In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ...
Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.
The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”
Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.
And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.
The Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann had previously been kidnapped by the Israeli secret service and brought before an Israeli court. Hannah Arendt was commissioned by the magazine "The New Yorker" to report on the trial. But what she sees is not a monster. Not even a convinced anti-Semite. Rather an average type:
"I was really of the opinion that Eichmann is a fool. We imagine a criminal as someone with criminal motives - and when we look at Eichmann, he actually has no criminal motives at all. He wanted to participate, he wanted us to say, and this participation was quite enough to make the greatest crimes possible." Hannah Arendt sees Eichmann as a man who was not driven by a desire to murder, who did not want to destroy - but wanted to do his job particularly well and carefully. In his private environment he was sociable and inconspicuous. He thus contradicts any philosophical theory of evil, or of the criminal. In a totalitarian system, thoughtlessness is enough to commit the greatest crime in history - a thoughtlessness that Hannah Arendt calls the 'Banality of Evil'.
That was the stupidity that was so outrageous. There is no depth, that is not demonic. There's only the unwillingness to ever imagine what's actually wrong with the other.
This way of murdering, from the desk, in masses, is of course an incomparably more terrible type of person than any murderer, because he no longer has any reference to his victim. He really kills as if they were flies. When I say that this is not a typical murderer, I don't mean that he is better, but what I mean is that he is something infinitely much worse." That's why Arendt is convinced that Eichmann was anything but innocent. He himself was convinced that he had only carried out what the regime had demanded of him. But she vehemently contradicts: Even the only functioning murderer is a murderer!
There was an alternative, and it was: Don't participate - and if I should be forced to participate, then I will take my own life. There was this possibility, which included not saying "we," but saying "I," and judging yourself."
The Source Notebook
Good and Evil
Throughout history art has been used and misused to represent Good and Evil, art and technology were used to orchestrate change in our inner and outer worlds.
We are on the crossroads - today our technological prowess far exceeds awareness of our ethical pitfalls. We are walking on the edge of our demise never before reached as close in all of recorded history.
Our cherished ideals and obsessions of our egos they all fall short of the challenge, they can no longer be used as a true compass in a world amidst epistemic and ecological collapse.
There have never been a more pressing time for an unconventional approach to find meaning and purpose in our increasingly complex lives.
Can our art facilitate this change, can it be used as a light on the path to a better future? Can our art and technology become the immune system for the collective psyche drowning in an endless stream of misinformation and entertainment? Can they help us shatter the mould of our fears, heal and mend where we are broken. Can they help us find our new mythos, a new story which could unite us and provide a framework to make sense of the mad and complex world we inhabit today?
We believe so.
The Source Notebook
Ecology of Reason
We live out our lives amid a world of language, in which we use words to do things. Ordinarily we don’t notice this; we just get on with it. But the way we use language affects how we live and who we can be. We are as if bewitched by the practices of saying that constitute our ways of going on in the world. If we want to change how things are, then we need to change the way we use words. But can language-games set us free?It was the maverick philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who coined the term ‘language-game’. He contended that words acquire meaning by their use, and wanted to see how their use was tied up with the social practices of which they are a part. So he used ‘language-game’ to draw attention not only to language itself, but to the actions into which it is woven. Consider the exclamations ‘Help!’ ‘Fire!’ ‘No!’ These do something with words: soliciting, warning, forbidding. But Wittgenstein wanted to expose how ‘words are deeds’, that we do something every time we use a word. Moreover, what we do, we do in a world with others.
This was not facile word-nerdery. Wittgenstein was intent on bringing out how ‘the “speaking” of language is part of an activity, or form of life’. In Philosophical Investigations (1953), he used the example of two builders. A brickie calls ‘Slab!’ and his helper brings it. What’s going on here? The helper who responds is not like a dog reacting to an order. We are humans, the ones who live together in language in the particular way that we do, a way that involves distinctive social practices.
With this spotlight on language-games, Wittgenstein asks readers to try to see what they are doing. But if we are entranced by our linguistic practices, can we even see what we’re doing? Wittgenstein’s attempts to see met with the charge that he was stopping us from seeing anything else, from perceiving new possibilities: his linguistic obsessions were a distraction from real politics. The chief accuser was Herbert Marcuse, who in his blockbuster One-Dimensional Man (1964) declared that Wittgenstein’s work was reductive and limiting. It could not be liberatory, for the close focus on how we use words misses what’s really going on.These objections are serious. But do they succeed?Marcuse claims that Wittgenstein is reductive, seeing only language, and poorly at that. Wittgenstein strives to bring language-games to light: Marcuse says this is stupid. Well, is it? Yes and no. In Culture and Value(1977), Wittgenstein admits: ‘How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes.’ All too often, he says, we miss the obvious. That which is close is the most difficult to see for what it is. When we use words, we partake of everyday understandings and carryings-on. Wittgenstein looks to these everyday usages, and remarks upon them.
'Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.'
From the Source
Looking at photographs from Voyager missions passing Saturn and for the last time getting last glimpse of Earth appearing as nothing more than a dot between the majestic rings of Saturn.
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.
Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
"Our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.'
Pale Blue Dot, Speech at Cornell University