JON STEWART LIVID OVER NOT GETTING "THE TONIGHT SHOW?"
I step into my heart and there I meet
A god-almighty devil singing small,
Who would like to shout and whistle in the street,
And squelch the passers flat against the wall;
If the whole world was a cake he had the power to take,
He would take it, ask for more, and eat it all.
John Davidson (1857-1909), from “Thirty Bob A Week.”
Jon Stewart is obviously in pain. His latest shows are largely comprised of
solo stints wherein he yells at the audience at the top of his lungs. He has no real anger left for the malefactors
of great wealth, as such, the warmongers, the mass employment liars, and the
subversives of democracy. After each
handsomely remunerated hiatus, he returns to the air like a broken promise. Perhaps he was never in the running to
succeed Jay Leno, but he now envisages disappointment itself, as if he was owed
Well, everyone deserves better, but Mr. Stewart’s satire has become flaccid, and
worse, inaccurate. As an essayist who
frequently alludes to historical perspectives and analogies, I was recently
most chagrined to watch and listen as he purportedly attempted to appeal to the
President of Egypt to allow more democracy by referencing the contributions of
Egypt to modern civilization. He got it
all wrong. For someone who is constantly
mocking Wikipedia, Stewart was shown to elaborate history based upon even less
than the creative gossip of Herodotus.
This superciliousness undermines both the relevance and the integrity of
The Egyptians did not “invent” civilization.
Civilization, as it pertains to us, grew within and around the region
that lies between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers – an area frequently
referred to (without a brain) by Stewart, himself, as “Mess-O’-Potamia.” The
process, which began about 6,000 years ago, was encompassed by groups organized
as Chaldeans, Babylonians and later, Assyrians, who conquered the entire
region. For a quaint, but often
poignant, depiction of this societal development, see, Mme. Zenaide Alexeievna
Ragozin, “The Story of Chaldea,” 1886.
It was from Ur in Chaldea that Terach and his son Abram (Abraham) emigrated, about
4,000 years ago. Genesis 11:31. Their tribe was deflected first into Canaan,
then Egypt. The Hebrews understood that
Egyptian civilization had reached great heights, but not in the least because
they were enslaved, they found Egyptian life to be equally wanting. As Mme. Ragozin delineates, the ancient world
was congestedly populated by all manner of gods, goddesses, demigods, and
spirits. At first, people tended to
believe that every misfortune was the result of some evil supernatural manifestation
that had to be suffered or propitiated against.
Afterwards, they recognized that prosperity and happiness could also be
ascribed to newly minted supernatural beings.
About 3,400 years ago, wandering in the desert to forget everything but
Abraham’s first glimmer of monotheism, the Hebrews came up with a particular
form of monotheism that swept away the tedious and often cynically manipulated
burdens of polytheism, to wit: one, true G-d who was omniscient, omnipresent, just,
punishing, but also forgiving. The Covenant
was that in return for upholding the law, always seen by many, but not all Jews,
as an evolving concept of ethical and moral values, G-d would ensure that a “remnant”
of the Jewish people would always survive—for just such purpose. To sum up G-d’s requirement of the Jews:
“Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment,
and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother;
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger
nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother
in your heart.”
Zechariah 7: 9 & 10, 520 B.C.E. [King James Version].
It should be noted that without the Resurrection and the
world-to-come, Jesus’ ministry was a failure and a tragedy, because he could
not convert nor have his Disciples seek to convert the behavior of mankind to
the ideal expressed by Zechariah, in this, this very world. Hence the need for a further superstructure, called
Heaven, which our growing knowledge of the galaxies keeps pushing farther and
Mr. Stewart was also incorrect when he attributed the
innovation of writing to the Egyptians. The Mesopotamians invented cuneiform
writing. The Egyptian hieroglyphics, although often
quite beautiful, were picture words and not cross-culturally translatable. It was the Phoenicians who invented what
became the modern alphabet, subsequently crafted by the Hebrews into language
capable of transmitting history and literature.
Lastly, Mr. Stewart ascribed Greek civilization as derivative
from that of the Egyptians. This is wholesale
race defamation. The ancient Greeks invented history, philosophy, democracy and
the replacement of justice as vengeance with due process of law – all unknown
to the Egyptians. After the death of
Alexander, who conquered Egypt about 300 years before the Common Era, one of
his Macedonian generals, Ptolemy, installed himself as Pharaoh. Thenceforward, the Egyptian civilization
became known as the Hellenic-Egyptian civilization, so Mr. Stewart got it
exactly backwards. (All of this Egyptian
history is easily accessed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thus, a sidelight question is how often does
Mr. Stewart take his children to the City’s great museums, where both
generations might actually learn something?)
So here’s best wishes to Jimmy Fallon, whose star is
rising, and murmurs of consolation to Jon Stewart, as the embers of his talent
dwindle and sputter, and shout like the roar of the fatally wounded jungle
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.