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New Social Compact

Revisiting Arendt’s Thought as Darkness Threatens the West

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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“Under conditions of tyranny, it is far easier to act than to think” -Hannah Arendt

Various historians and cultural anthropologists have urged us lately not to conflate too easily Communism with Nazism. This admonition goes back to a book which appeared in 1945: Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism which analyzes these two major totalitarian movements of the 20th century, namely Nazism and Stalinism. The book did not appear in its English version (titled as The Burden of our Times) till 1951. It became a classic on the subject.

Few scholars would deny that this book has played a major role in shaping the way international affairs have been viewed, from the second half of the 20th century onward. Perhaps more than any other treatise, it has contributed to the way people with a liberal outlook have grappled with the totalitarian ideas and regimes of both the right and the left. To a large extent, this book entrenched the concept of totalitarianism and characterized this type of regime, stressing the shared characteristics of Nazism and Communism, despite the many differences that can be discerned between them.

It is difficult to classify Arendt’s volume on totalitarianism as a book on philosophy, history, political science or mass psychology. Perhaps it would be better listed under Cultural Anthropology. In fact, it is a treatise about the history of culture that is overarching and all-encompassing in its scope, and in this respect it is in the tradition of all-embracing works like Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West or Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History or Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, or Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” or even Vico’s New Science.

Nevertheless, despite this difficulty, to this day, Arend’t treatise continues to offer one of the best insights into totalitarian movements and regimes. It afforded the West the ideological infrastructure needed to see the Cold War not only as a struggle between two superpowers aspiring to world hegemony, but also as a continuation of the fight against totalitarianism as such, whether it comes from the right or the left.

The enormous complexity of The Origins of Totalitarianism arises from its interweaving of an understanding of the concept of totalitarianism with the description of its emergence and embodiment in Nazism and Stalinism. In the 60s it was a must book for many college students, including myself. Now that Nazism had been disposed of, it was felt at the time, we needed to understand the origins of that other totalitarian system, Communism, as it presented itself at its origins under Lenin and Stalin.

Arendt seemed to be saying that the two were two sides of the same coin; she seemed to conflate them into each other. At least that was the most common interpretation at the time to which some scholars objected. We must remember that the 50s were the times of Mc Chartism which suspected and looked for a communist under every bed. After World War II, the West did in fact face an intricate problem: while Nazism and Fascism had been defeated, this victory, if truth be told, had been made possible largely thanks to the cooperation and help of Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Before 1945, the war could be depicted as pitting the “free world” against the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini, but the strong-armed Communist takeover of Eastern Europe made it difficult to continue clinging to this fiction. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that totalitarianism has been identified by many historians as a brutal, and, thanks to modern technology, potent form of political tyranny whose ambitions for world domination are unlimited.

Disseminating propaganda derived from an ideology through the media of mass communication, totalitarianism relies on mass support. It crushes whoever and whatever stands in its way by means of terror and proceeds to a total reconstruction of the society it displaces. Thus a largely rural and feudal Russian Empire, under the absolutist rule of czars stretching back to the fifteenth century, was transformed first by Lenin after the October Revolution of 1917 and then by Stalin into an industrialized Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Similarly, a Germany broken after its defeat in World War I, was mobilized and became the conqueror of most of Europe in the early 1940s less than a decade after Hitler’s assumption of power. In China the People’s Republic, by taking the Great Leap Forward in 1958 followed by the Cultural Revolution beginning in 1966 and ending with Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, expunged much of what remained of a Confucian culture that had survived for more than three thousand years.

Now, according to Arendt the nature of totalitarianism is the combination of “its essence of terror and its principle of logicality” As “essence” terror must be total, more than a means of suppressing opposition, more than an extreme or insane vindictiveness. Total terror is, in its own way, rational: it replaces, literally takes the place of, the role played by positive laws in constitutional governments.

But the result is neither lawless anarchy, the war of all against all, nor the tyrannical abrogation of law. Arendt pointed out that just as a government of laws would become “perfect” in the absence of transgressions, so terror “rules supreme when nobody any longer stands in its way.” Just as positive laws in a constitutional government seek to “translate and realize” higher transcendent laws, such as God’s commandments or natural law, so totalitarian terror “is designed to translate into reality the law of movement of history or nature,” not in a limited body politic, but throughout mankind. The goal of totalitarian terror is to become universal in theory and practice.

Jerome Kohn, who is the Director of the Hannah Arendt Center at the New Social University writes this in his essay Totalitarianism: the Inversion of Politics: “Arendt concluded that Hitler and Stalin discovered that the eradication of the unpredictability of human affairs, of human freedom, and of human nature itself is possible in ‘the true central institution of totalitarian organizational power,’ the concentration camp.

In concentration camps the combination of the practice of terror with the principle of logicality, which is the nature of totalitarianism, ‘resolves’ the conflict in constitutional governments between legality and justice by ridding human beings of individual consciences and making them embodiments of the laws governing the motion of nature and history.

On the one hand, in the world view of totalitarianism the freedom of human beings is inconsequential to ‘the undeniable automatism’ of natural and historical processes, or at most an impediment to their freedom. On the other, when ‘the iron band of terror’ destroys human plurality, so totally dominating human beings that they cease to be individuals and become a mere mass of identical, interchangeable specimens ‘of the animal-species man,’ that terror provides the movement of nature and history with ‘an incomparable instrument’ of acceleration.

Terror and logicality welded together equip totalitarian regimes with unprecedented power to dominate human beings. How totalitarian systems accomplish their inversion of political life, above all how they set about destroying human conscience and the plurality of unique human individuals, staggers the imagination and confounds the faculty of understanding.”

Arendt’s primary contribution to the understanding of totalitarianism lies mainly in her contention that the totalitarian movements, both fascist and communist, provided an answer to the masses facing the disintegration of traditional European society, with its hierarchies, norms and accepted modes of behavior. Modernization and democratization, it emerges, did not in fact elevate “the people” but often, rather, the “masses” or the “mob,” an observation already made by conservative writers like Jose Ortega y Gasset. According to this perspective, fascism and communism were not a continuation of the historical dictatorships based on ruling classes or conquests exemplified by European aristocracy. They represented a new kind of tyranny, nourished by the alienation spread by modern life. The individual, “the common man,” is entirely cut off from moderating or restraining affiliations. He has nothing in his life but the idea that connects him directly, with no need of institutional mediation, to the movement and the leader.

Hence the mass marches and pageants — whether in Nuremburg or in Red Square. Hence the intoxication from the stunning individual experience of marching together with tens of thousands of others to stirring music and flags waving still going on in Communist North Korea. Hence, too, the creation of an intrusive bureaucratic machine, accompanied by a secret police force and concentration camps, with hierarchical and rigid discipline binding together a population with no other foci of identification. What enthusiastic belief does not do, fear will, and the combination of the two is tremendously powerful. The cruel irony is that the totalitarian society really is a classless society that could therefore be headed by nonentities like Hitler and Stalin or closer to our times, a Donald Trump who is already been hailed as a saving “leader” by all the far right white supremacists and racists of the country. The illusion is that the Constitution and its provisions of checks and balances will ultimately prevail. One hopes so, but that remains to be seen.

In fact, today we know far more about totalitarian regimes than Arendt did when she wrote the book. Nevertheless, Arendt’s descriptions continue to be read with great excitement, just as Arthur Koestler’s novel “Darkness at Noon” still provides insight into Stalin’s purge trials in Moscow and why it disappointed convinced communists such as Ignazio Silone. It must be pointed out however that of its three sections of Arendt’s book, only the last focuses on totalitarianism; the first two are entitled “Anti-Semitism” and “Imperialism.”

In the section on imperialism, Arendt devotes a chapter to the rise of the pan-German and pan-Slavic movements and, surprisingly, depicts them as evidence of the decline of the nation-state. However, historical research, like the statements of those selfsame pan-movements, indicates that they are clearly nationalist movements taken to the extreme. For instance, pan-Slavism was an expansion of Russian nationalism, aided by the national movements of other Slavic peoples. And German nationalism at its most extreme was not satisfied with the unification of Germany. The pan-German ideology saw itself as the clearest expression of German nationalism, and therefore saw the ethnic Germans living in other Eastern Europe countries as an integral part of the German people and the Third Reich.

Her key statement on this issue, which pervades her entire discussion of anti-Semitism, is that “modern anti-Semitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined, and reached its climax at the exact moment when the European system of nation-states and its precarious balance of powers crashed.” It was in fact the rise of the modern nation-state, and the challenges it faced, that led to the sharp increase in anti-Semitism. Moreover, the rise of aggressive anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe is directly connected to the rise of nationalist movements and nation-states there. As nationalism thrived and achieved its political aims in Romania, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, anti-Semitism increased when the nationalist movements had to confront the existence of a relatively large Jewish minority in their territories.

As Arendt would have it, there were no poor Jews living on the margins of European society, managing to live with difficulty and without political and civil rights; the Jews were all bankers, financiers, court Jews and privileged, or in her generalizing language: “The Jews had been purveyors in wars and the servants of kings.” Moreover, Arendt seems to be unaware of a major fallacy in her account of the Jews’ role in the rise of absolute monarchies and the modern nation-state: Several of these countries had few or no Jews living in them at the time of their emergence as modern nation-states. Spain, for one, had expelled most of them at the very time when Spanish absolute monarchy was being consolidated.

According to Arendt, “the Jews” always supported the governments in power in whichever country they were living, but the truth is that the number of Jews in the revolutionary, liberal and socialist movements was far greater than their representation in the overall population. “The Jews,” continues Arendt, were responsible for the hatred felt toward them because of their communal seclusion, their non-involvement in politics, their concern solely for themselves and their non-participation in social and class struggles.

But one can argue precisely the opposite, that it was the disproportionate prominence of Jews in politics — especially liberal and socialist politics — that gave rise to anti-Semitic criticism. Examples range from Karl Marx and Eduard Bernstein in Germany to Ferdinand Lassalle in France; Jews were also heavily involved in the Communist revolutions in Bavaria and Hungary after World War I, and clearly in the Soviet revolution. Indeed, this was one of the classic anti-Semitic canards of the 19th century and of the Nazis in the 20th.

Despite the above critique it is misguided at best to see Arendt as a person tainted by Jewish self-hatred as some scholars have declared in their review. To the contrary, she was a courageous analyzer and fighter against anti-Semitism and Totalitarianism. That’s why she wrote the book in the first place.

Considering all the Trojan Horses planted all over the EU as we speak and hiding those in waiting who’d love nothing more than to install a totalitarian system in their country and all over the world; furthermore, considering the ominous centrifugal forces at work in the EU threatening its unity, we’d do well to interpret Hannah Arendt’s thought as a Cassandra-like warning to us, and we’d be wise to heed it.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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New Social Compact

Coronavirus: An Act Of God Or Humans

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Corona virus started in Wuhan China and has spread all over the world; almost thousands of people have been killed due to this deadly virus. China though has been able to control the situation and Wuhan is turning back to its hustle bustle. But the spread of this deadly virus has changed the social and economic realities of this modern world. Around 200 countries have been affected  due to corona virus  , from New York to Islamabad states are locking down cities to curb the spread of this deadly virus , but still humans are clueless what is happening to them .

During this panic situation many conspiracies have been emerging and fake news with mix of facts are on rise. Many around the world are blaming the China and USA; the term Bio-Weapons is being used all around the world. American President Trump has termed virus as Chinese virus several times while addressing media and some Chinese state officials have pointed toward CIA is involve in spreading this virus in Wuhan.

A novel recently was being circulated which mentioned that in 2020 a lungs virus will affect whole world, many think that this virus is manmade and has been deliberately spread for greater objectives , many argue that this is part of USA strategy to stop the rise of china , after the spread of virus Chinese’s citizens are being seen as a source of virus . At the moment people around the globe are divided into two very groups, one believe that this is an act of humans, as the south Korean movie released in 2018 also predicted the same virus and same scenario, mere coincidence or a deliberate effort .Though the history of humans and envoy could be the source of new weapons of war, Bio-weapons are also a reality   and have been developed.

These viruses are part of nontraditional security threats which every state is facing at the moment, the dynamics of warfare in modern world are changing.  A virus originated from Wuhan has locked down the whole world, around 30000 plus have been killed and around 1 million are diagnosed positive. Italy  is on the top of the list of most affected nations around the globe , they have lost around 10000 people since virus spread , Iran  , Spain , USA also are among the top affected states . Somehow  those who have believe in that this virus is an act of humans are way large in number as due to media humans are programmed to think in this way .

Then after that there are also official versions from china that this virus has spread from Wuhan’s animal market where 57 old women contracted it from pangolin and she was termed as patient zero by Chinese government. According to Chinese official version this virus is an act of nature and china will make sure to deflect corona virus blame.

Whoever Man or God did , this virus and its impact would change the future of our world  , in coming days it impact on global economy and security would be seen in different ways , this virus has many hidden lessons which will uncover themselves in coming days . The one most important observatory fact is that this world is truly heading toward Globalization, all the states are going through same problems due to this virus and a collective effort would help to resolve this issue from New York to Islamabad.

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New Social Compact

How It Happened by Shazaf Fatima Haider: Book Review

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The upcoming and present generations harbor and behold different assumptions, aspirations, worldviews, lifestyles, and ideologies than previous generations. However, they both view life through altered and these altered ideologies are well presented in the novel How It Happened (2012) by Shazaf Fatima Haider. The story is narrated by, youngest of all the family members, a 15-year old Saleha. This story revolves around a Shia ‘’Bandian’’ family progeny of the village of Bhakuraj in the Indian sub-continent who now lives in Karachi, Pakistan. Shazaf many a time speak tongue in cheek for Pakistani society and traditions. It is a noticeable fact that values, traditions, ideologies, and lifestyles keep on changing over time due to the change in worldviews and currently adopted concepts and ideals.

How It Happened, Penguin books, India.

In the novel, the re-adjustment process of a completely new culture stands quite distinguishable through social change, economical force, evolution, and constant general pressure as the cultural transition takes place. As can be seen in the novel that cultural transition has influenced within the same family but the remarkable impact was observed on the post generation of family through any of the above-mentioned factors. In the novel, from time to time we witness minor disagreements and contradictory views among all the family members but constant distress and confusion occur between the two female protagonists of the Bhakuraj family. There is a constant tug of war between both of the women (Dadi and Zeba). When Haroon, the elder son, wants to go to New York for his studies as he is a new graduate of IBADadi opposes the idea of studying abroad. She starts crying she has certain insecurities about him. Firstly, She thinks that he would marry abroad to a non-Muslim girl and their Bhakhurajian tradition of arrange marriage will decay. It was taken as taboo to marry a girl or boy of their liking. They were not given the right to choose their life partner although they claim to be the religious and honored families in society. Secondly, she has also fear deep inside her heart because Qurat who is Dadi’s cousin, her son married abroad to a converted Muslim and black girl. As she has no much social exposure, she thinks that everyone who goes abroad returns with a wife. But eventually, she agrees that it can only be possible if he promises that he would marry a girl approved by Dadi and whenever she wants. Zeba, the elder daughter of the family, has a different notion about it. She argues with Dadi and says: Dadi, you’re being unfair! Zebabaji protested. Haroon Bhai should have the freedom to marry someone he likes.

Upon this Dadi retorted “You be quiet! Listen to you! He should marry someone he likes….. Hussain! Look at what your daughter is saying!’’ (Ibid 29)

On another occasion, the subject is again the marriage of Haroon. Dadi puts forward a list of qualities that should be possessed by a prospective girl. When Dadi says: ‘’Arey Bhai, the younger they are, the more malleable!’’ Zeba is not of the same view, she again says this thought of her and says: ‘Dadi ‘, Zebabaji inquired, are we talking about women or plasticine?

From the beginning, we encounter this argumentation between the two protagonists for Zeba has a different social background and she has a different literal and economic background. Zeba has been brought up in a different social circle. She has grown in the city of Karachi, a different and liberal environment from the village of Bhakuraj where Dadi had been brought up. There is a big difference in a city and a village. Social factors have a great impact on the mindset of a person. Zeba believes that a person should be entitled right to choose her life partner as she has been inclined to this view socially. She has acquired it from society and the environment that a person has the right to his life, he has the right of expression, and he has the right to live his life the way he likes. She is courageous enough to argue with the matriarch of the family. Though no one is allowed to argue with Dadi, Zeba’s grooming does not allow her to remain quiet on the matters they don’t think are right. On the contrary, Dadi has been brought up were talking or arguing is considered as an offensive act towards the embedded taboos. Though economically sound but socially isolated, Dadi has been brought up in isolation in such away. They had been taught that they had no right especially girls to express their thoughts when elders discuss any topic or decide a matter of importance because they are taken as unwise. They have been taught that girls from respected families do not speak, they just listen and obey what they are told. Dadi had no schooling and another social circle. What she learned at home was all regarding education. She has been traditionally trained at home. She has been taught that a girl has to raise children and to keep the house no more. The women who do this duty of housekeeping and raising children well are characterized as respectable and successful women. In the novel, Dadi frequently expresses her thoughts proudly that a girl should be seen and not heard, a girl should be able to cook well, a girl should like this and that. Zeba says that women should be treated as human and not any material thing. They are living human beings, they breathe, they are not dumb, they can speak then why they should not be heard and only seen. They can differentiate between right and wrong and from their childhood they have been taught these things at home as well as in society.

The youngsters of the family have their style of living. Zeba, being a student of literature, keeps different views about everything. In the novel, she is depicted as a sharp-minded and disobedient girl of the family. Zeba is treated as the rebel of the family because she has set her principles for leading an ideal life. She is never inclined to follow the embedded customs, principles and traditions set by the Bhakurajian family. She seems to be interested to listen to the folks told by Dadi but she has no convictions to spend her own life as old-fashioned as Dadi`s. She is driven by the social norms of modern-day and by the conflicting differences between both traditions and viewpoints as she progresses in her educational life. 

In the novel changing roles of women have been portrayed greatly. Saima(Haroon’s wife) represents the ability of women to work in the man’s world. Fattiphups is playing the role of a liberal woman, who’s is leading a life in accord with her mindset. 

Based on given arguments and analysis it is found that as change is permanent in human life, a shift in culture is certain in this mobile society and Shazaf has justified the that with her wit. As Dadi had to agree with new trends, everyone has to accept the fact. Sooner or later culture has to decay and a new culture has to emerge according to social, political and economic changes that take place with the time. This novel proves this fact by presenting three generations in the same family. The shift of culture takes the gap of a generation but at last, it happens, the way old traditions of the Bakhuraj family come to its end by the marriage of Zeba ( a Shia girl) to a Sunni boy. So How It Happened can be taken as comic satire on the Pakistani society.

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New Social Compact

Five ways to protect health workers during the COVID-19 crisis

Christiane Wiskow

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Authors: Christiane Wiskow and Maren Hopfe*

In many cities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak a nightly ritual has been taking place whereby people applaud and bang pots and pans from their windows and their balconies to show gratitude to the many health workers braving the battle against COVID-19.

Health workers around the world are at the frontline of the daily battle to contain the virus and save lives. Pictures of them, exhausted, fighting to save patients have touched the world. The occupational safety and health of health workers is fundamental to enable them doing their jobs during this crisis. Their protection must be a priority.

So what needs to be done?

1. Keep health workers safe

Ensuring the safety and health of health workers and support personnel (e.g. laundry staff, cleaners and workers dealing with medical waste) is of the utmost importance.

Information on the transmission of the disease should be shared with health workers as widely and as quickly as possible, including information on the most recent guidelines, measures to prevent contagion and how they should be implemented. Dialogue between health workers and employers can ensure policies and procedures are being implemented in an appropriate manner.

The availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical, as well as training and education on how to use such equipment correctly. Moreover, testing for COVID-19 infection should be made available for health workers as widely as possible, to support both worker health and patient safety.

2. Protect their mental health

The pandemic confronts health workers with exceptionally demanding situations. In addition to a heavy workload, and at times traumatic situations with difficult decisions and unprecedented mortality rates, health workers must cope with the fear of contracting the disease or spreading it to their family and friends.

Lessons from other outbreaks, such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, showed that health workers may experience discrimination and stigma, due to the public’s fear of contracting the disease.

Providing social support within teams, families and friends, along with information and guidance for health workers on how to deal with stress and post-traumatic stress counselling, needs to be an integral part of the response.

3. Monitoring hours of work

In emergency situations, health workers are required to work under irregular and sometimes atypical conditions. In response to the outbreak many health workers are facing heavy additional workloads, long working hours and a lack of rest periods.

With many countries shutting down schools and public life, they also have to organize their private lives and look after dependants.

There should be appropriate working time arrangements to help health workers balance health service requirements with their care responsibilities at home and their own well-being.

4. Protect short-term recruits and volunteers

To fight the pandemic, several countries have reacted by seeking professional assistance from short-term recruits, volunteers, other sectors such as the military, retired health workers or medical and nursing students.

While these measures appear encouraging, because they secure the care needed, they should be carefully implemented to ensure these workers have the same employment protection as other workers.

Governments should consult with social partners to monitor and regulate such ad-hoc recruitments, as appropriate. As well as occupational safety and health, other terms and conditions of employment need to be addressed, such as social protection, remuneration, rest periods and working time arrangements.

5. Recruit and train more health workers

Investments need to be made in all health systems so that they can recruit, deploy and retain sufficient numbers of well-trained, supported and motivated health workers. The COVID-19 pandemic once again underlines the urgent need for a strong health workforce as an integral part of every resilient health system, and this is now recognized as essential foundation for the recovery of our societies and economies, and preparedness for future health emergencies.

*Maren Hopfe (Technical officer, health sector), Sectoral Policies Department

ILO

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