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 execution of two NYC police officers risks severely complicating momentum for reform. Daryl Pinckney spent the week during and after the release of the Grand Jury verdict refusing to indict a police officer for shooting Michael Brown six times and killing him. Pinckney combines history, politics, and street-level analysis. He focuses on both “Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, the pastor ‘for formation and justice’ at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston” and more youthful leaders of the protest movement: “The Ferguson movement gathers mostly under an umbrella group, the Don’t Shoot Coalition. It includes tested groups, such as the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), founded in 1980. Four years ago, Montague Simmons left an investment brokerage firm to become OBS head. Two very beautiful young black women, one with a crown of braids, stopped at Reverend Sekou’s table for hugs. ‘Young people will not bow down,’ he said of them, and introduced Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton. They started Millennial Activists United (MAU) in the days after Michael Brown’s death. In a British documentary about the Ferguson protest, Ferrell and Templeton can be heard discussing how they were going to ‘change the narrative’ of one evening’s action, reminding their peers not to drink, not to play music, and to stay focused. In photographs and news footage, Templeton is the young black woman with a bullhorn, emblematic of protest at the Ferguson Police Department.” Pinckney’s essay is full of important observations. Above all, he insists we take seriously the question: “What do you fundamentally believe about black people?” Pinckney notices himself scared of Black youths and writes: “I had to ask myself, When did I become afraid of black youth? How had I, a black man, internalized white fear?” In the end, Pinckney suggests that the protest movement in Ferguson promises real change: “Yet the Ferguson movement has promised that the situation cannot go back to normal, to the way things have been. Everybody knows what racism is. The problems needn’t be explained over and over. They can’t be deflected by saying that Michael Brown took some cigars from a store, that he broke the law and therefore it was proper to kill him with six bullets, although he had no weapon. This is the kind of thinking that racism hides behind. Ferguson feels like a turning point. For so many, Brown’s death was the last straw. Black youth are fed up with being branded criminals at birth. Ferguson was the country stepping back in time, or exposing the fact that change hasn’t happened where most needed, that most of us don’t live in the age of Obama. ‘It’s a myth that we’re a fair society,’ Sekou said. ‘We have to take that needle out of our arms.'”
In an interview, artist Adriana Varejão discusses what people see in her series Tongues and Incisions, which features, in part, representations of meat: “When I see the tiles with the meat inside, I think that the meat is much more connected with life and voluptuousness than the clean, rational tile surface. It is like the rationality of the greed. It’s very, very cold. The interior, which is alive and baroque and bleeding, it attracts me a lot. I don’t want to give a text for the painting and what it should represent; I think the final meaning will be in the person that will see the work. For some, the meat represents that every house is an organism. The other day, a woman said it reminds her how during the Chilean dictatorship, they put bodies of political prisoners in the walls of a stadium. And for some people it’s funny, cartoonish, guts. Some people say that body is a political body, others say it is a historical body. I say that maybe it’s a painter’s body. In the end, I belong to this Western historical tradition, which is the tradition of painting meat – Goya and Gericault and Bacon.”
Elizabeth Zerofsky summarizes Éric Zemmour’s French bestseller Le Suicide Français, the unexpected and extraordinary success of which she ties to the rise of Marine Le Pen and the legitimization of her far right National Front party: “Zemmour traces France’s ills to the death, in 1970, of the nation’s postwar patriarch, Charles de Gaulle, which coincided with what Zemmour sees as the tragic death of patriarchy, starting with the May, 1968, protests. ‘Our immoderate passion for Revolution blinded and perverted us,’ Zemmour writes. ‘The France that came out of May ’68 would ring in the revenge . . . of femininity over virility’ He then demonstrates the many ways in which feminist and other liberationist movements wrought damage, painting a picture of the backward morality stemming from the orthodoxy of ‘It is forbidden to forbid,’ which, he says, has been driving the country ever since. Le père, in his conception, stands for all the principles that a nation needs to thrive–stoicism, sacrifice, delayed gratification–‘The father embodies the law and the principle of reality in opposition to the principle of pleasure.’ La féminité, in conjunction with feminism, unbound these structures of rectitude, undoing the family. The ‘quest for happiness became the grand business of everyone,’ Zemmour complains. The outcome of the countercultural uprising was the ‘triptych of ’68: Dérision, Déconstruction, Destruction,’ which ‘sapped the foundations of all traditional structures: family, nation, work, State, school.’ Once Zemmour has identified the source of the rot at the center of everything, it is easy for him to unpack each successive social and legal development that whittled away at France’s glory.”
Conor Feinsdorf takes on the “ticking time-bomb” defense of the CIA’s recently revealed torture program: “If a terrorist group somehow credibly threatened to incinerate the entire Northern Hemisphere, to murder billions, unless the President of the United States ordered the CIA to rape a half-dozen children, I suppose that most presidents would go ahead and do it. Perhaps some of you would like to debate the abstract morality of that decision. What I want to insist upon is that any such debate about wildly implausible hypotheticals is a distraction from the actual moral questions that our country faces. Extrapolating from the extreme cases is inane.”
Jay Caspian Kang considers the place of the selfie in an activist moment: “How could we, in 2014, ever be as impassioned, as militant as they were in those black-and-white photos of the Freedom Summer? By those standards, the cellphone photos from this month’s protests will be compositional failures, not only poorly framed but also badly lit and mostly featuring the backs of heads. Millions of them, however, will be published across the Internet, and while most will be either ignored or halfheartedly favorited, the sheer number of images has formed an aesthetic unto itself. The photographer who shot the climate-change march in black and white made beautiful, revelatory images that captured the essence of the march, with the assumption being that the event will have passed once the images are published; that the work will be the capstone to a historic event. The cellphone images from the Eric Garner protests demand no such reflection: There is never a lesson to be learned. Instead, they function like text messages sent by an impatient friend: I am here. Why are you not?”
HAC members at all levels are eligible to participate in a monthly reading group led online via a telecommunication website by Roger Berkowitz, Director of the Hannah Arendt Center.
For questions and to enroll in our virtual reading group, please email David Bisson, our Media Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Bluejeans.com, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Courage To Be: Lecture and Dinner Series, with Eyal Press
The Courage To Refuse
Monday, February 9, 2015
Kline Faculty Dining Room, 6:00 pm
Courage To Be: Lecture and Dinner Series, with Keith Haring Fellow in Art and Activism, Jeanne van Heeswijk
Monday, February 16, 2015
Kline Faculty Dining Room, 6:00 pm
Lunchtime Talk with Angela Maione, our Klemens Von Klemperer Post-Doctoral Fellow
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
The Hannah Arendt Center, 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Lunchtime Talk with Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen, a Hannah Arendt Center Doctoral Fellow
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The Hannah Arendt Center, 1:00 pm
Courage To Be: Lecture and Dinner Series, with Uday Mehta
Putting Courage at the Centre: Gandhi on Civility, Society and Self-Knowledge
Monday, March 30, 2015
Manor House Cafe, 6:00 pm
Property and Freedom: Are Access to Legal Title and Assets the Path to Overcoming Poverty in South Africa?
A one-day conference sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College, the Human Rights Project, and the Center for Civic Engagement, with support from the Ford Foundation, The Brenthurst Foundation, and The University of The Western Cape
Monday, April 6, 2015
Bard College Campus Center, Weis Cinema, Time TBA
The Life of Roman Republicanism with Joy Connolly
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Aspinwall Room 302, Bard College, 6:00 pm
Translating the Holocaust: H. G. Adler as Writer and Scholar
Monday, May 4, 2015
Location and Time TBA
This week on the Blog, Laurie Naranch suggests that people’s horror at the violence they witness every day can inspire them to attend to things in the common world in the Quote of the Week. Plato provides this week’s Thoughts on Thinking. In this week’s Video Archives, we look back on a Lunchtime Talk former HAC post-doctoral and associate fellow Laura Ephraim delivered in 2011, in which she provides an Arendtian critique of Ray Kurzweil’s writings on ‘the Singularity.’ And we appreciate a personal library of Arendt’s works submitted by a member of the international Arendt community in our Library feature.
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