Thursday, May 31, 2018

#151 / Now More Than Ever

Hannah Arendt

Now more than ever we need to adopt Arendt’s standard for honest collective exchange, a standard enunciated quite clearly in the “Nation-State and Democracy” radio address, published in this inaugural issue of Arendt Studies: 
Just as today in foreign policy we are everywhere confronted with the question of how we can organize relations between states to eliminate from them the possibility of war as an ultima ratio, so in domestic policy we are everywhere confronted with the problem of how we can reorganize and split up modern mass society to allow for the free formation of opinion, a sensible exchange of opinions, and thus to the individual taking active responsibility for public affairs.
From Cold War to endless war, much has changed in the fifty years since Arendt wrote this text. And yet the question still remains, can we find a way beyond endless war, so that we can connect with the many countries we have identified as our enemies in a non-violent and productive manner?

The quotation above is from the Editor's Introduction to the inaugural issue of an online journal "dedicated to the study of the life, work, and legacy of Hannah Arendt." The Editor, James Barry, suggests that finding some way to get beyond "endless war" is an imperative necessity in our times. 

As should be clear from my posting on Saturday, May 19th, I absolutely concur. 

While it may seem fanciful to suggest, as I did in that posting, that we should contemplate the reinstitution of the military draft as a political mechanism to force our nation to confront what our military apparatus is doing in the name of American citizens, I tend to think that Arendt would count that suggestion as an idea to be welcomed, as part of what ought to be an "honest, collective exchange" about an important topic: namely, what we should allow the military forces of the United States to do, allegedly on our behalf.

It is always good to read Hannah Arendt. One of her insights, worth thinking about, is that the political realm is a realm of "miracles," with something never imagined or ever thought of before being a constant possibility. That politics can produce miracles is true because politics is the realm of human freedom. We are constrained by nothing but our own imaginations, and by the limitations of our own personal courage. 

It is always good to consult with Bob Dylan, too. I think Dylan would agree with James Barry and might choose to highlight Barry's message in that first line, calling upon his lyrics in "Soon After Midnight."

And isn't that always true!

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