Saturday, April 11, 2020

#102 / All The Lonely People

The Beatles sang about it. Now, rather recently, Roger Berkowitz, who is the Director of The Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, has written about it in a blog posting titled, "Loneliness and the Nuclear Family." 

Loneliness is corrosive. It is an "individual" condition, ultimately premised on our sense that we are radically separated from others. This sense of our individual separation from others is usually something felt more than thought. Our feeling of unconnectedness destroys our ability to recognize the fundamental truth that we are not, in fact, "alone." We are together through life.

Hannah Arendt identified loneliness as the foundation upon which totalitarianism is built. Without a belief that we are, in fact, together with others in this life, connected with others in all that we do and experience, we are left vulnerable. As Berkowitz explains in his blog post: 

The political thinker who first intuited the danger loneliness poses for politics is Hannah Arendt. Arendt asks after the "basic experience which finds its expression in totalitarian domination." She names that experience loneliness. Totalitarianism, she argues, "bases itself on loneliness, on the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man." For Arendt, mass loneliness leads to a crisis of meaninglessness and purposelessness. Amidst a pervasive loneliness, masses seek meaning and certainty in ideological movements that replace the complexity of reality with ideological fictions that are more adequate to the needs of abandoned human beings than is the complex realities in which we live.

Hurling words against the felt reality of loneliness is not a sufficient cure. Does totalitarianism threaten? It does. It does, and it is ultimately far more dangerous than that virus, abroad in the world,  that drives us inside, that separates us from one another when we most need to recognize our common cause. 

Can words abate an epidemic of loneliness. They cannot. 

Only human contact, human touch, common human action can ever do that!

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