Quote of the Week
Take the lesson of the Greatest Generation. Our Roosevelt-era parents and grandparents overcame a mélange of would-be plutocrats, populist tyrants and communist commissars to craft a social contract that unleashed a confident, burgeoning middle class, spectacular universities and science, vast infrastructure and entrepreneurship — plus a too-slow but ponderously-growing momentum toward justice.
Quote of the Weeks
In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt laid out her concept of the polis — literally, an ancient Greek city state, but defined more broadly in Webster’s as “a state or society especially when characterized by a sense of community” — as a departure from the ancient understanding of the term...
Behind this narrative of the “dangerous migrant” is a disinformation machine that cultivates the powerful climate of anti-immigration. Unlike the scenario 100 years ago, when nationalism was closely linked to the trial of strength between great powers, we can see a trend that is an irony in itself: the globalisation of nationalism. The target audience in this scenario is the “dissatisfied” citizen..
Li-Young Lee describes poetry as an utterance on the ‘dying breath’ and considers the distinct physiologies of exhalation and inhalation. For Lee, the exhaling or dying breath is foundational to the poet’s work and therefore, in Baldwin’s expansive sense of poetry, the work of all artists. I see a connection between Lee’s proposal of the dying breath as the foundation for all poetic...
In May 2019, a fire destroyed a significant part of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. In the two days that followed, individuals and corporations pledged just under a billion Euros toward its repair.This incident hearkened quite directly to Arendt’s invocation of cathedrals as the archetypical example of worldliness, of creating a lasting world that endures beyond the cycles of human need and consumption.
You’ve seen clips of Greta Thunberg at the U.N. and the Climate Strikers on the streets; you remember how the March for Our Lives movement erupted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. When Arendt asked in 1959 whether children were being tasked with changing the world, the Little Rock Nine were enacting the change decreed by Brown vs. the Board of Education. Now, high schoolers are the ones bringing lawsuits and demanding action to bring change.
When Hannah Arendt arrived at the German Literature Archive in Marbach Germany in June 1975 to organize Karl Jasper’s papers, she stood up in the cafeteria and began reciting Friedrich Schiller by heart. She was fond of “Das Mädchen aus der Fremde”, but this is pure speculation. As Arendt said to Günter Gaus in her last interview, she carried German poems around in her hinterkopf. I’d wager she knew more than one.
They came out in the tens of thousands. In London and Paris, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, and others, people marched in the streets. They carried signs and banners, urging governments to do something, anything. “Refugees Welcome,” they said, illustrated with a silhouette of a family fleeing for their lives: a father first, then a mother dragging a child, whose foot trails in the air in the rush. “Bring Your Families,” they said.
Reading Arendt has caused me to consider the generative quality of my own work. All too often I find myself swinging from the narratives of hope to the voice of alarm and despair. From week to week my voice will vacillate between historically informed caution and a pragmatic optimism, which feels to be bordering on faith. Only loosely depending on the news of the day I am either warning people against the reactionary spirit that rises out of labeling our current...