Historian Geza Vermes upended traditional Christian readings of holy scripture with the incendiary book Jesus The Jew. A lot of traditional interpretations of Kanye West view him as a Christian simpliciter. But I think this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me explain.
Kanye has stated that he regards himself as Jewish, and his supposedly ‘antiracist’ critics — which include mass media and corporations with considerable influence — often arise from a Weberian affinity between Christianity and capitalism. Quite possibly, we have got our whole view of antisemitism upside down — indeed the supposed anti-antisemities may in fact be antisemitic.
Compare Kanye West’s Judaic message of prophecy of survival in times of hardship with Taylor Swift’s Christian message of romantic self-abnegation. Taylor Swift’s treatment of Kanye West (which includes, according to her recent album, aiding Kim Kardashian with taking custody of Kim and Kanye’s children) is arguably more bigoted than Kanye West’s behaviour, which may be seen as true antiracism.
Compare this debate to the persecution of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. Despite Bernie’s acknowledged Jewish heritage, and Corbyn’s immense respect for and from the sizeable Jewish community of his London constituency, both suffered from attacks from the mass media in the US and the UK and, in Bernie’s case, from what John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have termed The Israel Lobby — which, far from the antisemitic portrait of Jews manipulating geopolitics from above, is funded significantly by Evangelical Christianity.
Kanye sees this and wishes to transform Evangelism in the image of the Torahnic prophecy. Kanye can be seen as a new Jesus, but his name since Yeezus has been the Old Testament (King James Version) ‘Ye’, meaning you. To speak poetically, following the assault on free speech magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ by ‘Islamist’ extremists: Je Suis Jesu, Je Suis Kanye. Kanye West, John Mearsheimer, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and James Harrington — these individuals’ philosophies have more in common with Judaism than with Christianity, and, insofar as any of them are Christian, they are recalibrating Christian idealism with the core of Judaic realism, a far more ideal portrait of the human condition than the black-and-white Manicheanism which characterises modern antisemitism.
Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon commented on the similarities between anti-black racism and antisemitism. These are branches of the same tree. It is those with implicitly racist views who wish to divide and conquer us by which minority we belong to. But to belong to a minority is to be in the majority. For who does not dream of a promised land? Who is not chosen by God? In truth, is no real separation between Jew or Gentile. We are human beings, for heaven’s sake. Let’s start acting like one. Let’s start with Kanye — whose music reflects the humanity we all share.
Let me be clear what I am not saying. Am I saying that that media accusations of Kanye’s tweets being bigoted are groundless? I do not venture into these debates as I find them largely pointless. Bigotry is a social relation; it is not a linguistic fact. Language itself, as Ludwig Wittgenstein argued, is play. It results from the political economy — not the other way around. So to consider whether Kanye, as a surface-level Evangelical Christian and deeper-level Hebraic Jew of the prophetic tradition, is a self-hating member of multiple minorities (including bipolar disorder — part of his musical genius), we must consider the whole of his personality and output, not just isolated parts of it. Having done this, and read many critical pieces on Kanye, I am unconvinced by the accusations. They echo the scapegoating of black men in To Kill A Mockingbird. They also echo the antisemitic whitchhunt of Alfred Dreyfus by an actual cabal of right-wing antisemitic generals. Dreyfus was exonerated only after Émile Zola wrote the ‘J’Accuse’ letter accusing the military hierarchy of this devilry. If Kanye is the new Dreyfus, let me play the role of Zola towards the establishment — which Marx called Capital and Curtis Yarvin called the Cathedral, or which Hobbes called more prosaically the Commonwealth — and call out systemic discrimination towards the ‘new slaves’ of capitalism.
Alas, Kanye’s message is not diffused through a social system which dehumanises us as the Babylonians dehumanised the people of Israel. Do not let the state destroy us as individuals. Do not let individualism destroy solidarity, either. Find a Harringtonian balance between the prophecy of Jerusalem, the temporality of Christendom, and the territoriality of Mecca. Let the people of Abraham, Buddha, and Krishna be one. Let us overcome these pointless divisions. And let us rekindle the message of Moses and leave this Babylonian captivity of the market economy. Let us be free. What do you say, ye?
Disclaimer: Any similarity between names mentioned and actual individuals is purely accidental and largely theoretical. These are fun ideas to entertain but, as always, I may be mistaken. After all, what do I know?
2 thoughts on “#Yeshua: What if Kanye is not antisemitic — but many of his critics are?”
🤦 aged like the spoilt milk left in your ma’s knobbly mams from when she forgot to breast feed you, and has as nauseating of a smell. dont need your attempts at confusing ye for an antisemite, not original in the slightest. Ye may be mistaken. After all, what do Ye know?
To quote from the Half-Blood Prince: ‘You use my own spells against me, Potter.’ …