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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Hannah Arendt and totalitarianism


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Hannah Arendt (1905-1975) was German philosopher best known for her analysis of totalitarianism and Nazi Germany. Wikipedia says,


"Her works cover a broad range of topics, but she is best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In the popular mind she is best remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, her attempt to explain how ordinary people people actors in totalitarian systems..." (Wikipedia: Hannah Arendt, 8.7.21 UTC 19:27)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Arendt.




"Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: 'Things must change - no matter how. Anything is better than what we have.'" (Interview with Roger Errera, 1974)


"The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people not informed... If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer." (Interview with Roger Errera, 1974)


"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... under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements..." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951)


"The totalitarian attempt at global conquest and total domination has been the destructive way out of all impasses. Its victory may coincide with the destruction of humanity; wherever it has ruled, it has begun to destroy the essence of man." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951)


Banality of evil


"The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal." (Eichmann in Jerusalem, 1963)


"The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good." (The Life of the Mind, 1978 posthumous)


"So that instead of saying: 'What horrible things I did to people!' the murderers would be able to say: 'What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!'" (Eichmann in Jerusalem, 1963)