SCOTS AND THE JEWS
By John Ray
The book The Mirth of Nations by Christie Davies has been reviewed a few times since its release (See for example the review by "Theodore Dalrymple") and its salient point that the Scots and the Jews make an interesting comparison has generally been picked up.
A point that I found most interesting, however, was that both the Jews and the Scots have historically been very prone to theological divisions. They have both had numerous sects of their religions (Judaism and Protestantism) in nitpicking and verbally fierce dispute with one-another:
"It is the questioning, disputing, argumentative quality of Judaism and of the Christian religion in Scotland and the corresponding requirements of literacy and study that have led both to the secular intellectual achievements of the Scots and the Jews."
I do not think the Davies thesis explains all about either the Jews or the Scots but I find it of some personal relevance. I have always been rather philo-Semitic and I did also have a lot of Scots Presbyterian influences in my upbringing.
I received the following supportive email from a reader:
"Apropos your notes on the similarities between Scots and Jews:
My wife is Jewish, her parents being Polish Jews who escaped after WW2, her father rather the worse for wear.
I am of Scots descent, in that 7 of my 8 great-grandparents were Scots. The eighth was a Swedish sea captain, Capt Johannsen, who was the only one of my great-grandparents that I met in the flesh.
On my fathers side the first to arrive in Australia was my grandfather. On my mothers side she can trace back to Dr. Arthur Farrell, the surgeon of the Second Fleet. There's a society for his descendents, who number in the tens of thousands.
We are both of intellectual, and disputative bent. We have an ever increasing library (about 3,000 books so far). Being of calculating bent I have noted that we read an average of 187 books a year, whilst purchasing 234. Our son (now 5) need have no fantasies of shirking his studies.
And we are both seemingly possessed of long pockets and short arms. My wife delights in running a detailed accounting system, which records ALL expenditure, by all household members. Her system can forward forecast up to ten years ahead at the drop of hat.
When the GST was being argued she was able to produce instant analyses of our likely position under each of the bruited GST implementations (we were tens of thousands better off under all of them) - and she checked back 12 months after it was in! And her forecast had been spot-on! Note that she is also a computer programmer of not inconsiderable talent.
My wife's investment decisions are generally better than mine, in that hers tend to make more money, whilst mine are more cautious. For instance my wife bought an investment unit when they were cheap, then sold when they were dear. I was fraught with trepidation at both moves. I just buy blue-chips and sit on them (my wife says that I will never sell a single share I ever bought).
All in all we get on better than most couples - and better than both our first marriages (my wife had earlier married a Dutchman, I had married an Englishwoman. We both left our first spousen, neither of whom seem to have recovered very well. The Dutchman retired to the hash-cafes of Amsterdam, the Englishwoman to the pubs of Tasmania).
The only other salient points about our Scots-Jewish household are that we don't watch TV and don't read the paper (other than occasional browsing on the Web). Which can lead to odd dislocation from the popular culture - for instance I was completely un-aware of the death of Princess Diana, until I upset one of the young ladies in my office by speaking lightly of the Princess - it caused the young lady to burst into tears".
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