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Documentário: Eyes On The Prize – Fighting Back: 1957–1962

21 de julho de 2018

A parte 2 do documentário “Eyes on the prize”, Fighting Back: 1957–1962, relata os esforços dessegregacionistas na Central High School pelos Little Rock Nine, no Arkansas (EUA), e por James Meredith, na University of Mississippi, durante o motim da Ole Miss, de 1962.

Tais motins e protestos foram a inspiração para o polêmico artigo “Reflexões sobre little rock”, de Hannah Arendt. Aqui, podemos entender um pouco como esses protestos se desenvolveram e acessar testemunhos de indivíduos que deles participaram, bem como ver imagens da época.

Áudio e legendas em inglês.

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Hannah Arendt, the movie | Omar Baig

19 de julho de 2018

by Omar Baig

Hannah Arendt, Germany (2012), directed by Margarethe von Trotta

The medium of film both enjoys and is burdened by its own relation to time. A biopic has two hours or so to convey, capture, and do justice to its subject’s life. Margarethe von Trotta is a rare filmmaker in this regard, as a number of her films are biopics of impressive, larger than life women. For her the biopic is the quintessential mode of representing “the inner-psychic worlds” of great minds amidst the controversies that defined them. Her works, like Rosa Luxemburg (1986) and Vision (2003), have frequently been pigeon-holed as feminist for its portrayal of strong, independent women forced to navigate between society’s expectations of women within a given, institutional setting vs. the women’s own expectations for themselves. What struck me about von Trotta’s most recent film, Hannah Arendt (2012), is that it embodies an ethos of third-wave feminism in a way her earlier work had not. Here we have a pitch-perfect portrayal of one of the most brilliant and influential thinkers of the 20th century—one who just happens to be a strong, independent women like the other people von Trotta’s films depicted.

The Arendt portrayed here is not a woman that must choose between a life as a philosopher or a mother, nor is this someone who would ever preface her thoughts with the words, “Well, from a woman’s perspective…” This is a woman who, during the height of the Women’s Liberation Movement, had already reached the apex of academia: she was the star pupil of arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century (among a group that included numerous intellectual giants); she was the first woman to lecture at Princeton (in 1959) and was elected to both the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Arts and Letters during the period this film covers; and to top it all off, she was happily married to a brilliant and successful man who was comfortable and proud of his wife’s enormous achievements over that of his own.

Admirers of the work of Hannah Arendt, if they are anything like me, will watch Hannah Arendt with a critical eye, constantly checking their knowledge of Arendt’s life and work against the events portrayed in the four years of her life (1960-64) narrated by von Trotta and co-writer Pamela Katz. But the most interesting aspects of the film have less to do with how it renders Hannah Arendt the critic and philosopher—the one we know through her published works—and has more to do with the Arendt enmeshed in complicated relations with the colossal intellects that crisscrossed her life. This is the Hannah Arendt that Barbara Sukowa deftly embodies: brought to life in the everyday interactions with her friend Mary McCarthy, her contemporaries like Hans Jonas, and her editor William Shawn; humanized by the brief intimacies she shares with her beloved husband, Hans Blücher. The film portrays the life of a mind as largely solitary, though not necessarily the lonely business Martin Heidegger warns Arendt of in a flashback to her youth. Despite a story that unfolds through a series of private moments, Hannah Arendt, true to its subject, voices a universal concern.

It would have been audacious for a filmmaker to try and distill Arendt’s meditations on thinking, acting, and the rift that co-distinguishes the two within the course of a two-hour feature film. If you want to know about Arendt’s thoughts on Thinking, with a capital T, then pick up some of her essays or books and get to work. In fact, Barbara Sukowa prepared for her role by working extensively with a philosophy tutor, reading everything from Heidegger’s thoughts on thinking to Immanuel Kant’s views on justice. One of the virtues of this film is that it chooses to depict howArendt thought, through the particulars of what she thought about the trial of Adolph Eichmann and her articulation of the banality of evil. Ultimately, this is a film about a thinker and her actions. It is not a film about thinking proper. And it’s all the better because of it.

Heidegger, in another of the film’s flashbacks to pre-Nazi Germany, informs a young Arendt, “Thinking does not endow us with the power to act.” This point is illustrated in the opening scene: we find Arendt lying down, eyes closed, in deep contemplation. If not for the occasional drag from her cigarette, one would have confused her thinking for sleeping. Yet this is what thinking looks like from the outside looking in. What occupies her mind, we as viewers can never know for sure. Thinking can only refract itself, through its explication in speeches and written works, after crossing over into the realm of action. In and of itself, thinking remains as amorphous as the notion of the individual subject that encloses and anchors it.

 

The Public Intellectual

Philosophers are rarely remembered, and the few that are have, through their actions, transcended the academy to occupy the rarefied role of the public intellectual. Their actions involve more than the squabbles of academia or the courting of controversy for the sake of publicity, often resulting in social and professional ostracism. These rare individuals take a principled stance against entrenched structures of power and the standards of discourse they police. Through their actions they unleash the reactions of those they criticize and reveal the interstices between the power they wield and the interests they pursue in order to further it. In one scene, following the publication of her series on the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker, Arendt is seen walking along a country road near her home in upstate New York, when she is suddenly confronted by men belonging to the Israeli secret service. They proceed to intimidate and threaten her, warning that her forthcoming book, Eichmann in Jersusalem, will never be translated in Hebrew or Yiddish.1 Anyone who has read the first few chapters of it can see why—she spells out the self-serving motives behind Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s decision to bring Eichmann to Israel for trial. In case you were wondering, it took almost sixty years before a Hebrew translation was published.

Von Trotta, Katz, and Sukowa incorporate just the right lines from reviews, private correspondences, and speeches, finding the right time and person to say them in order to create both cinematic tension and an accurate representation of the immediate and overwhelming backlash she faced after the release of Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt faced widespread censure from the hundreds of readers that wrote letters to the editor, fellow New York intellectuals, colleagues she considered her friends, even her own neighbors. Mary McCarthy’s defense of Arendt, published in the Partisan Review, included the lines, “These people get worse as they get older, and in this case it is just a matter of envy. Envy is a monster.” The film captures McCarthy’s rebuttal of her friend’s critics in a satisfying scene, in which she upbraids a group of pretentious New York intellectuals who insist on attacking Arendt as arrogant. Norman Podhoretz’s critique, that “Arendt is all cleverness and no eloquence” (published in Commentary) is tweaked into “That’s Hannah Arendt, all arrogance and no feeling,” and delivered by a New School colleague in response to Arendt’s, and the film’s, moving, eight-minute final explanation of her work. Barbara Sukowa delivers this speech with an absolute eloquence that honors Arendt’s passion for teaching and lecturing.2 Gershom Scholem, a friend of Arendt and a founding scholar of modern Kabbalah studies, said in an exchange published in Encounter, “In the Jewish tradition there is a concept, hard to define and yet concrete enough, which we know as Ahabath Israel: “Love of the Jewish people… In you, dear Hannah… I find little trace of this.” Arendt’s reply is adapted in a poignant scene where she visits her friend, Zionist leader Kurt Blumenfeld’s deathbed in Jerusalem, and confides to him that she has never loved any group of people and that only love she is capable of is for her friends.3

Beyond the intellectual disputes, some in Arendt’s inner circle harbored resentment on a deep, personal level. The film portrays Hans Jonas as extremely bitter and jealous of the relationship Arendt had with Heidegger. Ironically, in 1926, Heidegger had sent Jonas to Heidelberg, from Marburg, to find Arendt after she had refused to give Heidegger her address—prolonging their relationship for another two years. The film touches on Jonas and Arendt’s reactions to Heideggr’s infamous 1933 inaugural address, “The Self-Assertion of the German University,” after he accepted the position as rector of Freiburg University. Jonas fled Germany that same year, feeling personally betrayed by Heidegger’s decision to join the Nazi party. This leads one to ask, “Why shouldn’t Jonas be bitter about Heidegger’s support of the Nazis and his treatment of Jewish students and colleagues at the University of Freiburg? Why shouldn’t he hold Arendt responsible for forgiving Heidegger and helping him professionally after the war?” Von Trotta had access to an unpublished letter Jonas had written to Arendt in response to Eichmann. Couldn’t von Trotta and Katz have chosen to read or even paraphrase from that letter, rather than having him confront her—whom he sneeringly refers to as “Heidegger’s favorite student”—after her final speech, which has him repeating the same, tired critique about her arrogance that others in the film have already stated? Instead of portraying him in such an undignified and impetuous manner, why not choose their alleged reconciliation, which the filmmakers also had a firsthand account of from Jonas’s wife, as one of the concluding scenes of the film? Hans Jonas is a brilliant philosopher whose work has expanded the moral scope of the philosophical tradition he shared with Arendt. He deserves better.

Reconciliation or Condemnation?

Of course, I must address the little elephant in the room from Messkirch: Martin Heidegger. It is certainly understandable and expected for a film on Arendt’s life to touch on her relationship with Heidegger. In many ways, their complicated relationship bears on the larger issues of the complicity of Germans in supporting the Nazi party and on what basis they should be judged: be it forgiveness and reconciliation or punishment and condemnation. The period this film was supposed to capture (1960-1964), however, coincides with a ten-year stretch (1955-1965) of almost no contact or correspondence between them (that is, after their initial reconciliation, in 1950). Perhaps there is something perversely gratifying in seeing him dive face first in Hannah Arendt’s crotch, so the viewer knows that something more than intellectual discourse was consummated between the two. To expand on a point I made earlier, couldn’t von Trotta and Katz have chosen to refer to or draw from Heidegger and Arendt’s available correspondence? I mention this because these are individuals who went to great lengths to express their thoughts in writing, within a specific context. To simply bring up their affair without this context helps feed the trolls that loudly and disgustingly dismiss Arendt as a “Nazi lover.” There must be more subtle ways to bring up these issues, while remaining faithful to the events that actually occurred between 1960-64.

For instance, in 1963, Hannah Arendt received a letter from a 36-year old Jewish man from New York who had begun corresponding with pioneering Nazi filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riefensthal, following her ban from making post-World War II films.4 He writes, “I have spent a year in my fight to justify Riefenstahl’s existence as an artist. I have devoted all my heart, my energy, my time, my resources… and I have failed.” He goes on to state how life has lost meaning for him, and desperately tries to arrange a meeting with Arendt, whom he believes is “probably the only person alive with enough character and humanity” to help him. There is no copy of Arendt’s response currently available to the public, but his quest to help Riefensthal has interesting parallels with Arendt’s role in publishing Heidegger’s later work in English. Does someone’s existence as an artist or a philosopher transcend the situational context of their work? If not, then can we have it both ways: by praising their artistic and philosophical inventiveness, while condemning the totalitarian impulse that permeates them? Perhaps the film could have included a scene where she met with this man and probed her issues through his.

Hannah Arendt aims for, and accomplishes, more than simply adapting Arendt’s relationships into a cinematic narrative. Von Trotta’s decision to use actual footage from the Eichmann trial—her refusal to cast their roles and further dramatize it—shrewdly captures and translates the tone and spirit of Eichmann in Jerusalem for the screen. Arendt goes to great lengths to write against a collective need for the trial to represent anything larger than the actions of Adolf Eichmann, or for it to deliver an overarching sense of closure or retribution. As she says in the opening pages, “On trial are his deeds, not the suffering of the Jews, not the German people or mankind, not even anti-Semitism or racism.” For Arendt, a number of forces had coalesced in the interest of doing exactly the opposite. Even the architecture of the courthouse, Beth Ha’am, is (according to Arendt) more like that of a theater, “complete with orchestra and gallery, with proscenium and stage, and even side doors for the actors entrance.” In the book’s chapter on court evidence and witnesses, Arendt described the outlandishness of one of the witnesses named K-Zetnik, or “Concentration Camper” in Yiddish. After taking the stand, he proceeds to go on a rant about cosmology and crucifixion, but faints right when the prosecution cuts him off to ask him questions. Von Trotta’s decision to show the actual courtroom footage of this man fainting, without providing the context of who he was, transforms the intended dramatic effect without excluding it from her depiction of the trial.

However, it is the name and focus of the first chapter of Eichmann in Jerusalem, “The House of Justice,” that does the most in resisting the previously discussed pretentions of who and what are actually on trial. The three presiding judges—all German-born—seem like the only people in the courtroom Arendt respects, as she criticized everyone from Ben Gurion (the “invisible stage manager” of the trial), to the Attorney General of Israel, Gideon Hausner (Ben Gurion’s mouthpiece); even the court translators get blasted. She praises the judges’ cool, stoic demeanor in the face of a media frenzy that expects grandstanding; they are literally and figuratively elevated from the stage, presiding before their audience while shirking the theatricality they oversee. Arendt points out that their “sober and intense attention” was able to elicit more from Eichmann in two and a half short sessions of questioning than the prosecution was able to do in seventeen. In a statement that echoes Kant’s privileging of reason in the role of moral judgments, only they prevented the trial from degenerating into a “rudderless ship tossed about on the waves.”

This introductory chapter was written and structured in a way that placed the quest for justice above everything else, even above and before the proceeding discussion on Eichmann. Arendt makes a controversial point at the end of the chapter to illustrate what happens when the trial tries to shift its singular focus from the crimes of Eichmann to the broader focus of anti-Semitism throughout history. She quotes the prosecutor, as he seems to gloatingly state, “Here the intention was to destroy the Jewish people and the objective was not reached.” Arendt highlights how his interpretation of history ironically operates along the same logic employed by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which were fabricated by others as justification for the extermination of Jews, and which identifies the fate of the Jewish people as the motive force of history. The film hardly spends any time portraying the actual trial, and misses out on these very features that Arendt goes to great lengths to emphasize. Still, the film introduces a number of the ideas in Eichmann in Jerusalem outside the context of the trial: through Arendt’s intimate conversations with Mary McCarthy; her reminiscing with friends over champagne in the Manhattan apartment Arendt shared with her husband, Heinrich Blücher; and particularly in the eight-minute apologia she delivers before her students and colleagues.

Adolf Eichmann faces his judges in Jerusalem

The Banality of Evil

The ten pages on the Jewish Councils that presided over the Eastern European ghettos is one part of Eichmann in Jerusalem the film explicitly addresses. For her Jewish critics, these pages constituted the most reprehensible claim made in the entire book. Arendt stated, “To a Jew this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story.” That Arendt was subjected to the condemnation of many Jews served as a bitter confirmation of her assessment on the ability of others to question and confront the authority of their leaders—be they the Nazis or the Judenräte. To me, however, the most disappointing aspect of this episode is not that Arendt overstated the extent of the Jewish Councils in helping to facilitate the death of six million Jews; certainly, Arendt anticipated that fifty years of historical research would provide numerous counter-examples. No, the most disappointing part is that she does not extend her thesis on the banality of evil to include the Jewish leaders. Arendt was thereby able to heap scorn and contempt on them in a way that her analysis had prevented her from speaking about Eichmann in a similar manner.

The banality of evil operates along the same lines of Elie Wiesel’s quotation, “The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.”5 As Arendt stated in the film, “Once the trains were transported, [Eichmann] felt his work was done.” And what the film ingeniously offers to the discussion is a point Arendt made, at the end, about the difference between the radical and the extreme: “Only good can be profound and radical.” Evil is only extreme and overwhelmingly banal. To do good takes courage to act against the extremely distorted dynamics that are endemic to modern society. Modernity’s greatest evils transform innovation into industries—and action into labor—integrating the functions they demand and the people they employ into a framework that absolves its constituents from the greater picture. When our conditioning has been conditioned, thinking by ourselves, and yet for the sake of others, is the only way to salvage our human condition from its encroachment by an artificially manufactured, and yet concretely enforced, sense of mass society. To submit to the creeping banality of bureaucratization forecloses the possibility of thinking. And this, ultimately, is Arendt’s judgment of Eichmann: he understood, but he did not think.

 

Arendt in New YorkThe Responsibility to Think

In the film’s climactic speech, Arendt concluded, “The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly.” Arendt’s final work, The Life of The Mind, largely focuses on this difference between knowing and thinking. Knowing sweeps along the movements it attempts to grasp and indexes them: be they as broad as social movements and public opinion or as specified as the cause and effect of the phenomenon in question. Knowing tells you what is, in relation to how you came to know it. Thinking, on the other hand, moves beyond knowing. It reconciles how our Being relates to the advent of our knowledge and understanding of a world that is now transformed in its wake. It does more than ground our impersonal knowledge to our place in the world. It authenticates our Being-in-the-World: hitching the tiny individuating spark we each carry inside us to the possibility for action it discloses to our conscience. For Arendt, thinking and judging are two sides of the same coin. And this is precisely why she was vilified as arrogant. In an era that increasingly tries to cast us through the lens of mass society and popular culture, Arendt steadfastly held the people she judged to the same standard that validated her right to judge them. For they, just like her, were also individuals with a responsibility to their conscience: that is, to think through the repercussions of their own actions, especially when questioning them would become dangerous.

This is why it remains difficult for scholars to characterize Arendt as a liberal or a conservative. When she started explicating these ideas in the early Fifties, the social sciences were advancing their ability to know through new methods in statistical analysis. Conversely, the field of Political Philosophy—with its modernist notion of progress and enlightenment—was still reeling from the unprecedented horrors brought on by totalitarianism and the two world wars. The social scientists indexed things to numbers in order to highlight trends, while Arendt was indexing the essential dynamics of foregone epochs to the one we occupy in the present. For example, in The Human Condition, Arendt explored the categories of labor, work, and action vis-à-vis the differences in the private and the public spheres of Ancient Greece and the Modern West. This perplexed a number of readers and critics, who started reading a book that described how modern technology, like airplanes and spaceships, had completely transformed mankind’s relationship to Earth, only to continue into an extended analysis of a range of Ancient Greek and Latin philosophers whose thought still bears on our present human condition.

Arendt always had her eye on the bigger picture, drawing from the most fundamental and enduring ideas of the past. Her work figures outside the current, mainstream trends of academic scholarship: the self-professionalization through the citing of other professors; the incessant proliferation of esoteric jargon that further insulates one sub-discipline from another; and the production of scholarship that adds to the literature without adequately drawing on, and consolidating from, the work that has already been said and done. As she said in her essay, “On Violence:” “The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object of scholarship, like that of living, is to move beyond knowing by daring to think about what you know hopefully, people will see this film and question how their own actions are complicit in the suffering that surrounds them, rather than pointing their fingers at someone else when the grotesque extremity of the situation, in which we are already entangled, is forced into the light.


  • 1.According to Roger Berkowitz’s review of Hannah Arendt in The Paris Review, “Most startling, perhaps, is von Trotta’s re-imagining of the visit by Siegfried Moses, a friend of Arendt’s from her days working in the German Zionist Organization and a member of the Israeli government, who visited her in Switzerland to ask her to withhold publication of Eichmann in Jerusalemin Israel. This request is presented as a threatening ambush instead of the arranged meeting between friends that it was, suggesting a significantly more organized animus by the Israeli state than was the case.”
  • 2.In the same essay, Podhoretz embarrassingly tries to force an artificial dichotomy between Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man along the same lines, which is “all eloquence, [with] nothing clever in the way he tells his story of the Negro in America. […] The only sin of the victims is their powerlessness, the only guilt is that of the oppressors.” How someone can make it to the second chapter of the book, and still make such a preposterous claim is beyond me, but this is the same man who claimed, “George W. Bush (is) a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it.” How someone can claim that real evil is the threat of terrorism posed by transnational Islamofascists, while the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians bombed over a faulty hunch are as necessary as the Allied bombings of WWII, however, are relevant to the themes of this review.
  • 3.These three publications, and more, are discussed in Michael Ezra’s “The Eichmann Polemics: Hannah Arendt and her critics.”
  • 4.This letter can be accessed at the Library of Congress’ website (under Adolf Eichmann File: Correspondence: Misc: A-C: images 8-12), which provides a number of Hannah Arendt’s documents available to the public. The critical letter featured in the film can also be accessed under the same section, image 4: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/arendthtml/series.html.
  • 5.Elie Wiesel was also present at the Eichmann trial as a reporter, and his essay “A Plea For The Dead” was written as a critical response to Arendt’s report.

Passing for politics | Asad Haider

18 de julho de 2018
Asad Haider of ‘Viewpoint’ magazine reflects on campus politics, race and identity. 
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Passing for politics - Asad HaiderToday’s politics of identity — the epoch of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and privilege-checking — was already the subject of debate in a 1964 exchange between Amiri Baraka, then still known as LeRoi Jones, and Philip Roth. It began with Roth’s negative review of Jones’s The Dutchman, along with James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie, in The New York Review of BooksThe Dutchman had presented a theatrical allegory of the failures of liberal integrationism, and the seductive treachery of the white world. Roth’s dismissive review displays no real understanding of the political critique at work in the play; nevertheless, the line that became the real point of contention contains a kernel of insight. This was Roth’s speculation that Baraka, then Jones, wrote The Dutchman for a white audience, “not so that they should be moved to pity or to fear, but to humiliation and self-hatred.” Jones retorted in a vicious letter that, “The main rot in the minds of ‘academic’ liberals like yourself, is that you take your own distortion of the world to be somehow more profound than the cracker’s.”

 

Roth’s The Human Stain, written during the reign of our first “first black president” (you have to wonder if Toni Morrison regrets saying that), illuminates the distance between 1964 and 2016. Here Roth presents a biography that moves from the personal costs of segregation to the contradictions of liberal multiculturalism. Coleman Silk, a light-skinned black professor of classics — like Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which provoked the trigger warning debate at Columbia — spends a lifetime passing for white. Yet in ’90s America it is not the black identity which destroys his life and reputation, but the somehow ontologically irrefutable accusation of anti-black racism.

Today, in a digitized culture where social media adrenalizes a growing industry of denunciation, we’ve seen an inversion of Roth’s Human Stain scenario: the bizarre case of Rachel Dolezal. A professor of African American Studies at Eastern Washington University and president of the Spokane NAACP, Dolezal, it turned out, is a white woman from Montana passing for black. Like Baraka and Coleman Silk, she even spent some time at Howard University.

Regardless of its strangeness, who can dispute her claim? “I identify as black,” she said; like it or not, it is her sovereign right as an individual working within the framework of identity to engage in this “singular act of invention,” as Roth put it.

Both Dolezal’s unmasking and the furor it provoked are an index of a specific kind of social change: the evolving and uncertain relationship between who we imagine ourselves to be, and how we choose to act. If these questions correspond in some rough sense, respectively, to “identity” and “politics,” the formulation “identity politics,” by equating the two terms, skips over the step of asking just what this troublesome and elusive relationship is, and how it responds to shifting material circumstances. The Dutchman, first performed just months before the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, situates the relation between identity and politics in this historical moment. Clay, a middle-class quasi-assimilated intellectual, is forced to come to terms with his black identity, and overcomes his aspirations to whiteness with a rebellious rage. Yet since his rebellion is individual, Baraka suggested, it cannot succeed; it ends with his murder.

Baraka’s own life represented a passage from individual rebellion to collective organization, moving through the identity-based politics of black nationalism to a Marxist universalism. It was a passage of this kind which proved exceedingly difficult to make in the social movements of last year — perhaps in part because we have failed to understand precisely how the relation between identity and politics has changed.

With scandals of identity proliferating on college campuses today, there is an almost axiomatic assumption that student activists, carried away by fantasies of social change, have used censorship and public shaming to assault the dignity of the public sphere. But one turbulent fall, I watched the ideology of identity destroy a burgeoning student movement itself.

Debates over trigger warnings tend to represent them as the primary threat to university pedagogy. But when it comes to incursions on the quality of education, trigger warnings are vastly overshadowed by financialization and budget cuts. Public university privatization is part of a general social trend of austerity, and the stakes are high — for faculty and teaching assistants overwhelmed by ballooning class sizes, adjuncts commuting between teaching gigs at three or four different colleges, and students working full time after class to pay rent.

When the University of California Board of Regents announced a 27% tuition hike in November 2014, the Santa Cruz campus erupted. I hadn’t expected much; I was sitting in my office grading, planning to make a quick appearance at the rally on the way home. Then I heard the crowd outside: the building next door had been occupied, the administration ejected. Change of plans.

The occupation lasted about a week, punctuated with visits by Cornel West, Chris Hedges, and the Teamsters. After an initial burst of inchoate energy, conversations finally started — analysis was hashed out, slogans printed onto fliers. It’s remarkable how at all of these actions the race question already dominated everything. It seemed to be most effective, in terms of rallying troops, to say that rising tuition “hits students of color the hardest.”

I tried in vain to find some basis, any basis, for this in the data, but upon further scrutiny it doesn’t bear out. There may have been reasons for claiming that students of color who grew up in economically segregated neighborhoods and went to similarly segregated public schools were most severely affected by the overall trends of privatization which tuition hikes represent, despite the fact that the poorest among them don’t pay tuition. But the insistence that the tuition hikes themselves must be somehow racially biased obscured the complicated mathematics underlying the UC’s policy vacillations, and forced the movement into a rhetorical corner — as though racially equitable university privatization would be somehow acceptable.

Alongside this fundamental lack of clarity sat the flabbergasting opposition to the very words “occupy” or “occupation,” which could have recalled self-managed factories in Argentina and Uruguay, but instead were accused of celebrating the genocide of indigenous people. In a stunning reversal of earlier academic fads, the signifier “occupy” was restricted to a single meaning traced back to Christopher Columbus, any suggestion of polysemy rejected as if it were a personal insult. A debate that should probably have happened in a semiotics seminar took up hours at meetings where we could have planned teach-ins and rallies and workshops, or allocated clean-up tasks. Instead, we had to pore over the activist thesaurus in search of synonyms like “takeover” or “seizure.”

But things got worse. It started with a debate over authoritarian practices at a disorganized general assembly. The crowd, the biggest yet, was full of excited newcomers who were ready to join in. But they were totally silenced, reduced to receiving instructions that had not been democratically discussed. Many people spoke up to criticize this practice, including me. But each of the facilitators was a “POC” — that’s “Person-of-Color” — and after the assembly completely unraveled, an almost hilariously unsubstantiated rumor began to spread that the facilitators had been attacked by racists. This rumor became nearly impossible to dispel; even some of the usual supporters heard that the occupation wasn’t a “safe space,” and stopped showing up.

Some people began to organize separatist POC meetings, united by their complexion against a fictional collection of white anarchists. My skin got me in the door. After listening to a bewildering array of political positions — one student read aloud an email from an administrator conspiratorially accusing student protesters of attempting to undermine campus diversity initiatives — I felt the need to intervene. I stood and tried to summon up some rhetorical demons the best I could; I thought about Malcolm X, and how he always spoke in the second person (“You don’t know what a revolution is!”). I dropped names like Frantz Fanon, and tried to convince a totally heterogeneous group to drop the POC act and help build a better movement. Some observers snapped their fingers with appreciation at the occasional oratorical flourish, and ignored what I said.

I guess those students showed up because they didn’t feel recognized — they didn’t feel recognized all through elementary school and middle school and high school and freshman year and now suddenly here it was, all about them. Here they were, making white kids feel guilty and locking them out of the clubhouse. Who could blame them? Ten years ago I would’ve done it myself.

That cathartic pleasure of lashing out against whites is usually most enjoyed by those who closely identify with them. In fact, LeRoi Jones — before he was renamed Ameer Barakat by the Muslim priest Hajj Heshaam Jaaber, who officiated the funeral of Malcolm X, and then had the name Swahilized into Amiri Baraka by Ron Karenga — was mired in identity crisis from the beginning.

His autobiography recalls a childhood marked by a kind of gradient of the black, brown, yellow, and white: “These are some basic colors of my life, in my life. A kind of personal, yet fairly objective class analysis that corresponds (check it) to some real shit out in the streets in these houses and in some people’s heads.” The “brown” existence of the Jones family in Newark wasn’t quite the “yellow” incorporation into white suburban professional life, nor was it the black life of “the damned, the left behind, the left out.” With parents who worked in offices, days spent with white students and teachers at school, he experienced class differentiation within the black community in ambivalent, color-coded terms.

It was Jones’s education, his training as an intellectual, that would push him towards the lighter end of the gradient. Leaving white and alienating Rutgers, he passed through the brown and yellow world of Howard University, where he came to know the future “black bourgeoisie,” both in his social life and in the courses of E. Franklin Frazier. After dropping out and starting an abortive stint in the Air Force, he read intensively, and began to develop an interest in becoming a writer. But it proved difficult for Jones to recognize himself in this role. As he recounted, “my reading was, in the main, white people… So that my ascent toward some ideal intellectual pose was at the same time a trip toward a white-out I couldn’t even understand.” “White people’s words” caught him in a “tangle of nonself”: “A nonself creation where you become other than you as you. Where the harnesses of black life are loosened and you free-float, you think, in the great sunkissed intellectual waygonesphere. Imbibing, gobbling, stuffing yourself with reflections of the other.”

When Jones finally wound up in Greenwich Village, the white-out reached its peak. In an introduction to his 1965 essay collection Home, he wrote: “Having been taught that art was ‘what white men do,’ I almost became one, to have a go at it.” Any personal success for Jones as an intellectual thus meant a kind of passing. His early, celebrated poetry is steeped in the experience of a divided self, caught between his experience of racism and his entirely white social circle.

But any ambitions for whiteness sat uneasily with his emerging political consciousness. Starting with his 1960 trip to postrevolutionary Cuba, through his arrest at a UN protest over the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, and finally bursting forth with the assassination of Malcolm X, Jones grew more and more unsatisfied with an apolitical art.

As the black political struggle grew in intensity, Jones could no longer maintain his divided self. He came to embrace black separatism, and attacked white people in his politics and poetry. In one particularly infamous instance, at an event in the Village after the 1964 Harlem riots, Jones was asked by an earnest audience member if there was a way for white people to help. He replied, “You can help by dying. You are a cancer.” When another questioner brought up two white civil rights activists who had recently been murdered by the Klan in Mississippi, Jones dismissed them, declaring, “Those white boys were only seeking to assuage their own leaking consciences.”

Baraka would later acknowledge in his autobiography that such remarks were fundamentally hypocritical, since these white activists “were out there on the front lines doing more than I was!” Troubled even then by his political hesitancy, Jones made a decisive break with white bohemia, moving uptown to Harlem in search of a black aesthetic and the black revolution. This search would ultimately lead to a return to a native land — the New Ark, as his hometown would be designated by the nationalist movement he joined there. Reflecting a growing rage against the white hipster New York culture that had absorbed him, the introduction to Home foreshadows his move back to Newark: “By the time this book appears, I will be even blacker.”

Roth, born in Newark just a year before Baraka, had an experience of the city which diverged from Baraka’s along predictable lines. Larry Schwartz points out in Cultural Logic that Roth’s youth in the Jewish neighborhood of Weequahic was part of the brief period of respite from the city’s long and early industrial decline — which resumed with a vengeance in the 1950s, alongside ongoing black in-migration and white flight. Roth’s nostalgia for this period leads to an uncharacteristically naive romanticization of the world, obscuring the racial and class inequalities of the city. As Schwartz puts it, “when imagining the racial politics of Newark, Roth the hard-edged, thoughtful, and ironical realist, becomes a conservative ‘utopian’ — too much caught up in the interplay between his liberal, civil rights conscience and his sentimentalizing of Weequahic.”

However, Roth’s own grappling with a New Jersey Jewish identity would subject him to the religious and cultural policing of that community — he was openly attacked as a “self-hating Jew” after the publication of Goodbye, Columbus, at a 1962 event alongside Ralph Ellison at Yeshiva University on “the crisis of conscience in minority writers of fiction.” He would later reflect in the preface to the 30th anniversary edition of Goodbye, Columbus on the “ambivalence that was to stimulate his imagination”: “the desire to repudiate and the desire to cling, a sense of allegiance and the need to rebel, the alluring dream of escaping into the challenging unknown and the counterdream of holding fast to the familiar.”

“It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home,” said Adorno. In Roth’s case, an inclination toward the kind of moral critique that springs from estrangement did not lead in a politicizing direction, but it did lead to a sharp sensitivity to the ideologies of identity, one which fractures his nostalgic selfhood. What his review of The Dutchman had captured accurately, in spite of his political evasion, was its author’s peculiar relationship to his audience — the whiteness of his audience, the source of LeRoi Jones’s inner strife. The Dutchman was part of an aesthetic insurrection by Jones against his own white Village environment, and indeed his own internalization of its standards of identity.

But there is something beyond our individual experience in our forms of identity: they are imaginary representations of our real conditions, of structural transformations and the political practices that respond to them. Roth’s “Newark Trilogy,” as Michael Kimmage astutely describes it, which culminates in The Human Stain, shows the historical underpinnings of identity, as personal memories of history are recounted to and re-narrated by Roth’s alter ego, the fictional writer Nathan Zuckerman. The arc of the trilogy follows the rise and decline of the postwar economic boom, and the ideology of American self-making that serves as the foundation for the aspiration of white “ethnics” to mainstream assimilation. In I Married a Communist Roth traces the efforts of Jewish Communists and trade-unionists to introduce the ideal of social equality into the American dream — a personal expression of the Popular Front line that “Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism.” As a direct result of these efforts, Roth underscores, Communists played a leading role in the struggle for black civil rights. But the pursuit of American equality, which Roth admires, is undermined in his narration by obstinate fidelity to a political program, which troubles him; and it is totally wrecked by McCarthyism.

Then there was the ’60s. American Pastoral had already traced the life of an assimilated Jew, “Swede” Levov, who has achieved the American dream of personal success — and then watches as the Fordist economy which enabled that dream is splintered by urban conflict, the reverberations of segregation and racism, the social costs of extended imperialist war, and the precipitous decline of manufacturing employment. In the absence of the link to a national and popular will, to which the Communist Party had once aspired, Swede Levov’s daughter’s desperate grasp for a politics of social change ends in the dogmatic voluntarism and violence of Weather Underground-style terrorism.

The United States which emerges from this history frames the farcical, depoliticized climate of The Human Stain. With the possibility of integratingsocial equality into American culture destroyed, by both political repression and industrial decline, politics is reduced to the anxious performance of authenticity. The policing of personal identity now unites McCarthyism and the residues of the New Left. If the “personal is political,” it is in the sense we are left with no practice of politics outside of the fashioning of our own personal identities, and surveillance of the identities of others.

Roth’s ambivalence — his close attention to the historical reality of segregation and the broad social effects of US post-war economic history, combined with a cynical despair at the depoliticization which followed — leads him an to acute diagnosis of the experience of the present. It cannot, however, be substituted for the kind of historical analysis and political response that the present requires. The necessity of a renewal of politics, and the fidelity to a program that this implies, is abundantly confirmed by the repetition of segregation-era terrorism like massacres at black churches, and the steady growth of economic inequality on an utterly unprecedented scale. It was the possibility of such a renewal, in between the residual traces of Occupy Wall Street and the emergent formations of Black Lives Matter, that we tested in the microcosm of Santa Cruz.

I was too frustrated to keep attending the POC meetings. My mistake. There were real ideologues in the bunch, just about four or five of them, but they were vocal enough and fervent enough to drag along the young and uncertain newcomers. The self-appointed leadership decided that a few meetings weren’t enough; reborn as “The POC Caucus,” they called a special general assembly and announced, in a very unmusical performance, that they were splitting to oppose the racism of the white-led movement against the tuition hikes. A small multiracial crowd watched with some confusion. We couldn’t ask them questions or argue with them, because the splitters walked out of the door after speaking. I became convinced at this point that I had a personal responsibility to publicly declare, as a “POC,” that I opposed this kind of divisiveness and self-indulgence. I stood up again and ranted as I paced in circles, comparing them to the Nation of Islam.

In the unusual context of Santa Cruz, where the black power movement is invoked as part of a historical pantheon, the comparison to reactionary, cultural nationalism was surprisingly effective. For all the postmodern glitter of identity politics, its on-the-ground organizational effect had amounted to separatism and depoliticization, the defense of conservative politics in the name of racial unity. The line of demarcation that the Black Panthers drew between reactionary cultural nationalism and their own “revolutionary nationalism” seemed useful to recall. I wrote many angry emails to the activist listservs, and commented in one: “I am addressing fellow activists of color: we cannot let reactionary nationalists speak for us, and we need to start reclaiming the legacy of revolutionary anti-racist movements.”

Baraka himself was at one time a reactionary nationalist. It was instructive to me to understand both why he was once attracted to such an ideology, and how he came to reject it. The “blackness” Baraka pursued starting in the mid-‘60s was not in itself a political category; it was a disavowal of LeRoi Jones’s whiteness. But it also represented his turn towards a specific political practice: nationalist self-organization.

Baraka’s beating, arrest, and imprisonment during Newark’s 1967 riots, sparked by the police beating of a black cab driver, turned him into a symbol of black militancy. It also convinced him to turn radically toward cultural nationalism. In American Pastoral, the retired glove manufacturer Lou Levov tries to convince his son to move his factory out of Newark, complaining, “A whole business is going down the drain because that son of a bitch LeRoi Jones, that Peek-A-Boo-Boopy-Do, whatever the hell he calls himself in that goddamn hat.”

The urban rebellions, in Newark and beyond, were a political turning point on a national scale. They underscored the persistence of the oppression of black people after the legislative victories of the civil rights movement, and their exclusion from postwar affluence. They were an explosive indication that such conditions would not be accepted peacefully.

In this context the nationalist call for racial self-organization appeared to be a viable alternative to the disappointments of integration. In his classic Black Awakening in Capitalist America, Robert Allen noted that “racial integration offers middle-class Negroes the pleasurable prospect of shedding their blackness. But when white society, for whatever reasons, appears to shut the door on integration, the black bourgeoisie responds by adopting a nationalist stance.” Such a shift on the part of the black middle class intersected with the spontaneous inclinations towards group solidarity and hostility to white society displayed by the black workers and unemployed who participated in the rebellions. By adopting nationalism, the black middle class could legitimize not only its leadership over these lower economic strata, but also programs of economic advancement that would leave these strata behind.

When Baraka visited Ron Karenga’s US Organization during a 1967 stay in California, he was deeply impressed. The disciplined character of Karenga’s organization vastly outdid his own attempts at building institutions in Harlem and Newark. US’s ideology of “Kawaida” was grounded in a “black value system” supposedly derived from African tradition. It was a contrived performance, in essence an attempt at passing for African. Baraka would later criticize it as “the university of false blackness”: an incoherent amalgam of hippie counterculture and conservative semi-feudal traditions, both drastically distant from the real lives of African Americans. However, it was an ideological effect of material practices that resonated with the political situation. The nationalist organization which Baraka worked to build after the rebellion, the Congress of African People, tied cultural nationalist ideology to a broad and pragmatic political project. It revolved around constructing new, alternative institutions which could overcome the exclusion of black people from white society — institutions which ranged from schools to housing projects, centered on electoral campaigns that would put black people in positions of local political power.

However, the almost paradoxical result of nationalism’s political victories was the incorporation of its alternative institutions into a more multicolored mainstream. It’s a central part of our cultural memory of the ’70s: “We’ve got Newark, we’ve got Gary, somebody told me we got L.A., and we’re working on Atlanta,” said George Clinton, in Parliament’s 1975 single “Chocolate City.” This list of cities that had won black mayors starts, not coincidentally, with Baraka’s Newark, where he played a central role in Kenneth Gibson’s 1970 electoral victory, and Gary, Indiana, where his organization had steered the 1972 National Black Political Convention.

“They still call it the White House, but that’s a temporary condition,” George Clinton goes on to say. I heard “Chocolate City” in my mind the day Obama was elected; this was a culmination of the move from the margins to the center that began in the ’70s, and quite decisively marked the end of the period when the ambiguity of nationalist politics could still open towards an antagonism against the power structure. The ’70s represented a scrambling of the terms of black politics: the alternative institutions which nationalism had mobilized a grassroots base to build were now being incorporated into the state itself, facilitated by a black political leadership that used nationalism to its advantage.

Some years later Baraka would reflect on this experience in a New York Timesarticle called “A Radical View of Newark,” recalling: “At that time I was a Black Nationalist, a cultural nationalist, who did not understand the reality of class struggle. I thought, and told thousands of people, that black people’s struggle was against white people, period.” The error, Baraka now recognized, was to have thought that by putting a black man in the place of a white politician, “we would truly be on the road to liberation.”

“It is a narrow nationalism that says the white man is the enemy,” Baraka told the Times in 1974. “We were guilty of that, but it’s not scientific at all.” His political work now turned towards organizing cab drivers’ strikes, rather than building a separatist culture. The nationalist experience had shown Baraka that no straight line could be drawn between identity and politics. At one time, that equation had seemed to make sense; black nationalism presented a political program for a demographic structurally marginalized on the basis of its identity. Grounded in material processes of institution-building, nationalist ideology exalted and affirmed this marginalized identity. But it was precisely the racial integration of the American elite, the diversification of the establishment, that made such an equation definitively impossible.

What could be more convenient for a newly elected black politician, eager to ingratiate himself with the owners of wealth, than the reduction of politics to identity? Neoliberal policies could be implemented with a nationalist stamp of approval, any criticism easily silenced as a capitulation to white racism. This dynamic dramatically undermined resistance in Mayor Gibson’s Newark, “a city where a Black Muslim is head of the Board of Education, and collaborates with the capitalists in mashing budget cuts on the people of all nationalities by trying to fire 20 percent of the city’s teachers, and cutting art, library services, music and home economics out of the curriculum and condemning the cafeteria workers, security guards and maintenance men, who are on strike now, to wages of $3,000 and $4,000 a year.”

The consequences are still with us. The now firmly entrenched reduction of politics to identity has left social movements defenseless against subordination to the multicultural elite. Many of the core organizers of the Santa Cruz occupation, themselves people of color, quickly recognized that the ideology at work in the split threatened to tie the activist culture to puppetry from above. They wrote a letter responding to the spreading accusation that the occupation, and by extension all organizing on campus, was a “white space.” Such rhetoric, the letter pointed out, not only rendered the activists of color who organized the occupation completely invisible, it objectively benefitted the administration, which is fond of giving itself exorbitant raises at the same time that it threatens to increase tuition. If this way of thinking spread, the movement would disintegrate into “collaboration with token POC administrators, who will smile to our faces and stab us in the back.” In furious all caps the letter declared: “WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO LET THIS TOXIC CULTURE CHIP AWAY AT THE AUTONOMOUS MOVEMENTS AGAINST THE TUITION HIKES.”

Like some kind of world-historical prank, it was just as we were coming to terms with the split that everything came crashing down in Ferguson — when we heard the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white policeman who murdered Michael Brown. It was clear to us that any social movement in the United States, including our own, had to respond to this blatant display of the racism of the criminal justice system. But the latest trends of identity politics made a bridge between issues, like tuition and police brutality, functionally impossible.

In the ’90s we grew accustomed to the idea that every marginalized identity’s claim to recognition has to be recognized and respected — a form of discursive etiquette sometimes summed up in the buzzword “intersectionality,” a term originating in legal studies which now has an intellectual function comparable to “abracadabra,” or “dialectics.” However, the immediate reaction to the attempt by student radicals to organize around police violence was to question whether a group which was not black-identified should be even be permitted to address the issue. As a result, black-identified groups staged a couple ephemeral die-ins, while the radical coalition — which included black, white, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Jewish activists — dwindled in size.

This played out organizationally all over the country, with black separatism and exceptionalism as an assumed starting point. At marches many of us attended in Oakland, the rallies were led by the black political class, elsewhere most visibly represented by Al Sharpton — politicians and non-profit bureaucrats who warned of white “outside agitators” who might try to instigate violence. They said that only black people should take the mic; that only black people should take leadership roles; that black people should be at the front of the march, with white “allies” last and “brown” people allowed in the middle.

“Brown” in this context presumably refers to everyone excluded by the governing categories of “black” and “white,” but in practice, with our demographic terrain, it means mainly Latinos. Given that Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in federal prisons — as Marie Gottschalk writes in the Boston Review, “the carceral state… has dramatically expanded its capacity to apprehend, detain, punish, and deport immigrants” — it is hard not to react with some confusion to the suggestion that they can only play a literally secondary role in movements that target the criminal justice system.

In Santa Cruz, the ideology of identity took us further and further away from a genuinely emancipatory project. Its consequences were not only the demobilization of the movement, but also a degrading political parcelization. In the absence of a credible identitarian claim, anti-neoliberal struggles, like the movement against tuition hikes, were artificially separated from “race” issues. “POC” activists would focus on police brutality, ethnic studies, and postcolonial theory; the increasing cost of living, privatization of education, and job insecurity became “white” issues.

The greatest mistake would be to imagine that the ideology of identity is an extremist form of opposition to the status quo. In fact, identity politics is an integral part of the dominant ideology; it makes opposition impossible. We are susceptible to it when we fail to recognize that the racial integration of the ruling class and political elites has irrevocably changed the field of political action.

Perhaps it’s our nostalgia for the mass organizations of the 1960s and 1970s that prevents us facing our contemporary reality. For intellectuals seeking a way of being political in the absence of such organizations, passing is an understandable temptation. Strange as it may seem, Rachel Dolezal could actually be the typical case: she exemplifies the consequences of reducing politics to identity performances, in which positioning oneself as marginal is the recognized procedure of becoming-political. Contemporary intellectuals “of color” who substitute identity for politics are repeating LeRoi Jones’s initial disavowal of his white milieu and the white selfhood that it fostered. For first-generation college students who feel the daily ambivalence of leaving behind their neighborhoods in favor of upward mobility, or faculty who hide their class positions behind their skin tones, identity politics appears as a peculiar introjection of white guilt.

Passing, in this sense, is a universal condition. We are all Rachel Dolezal; the infinite regress of “checking your privilege” will eventually unmask everyone as inauthentic. No wonder, then, that we are so deeply disturbed by passing — it reveals too much to us about identity, the dirty secret of the equation of identity with politics.

This is why Baraka’s passage through cultural nationalism is worth studying today. As he experienced the growing class differentiation in the black community and the incorporation of the black political class, Baraka reached the conclusion that his ideology of identity would no longer suffice. As he reflected in his autobiography, that ideology too was situated within a particular class position; it was the predicament of black intellectuals “so long whited out, now frantically claiming a ‘blackness’ that in many ways was bogus, a kind of black bohemianism that put the middle class again in the position of carping at the black masses to follow the black middle class because this black middle class knew how to be black when the black workers did not.”

The universalism he came to embrace reached all the way to the white poor, so consistently left behind by race thinking. In “Why is We Americans,” he extends the call for reparations for slavery to everyone hurt by the underdevelopment of the South — “even them poor white people you show all the time as funny, all them abners and daisy maes, them beverly hill billies who never got no beverly hills. who never got to harvard on they grandfather’s wills.” Someone tell Azealia Banks.

As grassroots anti-racist movements continue to emerge, and continue to be threatened by a depoliticizing identitarian absorption, Baraka’s example will remain indispensable. Changing the real conditions under which people live requires us to overcome the impasse of identity, to arrive at a universalist anti-racist politics. As Baraka wrote in his poem “For the Revolutionary Outburst By Black People”:

The vibration that predicts the Black Explosion

describes the explosion of all the people

The outburst that creates the new system

Asad Haider, June 15th 2016

Heidegger, i «Quaderni neri» 1948-51 Quando rivide il suo amore mancato | Corriere della Sera

17 de julho de 2018

Para tradução, usar a ferramenta Google Translator no canto superior direito

Dopo tre anni di sosta riprende la pubblicazione dei taccuini inediti. Qui Donatella Di Cesare analizza il nuovo volume che parla anche della relazione con Hannah Arendt.

Dopo una pausa durata più di tre anni, riconducibile al clamore suscitato in tutto il mondo dai primi volumi, riprende la pubblicazione dei Quaderni neri di Martin Heidegger. È appena uscito dall’editore Klostermann il volume 98 delle opere complete, curato da Peter Trawny, che contiene le Annotazioni VI-IX e un inserto intitolato Der Feldweg («Il sentiero interrotto»). Si tratta dei quaderni che vanno dal 1948 al 1951, un periodo cruciale per la storia tedesca, e per quella di Heidegger, già interdetto dall’insegnamento universitario. Le pagine degli Schwarze Hefte restituiscono pensieri, dubbi, interrogativi del filosofo — tanto più notevoli, perché Heidegger parla liberamente. Come se si rivolgesse a un futuro lettore. Si conferma così che i Quaderni neri sono un prezioso taccuino filosofico, laboratorio della sua riflessione.

A partire dal 1948 gli echi delle vicende politiche si fanno sempre più flebili. Vale la pena sottolineare che non appaiono né riferimenti né allusioni agli ebrei o all’ebraismo, mentre qui e là non cessano gli attacchi al cristianesimo. Solo all’inizio affiorano due rinvii sarcastici a Hitler (pp. 21, 77). «Tutto il mondo non fa che gridare ai crimini commessi da Hitler. E questi sono nefandi quanto basta. Ma pochi considerano che nessuno dei grandi vincitori ha saputo vincere. Questa incapacità è ancora peggiore. Non perché gli effetti ci colpiscano, ma perché investono l’intera condizione del mondo ben più dei furori di Hitler». Il giudizio riguarda il corso della storia entrata stabilmente nell’età del «planetarismo» (oggi si direbbe globalizzazione). Osservazioni sparse sul nuovo equilibrio occidentale, mutato dal Patto atlantico, si alternano ad appunti sulla sorte dell’Europa che rischia la scomparsa, non per il superamento degli Stati nazionali, bensì per l’incapacità, filosofica prima che politica, di progettarsi.

Sono gli anni del ritiro. Si prolungano i mesi trascorsi nella sua baita a Todtnauberg, nella Foresta Nera. Il professore, costretto anzitempo a essere emerito, è diventato un «eremita» (p. 264). Il silenzio, la solitudine, la rinuncia sono i temi che scandiscono le pagine dei quaderni, in particolare quelli che precedono la pubblicazione, nel 1950, della celebre raccolta Sentieri interrotti.

Edvard_Munch_-_Separation_-_Google_Art_Project-U43060584597655RCE-U30009029060593G-1224x916@Corriere-Web-Sezioni-593x443

“Separazione”, un dipinto realizzato nel 1896 dall’artista norvegese Edvard Munch (1863-1944) e conservato attualmente nel Munch Museum di Oslo

Per pensare quel tempo notturno, «tempo di povertà», di dispersione giornalistica e attesa meditativa, Heidegger ricorre a nuove parole: l’Unter-schied, la differenza, l’Ereignis, l’evento, ma anche il Ge-stell, il dispositivo della tecnica, che forse proprio qui compare per la prima volta. La tecnica non è uno strumento neutrale che si possa impiegare a vantaggio dell’umanità emancipata. Concepita in vista del dominio, si rovescia nell’opposto. Quel produrre incessante, che della natura fa una riserva da impiegare, diviene un meccanismo incontrollabile. Il soggetto moderno, che crede, attraverso la tecnica, di poter disporre di tutto, viene scalzato. Il progettista diventa il progettato. Scopre di essere l’oggetto di una produzione illimitata, un fondo di riserva, un vuoto a perdere.

Non si esagera dicendo che la riflessione sulla tecnica inizia nei Quaderni neri. Ma un tema interessante è anche il ritorno alla «filosofia dell’esistenza» (p. 150), provocato non tanto dal dialogo mancato con Jean-Paul Sartre, quanto dalla continua e aspra polemica con Karl Jaspers, lo psichiatra e filosofo di Heidelberg, l’amico del passato, il cui giudizio, nel 1945, era stato decisivo per l’epurazione.

Nelle Annotazioni VIII si trova invece la testimonianza velata del primo incontro, nel dopoguerra, con Hannah Arendt, avvenuto a Friburgo, nel febbraio del 1950. L’incipit è una citazione di Agostino: «Nessun invito ad amare è maggiore di questo: prevenire amando». E poi ancora un’altra citazione, questa volta di Meister Eckhart: il «fuoco dell’amore» alimenta il pensiero. L’amore è il motivo di fondo. Heidegger si schermisce non senza imbarazzo: «Si dice che nel mio pensiero l’amore non sia pensato. Lo si può forse pensare?» (p. 233). E ancora: «Amare vuol dire privarsi nell’evento; sostenere l’espropriazione» (p. 235). Nessun possesso dell’altro, dunque. L’amore irrompe inatteso.

Nella lontana primavera del 1925 Arendt aveva spezzato l’ordo amoris di Heidegger che da quella passione era fuggito, incapace di far fronte alla presenza di lei nella sua vita. Contrario all’«amore borghese», quello dei «viaggi insieme», aveva mancato la chance che si sarebbe rivelata l’unica autentica. Senza Hannah era rimasto spaesato, tra la provincia asfittica e l’erranza spensierata. L’aveva abbandonata con un augurio apparentemente rispettoso: «amore è la volontà che l’amata sia (…); non desidera, né pretende nulla». Ma che amore è quello che non pretende nulla? Dietro quell’augurio si celava a stento la sua fuga. Il sé lasciava andare l’altro, per non esserne a sua volta toccato. Heidegger era tornato alla filosofia. Dopo quei cinque lustri, il tempo che «ti ha ingiunto di andar via, che mi ha lasciato errare» (così le aveva scritto in una lettera, subito dopo l’incontro del 1950), emergono le inibizioni, gli impedimenti che lo avevano reso prigioniero nel regno della possibilità. L’evento, nella sua vita, non aveva saputo accoglierlo.

Durante il dopoguerra Heidegger teorizza il «passo indietro» («La somma del mio pensiero», p. 57). Nel caleidoscopio dell’amore viene alla luce quell’abbandono che verrà elevato a categoria filosofica, ma anche una rassegnazione amara che lo accompagnerà sino alla fine.

In Italia esce la parte precedente

Uscirà il 19 settembre in libreria per Bompiani l’edizione italiana del quarto volume dei Quaderni neri di Martin Heidegger, intitolato Note I-V (traduzione di Alessandra Iadicicco, pagine 704, euro 28). Si tratta della parte stesa dal filosofo tedesco negli anni tra il 1942 e il 1948, pubblicata in Germania nel 2015. In questo volume dei Quaderni neri, che riguarda un periodo particolarmente tragico della storia europea, si trovano fra l’altro le impressionanti osservazioni di Heidegger sulla Shoah vista come «autoannientamento» degli ebrei, che vennero segnalate in anteprima da Donatella Di Cesare in un articolo uscito su «la Lettura» l’8 febbraio 2015. Finora sono usciti nel nostro Paese da Bompiani tre volumi dei Quaderni neri di Heidegger: il primo Riflessioni II-VI, che copre il periodo 1931-1938, è comparso nel 2015, mentre Riflessioni VII-XI, con le note stese tra il 1938 e il 1939, è uscito nel 2016, così come Riflessioni XII-XV, che riguarda la fase 1919-1941. Tutti sono stati tradotti da Alessandra Iadicicco. Nato nel 1889 e scomparso nel 1976, Heidegger è considerato uno dei pensatori più importanti del Novecento, ma è molto controverso per via dei suoi rapporti con il nazismo.

 

Celso Lafer in Interview with Roger Berkowitz for the Hannah Arendt Center

14 de julho de 2018

Era uma vez: Hans Jonas e Hannah Arendt

8 de julho de 2018

Em um trecho de suas Memórias, o filósofo Hans Jonas, amigo de Hannah Arendt desde que estudaram juntos na Universidade de Marburg, relata um momento de muita doçura da juventude de ambos, muito antes de migrarem para os EUA e tornarem-se professores da NSSR.

“Um dia, fui visitar Hannah em seu quarto, porque ela estava doente e tinha um pouco de febre. Ela tinha de ficar na cama e eu vim para fazer-lhe companhia. E, enquanto eu estava sentado em sua cama, aconteceu algo que é quase inevitável quando duas pessoas de sexos opostos gostam-se mutuamente. Hannah era linda e eu mesmo não era assim tão feioso. Então nós nos beijamos e eu a segurei em meus braços um pouco.”

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Enquete: escolha um texto para traduzirmos

7 de julho de 2018

Decidimos traduzir um texto do “Denktagebuch” – o Diário do Pensamento – da Hannah Arendt. Selecionamos dois textos e vocês decidirão qual deles será o escolhido

Opção 01: “Recht und Unrecht”: O texto “Recht und Unrecht” refere-se ao que é tido como certo ou errado a partir do que do critério da legalidade e da justiça (num sentido que abarca o que é de direito e o que não é, não só o que é justo ou injusto), em comparação ao que é bom ou mau, que estaria fora deste critério. Unrechtstaat, por exemplo, designa o Estado de Não-Direito, que pode até possuir leis, porém “injustas”, em oposição ao Estado de Direito (Rechtstaat). Recht pode significar: direito, correto, ao passo que Unrecht seria o não-direito ou um ato injusto, porém do ponto de vista da legalidade.

Opção 02: “Über die Beurteilung von Handlungen”: O texto “Über die Beurteilung von Handlungen” são reflexões sobre os critérios usados para julgar atos praticados em termos do que é mau ou injusto. Beurteilung refere-se a um ato de avaliação, julgamento propriamente dito, do ponto de vista da nossa compreensão, interpretação e julgamento acerca de atos, e não um ato jurisdicional de “julgamento” ou sentença.

A enquete está aberta no nosso perfil no Facebook e termina às 13h do dia 02.08.2018. A opção que obtiver mais votos será então traduzida e publicada no nosso blog – hannaharendt.wordpress.com– em setembro.

Para acessar a enquete e votar, clique aqui.

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O Denktagebuch de Hannah Arendt

 

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