to come to Munich where he had relocated, and cast their respective lots with him. To Porges he made a generous offer of money (from the Bavarian treasury) and living quarters of his choice. His duties were to be those of secretary and copying of business matters, manuscripts, and musical arrangements, which, he wrote, would not be burdensome and would be better than the “dreary business” of giving lessons, which he was now doing. His letter to Porges, his Jewish friend, read in part: “If you accept you will make me very happy! You know of course that the secretary is merely an excuse for having my friend here with me. If you wish to bind your life to mine... you will, I hope, never have cause to regret it. And how important, how splendid, and how reassuring it will be for me to have my witty and friendly companion here beside me!”

Porges, at that time refused the offer, but shortly thereafter spent so much of his time working so closely with the composer for the balance of Wagner’s life that he might as well have.

The biggest and most daunting challenge was the production of Wagner’s grandly conceive “Ring of the Nibelung,” a four opera series, requiring the building of a new theater, and would make extraordinary demands on the artists, and on the necessary scenery. It could not be paid in its entirety by the Bavarian treasury. Financing was perhaps the most important challenge.

Wagner turned to Tausig. His young friend’s ideas for raising funds, new at the time, included the formation of “Wagner Clubs” throughout Europe and America. He worked out the idea and the details of a guarantee fund to be paid by patrons through the sale of “patron certificates,” offering free seats for all the performances. In one of his letters, Wagner described Tausig as the “life and soul of the project.” But, as happened all too frequently, in that as in earlier centuries, illness struck suddenly and lethally. In Tausig’s case it was typhus. He died in July 1871 at age 29.

Wagner was devastated. He complained to his second wife, Cosima, about the “stupidity of fate, snatching Tausig away” when he had so much to live for. That night, he dreamed about Tausig. A week later he spoke to her about the melancholy of nature and himself. “Since Tausig’s death I have no will for anything except business matters and the children’s lessons. I just cannot manage to write personal letters.” A year later he wrote a short poem as an epitaph placed on Tausig’s tombstone. It lamented his so premature death and paid tribute to his courage. In May 1873 came a 19 page report to the patrons of the Festival Theater then under construction in Bayreuth. He acknowledged the help and support of many friends and acquaintances, but only one did he mention by name: “The exceptionally talented and energetic Karl Tausig embraced the matter as a task peculiarly falling to himself.” The short poem Wagner had written for his friend’s tombstone was repeated in the report.

There were other close friendly relationships with Jews in this period, some of them spanning Wagner’s entire life. Among them should be mentioned the Lehmann women, Marie the mother of Lilli Lehmann, who made her mark in the world of music as a Wagnerian soprano, and of her other daughter, also named Marie, who was distinguished from her mother by the nickname Riezl. Wagner was friends with all three women, but his favorite was Lilli. Both sisters sang in the first “Ring” performances in the Bayreuth Theater in the summer of 1876. They were two of the three legendary Rhinemaidens in the first and last operas, and two of the Valkyries in the second opera. Lilli also sang the offstage role of the Woodbird in the third opera.


Why strict parenting 'won't harm children': Harsh discipline such as verbal threats or spanking are offset by child's feeling of being loved

Being a strict parent is good for children - as long as it is done with a little love and affection.

A study of teenagers found the painful effects of harsh discipline - such as verbal threats or spanking - are offset by the child’s feeling of being loved.

The researchers said being punished is unlikely to result in antisocial behaviour further down the line, as long as the child believes their punishment is coming from ‘a good place’.

The use of harsh discipline on youngsters is controversial with it carrying a greater risk of manifesting aggression, delinquency and hyperactivity.

However, the new findings published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice suggest a scolding or slap can be moderated by the recipient’s feelings of being loved by their mother.

The study of a group of Mexican-American adolescents found having a loving mother - or the ‘perception of maternal warmth’ - protected against encouraging any antisocial behaviour.

And even where the child’s perception of maternal warmth was lower, it still resulted in a positive relationship between harsh disciplinary practices and later ‘externalising’ problems.

Dr Miguelina German, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, explained ‘attachment theory’ holds that warm, responsive parenting is the critical factor in producing happy, secure children.

The underlying belief that their parents love them protects against feelings of rejection, even when being harshly disciplined.

Dr German said the use of harsh parental discipline does not automatically result in antisocial behaviour in the child.

She added: 'The relationship between the two is conditional and subject to other factors.  'Where harsh disciplinary practices are a cultural norm, there are always other influences at play that can lessen their potential harm on the young child.'

Previous research has found children are more likely to grow into well adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians.

Traditional ‘authoritative’ parenting, combining high expectations of behaviour with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more ‘competent’ children.

It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, according to the 2009 study by researchers from London’s Institute of Education.


9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear challenge to gay therapy ban

A federal appeals court is to hear arguments Wednesday on whether a first-of-its-kind law that prohibits licensed mental health professionals in California from offering therapies aimed at making gay and lesbian teenagers straight violates the civil rights of practitioners and parents.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering two legal challenges to the ban on "sexual orientation change efforts" that was passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall.

The ban, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, was put on hold by the 9th Circuit pending resolution of the closely watched cases. It spurred similar legislation still being considered by lawmakers in New Jersey.

The law states that therapists and counselors who treat minors with methods designed to eliminate or reduce their same-sex attractions would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. The activities of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs would not be covered.

The cases before the appeals court — brought by professionals who practice sexual orientation change therapy, two families who say their teenage sons benefited from it and a national association of Christian mental health counselors — argue that the ban infringes on their free speech, freedom of association and religious rights, and in the case of the counselors, jeopardizes their livelihoods.

"The state has determined that the only permissible message (is that) same-sex attractions, behavior or identity are to be accepted, supported and understood, thus suppressing all other viewpoints to the detriment of licensed professionals and their vulnerable minor clients," lawyers for the families, several practitioners and the professional group said.

"The viewpoint of counselors who in their professional judgment determine that same-sex attractions conflict with the religious and moral beliefs of clients and are not desired, is silenced by SB 1172. This raises a serious constitutional question."

Supporters, including the governor and Attorney General Kamala Harris, say the prohibition on "reparative" and "conversion" therapy is necessary to protect children from a coercive practice that can put them at increased risk of suicide and whose efficacy has been questioned or rejected by every major mental health professional association.

Harris is refusing to defend the law in court, arguing that it "is based on a scientific and professional consensus reached decades ago that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality and not a disease, condition, or disorder in need of a 'cure.'"

Reflecting the competing issues before the appeals court, the two Sacramento-based trial judges who handled the lawsuits in December reached differing conclusions on whether the ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

One refused to block the law after ruling that the plaintiffs were unlikely to prove the prohibition unfairly tramples on their civil rights and should therefore be overturned. The other said he found the First Amendment issues presented by the ban to be compelling and ordered the state to temporarily exempt the three people named in the case before him.

The panel hearing the cases Wednesday consists of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985, Judge Susan Graber, a 1998 appointee of Bill Clinton's, and Judge Morgan Christen, a 2012 appointee of President Barack Obama. The judges do not have a deadline for issuing a decision.


Hot sausage ban at the BBC: Workers told they must not pick up heated food or make their own toast in case they burn themselves

BBC workers are fuming after being told they are not allowed to pick up 'hot sausages' with tongs or make their own toast - in case they burn themselves.

Workers have complained to chiefs at the Beeb after the BBC Club took over running the canteen from another provider at the Media Centre in White City in Wood Lane, north west London, last week.

The BBC Club - set up as a private members club for BBC employees in 1924 - was put in charge of the cafe on April 2.

But after just over a week in charge, BBC staff are complaining that a 'new health and safety crackdown' has meant they can no longer make their own toast or pick up hot sausages - even with the tongs provided.

BBC worker Chris Malpas, who works in technology support, said service was 'chaotic' since the BBC Club took over.  He wrote: 'I fail to see how the now-club-run canteen at the Media Centre is supposed to be an improvement on what was available in White City previously.

'Not only does the counter/till service become chaotic when there are more than two people waiting, but at almost 35 years old I am suddenly no longer deemed qualified enough to prepare my own toast at breakfast time.  'This in spite of the fact that, as far as I can recall, I have never once trapped my hand in a toaster slot, or indeed suffered third degree burns whilst picking up sausages with tongs.

'I live in hope that these are just 'teething issues' but I fear that this is perhaps the BBC's way of encouraging us in W12 to dine elsewhere.'

Other BBC workers have also complained, saying it's 'health and safety gone mad'.

One, who asked not to be named, said today: 'I was told I couldn't pick up two sausages with the tongs to put in a roll because I might burn myself.  'The sausages were hardly sizzling hot, so there wasn't much chance of that in the first place, but I resent the fact that someone in a pinny can tell me I can't take care of myself. I'm perfectly capable of making a meal at home, so can easily manage a bit of self service.'

He also said that toasters available for self-service previously had been 'moved' and that workers had to ask canteen staff for slices of 'warmed bread' rather than make it themselves.

BBC staff are notoriously 'grumpy' about canteen food, with various employees complaining or 'rock hard baked potatoes, bad tuna and cold chips' and huge 20-minute long queues to get served at the BBC's new œ1bn revamped Broadcasting House HQ in London's West End.

The BBC canteen has long been the butt of jokes by comics, with Ronnie Corbett, Peter Sellers and Terry Wogan all having a pop at it in the past.

Terry Wogan calls Beeb tea 'the evil brew' and Peter Sellers once joked on the Goon show in the mid-50s: 'Lunch is now being served in the BBC canteen. Doctors are standing by.'

Commenting on catering issues previously, a BBC spokesman said that 'any staff with comments on catering' were encouraged to 'give feedback' to suppliers.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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