Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hannah Arendt/Totalitarianism


In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ..... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness" - Hannah Arendt, 'The Origins of Totalitarianism'
Someone I used to know read philosophy as a hobby. He has a PhD from Stanford in interdisciplinary thought. A lot of his studies focused on philosophy, plus twenty years later, he was reading philosophy for fun.

I use a Hannah Arendt quote in my email signature. I believe it is from a book of letters she exchanged with her dearly loved husband. The quote says, inter alia,  "I want you to be".

He saw my email signature and told me Hannah Arendt was one of his favorite philosophers, that her book The Human Condition, had been particularly meaningful to him. So I googled about Arendt a bit, learning that what is considered her masterppiece is 'The Origins of Totalitarianism". So I bought it and read it.

The guy who said Arendt was very important to him never read Origins. It doesn't take a PhD from Stanford to know that a Jew who escaped a death camp in Nazi Germany after getting her PhD in philosophy under Heidegger (they were lovers, even tho he revealed venal anti-seitic views as Hitler rose in power) has important insights into the origins of totalitarianism.  It's never too late to read Arendt's Origins. I'm re-reading it now.

I bought and read the "Origins of Totalitarianism'.  Mr. PhD who said any times that Arendt had had a great influence on him,, ever read it. Perhaps, as the USA seems to be becoming fascist, he has read it.  I'm curious to know if he has.Here is a quote from Arendt on totalitarianism: