Why the world is turning to Hannah Arendt to explain Trump

George Orwell’s “1984” is not the only classic that’s celebrating a comeback. Hannah Arendt’s philosophical essay “The Origins of Totalitarianism” has also spiked in interest recently. Here’s why it’s so relevant.

Born in Germany to a Jewish family, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) fled when Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933. She spent time as a stateless refugee in France and was deported to an internment camp under the Vichy regime. She emigrated to the United States in 1941, later becoming a US citizen.

Having experienced first-hand the near collapse of an advanced civilization, she also became one of the first political theorists to analyze how totalitarian political movements could rise in the early 20th century.

The roots of Nazism and Stalinism are described in her first major book, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” originally published in English in 1951.

It has been compulsory reading for many college students ever since, but the dense political work of over 500 pages isn’t typically a bestseller. It has been flying off bookshelves in the US since Trump’s inauguration; Amazon even briefly ran out of stock this week.

These new Arendt fans are presumably trying to understand what Trump’s presidency could lead to. As it might take a while for readers to get through her heavy essays, here are a few spoilers: “Trump is not a totalitarian in her understanding; he incorporates what she calls ‘elements’ of totalitarianism,” Roger Berkowitz, professor and head of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanity at Bard College in New York, explained in a recent DW interview.

However, strong warning signs shouldn’t be ignored, added Berkowitz: Arendt believed that “one of the core elements of totalitarianism is that it’s based in a movement… and Trump has explicitly called himself the mouthpiece of a movement. That’s a very dangerous position for a politician.”

DW News Hannah Arendt Zitate ENG

Populism: easy fixes in times of global anxiety

Arendt’s analysis focuses on the events of that period. Although her observations obviously couldn’t explain everything about today’s complex political developments, many are still revealing even now, as the right-wing populism that’s spreading throughout Europe and the US is reminiscent in different ways of the situation in the 1920s and 30s that allowed the Nazis and Communists to rise. Continue reading

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Is this not the greatest song about Donald Trump – ever?

Fergus he builds and builds, yet small is his erection. Fergus has a fine head of hair, when the wind’s in the right direction

Richard Thompson

Roughly five years ago, Richard Thompson wrote a Celtic folk ballad about an unscrupulous businessman and his shady dealings in Scotland.

It’s called Fergus Laing and, to say the least, is a little bit cheeky.

“Fergus he builds and builds, yet small is his erection. Fergus has a fine head of hair, when the wind’s in the right direction,” Thompson sings.

There was probably little doubt as to who Fergus Laing was inspired by, even if this rule-bending American businessman wasn’t president yet and the details about his controversial development of a golf course on environmentally sensitive lands were better known in the United Kingdom than North America.

But when Donald Trump took over the White House in 2016, Thompson thought the song might take on a new life.

“I continued to sing it a little bit as he rose to prominence in the political sphere,” says Thompson, in an interview from a tour stop in Wisconsin. “I very quickly realized that I could just not keep up. There was too much information every day. I’d have to write a new verse a day. I just had to stop singing that song because it was out of date immediately.”

A songwriter with a knack for sardonic humour and sharp storytelling, Thompson’s political output includes everything from 1991’s stinging Margaret Thatcher rebuke Mother Knows Best to 2007’s tormented Iraq-war anthem Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.

So it says something about the political atmospheres in both Thompson’s adopted country and his native England, which is currently engulfed in its own circus-like, Brexit-inspired chaos, that the songwriter feels unable to properly reflect them in song.

“The political situation in America and in Britain is so strange and so unprecedented in both countries, you have to be a very nimble songwriter to keep up,” says Thompson, who now lives in Los Angeles. “So far, I haven’t managed to. As much as I like writing political things and deflating political egos, I haven’t managed to keep up lately.”

LYRICS
Fergus Laing is a beast of a man
He stitches up and fleeces
He wants to manicure the world
And see it off in pieces
He likes to build his towers high
He blocks the sun out from the sky
In the penthouse the champagne's dry
And slightly gassy
Fergus Laing, he works so hard
As busy as a bee is
Fergus Laing has 17 friends
All as dull as he is
His 17 friends has 17 wives
All the perfect shape and size
They wag their tails and bat their eyes
Just like Lassie
Fergus he builds and builds
Yet small is his erection
Fergus has a fine head of hair
When the wind's in the right direction
Fergus Laing and his 17 friends
They live inside a bubble
There they withdraw and shut the door
At any sign of trouble
Should the peasants wail and vent
And ask him where the money went
He'll simply say, it's all been spent
On being classy
Fergus' buildings reach the sky
Until you cannot see 'um
He thinks the old stuff he pulls down
Belongs in a museum
His fits are famous on the scene
The shortest fuse, so cruel, so mean
But don't call him a drama queen
Like Shirley Bassey
Fergus Laing he flaunts the law
But one day he'll be wired
And as they drag him off to jail
We'll all shout, "You're fired!"
Fergus Laing from a RT show

Still, Thompson is nothing if not prolific. So it’s possible these songs may be pending. In any case, biting political commentary is just one of many colours Thompson has in his songwriting palette. Next month, New West Records will release Thompson’s score for Erik Nelson’s Second World War documentary The Cold Blue. While Thompson is no stranger to soundtrack work, fans might be surprised that it features a relative dearth of guitar. Instead, Thompson enlisted a small chamber orchestra featuring French horns, a string quartet, double bass, oboe, clarinet, harmonica and percussion to musically back Nelson’s film about the brave pilots of the Eighth Air Force.

Meanwhile, as of this week, Thompson is also busily working on songs for both an acoustic album and his next full-band release.

“I’ve got two piles of songs,” Thompson says. “We’ll see which one wins, which one is the next record.” [ . . . ]

Source CALGARY HERALD: Richard Thompson brings 50 years of music to Bella Concert Hall | Calgary Herald

“I use the best, I use the rest”

Appealing to St. Jude on Donald Trump

By Michael Stevenson

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Dear St. Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes,

Let me begin by stating how very much I like your latest Facebook profile pic – the new “fit Jude” image. No one should believe that a top-notch saint such as yourself needs to appear hungry or disheveled. It was clearly time for a change. Bravo!

As you know, I’ve prayed to you with a special request for about two years now, and I so appreciate you hearing my prayer. I knew that you would.

I was quite specific in my prayer, however, and I believe there has been a mistake made. Let me say that I fully appreciate that you, as Patron Saint of Lost Causes, are incredibly busy. Certainly the sheer number of Lost Causes today is our fault and not yours. I’ve previously suggested moving all sports-related Lost Causes (Mets, Jets, etc.) to a separate saint (an intern perhaps?) But we shall address that another time.

What needs to be addressed today is that, as they say in politics, “Mistakes were made” with my frequent and fervent prayer request.

Here it is: It was NOT Bernie Sanders who was supposed to have the heart attack. I don’t know if you can rewind/replay prayer requests, but it was definitely not Bernie. Go back and listen.

Also – the fellow who is supposed to have the heart attack (let’s refer to him as Individual #1 here) … well, his attack needs to be fatal. I’m quite sure I specified that. I also promised to convert a few pagans if it could happen while he was sitting on his solid-gold toilet. But that extra trimming is not so important at this time.

With all the political news 24/7, I can understand how confusing these things can get. Absolutely no problem, as the kids say. It just was a mix-up. Mistakes were made.

BTW, after we take care of the first prayer request (correcting the heart attack recipient) another prayer request of mine is to eliminate the phrase “no problem” as a replacement for “you’re welcome.”

On second thought, forget that about “no problem.” I’ll take that up with a lesser saint. You’ve got enough to do.

To reiterrate, the heart attack for Individual #1 needs to be fatal. The pain level and duration of the attack, well hell, I’ll leave that up to you.

All my love and respect,
You’re welcome,
Michael

More about Monty Python

Mattis mocks Trump at gala dinner

The former US defence secretary hits back after the president described him as “the world’s most overrated general”.

Former US Defence Secretary James Mattis poked fun at Donald Trump as he spoke at a charity event in New York.

His comments came a day after the US president referred to him as “the world’s most overrated general”.

Mattis resigned as Defence Secretary in December 2018.

 

Watch at Source: Mattis mocks Trump at gala dinner – BBC News