Saturday, December 19, 2020

Hannah Arendt in Lego

 @EthicsInBricks posted this lovely tribute to Hannah Arendt on Twitter last October, in honour of her date of birth, October 14, 1906, and I want to save it in the month of her death 45 years ago, so here's the thread all nicely cited and EIB's quotations in bold:

"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between facts and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exists."  ~ The Origins of Totalitarianism, p. 474

"When people are atomized, a movement or a strongman arises and he offers a story or an ideology which claims to explain everything, why people are unhappy."  --> I can't find this one, and I'm lead to believe, by this article, that it was actually said by Robert Eaglestone in an interview about Arendt. However, she does discuss concerns with the atomization of people in several places in The Origins of Totalitarianism, like below, which is far too long for a tweet (p.225): 
"While overseas imperialism had offered real enough panaceas for the residues of all classes, continental imperialism had nothing to offer except an ideology and a movement. Yet this was quite enough in a time which preferred a key to history to political action, when men in the midst of communal disintegration and social atomization wanted to belong at any price. Similarly, the visible distinction of a white skin, whose advantages in a black or brown environment are easily understood, could be matched successfully by a purely imaginary distinction between an Eastern and a Western, or an Aryan and a non-Aryan soul. The point is that a rather complicated ideology and an organization which furthered no immediate interest proved to be more attractive than tangible advantages and commonplace convictions."   

"The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Specifically writing on the Platonic view of Socrates, that nobody does evil voluntarily, she says, "Yet the implied and dangerous conclusion, 'Everybody wants to do good,' is not true even in their case. (The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good.) Socrates, who, unlike Plato, thought about all subjects and talked with everybody, cannot have believed that only the few are capable of thought...."   ~ The Life of the Mind, p. 180

"You say philosophy is generally considered a masculine occupation. . . . It need not remain a masculine occupation."   ~ interview

"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it."  Here it is in context:
"It is true that storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it, that it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are, and that we may even trust it to contain eventually by implication that last word which we expect from the 'day of judgment.' And yet, if we listen to Isak Dinesen's 'philosophy' of storytelling and think of her life in the light of it, we cannot hep becoming aware of how the slightest misunderstanding, the slightest shift of emphasis in the wrong direction, will inevitably ruin everything."  
~ "Isak Dinesen: 1885-1963" in Men in Dark Times p.105

"I can assure you that my personal needs as an individual are fulfilled when I have good books, good music, and good friends."  ~ This is quite possibly from some interview, but I can't find the original, and I'm surprised she didn't mention her trusty cigarettes as well!

She died December 4, 1975, 45 years ago this month. What an embarrassing turn journalism has taken since then. And now everything is thrice removed from reality through social media. Tweets that include the context and the relevance and the full quotations are not the ones that reach any popularity with the masses, unfortunately. But these brief ideas in lego at least, hopefully, lead people to read further. 


1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

Arendt's insights were completely accurate, Marie -- and deeply troubling.