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“With great power comes great responsibility”

Truth Over Tyranny: Biblical wisdom for defeating the Technocrats.
These are my insights for defeating the Transhumanist Technocracy movement, based on the teachings of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory, on the weekly Bible portion.

The notion that “with great power comes great responsibility” was recently popularized in the Spider Man movie. But like much wisdom, it goes back. Far back: through early America; ancient Rome; and even Biblical times.

In his commentary on Parashat Vayera called “Answering the Call,” Rabbi Sacks describes how the Patriarch Abraham was selected to drive this point home. Before God called upon him, the world was corrupted by the abuse of power:
https://www.rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation/vayera/answering-the-call/

“The early history of humanity is set out in the Torah as a series of disappointments. God gave human beings freedom, which they then misused. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Cain murdered Abel. Within a relatively short time, the world before the Flood became dominated by violence. All flesh perverted its way on the earth. God created order, but humans created chaos. Even after the Flood, humanity, in the form of the builders of Babel, were guilty of hubris, thinking that people could build a tower that “reaches heaven.”

He attributes all these failures to a lack of sense of responsibility – specifically, three types of responsbility:

“Adam and Eve lack personal responsibility. Adam says, “It wasn’t me; it was the woman.” Eve says, “It wasn’t me, it was the serpent.” It is as if they deny being the authors of their own stories – as if they do not understand either freedom or the responsibility it entails.”

“Cain does not deny personal responsibility. He does not say, “It wasn’t me. It was Abel’s fault for provoking me.” Instead he denies moral responsibility: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

“Noah fails the test of collective responsibility. He is a man of virtue in an age of vice, but he makes no impact on his contemporaries. He saves his family (and the animals) but no one else. According to the plain reading of the text, he does not even try.”

Rabbi Sacks looks at the life of Abraham, and shows how the man behaved responsibly in all three areas:

Personal:

“.. He exercises personal responsibility. In parshat Lech Lecha, a quarrel breaks out between Abraham’s herdsmen and those of his nephew Lot. Seeing that this was no random occurrence but the result of their having too many cattle to be able to graze together, Abraham immediately proposes a solution. Abram said to Lot, “Let there not be a quarrel between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

“Note that Abraham passes no judgment. He does not ask whose fault the argument was. He does not ask who will gain from any particular outcome. He gives Lot the choice. He sees the problem and acts.”

Moral:

“In the next chapter of Bereishit we are told about a local war, as a result of which Lot is among the people taken captive. Immediately Abraham gathers a force, pursues the invaders, rescues Lot and with him, all the other captives. He returns these captives safely to their homes, refusing to take any of the spoils of victory that he is offered by the grateful king of Sodom.”

‘This is a strange passage – it depicts Abraham very differently from the nomadic shepherd we see elsewhere. The passage is best understood in the context of the story of Cain. Abraham shows he is his brother’s (or brother’s son’s) keeper. He immediately understands the nature of moral responsibility. Despite the fact that Lot chose to live where he did with its attendant risks, Abraham does not say, “His safety is his responsibility, not mine.”

Collective:

“Then, in this week’s parsha of Vayera, comes the great moment: a human being challenges God Himself for the very first time. God is about to pass judgment on Sodom. Abraham, fearing that this will mean that the city will be destroyed, says:

“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do justice?”

How remarkable is this?! It was actually a turning point in history. With Abraham, God was casting the mold for a new form of leadership: one that would challenge the status quo if people in power behaved irresponsibly:

“… Abraham was to become the role model and initiator of a new faith, one that would not defend the human status quo but challenge it.
Abraham had to have the courage to challenge God if his descendants were to challenge human rulers, as Moses and the Prophets did.”

“Abraham was not a conventional leader. He did not rule a nation. There was as yet no nation for him to lead. But he was the role model of leadership as Judaism understands it. He took responsibility. He acted; he didn’t wait for others to act. Of Noah, the Torah says, “he walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). But to Abraham, God says, “Walk before Me,” (Gen. 17:1), meaning: be a leader. Walk ahead. Take personal responsibility. Take moral responsibility. Take collective responsibility.”

Abraham is a great inspiration for the “little guy.” He chose to do what is right – and even fought with God to get Him to do the same thing. He had no official title or authority. He was not in charge of any organization.

But he did not have to be. He was just an “ordinary guy” who had the courage to take a stand.

Today, we are all little guys. The “big guys” run global corporations and world organizations. They have formed a class of technocrats to serve as our overlords. They seek only to enrich themselves. They have no sense of personal, moral, or collective responsibility.

I can hear God calling us to stand up to them. Can you hear Him too?

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