Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Anvil and Hammer


There is an old German saying that explains behavior and politics and what should, can or should be done:  “Bist du Amboss sei geduldig, bist du Hammer schlage drauf”  (If you are an anvil be patient, if you are an hammer, hit).  There are endless examples of why and how people act and react.  We see it so much in the professions as well as in situations of everyday life.  If you are a judge you can mete out punishments; if you are a defender you must accept the edict, like it or not.  All actions have their consequences in one way or another.  We are expected to play our role.  A social worker is expected to be the all giving, all accepting, the understanding, liberal creature who is nonjudgmental.  The rabbi, minister, or priest knows the “truth” and will guide his flock in the right, the just way; he has a connection to “haschem,” the Lord, the path that leads to “gan eden,” the heavenly home where there is no strife, no worry, and only “goodness.”  The physician is the healer who is to be respected if we are to live in the best of health.  He/she is brilliant and can repair the body and prescribe patients that will alleviate pain and physical suffering. He is addressed by his title and the patients are most often called by their first names regardless of their profession or stature.  In other words, they are the proverbial adult children while the MD is the great Papa or Mother.  The tenured professor can speak his mind about his beliefs (within limits), whereas an instructor has little rights and can be discharged if he preaches his attitudes and feelings, especially if they are not those of the majority or are too liberal or too conservative.  Much depends on the audience, the race, the religion, the learners that are being served.  A prosecutor can be  “tough as nails” and can be the hammer in the situations with which he is confronted.

Poor people are treated differently than the wealthy.  They frequently have to play the role of the “underdog” and are expected to react accordingly. The maid is frequently addressed by her first name and the boss by his title of Mr., Ms., or Mrs.  The identity that the human being has makes a difference in what is expected of him.  

Money, the amount or lack of same, therefore makes a great deal of difference in the attitude, the “koveds” or lack of same, that any particular individual can expect.  The big contributor is honored and followed while the impoverished is often treated with disdain. 

“Might makes right.”  This proverb is seen so blatantly in prisons, where the unfortunate prisoner has nothing to say.  He must take whatever a guard dishes out to him.  A brutal guard can injure the person mentally if not physically.  In our studies of criminology, we have learned some of the unfortunate and inhuman actions that take place in prisons.  As in some other institutions where the helpless live, the unsaid motto is “who cares?”  The inmates are sick, helpless, being punished, ignored, or much more. 

In Nazi Germany, we learned what helplessness meant.  Six million died at the hand of Hitler, his henchmen, and the majority of the Arians, the majority of the “Deutschen” citizens, took advantage of the situation and took the opportunity to leave out their unhappiness, their hatred, their “id,” and joined in stealing, insulting, injuring, and killing their Jewish neighbors.

If we are righteous Jews and righteous people we must remember there are Hitlers in the world.  We must squelch those who want to be the tormentors.  We must study history and we will learn much and hopefully prevent, through our knowledge, repeat performances. Each of us must vote responsibly, not be deluded or follow the ignorant, the uneducated, the “liberals”, the dictators, the criminals, or those who under the cover of fraudulent promises attempt to persuade us to authorize our demise.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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