Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hannah Arendt – the Film / the Thinker

When I was checking the listings for the cinema in our little town on Friday, I discovered that small miracles do occasionally happen. They were actually screening a film aimed at an audience older than 17 and with an IQ greater than that, too. The film Hannah Arendt, directed by Magaretta von Trotta and staring Barbara Sukowa had, through some miracle, made it around to our neck of the woods.

For the uninitiated, Hannah Arendt was a German political philosopher (1906 – 1975) and a Jew who had to flee the country in 1933. Reading about her academic career, you can hardly escape coming to the conclusion that she was seriously a genius. After the war she and her husband were able to emigrate to the US where they both became respected professors in New York City universities.

Her book Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, which she wrote after reporting on the trial in 1961, caused a hornet’s nest of trouble for her, especially among the Jews. The subtitle of said book was The Banality of Evil.

I JUST FOLLOWED ORDERS

She judged Eichmann to be a totally mediocre man, not a monster at all. He’d sent millions of Jews to their death by, in his mediocrity, doing his job to the letter as he was ordered to. This by no means meant that he was innocent. He was a “Schreibtischtäter” – a desk criminal who masterminded train schedules to get people to their death on time. Arendt recognized the irony in this; for her, this characterized the Nazi way of doing business. Each bureaucrat was a cog in a wheel – each in itself banal – seen as a whole, the cogs and wheels added up to a death machine. They did their jobs without thinking (probably the most important word in Arendt’s vocabulary) about what they were doing or about the consequences.

Banality that murdered was not what the Jewish public wanted to hear. Nor did they want to hear Arendt’s take on how the Jewish councils in the concentration camps actually assisted the Nazis in achieving their end solution.

Eichmann was dully convicted and condemned to hanging, a result Arendt found just. But when her book was published in the US in 1963, she faced a storm from both close friends and the greater Jewish community. They accused her of being completely insensitive and unfeeling. They were, of course, missing the point of her analysis: that “normal” human beings were capable of participation in such inhuman endeavors. But the Jews in 1963 were just too close to the pain of the Shoah to appreciate the irony she saw.

It took the rest of us 50 years to catch up with achieve the distance she had as a great thinker less than 20 years post-Holocaust.  Arendt’s analysis of the banality of evil is one I can understand without allowing the deeds of Nazi criminals to appear as anything but abhorrent.

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GUN CONTROL IN THE USA – JON STEWART’S INSIGHT

Just a quickie today, inspired by Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, aired here last night but from18th April on the subject of gun control. It is such a relief that there are Americans over there who think and can blast holes in the faulty (or non-existent) logic perpetrated by the opponents of gun control! The show left me cheering and punching the air. Here’s the link: Continue reading

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MARGARET THATCHER AND THE BOSTON MARATHON

         

Mass Gatherings Thrust the Public into Vulnerable Situations

On a usual day the two items in my title would have very little to do with each other. But since the bombs went off yesterday at 3 pm local time, “usual” doesn’t count. Every time a mass sporting event or public celebration takes place across the world, we have to worry about who will take advantage of these made-to-order opportunities to inflict severe harm to the greatest number of innocent people.

As yet, the source of yesterday’s bombs is unknown. International or domestic terrorism? A lone assassin or a team of conspirators? It seems that someone should soon take responsibility for these heinous acts, for why else do they carry them out, if not for prime-time coverage across the earth?

Margret: Savior or Destroyer?

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 17th April, Margaret Thatcher’s life will be celebrated in London. But many are celebrating her death, as if dancing on her grave would change the past 30 years of British history. Must we fear violence on the streets from the disgruntled whom decades ago the grocer’s daughter forced to face economic reality? Might recalcitrant IRA terrorists resurface with bombs to shake the city in ear-shattering remembrance of Mrs. Thatcher’s Ireland policies? All agree that she altered the face and future of Britain. Not all have seen this in a positive light.

I lived in Britain from 1975 until early 1980. Baroness Thatcher (then simply Mrs.) had just entered office not long before we left and hope for change was high. It took a feisty woman to step up to bat and change the game. And as we all know, games have not only winners.

Brain Drain

The Britain I experienced in the late seventies was not a great place to live. London lived in fear of the next IRA bombing. The unions held sway over industry and the Labour government; and that government owned and operated many major companies. On a personal level, our years in Britain were meager and with both of us working full-time, we could barely make ends meet. When my husband had finished his professional qualification, we didn’t hang around to await improvements. We moved to Germany as economic refugees in search of a better future.

Britain had long been suffering from brain drain. Its most well-educated and talented citizens voted with their feet and emigrated to more user-friendly environments (i.e. lower taxes, fewer strikes, less rain). We just joined the stampede.

 The Iron Lady

In her later years as P.M. the Iron Lady became imperious. Her attitudes towards the European Union and her belief in the poll tax were not only arcane but extremely destructive. Nevertheless, in other areas Margaret Thatcher did her country a great service.  She brought about a sea change in Great Britain: she stopped the downward spiral.

Thus as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is held tomorrow, London must brace itself for unrest. I pray that the press gets very little in the way of sensational stories from the event. I fear I shall be disappointed.

May the innocent in London be safe from harm. May the guilty in Boston suffer the consequences of their cowardly acts.

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