I grew up in an Israeli Kibbutz and no matter how far I try to distance myself from that difficult part of my past, it keeps haunting me – even here in America. The American Kibbutz is getting closer as we’re slowly adopting some of the same Kibbutz principles that plagued my childhood.
So – what exactly is a Kibbutz?
The Israeli Kibbutz (“collective” in Hebrew) began in the early 20th century as a Socialist-Zionist settlement movement by immigrants from the Russian Empire. The idea was to implement the moral ideal of Communism and Socialism in the new country of Israel.
As a nine-year-old boy, I moved to a Kibbutz.
The green-grass-covered village with the small, red-roof houses was welcoming. It looked beautiful and harmonious from the outside. On the first day, I was introduced to my classmates, who were more than just classmates – we lived together in a “children’s house,” shared everything and were only allowed to visit our parents between 4-8 PM. We worked for 4 hours a day and were given adult-level responsibilities very early on.
When I was young, despite these odd and strict circumstances, I had a blast. Spending time with my friends, playing in the woods, driving a tractor at the age of twelve, working alongside adults and learning how to fix broken windows and door knobs – it was great.
But as I grew a little older, I started uncovering the disagreements, hostility, envy and even hatred that plagued the lives of the adults in the Kibbutz. My parents told me about the “committees” – there was a committee for every aspect of life, and it was the only way to make decisions or “resolutions.” Everything was geared towards equality – the founding manager of the thriving, plastic injection factory of the Kibbutz was given the same “allowance” (no salaries in the Kibbutz) and voting power over the factory’s investments decisions as the laundry worker and the cook in the public dining room.
And then those “committees” got to me.
I got a stereo for my Bar-Mitzvah from my family. When the word about the gift made it to the “officials,” the relevant committee ordered me to allow any kid in my class to use the stereo whenever they felt like it. The stereo was not mine – it was everyone’s.
I couldn’t figure out why I resented that decision so much. I remember feeling like an ant in an ant colony, but I also felt terrible about thinking that thought – After all, “sharing is caring,” right? Sacrificing for others is the moral thing to do, isn’t it?
At the age of 16, I had enough. I gave my parents an ultimatum, and we left to the city.
Fast-forward 30 years, I am here working and living in America — the place that was founded on individualism and freedom. In my years here I have learned how and why the principles of laissez-faire capitalism, profit-seeking businesses, and fierce competition yielded the most prosperous, life-promoting, moral society ever created. I understood the falsehood and corruption of the collectivist, altruist, “good-doer” ideology and its unavoidable life-defeating consequences.
Luckily, the enlightened philosophers who created this country grasped the criticality of freedom, the negative/reactive nature of rights (i.e., what people cannot do to you vs. entitlements to other people’s products) and created the most successful social experiment in human history.
But now, things are changing. Universities are teaching the same morality and politics that was drilled into me through “Ideological Seminars” in the Kibbutz. Young adults are speaking in a moral code that throws me back to my Kibbutz days. The horrendous ideals of “the ant morality” are poisoning minds again, exactly like they did in the previous, bloody century.
Seeing America slowly deteriorate to semi-socialism is painful. I hear the same mantras from politicians, left-winged thought leaders, and even business people. They sound like my Kibbutz teachers – from the 1% pledge of Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com to the 99% Facebook shares giveaway of Mark Zuckerberg – the idea that morality is about equality, about the other, the needy, the poor or “unprivileged,” is corrupting this land. The productive heroes are weakened by a morality that makes them feel guilty, expected to “give-back” as if they have taken or even stolen something from someone.
Wake up America.
You had it, and you’re losing it.
Don’t let the Kibbutz take over.