For Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism Is Rooted in Loneliness


From Aeon: “‘What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the ever-growing masses of our century.’ – From The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) by Hannah Arendt

. . . Organised loneliness, bred from ideology, leads to tyrannical thought, and destroys a person’s ability to distinguish between fact and fiction – to make judgments. In loneliness, one is unable to carry on a conversation with oneself, because one’s ability to think is compromised. Ideological thinking turns us away from the world of lived experience, starves the imagination, denies plurality, and destroys the space between men that allows them to relate to one another in meaningful ways. And once ideological thinking has taken root, experience and reality no longer bear upon thinking. Instead, experience conforms to ideology in thinking. Which is why when Arendt talks about loneliness, she is not just talking about the affective experience of loneliness: she is talking about a way of thinking. Loneliness arises when thought is divorced from reality, when the common world has been replaced by the tyranny of coercive logical demands.

We think from experience, and when we no longer have new experiences in the world to think from, we lose the standards of thought that guide us in thinking about the world. And when one submits to the self-compulsion of ideological thinking, one surrenders one’s inner freedom to think. It is this submission to the force of logical deduction that ‘prepares each individual in his lonely isolation against all others’ for tyranny. Free movement in thinking is replaced by the propulsive, singular current of ideological thought.”

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  1. The article and reference to the whole article is incredible. Thinking itself is Dangerous, which to understand how much we are thinking about the experience of being hospitalized is difficult to unpack. Thank the staff for sharing the reference. Then go to Hill’s homepage for an insightful presentation about the challenge to think, to realize, yes, the delivery and experience for better space, Could our individual and collective experience be some where between fact and fiction? For to understand just how strong, minds can be, to hold a thought, and revisit the space milliseconds later, within a context of exploring the dynamics of self, seemingly will afford a better way forward. The colorful ways we have thought, think and will think seemingly is the stuff we are made of, to see and experience the world. The ideological thinking seems to be a challenge not just for a mental hospital, but perhaps (?), you think a way forward in governance. Without a Pac nor a Pack? Fealty not to the individual but rather to the principles afforded in the documents.

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  2. As I finish reading “Jimmy Warde’s Experience as a Lunatic” written in 1905, from being a patient in then what was called, “The Arkansas Lunatic Asylum”, I will leave the post with a quote from his autobiography, “The Place was enough to run any man crazy”.

    He realized his mind was unique though would become entangled; to understand the knowledge that has been created about how to improve mental health care, the experiences to understand, we are citizens, then who, what, when and where can we realize a “slight adjustment in understanding, our creative way of seeing and being in the world?”

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    • What sort of currencies can we expect in response to the Injustices, perhaps also to address the times we would expire prematurely? The requisite change seemingly can occur from with, as well as outside of the (me?) to include the change and experience of the “We”, as in the People. Incredible patience on our part throughout history?!!!

      So much to study, learn and share?!

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