Science has really been discovering the world of neuropsychology in the past decade, which interests me a lot. Mentally, I am extremely strong. It has always been ‘my specialty’. And yes, that might be a miracle, thinking of my family history. That’s why I want to know everything about brains and mind building.
Ever heard of project 2045? That’s another thing that interests me a lot. A Russian billionaire has taken this initiative. It allows people to live on after their death through technology. I want that, even if it were just my brain in a cloud environment, without consciousness. Of course, there are all sorts of conditions that are important and also some big question marks. Besides, how long is living on forever exactly? Who’s to say? But it’s really fascinating.
In any case, I strongly believe in the combination of technology, meaning and spirituality. For example, Vishen Lakhiani, founder of MindValley – global institute for personal growth – has been able to measure the different states of consciousness during meditation through technology. A ‘higher consciousness’ is no longer perceived as whoo-whoo nonsense. Another study shows that human’s consciousness does not disappear after death.
Thinking of all those Chumash classes at school and stories about techiyat hametim – rising from the dead. Well, my dear friend, in the technological world it could become a reality. I must quickly forget the dogmas I heard during those lessons. For example: if someone is cremated or buried in a non-Jewish manner, it will take much longer for that person to be resurrected, if they can be resurrected at all. And more horror stories about bodies that have to roll back to Jewish cemeteries and get clicked together. We could laugh about it now; a Michael Jackson Thriller clip. But in fact, it is sad.
The amount of fear of these kinds of religious dogmas that is instilled into children while remaining isolated from the civilian world is simply unforgivable. That is what it is: instilling fear because can you imagine if you were buried non-Jewish and did not spend tons of money on the Jewish community… You should be afraid that you are doing something wrong, with exactly that stinging feeling as long-term damage showing up in whatever you want to do. In other words, performance anxiety.
As far as I’m concerned, the only legitimate reason for a Jewish cemetery is loyalty to ‘my people’. Though, the question is how much this matters. Another reason is the protection against possible excavations. History shows that the latter is a legitimate argument.
To break open communities
I want to live on after my death through the solutions I have to break open closed-up communities and keep children safe (among other things). These are important for all those communities worldwide. We’re so incredibly naive and think it’s generally ‘not in our backyard’, but it most certainly is. The solutions are being discussed in my TED talk.
The talk is not about how you can grow from trauma, for example after surviving harmful traditional practices and about how to forgive. It is an insightful-act-collectively-talk about communities that put their own rules above formal laws and regulations, including human rights.
After all, there is still a lot of unnecessary suffering in closed-up communities worldwide, especially among women and children. This suffering can have extremely far-reaching consequences, both in the short and long term. Such communities contribute to an ‘us versus them’ way of thinking, to polarization and radicalization at a societal level.
I’d like to present the solutions as the seventeen paths to freedom:
- Break taboos and speak out. There are no taboos. If they do exist, it is an invitation to take a good look at why.
- Start the conversation in a safe context. Unfortunately, that is not as easy as it seems. Starting with a – literally – harmless conversation setting is crucial.
- In addition, keep the conversations going, as honest as possible. This isn’t easy because people can say one thing and do another, especially those religious leaders. For example, they can promise the education inspectorate that certain teachings will be covered, only to deviate completely from that plan.
- Make a clear distinction between the community, the closed-up community and the individual who wants freedom. Knowing what you are dealing with is the basis for understanding matters properly.
- Protect the kids who want out. Always believe the children, even though research is obviously necessary. There is a difference between being right and getting validated. Someone can have an excellent lawyer and can be acquitted as a result of that. However, most children don’t make things up when they express themselves about some forms of coercion. More importantly, always put their interests first, not the interests of the family members for instance. That way, you can actually support them according to what they need – not what the system needs; not what others need; not what the community needs; not what you need.
- Don’t generalize. There are also orthodox people who do give room to individual freedom. They are your allies.
- Be clear and unapologetic about children’s and human rights. Take a firm stand against hate speech and the exclusion of people. Yes, the solutions require stricter laws and regulations.
- Break open the closed-up communities, so that individuals who want to leave can do so freely and so that the generally applicable laws and regulations and norms and values can be checked. Again, the solutions require stricter laws and regulations.
- Encourage children from closed-up communities to interact with children from other communities/civil society from an early age.
- Provide integration courses with the norms and values in the Netherlands, not only to integrators, but to all children and parents within closed-up communities. Continue to consistently check whether these standards and values are being complied with. Again, the solutions require stricter laws and regulations.
- Children belong to all of us. When we see children being abused in closed-up communities, we all have a duty to do something. We can do more than we think. Remember that. For example, read about the 54 children’s rights, thus the defense for children.
- Focus on change from within the community. There are also many positive developments. For change from within the closed-up community, we will need people with courage; people who dare to step out of line and can withstand pressure from others.
- Involve people who put things on the agenda from outside the community, like me. Work with people who know the communities and cultural and religious codes to find out what’s going on and to maintain integrity.
- Collaborate. There are many people in a similar position who can reinforce each other.
- Involve role models, for example experts by experience.
- Lead on the back of humanistic principles.
- Then a detail for Jews in particular. Take Jews into account when it comes to the national diversity policies. They are often seen as ‘white’, but they are not, given their identity, recent history and contemporary antisemitism.
I have more than the right to speak and we will all have to do it together to solve cases of human rights breaches. I believe that if we break open the closed-up communities, some major global issues will expire. Amen. That’s my prayer of the week.