free-speech-conditions-apply

Amor Mundi, August 28th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Free Listening or Why The Free Speech Bogeymen Exist

This week Dean John (Jay) Ellison of the University of Chicago sent a letter to all incoming University of Chicago Freshman. The letter offers a bold defense of academic freedom, “one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.”

Ellison’s decision to inform incoming University students about the importance of free speech is praiseworthy. He also rightly explains that free speech is not absolute, writing that “Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others.” This claim is legally and morally correct. It offers a principled defense of free speech with an awareness of the limits on uncivil, harassing, and threatening speech. Ellison succinctly informs students that academic and political freedoms depend on encountering contradictory and opposed ideas, limited, of course, by concerns of outright harassment and calls to violence. None of this is controversial, or at least it should not be.

But Ellison’s letter has unleashed a controversy by stating clearly that the limits on free speech for harassing and threatening speech do not mean that we should impose formal “trigger warnings,” cancel speakers whose ideas offend some, or provide “safe spaces” to those who are bothered by controversial ideas. He writes:

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

Such a statement of principle by a Dean at a major University is beyond reproach. It should be a non-event. Sadly, it is necessary at a time when colleges around the country are disinviting speakers to prevent uncomfortable or unpalatable views from being expressed. It is important for academic institutions to stand up and state clearly that the life of the mind means that we listen to those with whom we disagree.

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Amor Mundi, August 21st 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

On Violence

Leslie Doyle remembers a visit to the late Seamus Heaney’s house, in the time of the Troubles:

“I mostly remember the poems from his latest collection at the time, Field Work. Descriptions of armored tanks and patrols and bullets and the deaths of young people were silted between images of green fields and grey rocks and eating oysters beside the sea. Heaney talked to us about the Troubles, the political and sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. Lives lost. Scores settled and rekindled. At one point, something he said sounded to me like an advocacy of violence in an uncomfortable way, but I said nothing because it was his house, his country, his world that was being shaken every day. I was a visitor in all ways…

Afterward, our professor said that Heaney had told him he was disappointed we hadn’t challenged him on the subject of violence. I think, even looking back, it would have been wrong to do so in his house, as if I had any right or standing to question his world. But then again, I’m certain on how I feel on violence and its use as a tactic, no matter what the circumstances. Six years before, I had been in the Tower of London the day before a bomb exploded in it, killing one person and injuring many others. Exactly forty-one years from the day I started writing this. So, what sows the gap between certainty and willingness to speak out?

I knew the oppression in the North was wrong, but so were the bombings. Turning it again: two months before that Tower of London bombing, several car bombs exploded simultaneously around Dublin and a town to the north. Thirty-four people died, the most in one day of the Troubles. The Ulster Volunteer Force took responsibility for those murders seventeen years later. When I call it “oppression,” I am sugar-coating the horrors. Heaney and his family lived this.”

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Amor Mundi, August 14th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Why Free Speech?

fire

Cecilia Capuzzi Simon explores the recent prominence of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and its President Greg Lukianoff.

The free-speech watchdog FIRE is a familiar irritant to college administrators, but until this past year, the rest of the country wasn’t paying much attention. An “epic” year is what Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, calls it. Colleges and universities were forced to publicly and painfully deal with a confluence of national issues — race, sexual assault, gay rights, politically correct speech — mirrored and magnified in the microcosm of campus life.

Finally, FIRE’s activism was syncing with the zeitgeist, in part because of Mr. Lukianoff’s role in framing the public interpretation of the campus turmoil. It was Mr. Lukianoff who made the argument, in a widely read opinion piece in The Atlantic, that today’s students are “coddled” and demanding protections against offensive words and ideas at the expense of intellectual rigor and the First Amendment. It was also Mr. Lukianoff who happened to be at Yale during the infamous Halloween costume shout-down of Prof. Nicholas Christakis, and whose viral video of it appeared to vividly illustrate his observations that many college students don’t understand what freedom of speech is, and who it applies to.

Freedom of speech, he said, is not an “intuitive” concept, and Americans take its benefits for granted. “I think everyone understands that they have a free-speech right, but they don’t necessarily understand why you should have one,” he said, sitting in his eighth-floor office in FIRE’s satellite space in Washington…

Most significantly, students are, wittingly or not, becoming vocal opponents of free speech by demanding protections and safe spaces from offensive words and behaviors.

“Something changed,” Mr. Lukianoff said. “I don’t entirely know why.” But he can date the shift: October 2013, at Brown University, when the New York City police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was invited to speak but was shouted down by students over his support of stop-and-frisk practices.

“I count that as the symbolic beginning because that’s when we noticed an uptick in student press for disinvitations, trigger warnings and microaggression policing,” he said. “That doesn’t mean administrators have stopped doing goofy things, but now they can say, at least more convincingly, that they are being told by students that they need to do those things.””

Why should we have a right to free speech and why is freedom of speech important?

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The Courage to Be: Leora Kahn

On Monday, April 11th, the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College welcomed photo editor and human rights advocate Leora Kahn as keynote speaker for its second “Courage to Be” Dinner/Lecture of the Spring 2016 semester.

Written by 2016 Student Fellows Morgan Evans and Anne Burnett

Leora Kahn is the founder and executive director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice, a non-profit organization based in New York City whose aim is to use visual storytelling and education to inspire global attitude and policy changes. PROOF is just one of Ms. Kahn’s achievements which, among other things, include photo editorial work, documentary film producing, and human rights advocacy. She was previously the director of photography at Workman Publishing and at Corbis. She has also worked for Time, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and US News and World Report as well as for the Ford and Annie E. Casey Foundation. She has curated exhibitions for the Ford Foundation, ABC Television, Amnesty International, Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Holocaust Museum in Houston.

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Amor Mundi, August 7th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Delight in Being Right

Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books offers her thoughts on Brexit in the United Kingdom. And in doing so, hits upon the fundamental themes that are rocking the liberal consensus around the globe.

“After settling this question, we all moved on to bemoaning the strange tendency of the younger lefty generation to censor or silence speech or opinions they consider in some way wrong: no-platforming, safe spaces, and the rest of it. We were all right about that, too. But then, from the corner, on a sofa, the cleverest among us, who was at that moment feeding a new baby, waited till we’d all stopped bloviating and added: “Well, they got that habit from us. We always wanted to be seen to be right. To be on the right side of an issue. More so even than doing anything. Being right was always the most important thing.”

In the days following the result I thought about this insight a lot. I kept reading pieces by proud Londoners speaking proudly of their multicultural, outward-looking city, so different from these narrow xenophobic places up north. It sounded right, and I wanted it to be true, but the evidence of my own eyes offered a counternarrative. For the people who truly live a multicultural life in this city are those whose children are educated in mixed environments, or who live in genuinely mixed environments, in public housing or in a handful of historically mixed neighborhoods, and there are no longer as many of those as we like to believe.

For many people in London right now the supposedly multicultural and cross-class aspects of their lives are actually represented by their staff—nannies, cleaners—by the people who pour their coffees and drive their cabs, or else the handful of ubiquitous Nigerian princes you meet in the private schools. The painful truth is that fences are being raised everywhere in London. Around school districts, around neighborhoods, around lives. One useful consequence of Brexit is to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in British society that has been thirty years in the making. The gaps between north and south, between the social classes, between Londoners and everyone else, between rich Londoners and poor Londoners, and between white and brown and black are real and need to be confronted by all of us, not only those who voted Leave.

Amid all the hysterical characterization of those Leavers in the immediate aftermath—not least my own—I paused and thought of a young woman I had noticed in the playground the year my daughter spent in that school in special measures. She was a mother, like the rest of us, but at least fifteen years younger. After walking behind her up the hill to my house a few times I figured out she lived in the same housing project in which I myself grew up. The reason I noticed her at all was because my daughter happened to be deeply enamored of her son. A playdate was the natural next step.

But I never took that next step and neither did she. I didn’t know how to penetrate what I felt was the fear and loathing she seemed to have for me, not because I was black—I saw her speaking happily with the other black mothers—but because I was middle class. She had seen me open the shiny black door to the house opposite her housing project, just as I had seen her enter the project’s stairwell each day. I remembered these fraught episodes from childhood, when things were the other way around. Could I ask the girl in the big fine house on the park into our cramped council flat? And later, when we moved up to a perfectly nice flat on the right side of Willesden, could I then visit my friend in a rough one on the wrong side of Kilburn?

The answer was, usually, yes. Not without tension, not without occasional mortifying moments of social comedy or glimpses of domestic situations bordering on tragedy—but still it was yes. Back then, we were all still willing to take the “risk,” if risk is the right word to describe entering into the lives of others, not merely in symbol but in reality. But in this new England it felt, to me at least, impossible. To her, too, I think. The gap between us has become too large.

The tall, narrow Victorian house I bought fifteen years ago, though it is exactly the same kind of house my middle-class friends owned when I was growing up, is now worth an obscene amount of money, and I worried that she might think I had actually paid that obscene amount of money to own it. The distance between her flat and my house—though it is, in reality, only two hundred yards—is, in symbol, further than it has ever been. Our prospective playdate lay somewhere over this chasm, and never happened, as I never dared ask for it.

Extreme inequality fractures communities, and after a while the cracks gape so wide the whole edifice comes tumbling down. In this process everybody has been losing for some time, but perhaps no one quite as much as the white working classes who really have nothing, not even the perceived moral elevation that comes with acknowledged trauma or recognized victimhood. The left is thoroughly ashamed of them. The right sees them only as a useful tool for its own personal ambitions. This inconvenient working-class revolution we are now witnessing has been accused of stupidity—I cursed it myself the day it happened—but the longer you look at it, you realize that in another sense it has the touch of genius, for it intuited the weaknesses of its enemies and effectively exploited them. The middle-class left so delights in being right! And so much of the disenfranchised working class has chosen to be flagrantly, shamelessly wrong.”

Smith suggests that there is something about left liberal elites that wants deeply to be right. Of course closed communities of believers know they are right. But the delight in being right is deeply engrained in an educated-elite mindset, even in a bi-partisan elite mindset. What makes the elite the elite is its propensity for being right, its faith that its rightness is based upon rational and scientific inquiry.

This need to be right may have its source in the years of schooling and university—the want to please teachers and be acclaimed by fellow students. Or it may be a corollary of our uncritical belief in social science, the confidence that we can study human behavior in ways that can improve humanity. Whatever the case, the college-educated elites who have risen to positions of political and economic leadership over the last 70 years are fully convinced of their superior skills of analysis and of their rightness.

The claim of rightness may be at home in philosophy or science, but it is foreign to politics. Politics is about opinions and while there are better and worse opinions, there are no true or false opinions. Opinions differ as do the people who hold them. But politics is also about finding those common opinions that unite a people amidst their different opinions. It is the recognition of what is common that goes by the name common sense.

Hannah Arendt is known for valuing common sense judgments over the knowledge of social science. It is common sense, the “sixth sense… that fits us into, and thereby makes possible, a common world.” Common sense does not come from knowledge or science but from the living together in a common world – from sharing in a world in which facts, buildings, and acts are experienced and shared in common. It is the shared life in a built and factual world that unites people without denying their real differences.

What Smith rightly argues is that rampant inequality prevents the sharing of a common world that both reflects and nurtures a common sense.

The key to living in a common world is talking with others, even those with whom one strenuously disagrees, and learning to share a world with them. That is the importance of “Real Talk: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex, and Religion,” the 9th Annual Conference of the Hannah Arendt Center, October 20-21. Learn more about the conference and register now. —RB

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Amor Mundi, July 31st 2016 – #100in10 Final

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Lonely Crowd

Robert Zaretsky, citing a 19th century Frenchman but taking on a tradition that goes as far back as Aristotle, wonders whether there really is such a thing as mob rule in the age of Trump, or at any other time:

“For those who have followed Le Donald’s rise to power, the crowd again seems to be rearing its massive head. It is the crowd, it appears, that swells Trump’s campaign events where the candidate praises the torture of terrorism suspects and justifies the violence of aides and followers. It is the crowd, one might believe, that shouts as he brands his political opponents as criminals, and promises to deport entire ethnic groups and deny entry to religious groups because of the alleged danger they present to the republic. It is the crowd, so it seems, that encourages Chris Christie’s call and answer to lock up Hillary Clinton and cheers Ben Carson’s suggestion that Clinton is a Lucifer’s apprentice. It is the crowd—this late-19th-century creature theorized by [Gustave] Le Bon, then ridden by the likes of Mussolini and Hitler (both of whom read the Frenchman’s work)—that Trump has apparently resurrected.

But here’s the rub: “le crowd” is, in part, a mythical creature. As contemporary sociologists and psychologists like Stephen Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews, argue, the crowd is less a feature of the modern political landscape than a creature of Le Bon’s private nightscape. Rather than surrendering their identity or losing themselves in the crowd, as Le Bon argued, individuals who join the group instead embrace a collective identity, one usually hedged by limits and informed by rules. In his work on riots in 18th-century England, the historian E.P. Thompson revealed how these so-called mobs were, in fact, governed by what he called a “moral economy.” Similarly, in his landmark work on crowds in the French Revolution, the historian George Rudé showed how the “mob” that took the Bastille was not bestial and base, but instead shaped by the actions of literate artisans…

Despite the correctives offered by social scientists, however, Le Bon’s vision remains very powerful. In part, this is because at times it does reveal telling traits to both crowds and those who seek to lead them. Yet, Le Bon’s vision also persists because it reveals truths about our own fears and resistances. Those of us who identify with America’s humane and liberal traditions are rightly horrified by Trump’s racist, violent worldview. But, ironically, Democrats risk committing the very same error that Trump has made his stock in trade: seeing his supporters in terms of abstractions, not particulars; groups, not individuals. When they see Trump’s supporters as a crowd, Trump’s opponents relieve themselves of the task of seeing them as men and women driven by an array of motives. The challenge is to defeat not just Trump, but the all-too-human tendency to turn the world into us versus them.”

Zaretsky and Reicher argue that social science shows that the crowd is more normal than one might think. The effort to normalize, rationalize, and thus to explain away what is unique and meaningful in a social phenomenon is a central effort of social science. By studying the behavior of large numbers of people, social science creates a bell curve in which most people act normally and only the outliers on the fringe are abnormal. By the law of large numbers, nearly all behavior is normalized and action – a surprising and exceptional act that can change and impact the course of the world – is excluded, in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Reichert’s argument that the modern mob is really rational may be true, but, as Zaretsky concedes, such a sociological reduction also doesn’t deal adequately with the power of the mob today. How then are we to understand the rise of the mob that is so consequent around the world?

Hannah Arendt argued that one distinctive feature of totalitarian movements is what she saw to be the transformation of the mob, the crowd, into a mass. Confronted with something new, like the 20th century totalitarian mass movements in Germany and the Soviet Union, Arendt insisted we understand what was new and extraordinary about them. In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt distinguishes the mob from the mass in ways that are deeply instructive for our contemporary politics.

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Arendt/Schmitt

Amor Mundi, July 24th 2016 – #100in10 Edition

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Arendt vs. Trump (and Schmitt)

Arendt/Schmitt

Feisal G. Mohamed writes at The Stone in The New York Times that the U.S. Presidential election can be understood as a contest between the ideas of Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt.

“Listening to Donald J. Trump’s acceptance speech, I felt as though the election was turning into a battle between two very different, though equally formidable, 20th-century political philosophers, Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt. “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced,” Schmitt wrote in his 1927 work, “The Concept of the Political,” “is that between friend and enemy.” It is a statement meant to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive: The friend-enemy distinction is central to politics in the same way that a good-evil distinction is central to ethics and a beautiful-ugly distinction is central to aesthetics. All other considerations are peripheral to this core concern.”

Schmitt’s “friend and enemy” distinction is the basis of his understanding of politics as a contest between conflicting groups or tribes. Schmitt sees it as realist counsel to understand that politics is about groups fighting other groups. To win and succeed, any political unity must be willing to sacrifice and fight for itself and against other groups. A political order for Schmitt is not a matter of laws that treat all people equally. When we mistake legality for politics, Schmitt argues, we weaken the friend/enemy distinction and the bonds of unity amongst friends in opposition to enemies that is the core of politics. Politics is the expression of the truth of a people in opposition to its enemies; and the Schmittian political dictator is the one gifted with the ability to speak for the people in a way that unifies and brings that people to exist. Trumps “I am your voice” is a true example of a Schmittian political dictator.

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Our 2016 100/10 Membership Challenge Contests and Drawings Begin!

We at the Hannah Arendt Center are very excited about this year’s 100/10 membership challenge, especially all of the contests and drawings we have planned!

The Big Three

First up, we have three drawings that will last the duration of the challenge. Each of these contests has its own rules:

  1. Perks for New and Renewing Members – All new members receive a complimentary copy of the inaugural HA Journal, Vol. I. Additionally, All new & renewing members are all entered into a raffle for a complimentary DVD of the film, Hannah Arendt by Margarethe von Trotta
  2. Referral Challenge – Like last year, we have included a text field in our membership form that reads, “Please enter the contact name of the person who requested you to submit your donation.” If you have a friend enter your name here when they are purchasing or renewing their membership, you will be entered into a drawing to win our Tote Bag package, which includes (1) HA Tote Bag, (1) copy of HA: The Journal, Vol. 1, 2, 3 and 4, and (1) signed copy of Thinking in Dark Times.

    ha library

    Hannah Arendt’s Library

  3. $1000 Challenge – Any person who purchases or renews a membership of $1000 and above will be entered to win a copy of Hannah Arendt’s Library, an exclusive artist book by Heinz Peter Knes, Danh Vo, and Amy Zion. More info can be found about the book here: http://hac.bard.edu/membership/

The winners will all be announced sometime on or after Sunday, July 31st after their names have been selected in a random drawing.

Please note that different winners will be selected for the Referral and $1000 challenges.

Social Media Mini-Contests!

We also have three mini-contests scheduled, all of which have the same basic guidelines:

Share, like or comment any Tweet/Status Update/Instagram posted during our #100in10 Challenge and you will be entered into a drawing for three (3) Tote Bag Packages.

We will be giving away three (3) Tote Bag Packages, one on July 26th, another on July 29th, and the last one on August 1st. Each contest will run a total of approximately three days. At midnight on the 25th, the 28th, and August 1st, we will close each of our contests and will draw a winner randomly from those who have participated. We will then contact the winner and announce their names on our social media accounts pending their approval. This means that each person has three chances to win, but please note you can win only once. **Each entrant may enter on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram

A few rules to consider:

Facebook

  • Anyone found to be using multiple accounts in this contest will be deemed ineligible to win and will be withdrawn from all future contests during this year’s challenge.
  • Participants can only be entered ONCE for each one of the three mini-contests. We have three mini-contests scheduled, which means each person has three chances to win. However, please note you can only win once, regardless of whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
  • You will NOT be considered an entrant if you use your personal Timeline or someone else’s Timeline to share a contest post. Entry into each contest is limited to liking or commenting the contest post, which will be found on our Facebook page.
  • Please note that this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. As such, all entrants to this promotion agree to release Facebook of all responsibility.

Twitter

  • Anyone found to be using multiple accounts in this contest will be deemed ineligible to win and will be withdrawn from all future contests during this year’s challenge.
  • Participants can only be entered ONCE for each one of the three mini-contests. We have three mini-contests scheduled, which means each person has three chances to win. However, please note you can only win once, regardless of whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
  • Please make sure to include our Twitter handle, @Arendt_Center, in your Tweet should you decide to re-Tweet our contest post.
  • Please note that this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter. As such, all entrants to this promotion agree to release Twitter of all responsibility.

Instagram

  • Anyone found to be using multiple accounts in this contest will be deemed ineligible to win and will be withdrawn from all future contests during this year’s challenge.
  • Participants can only be entered ONCE for each one of the three mini-contests. We have three mini-contests scheduled, which means each person has three chances to win. However, please note you can only win once, regardless of whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
  • Please make sure to include our Instagram handle, @hannaharendtcenteratbard, in your “regram” should you decide to regram our contest post.
  • Please note that this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram. As such, all entrants to this promotion agree to release Instagram of all responsibility.

Choosing winners:

An attempt will be made to contact the user via the network they engaged from. After 48 hours has passed with no response, we reserve the right to choose another winner in that user’s place.

New Membership Thank-You

As part of The Big Three mentioned above, all new members will receive a free copy of the Hannah Arendt Center’s inaugural edition of the HA: The Journal. Additionally, all new & renewing members are entered into a raffle for a complimentary DVD of the film, Hannah Arendt by Margarethe von Trotta. More information on the journal can be found here.

blackandredlogoAny questions, comments, or concerns should be directed to Daniel Fiege, Media Coordinator of the Hannah Arendt Center, at dfiege@bard.edu.

Thank you, and good luck to all of the participants!

Sincerely,

The Hannah Arendt Center

HAC 100_10 logo 2015

2016 100/10 Challenge – An Open Letter from Academic Director, Roger Berkowitz

Dear Friends,

Hannah Arendt insisted on loving the world in even the darkest times. Dedicated to thinking about our world with the fearless and provocative spirit that Arendt brought to everything she wrote, the Hannah Arendt Center works to find in Arendt’s unique and brilliant thinking a path to rethink our basic understandings.

Edward Snowden during a Q&A session at "Why Privacy Matters"

Edward Snowden during a Q&A session at “Why Privacy Matters”

Last year’s Annual Fall Conference “Why Privacy Matters” featured Edward Snowden. In October 2016, we host “Real Talk: Difficult Questions About Race, Sex, and Religion on Campus.” Featured speakers include Claudia Rankine, Mary Gaitskill, and Hilton Als. In all we do, the Arendt Center works to actualize Arendt’s ideal of political thinking, bringing together philosophers, poets, artists, business leaders, and academics from multiple backgrounds to think what we are doing.

The Arendt Center relies on your generous support. We exist at Bard College, in prisons through the Bard Prison Initiative, in Bard’s early colleges in Newark, NYC, Cleveland, Baltimore, and New Orleans, in public programs in New York City, in Berlin, on the web, in our Journal, in our Amor Mundi newsletter, and through our Post-Doctoral Fellowships. All of this work is supported by our members.

Today we launch our annual 100/10 Member Challenge: 100 new members in 10 days! If you are already a member, we hope that you’ll renew. If you haven’t yet joined, we ask you to become part of our world.

Arendt Center Members gain free admission to our Conferences and Lectures and are eligible to participate in our Virtual Reading Group.

HA: The Journal

HA: The Journal of The Hannah Arendt Center

All new members will receive a copy of the 2011 inaugural issue of HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center, featuring essays by Marianne Constable, Leon Botstein, Jerome Kohn, Patchen Markell, Babette Babich, Peg Birmingham, George Kateb, and many others.

All new and renewing members are entered in a drawing for special prizes including a DVD of “Hannah Arendt,” the movie by Margarethe von Trotta and a signed copy of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics.

We have a number of exciting contests during our 100/10 challenge! I’d like to mention two in particular. First, our $1000 Challenge offers new members at the $1000 level entrance into a drawing for the opportunity to win Hannah Arendt’s Library, a beautiful artist book by Heinz Peter Knes, Danh Vo, and Amy Zion. Learn more about the book here.

Second, we have a Referral Challenge, which gives you the opportunity to win a Tote Bag Package when you refer family or friends to join the center. The Tote Bag Package includes: (1) HA Tote Bag, HA: The Journal, Vol. 1, 2, 3 and 4 and a signed copy of Thinking in Dark Times.

Simultaneously to these two challenges, drawings for 3 additional Tote Bag Packages are being made for 3 lucky fans who help spread the word of our campaign via social media (look for the #ShareArendt posts). For more details on this and all of our contests and member perks, visit our membership page.

2016 Real Talk Tote Bags

2016 Real Talk Tote Bags

Lastly, all members receive free admittance to our 9th Annual Conference, Real Talk: Difficult Questions About Race, Sex, and Religion on Campus, which takes place on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 20-21. Register here. You can learn more about becoming a member and membership here.

Bold thinking about politics in the humanist style of Hannah Arendt is profoundly necessary in our increasingly thoughtless era. The Arendt Center exists to nurture provocative thinking about politics and ethics. We are grateful for your confidence in us and your engagement in our work to build a community around the thinking Hannah Arendt.

We thank you in advance and look forward to seeing you at our future events.

Roger Berkowitz

Black Lives Matter

Amor Mundi, July 17th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

You Were Looking in a Different Direction

Black Lives Matter

Christopher Lebron writes in The Stone about an imagined conversation with someone who doesn’t understand the importance of Black Lives Matter. Over and again Lebron – who will be speaking at the Arendt Center Conference “Real Talk” in October – tries to explain why he and others believe that in contemporary America, Black Lives Do Not Matter; in trying to speak to people who don’t understand him, Lebron rightly takes up the challenge of politics, of persuading people who disagree with him.

“Here’s one way of making sense of the misfire between us. You are with me when I am making my general comments about America’s foundational aspects. You are likely still with me on the observations about slavery. You may begin to edge away from our shared space of critical judgment somewhere around Jim Crow, but the horrors of lynching may persuade you to stay. The place, or the time rather, I mostly likely lose you is 1964. In your mind, our celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. made the world right in helping to usher in the era of formal equality when he cornered Lyndon B. Johnson into pushing for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In your mind, that moment introduced a new world order in which blacks could no longer be victims. The law had set them free and listed the bad things that people could no longer do. Moreover, it said that those people would be held responsible for the bad things they did. Thus, even if bad things happened to black people, the law would settle all accounts; therefore, no one could ever claim again that blacks were at the special mercy of racism. You, at this point, are sure that my proposition cannot be true since it fails to correspond.

As I said, I see the mistake I’ve made, but it’s not in my construction of the truth. It is in presuming that you and I were ever speaking about the same thing. And the reason we weren’t speaking about the same thing is that we were not looking in the same direction; thus, our basis for correspondence is mismatched.

The direction I was looking toward was the internal life of a black person in America. The very real anxieties and fears we have in whether our ambitions are as secure as any other American’s. Whether our opportunities are equal. Whether our health care is of sufficient quality. Whether our college degrees are of equal worth. Whether our spouses will make it home from the grocery store. Whether our children will one day counsel a parent that everything will be O.K. while someone is slumped over in the car seat in front of her, bleeding to death after being shot by a police officer.

You were looking in an altogether different direction. You were looking in the direction of your own innocence. Though you bought a house in an entirely segregated neighborhood, it’s not your fault the schools are better where you live. Though you have only one black friend, it’s not your fault because your friends are your co-workers and your company or university is doing poorly on diversity. Though it’s a shame that this black man or woman died (pick one, any one), it’s not your fault that the police officer you pay with your tax dollars and who is sworn to protect you did so at the expense of an unnecessary killing.

And none of these are your fault because that day in 1964 made it all right – the law said what could not happen, and thus, it must not be happening. Your sense of America is predicated on the assumption of a reliable and stable democratic system. We cannot possibly speak about the same thing given these conditions.

That is a problem. A core idea of democratic life is consensus citizens coming to a wide agreement on contentious issues. Americans disagree on all kinds of issues, but this one, whether black lives matter, is genuinely special and momentous. We have the facts: systemic racial inequality and rampant police-perpetrated killings. Then we have the observation of those facts seen from our distinct perspectives. Everything depends on you and I not only agreeing in our judgment but also taking up the proper positions to get genuine buy-in for the sake of justice. If you insist on standing where you do while I stand where I stand, there will never be agreement that black lives don’t matter in America.”

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Otto Kerner, chair of the Kerner commission

Amor Mundi, July 10th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Politics and Prejudice

Otto Kerner, chair of the Kerner commission

Julian E. Zelizer in The Atlantic writes that the racial divergence of the present recalls the post-riot period of the 1960s. Zelizer returns to the Kerner Commission report, requested but then ignored by Lyndon Johnson.

“[Kerner] Commission staffers had produced a blistering and radical draft report on November 22, 1967. The 176-page report, “The America of Racism,” recounted the deep-seated racial divisions that shaped urban America, and it was damning about Johnson’s beloved Great Society programs, which the report said offered only token assistance while leaving the “white power structure” in place. What’s more, the draft treated rioting as an understandable political response to racial oppression. “A truly revolutionary spirit has begun to take hold,” they wrote, “an unwillingness to compromise or wait any longer, to risk death rather than have their people continue in a subordinate status.” Kerner then nixed the report, and his staff director fired all 120 social scientists who had worked on it.

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return-of-american-politics-fireworks-washington

Amor Mundi, July 3rd 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Return of American Politics

The rise of anti-politics is going mainstream. David Brooks penned a column this week bewailing the disregard of politics in the U.S. and around the world. His opening gambit makes sense, arguing that politics is about the engagements among plural people who have different opinions in a common public sphere. He writes:

“Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.””

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The Courage to Change: Timeless Wisdom for the Modern Age

We’re thankful to so many who attended the “Courage to Change” discussions this month, hosted alongside Joe Loizzo of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, at the Tibet House in Manhattan. We had a wonderful time discussing the ideas and actions of courageous thinkers with you.

The feedback has been excellent.

For those of you who missed the dialogue, we offer you the audio below:

June 01: Hannah Arendt and the Courage to Think, Responsibility and Judgment, 159-189

June 08: The Dalai Lama and the Courage to Care, Ethics for the New Millennium, 19-77

June 15: Paul Tillich and the Courage to Be, The Courage to Be, 79-175

June 22: Mahatma Gandhi and the Courage to Change, Hind Swaraj, 64-117

Also, we are soft-launching our very own podcast on iTunes and offer the series there for your listening pleasure (Non-iTunes users: access our podcast via the RSS URL: http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/feed/podcast).

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The Courage to Change: Mahatma Gandhi

Audio from the series, The Courage to Change, co-hosted by Joe Loizzo and Roger Berkowitz at the Tibet House in NYC on Wednesdays in June 2016.

For this segment from June 22nd, Roger and Joe discuss Mahatma Gandhi’s work, Hind Swaraj (p.64-117), examining the courage to change.

“Class 4: Mahatma Gandhi and the Courage to Change (1 of 2)” from The Courage to Change: Timeless Wisdom for the Modern Age by Joe Loizzo and Roger Berkowitz. Released: 2016.

 

“Class 4: Mahatma Gandhi and the Courage to Change (2 of 2)” from The Courage to Change: Timeless Wisdom for the Modern Age by Joe Loizzo and Roger Berkowitz. Released: 2016.

unionjack and eu flags

Amor Mundi, June 26th 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Expert Meets Reality

Brexit icon

There are many interpretations of the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. It is undoubtedly a story of the rise of nationalism and even xenophobia and racism around the world. The campaign also was notable for the brazen dissemination of misinformation and outright lies. The “Leave” voters in England clearly deviated from the usual script of putting their pocket books first as they voted against their economic self interest. But most observers have by now understood that the Brexit vote is above all about the rise of populism and the distrust of elites and experts.

In the Financial Times, Philip Stephens argues that an anti-expert populism was the driving force for Brexit: “One of the more revealing moments of the Brexit campaign came when Michael Gove, a Conservative Outer once close to Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “People in this country have had enough of experts.” There it is: a celebration of ignorance that writes the opening line of the populists’ playbook. How long before Mr. Gove, a former education secretary, is piling books on to bonfires? Modern democracies operate within a framework of rationalism. Dismantle it and the space is filled by prejudice. Fear counts above reason; anger above evidence. Lies claim equal status with facts. Soon enough, migrants — and Muslims especially — replace heretics and witches as the targets of public rage.”

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