About a year ago or perhaps more, sitting in a large house forum in a northern Tel Aviv house, we met with then Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni. After she made her speech, we asked questions. "Madam," I asked politely, "if your son were in the army, would you like Uzi Cohen to be his deputy company commander?"
"No," the Likud minister responded at once. I think she even raised her voice.
Remember Uzi Cohen? Some 2-3 years ago, he was Israel's leading culture icon. Everyone burst out laughing whenever he appeared on TV.
Are we democratic?
A national commission of inquiry, if and when it is established, will examine why sandwiches and food rations did not reach the soldiers in Lebanon, where did the water supplies go, and who decided to attack Bint Jbeil in broad daylight.
These are important questions that call for real answers, but they will not explain a far more profound process that the Israeli society has undergone, whose first symptom - and it is only the first - was presently revealed in the war in Lebanon.
We are democratic, are we not? Hence we have sanctified the "popular culture" for years. We rejoiced when the "people" finally made it to the top.
Questions such as, "Are we a democracy?" or "If democracy is the rule of the people and its choice, why not let the 'people' rule?" were answered in Bint Jbail, Ita al-Sha'ab, the military sections of our cemeteries, civil cemeteries, and packed bomb-shelters. The rule of the mediocre brought us where we are today.
We know: this is arrogant, condescending, uptown writing, but as God is our witness - it is not so. Many condescending snobs could be classified as "popular," and all we can do is cry over the lowly who made it to top, and over those who died, and those who are yet to die.
Ideology? Forget it
For many years, for an entire generation, we cultivated and sanctified the rule of the mediocre and the nation of hedonists that lagged behind it. No one (almost) bothered to look back. They were all looking forward, at the governing seat and mainly at the wallet, seeking to make money, lots of money, in the shortest possible time, as long as we can, as long as the party is in power.
Every corner in our lives has been seized by people who hankered for money and power, who were appointed by people who wished to prove they could appoint anyone they wished, led by Omri Sharon, of course.
Ideology? Dream of generations? Guidelines? Forget it and look the other way while I steal the nation's sand dunes and sell them for millions. For all I care, you can sell the Wailing Wall and Menahem Begin's tomb in a package deal to the Palestinians.
A representative of the director general of a government-owned company, who asked for a USD 1-million bribe while discussing a certain government project, told the interested party: "He (my boss) knows he will not keep his post for very long, so he has a lot to accomplish."
There is no denying: We had fun watching the Likud Central Committee meetings. We enjoyed watching the scenes and hearing the voices. We felt like we had bought popcorn and took front seats to watch a wrestling or circus show. We failed to realize that this concerned our lives, the fate of our children.
We watched them and turned mediocrity, ignorance, and charlatanism into symbols, banners, and guidelines. The mass media was filled with the masses.
The lesser of the profession were made media directors, while ignorant "people's representatives" filled them. Some 20 percent of the IDF major generals today were military secretaries under Ariel Sharon. They showed their loyalty card and were given insurance (between 1948 and Sharon, only two military secretaries to prime ministers were promoted to major general).
Let us make no mistake about it: Even when Labor Party ruled, there was mediocrity, but this is exactly why we changed governments in 1977; but what did we get?
It is enough to take a look at our presidential candidates to realize how we deteriorated. Once, Albert Einstein was offered the post. We do not wish to insult anyone, so we will not name today's candidates, but this is the story in a nutshell.
Now it all hinges on the education, where things can be done so that we have a different country 20 years from today.