No 236 Posted by fw, August 3, 2011
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” —Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism
This quote is prominently displayed at the head of an announcement that The Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson will host, on October 28-29, 2011, Truth-telling: Democracy in an Age Without Facts, the 4th of The Arendt Center’s international conferences devoted to the issues that matter most to the age. Specifically, the conference aims to honestly address the predicaments of truth in our age and to think creatively and deeply about what place, if any, the role of common truths must have in our future.
The two-day conference will likely appeal to anyone seeking some quality of intellectual stimulation. My own level of interest jumped several notches when I read this passage:
Without a shared factual world, we cannot talk, argue, or disagree with others; we are left with nothing to do but talk to those with whom we already agree. In a world without facts, we risk undermining the venture of politics as Arendt understood it: to create together a common world, one as unruly, disorderly, and argumentative as such togetherness demands. . . .What politics needs, in Arendtian terms, are institutions and persons dedicated to truth outside the scramble for power. In a time when everything is political, the demand for truth only grows more urgent.
Anyone who is fool enough, as I am, to write letters to the editor or add a comment to an article appearing in an online news publication, better be prepared for the jarring clash of fact and uninformed or misinformed opinion. With jaw clenched, I know exactly what I’m in for as soon as I press the Submit button – especially if I’m commenting on hot button issues like climate change, the Israel-Palestinian conflict or Stephen Harper. Inevitably folks show up who appear to thrive in a world without facts, convinced that everyone is entitled to their opinions. There’s no hope in Hell of creating a shared factual world with this crowd. Whether unwittingly or maliciously, they undermine our democracy.
The Arendt conference aim certainly appeals —
To honestly address the predicaments of truth in our age and to think creatively and deeply about what place, if any, the role of common truths must have in our future.
For more information about the conference, click on the following links —