Hannah Arendt is a thinker who insists that we make distinctions. One of Arendt’s most controversial distinctions is that between racism and what she alternatively will call “race thinking” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and then "prejudice" in many of her later essays. In the wake of the shooting in Buffalo last week, John McWhorter made his own distinctions while trying to understand the place of racism in U.S. society. McWhorter argues that we use the word racism today to mean too many things. He states that we need to distinguish between different aspects of what we call racism in order to think more clearly about the problems and prevent such tragedies as the shooting in Buffalo.
Nadav Eyal writes that our time will be remembered for what it lacks and for what it destroys. It is a period of negation and nihilism consumed by a rage against the machine and a distrust of the system. Writing in the 1960s, Hannah Arendt saw that the glorification of violence witnessed in both theory and practice was in large part driven by a global sense of powerlesseness...
There are simply too many accepted truths that are not true. Two recent essays make the case that the Press needs to do better at avoiding making false claims, claims that then come to be accepted as verities. Holman Jenkins Jr. writes that Musicologist Ted Gioia “may be on to something when he says that after 9/11, the long reign of cool had ended, the reign of hot had begun.”
Hannah Arendt was a decidedly anti-metaphysical and anti-universalist thinker. For Arendt, “particular questions must receive particular answers.” There are, she writes, “no general standards to determine our judgments unfailingly, no general rules.” Amidst what Arendt calls the “break in the tradition,” it is a fact that “traditional verities seem no longer to apply” and the “loss of general standards and rules--cannot be undone.” There is no going backwards to some past golden era.
I am not a prognosticator. Take what I am going to say with a large dose of skepticism. It is very likely that in four years the United States will elect a minority woman as its President. The question may be, will that woman be Vice President Kamala Harris or former South Carolin Governor Nikki Haley?
Susanna Crossman reflects on the power of play. “Play is a powerful motor.” Play involves a “leap in the dark” and requires trust. Play, the thinker Eugen Fink writes, “unites ‘the highest desire and the deepest suffering’.” Play is thus deeply connected to the very human way of being alive, something we can hear in its etymologies, many of which go back to the Latin ludere. “Ludere in Latin refers to leaping fishes and fluttering birds. The Anglo-Saxon lâcan means to move like a ship on the waves, or to tremble like a flame.
Peter Baehr asks: “Can moral life survive dictatorship?” It is a question that many in politics think secondary. The rise of dictatorship—not to mention fascism—is said to justify resistance at all costs. The message of groups like Antifa is that in the fight against dictatorship and fascism, all means are acceptable and even necessary.
In 1958 in the second edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt published an Epilogue on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Two years later, the Caribbean intellectual and activist C.L.R. James delivered a series of public lectures in Trinidad that would be published as Modern Politics.
There has been a lot of worry recently about the health of American democracy. What the events of the last two weeks have confirmed, however, is that American democracy is quite robust and healthy. In spite of a President who sought to undermine an election, the system worked. The voters rejected a dangerous and narcissistic and corrupt President by over seven million votes and a large electoral college mandate.