10.24.20 – READING: HANNAH ARENDT ON LONELINESS & TOTALITARIANISM
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...
Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationship with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie, the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie, the standards of thought) no longer exist.
–Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, excerpted in Samantha Rose Hill’s Where lonliness can lead for aeon.co, in which Hill writes:
“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. Loneliness arises when thought is divorced from reality, when the common world has been replaced by the tyranny of coercive logical demands.”