Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition is not about human nature. Arendt says little if anything about what it means to be human in the sense of our natural humanity. Her inquiry is premised on the fact that we humans are conditioned beings, that we are born into an already existing world. That world is made through human artifice; it also conditions us humans insofar as we must live and die in a humanly built world.
Emily Langer tells the story of Ruth Gruber, “an American journalist who stumbled into one of the great rescue stories of the Holocaust when the U.S. government appointed her to escort nearly 1,000 Jews across U-boat infested waters to the shores of the United States, [who] died Nov. 17 at her home in Manhattan. She was 105.” The story is well worth your time.
Hannah Arendt never tired of reminding us that politics is about power. The only way to prevent a tyranny of the majority, she argued, is by dispersing power through institutions and across the population. She valued greatly the American Constitutional tradition because it sought to create multiple and competing power centers. In part this happened through the embrace of federalism, which pitted the states against the Federal government.
In 2016, after the death of Antonin Scalia, and during the Republican decision to block a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senator Lindsey Graham made what appeared to be a principled statement. "I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever...
Two recent essays address the way that the press and social media in particular are polarizing and radicalizing our politics. First, Matt Taibbi argues that the political polarization has its source in the new way that the news is marketed to partisan audiences.
Emma Graham-Harrison writes that new reports show that China is continuing to build re-education concentration camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province. China has built nearly 400 internment camps in Xinjiang region, with construction on dozens continuing over the last two years, even as Chinese authorities said their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian thinktank has found.
Gershom Scholem called them “plastic hours.” Hannah Arendt called them “Revolutionary situations.” George Packer argues we are likely now living through such a moment when “an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events—usually a crisis.
The “scandal” around President Trump telling Bob Woodward that he lied to the American people about the danger posed by the Corona Virus has come and gone, having little to no impact on the the President’s approval rating. One reason is that such lies are precisely the kinds of lies that are at the root of politics: they are purposeful lies. As Trump explained to Woodward, he lied to prevent a panic.