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.
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.
In what seems a fairly usual occurrence, two journalists and two professors were fired or prosecuted this week for running afoul of mainstream opinions or, in Poland, legally prohibited opinions. John McWhorter argues that firing a New York Times reporter for using the N-word to refer to the N-word and not as a slur obfuscates the difference between a slur and a taboo. Ben Cohen reports on the prosecution of Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in Poland.
The latest issue of Poetry Magazine, guested edited by poets Tara Betts and Joshua Bennett, focuses on work written by currently and formerly incarcerated poets, bringing a systematically suppressed chorus of voices to the forefront of the poetry community’s publishing landscape. Editor Tara Betts writes in her introduction to the issue, “The contributors, who are often no longer perceived as people in the non-incarcerated world, are indeed human.
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.
One repeated argument against apps that allow for encryption and privacy is that those who have nothing to hide should not worry about the loss of privacy. But who is it that has nothing to hide? The human heart and mind is a factory of fantasies that remind each of us of the darkness that lurks within us.