Theater of Cruelty

The emergence of totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt – Vita Activa
Regissør: Ada Ushpiz.
(Israel 2016)

New forms of totalitarianism are very relevant today, and thus the philosopher Hannah Arendt.








(See the movie's link at the bottom of the comment.)

What did Israeli Ambassador Raphael Schutz think when he, with his two security guards, sat and watched the film screening of the documentary Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt with subsequent panel debate? The embassy had supported the event at the Artists' House in Oslo this February. The topic we discussed was about totalitarianism, something Hannah Arendt specifically wrote about in the book The Origin of Totalitarianism (1951) – which currently sells tremendously well on Amazon.

Peace researcher Henrik Syse addressed Arendt's point about public spaces with sufficient physical and mental spaciousness to allow free speech and discuss all kinds of issues. As chairman of the panel, I could not help but refer to Schutz in the Chamber, since he represents Israel, which is seen by many as a modern form of a totalitarian state – where the exclusion of Palestinian views is clear. And in Israel, for example, one can be punished if one calls for an academic and cultural boycott because of Israel's occupation.

Israeli Rina Rosh, who was behind the film's research, says that the organization Breaking the Silence – former Israeli soldiers who have become opponents of the occupation – was recently expelled from the art venue Barbur in Tel Aviv where they had a larger meeting. The city's mayor was quickly informed by the Israeli Ministry of Culture that the city's own premises will not be used for political events. Henrik Syse then adds by reminding the hall – a hall with high ceilings – that asking questions is one of the most human things about us.

The totalitarian is growing also forward where one no longer distinguishes between truth and falsehood, as President Trump's exercise of power and "alternative facts" in the United States show. And the totalitarianism shows itself where one oppresses minorities and excludes others, for example as the president of immigration number one, has now found it opportune to deny Muslims entry. But the rise of totalitarianism shows itself where large numbers of people no longer really think – but only let the "logical, functional and necessary" apply, as film director Ada
Ushpiz puts it. Her film is based on the banality of evil, as German Adolf Eichmann was official which sent Jews straight to extermination camps. She describes "enclosed self-nurturing dream worlds where people find pleasure on different levels ... in pulverized post-modern societies". Here, people are deprived of their inner morality and become co-runners in every damn society that legitimizes the country's majority. She refers to Arendt and recalls that both the private and public sphere are soaked in clichés. Instead, they find themselves in "physical, emotional and intellectual comforts".

The panel from the left: Geir Aaserud, Henrik Syse, Helgard Mahrdt, Truls Lie, Rina Rosh, Zoran Kurelic and wolfgang Heuer (photo: Line Fausko)

According to Arendt, thinking involves having a real dialogue with oneself, involving both experience, empathy with others and one's own lonely heart – an ethical thought space foreign to a Hitler or a Trump.

The book on totalitarianism came out just before Arendt became a US citizen in 1951, after being a paperless refugee for 17 years, mentioned Arendt scientist Helgard Mahrdt.

When it comes to the stateless and undocumented refugees of our time, the Norwegian authorities are not exactly in the forefront. For example, this crudeness has recently been criticized in Klassekampen, where psychologist Karl Eldar Evang writes about the health center where he and other volunteers give the undocumented help. These "invisibles", as he calls them, come from Afghanistan, Palestine, Eritrea, Syria, Iran and Iraq: "Everyone I meet lives with a strong experience of being rejected. By not being allowed to enter a community… ».

Arendts calls for the stateless people's "right to have rights". But not least the need to share communities and projects rather than ending up as homeless, rootless or in refugee camps. As the philosopher Judith Butler tells in the film, Arendt, as a Jew, experienced having to escape from Germany, but also France, for so long to be paperless in the United States. After voicing her views on the banality of evil during the Eichmann case in Israel, after being rejected by her own Jewish environment, she pasted her superficial labels like "self-hating Jew" and "anti-Semite."

Arendt never even fell into the cliché community. With today's emerging nationalism, it is interesting to see how she fits in totalitarianism refers to Alexis de Tocqueville's theory of unions or associations. Arendt was the cosmopolitan who defended international communities, what modern anarchists like to call "affinity groups" or communities of interest. Wolfgang Heuer from the Freie Universität in Berlin (who is also behind the magazine also emphasized in Oslo how anarchism seeks to protect minorities and minorities.

Finally, let me recommend here the Turkish-American, Jewish-Sephardic Seyla Benhabib's book Hannah Arendt: The Melancholy Thinker of the Modern (English: The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt, 2003). She writes: "Arendt's words have proven to be prophetic: In the next half century, the refugee question will become a worldwide problem ... an evil circle of stateless, vulnerable minorities and expelled."

I expect Ambassador Schutz to hear me.


Watch the movie here if you are an online subscriber to Ny Tid.

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp: /
Editor-in-chief in MODERN TIMES. See previous articles by Lie i Le Monde diplomatique (2003–2013) and Morgenbladet (1993-2003) See also part video work by Lie here.

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