“Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character of equality and distinction.” Arendt sets plurality as the foundation of her understanding of man as a political being. According to plurality, we are all equal, which means we can understand each other and those ancestors who came before us and those will come after us. And yet, as distinct, we need to seek to make ourselves understood.
Until recently, I had not left my apartment for 33 days. I did not touch another human being—not even the members of my family with whom I live—for even longer. The virus has been mild in my case. It is nearly gone. Physically, I am fine. I am one of the lucky ones; I never had to make a decision whether to go to a hospital, alone, not knowing whether I would see family and friends ever again.
Kristian Blickle of the Federal Reserve Board of New York has published a working paper, “Pandemics Change Cities: Municipal Spending and Voter Extremism in Germany, 1918-1933.” As described by Quint Forgey, Blickle’s paper “concludes that deaths caused by the 1918 influenza pandemic “profoundly shaped German society” in subsequent years and contributed to the strengthening of the Nazi Party.”
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.