Hannah Arendt has become the thinker of the present moment, cited in hundreds of essays and think pieces seeking to explain our current predicament. There are some good reasons for her newfound relevance. Arendt’s fearless thinking insisted on confronting reality. She understood the uniqueness of totalitarianism, but also its origins in imperialism, bureaucracy, racism, loneliness, and the decline of the nation state.
A bit over a year ago I attended a symposium on “Black Intellectuals & The Condition of the Culture” at Skidmore College, featuring Margo Jefferson, Darryl Pinckney, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Orlando Patterson and John McWhorter. The conversations were free and provocative and at times brilliant. Now the transcripts of the symposium have been published by SALMAGUNDI.
Over and again we hear the refrain: “Listen to the experts.” Amidst a crisis that has witnessed a disastrous response from President Trump and the federal government and from many states and cities—Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been particularly inept causing untold misery for New Yorkers like myself—there is a desire to have the experts guide us.
In “I Am (Not) a Monster,” a new movie by Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, Dr. Hayoun travels around the world dressed as Hannah Arendt to ask thinkers and activists about the origins of knowledge. Ben Hayoun, a Senior Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center and the founder of the University of the Underground, begins with Arendt’s idea that “To act is to begin something new.”
Writing for the New York Review of Book, Fintan O’Toole dissects Trump’s failed leadership. Faced with a real emergency, Trump has been unable to set aside his self-promoting narcissism to guide the American people. O’Toole highlights the extent to which Trump’s delimited worldview as a business leader has influenced his posturing in managing the pandemic, examining at elisions in his language and refusal to face reality.
Seth Cotler points us to a book review written in 1983 by Samuel T. Francis that makes clear how much of the politics of populism and racism we are experiencing today was already visible to those with eyes to see it. The review of a book by Kevin Philips argues that the frustrations with America’s obsolete constitutional and political system will bring about a racially charged right-wing revolution in the United States.
When Li Wenliang saw the danger posed by the Corona Virus and tried to sound the alarm, he was forced to remain silent by the Chinese police. Dr. Li died from Covid 19, alongside thousands of others in Wuhan. During this time as the world learned of the ravages of the virus first in China and then in Italy, the United States refused to act to protect its citizens. With no national plan, no national testing strategy, no effort to acquire supplies, and no leadership...