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Archive for February, 2017


With apologies to the author who penned this assessment of Hannah Arendt, could not find your name again to give due credit.
Thanks to my son for bringing this marvelous philosopher back to mind. Her take on mind and matter so fits today’s political narrative. Yeah. You know who I’m talking about. Him. The Donald. The President. So divest yourself for the foreseeable future of any preconceived notion about how politics works, or how nations interact. Or for that matter, even how we fit into the dynamic. It really is a brave new world. We’re living it, creating the narrative without any familiar reference point.

It follows, for Arendt, that political philosophy has a fundamentally ambiguous role in its relation to political experience, insofar as its conceptual formulations do not simply articulate the structures of pre-reflective experience but can equally obscure them, becoming self-subsistent preconceptions which stand between philosophical inquiry and the experiences in question, distorting the phenomenal core of experience by imposing upon it the lens of its own prejudices.

Herein lies the basis of Arendt’s quarrel with Hegel and Marx, for to define politics or the unfolding of history in terms of any teleology or immanent or objective process is to deny what is central to authentic human action, namely, its capacity to initiate the wholly new, unanticipated, unexpected, unconditioned by the laws of cause and effect.

“One could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” – Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

Trump has pushed this approach to new extremes; even though there are more fact-checkers than ever dedicated to exposing his blatant lies, the president’s cunning tactic is to discredit these reports as coming from the established, “dishonest” media. Meanwhile, his movement’s beliefs are backed by widely available alternative sources.

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Twitter and Trump


Were it not for the disturbing malice in President Trump’s tweets, I’d say his social media commentary is charmingly naive. I’m not sure if it is the 140 character maximum allowed by Twitter that is distorting my view, or if in fact the President’s command of English is indeed at a grade 10 schoolboy level. I lean toward the latter conclusion. When a president uses terminology like “dudes” and “bad people” it reveals a mind that simply cannot grasp a more articulate phrasing. He seems to write whatever pops into his head, without any thought as to the potential consequence or interpretation of his words. Unlike you or I, the leader of the world’s most powerful and influential country would surely understand that his thoughts and actions are subject to analysis and reprint the world over. Every city from Albacore to Zagreb will look at what he has to say, and decide how his words will impact on them. But so far, a mere 15 days into his presidency, I see a man whose actions are motivated only by some kind of petulant grievance against anybody and everybody who has wronged him. He set up to undertake certain actions a long time ago, and nothing will change his course. It’s my way or the highway is a credo that seems to govern his every move. That might be a successful strategy for Vladimir Putin, but what President Trump has not yet understood is this. He is President in a democracy! He is still answerable to the people. And even if it takes another 4 years, the people can decide at some point that his style and simplistic viewpoint is not at all representative of their wishes. Unlike his counterpart in Russia, President Trump cannot manipulate everybody around him, including his military, to either agree or be fired, or worse yet as Putin has demonstrated, be terminated, quite literally terminated. Or can he? And unless he starts to demonstrate something other than oligarchic autocratic governing, the damage he can wreak in those four years is enough to completely destabilize and ruin our world. (And yet another part of me holds out hope that he will actually effect positive change with his straight ahead, damn the torpedoes style, but that is a subject for another essay.) So Mr. President, stop the tweets. They make you look silly. The President of the United States of America does not have to resort to social media commentary to be heard. Your world is not in cyberspace, reacting to and exchanging insults with the twitter world. I understand that it is an effective way to circumvent media, but dude, it is not presidential. Be a president, not a blogger.

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