Monday, March 6, 2017

Amor Mundi Newsletter: How Quickly It Can Happen


March 5th, 2017

"On February 27, 1933 the German Parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era began. Hitler, who had just been named head of a government that was legally formed after the democratic elections of the previous November, seized the opportunity to change the system. "There will be no mercy now," he exulted. "Anyone standing in our way will be cut down."
The next day, at Hitler's advice and urging, the German president issued a decree "for the protection of the people and the state." It deprived all German citizens of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and made them subject to "preventative detention" by the police. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections. Nazi paramilitaries and the police then began to arrest political enemies and place them in concentration camps. Shortly thereafter, the new parliament passed an "enabling act" that allowed Hitler to rule by decree.
After 1933, the Nazi regime made use of a supposed threat of terrorism against Germans from an imaginary international Jewish conspiracy. After five years of repressing Jews, in 1938 the German state began to deport them. On October 27 of that year, the German police arrested about 17,000 Jews from Poland and deported them across the Polish border. A young man named Herschel Grynszpan, sent to Paris by his parents, received a desperate postcard from his sister after his family was forced across the Polish border.  He bought a gun, went to the German embassy, and shot a German diplomat. He called this an act of revenge for the suffering of his family and his people. Nazi propagandists presented it as evidence of an international Jewish conspiracy preparing a terror campaign against the entire German people. Josef Goebbels used it as the pretext to organize the events we remember as Kristallnacht, a massive national pogrom of Jews that left hundreds dead. The Reichstag fire shows how quickly a modern republic can be transformed into an authoritarian regime."


Two days ago we discussed Arendt's chapter "The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man," in our 10-session reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Curious about the group? The screenshot above is a link to a recording of the entire discussion from February 24th. We hope you take a look and consider joining us in our ongoing dialogue on the recurring threat to democracy in the modern world.

Visit us at to read more about the group and to become a member of the Hannah Arendt Center.

Joel Guerrero (Source: Daily News)
Glenn Geher tells of a neighbor in his town of New Paltz, NY who was recently arrested and is behind bars. Joel Guerrero faces deportation after 10 years in the United States. It turns out that years ago, in his 20s, he was arrested on misdemeanor charges for having a Marijuana plant in his room. Geher's account is worth reading. So too his plea that "This is still the United States of America, and I am here to tell you that if you are outraged at this insanity (and I hope you are), you have options."
"Joel works in the field of construction and is married to long-standing resident of New Paltz, Jessica Guerrero. She grew up in New Paltz. She graduated from the same high school that my daughter goes to right now. She took classes at SUNY New Paltz, where I teach. She and I have 10 common Facebook friends. This is New Paltz - this is small-town America. And this is a town full of people living the American Dream. Without knowing Jessica well, I will say this in case it is not obvious: I stand for her and her family and their right to pursue the American Dream.

Jessica is now pregnant with Joel's baby. They are excited to build a family here in New Paltz. And just hearing their story makes me excited for them.

So you can imagine how up in arms people in my little town are to hear that Joel is now behind bars in a federal immigration detention facility in New Jersey. He was arrested after a routine semi-annual meeting with ICE officials last week. It was a surprise arrest. 

He was not given the option to have an attorney represent him. He is currently behind bars  - with the rationale being that he (a) missed one meeting with immigration officials seven years ago and (b) he had some misdemeanor arrest regarding marijuana possession when he was in his 20s.

Joel Guerrero is married to a native of the USA - she is pregnant with their child. He immigrated here legally 10 years ago with his family - in an effort to pursue the American dream. And he is behind bars as I type right now. (Details on his story are presented in the New York Daily News here).

I have one question for the new administration of our nation regarding this situation, and it is this: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!?!?!?"


Friedrich Trump, the grandfather of the U.S. President, wrote this heartfelt plea to Luitpold, prince regent of Bavaria, in 1905, asking for himself and his family to not be deported. The Prince nevertheless had Trump and his family deported.
"Most Serene, Most Powerful Prince Regent! Most Gracious Regent and Lord!

I was born in Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. My parents were honest, plain, pious vineyard workers. They strictly held me to everything good - to diligence and piety, to regular attendance in school and church, to absolute obedience toward the high authority.

After my confirmation, in 1882, I apprenticed to become a barber. I emigrated in 1885, in my sixteenth year. In America I carried on my business with diligence, discretion, and prudence. God's blessing was with me, and I became rich. I obtained American citizenship in 1892. In 1902 I met my current wife. Sadly, she could not tolerate the climate in New York, and I went with my dear family back to Kallstadt.

The town was glad to have received a capable and productive citizen. My old mother was happy to see her son, her dear daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter around her; she knows now that I will take care of her in her old age.

But we were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria. We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick.
Why should we be deported?"


"Wellton Border Patrol Station Construction" by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is licensed under CC BY 2.0
In an interview, Aly Wane, an undocumented organizer from Senegal, gives a veteran's perspective from the front lines of the battle over American immigration policy:

"I think those of us who have been undocumented organizers for years are struggling with two energies right now. On the one hand, we are so excited to see so many new folks come into organizing spaces, realize what ICE and Border Patrol-with the cooperation of police-have been doing for so many years, and really want to fight that. However, so much of this stuff was happening under both Obama and President Bush Jr. and we were not getting the same responses.

The thing that was confusing about President Obama was that his rhetoric on immigration was really great. I literally remember times when I would listen to a speech on immigration by President Obama and feel like, "Well, shouldn't he then not ramp up the level of enforcement?" But, when it came to practice, some of these raids that we are seeing [now], those things were routine under Obama until maybe the last two years of the administration, when they started to really start to ease up on so-called "low priority" individuals. But that took a lot of time and a lot of organizing. You mentioned this case of someone being taken by ICE or Border Patrol recently and that is shocking to a lot of folks, but I can think of numerous instances when that happened locally here in the Syracuse area, for example. ICE and Border Patrol have not respected hospitals for years.

It might be a shocking thing for folks who are not aware that this has been happening, but this used to be routine and the only difference is that now Trump has really allowed these organizations to run wild. Their rhetoric is that they self-restrained under Obama, despite the fact that Obama deported 2.5 million undocumented folks. More than any other president. But, they still have been wanting to do more. Now Trump is basically authorizing them to go after all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, because the definition of criminal alien has been so expanded that now pretty much anyone who is undocumented can be considered a criminal alien. It is just open season now."


The Wall Street Journal editorial board, hardly a bunch of snowflakes, calls the deportation frenzy a blot on America.
"In a pair of memos the Secretary fleshes out the Administration's immigration priorities to protect public safety. By all means deport gangbangers and miscreants. But Mr. Kelly's order is so sweeping that it could capture law-abiding immigrants whose only crime is using false documents to work. This policy may respond to the politics of the moment, but chasing down maids and meatpackers will not go down as America's finest hour.

Under Mr. Kelly's guidelines, any undocumented immigrant who has committed even a misdemeanor could be "subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States." So a restaurant worker with an expired visa or driver without a license who is caught rolling a stop sign could be an expulsion target.
One question is whether all this effort is needed. More than 90% of the 65,000 undocumented immigrants removed last year from the U.S. interior were convicted criminals, and about 2,000 were affiliated with gangs. This suggests that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is already targeting and removing as many bad guys as it can locate.

To assist with removals, the memos call for hiring an additional 5,000 border patrol and 10,000 ICE agents, which represent a roughly 25% and 50% increase in their respective workforces. The increase in the agencies' operating budgets would cost about $4 billion annually.
Mr. Kelly has also ordered a plan to "surge the deployment of immigration judges and asylum officers," and he's going to need them. The backlog of cases in the Justice Department's 58 immigration courts has already swelled to more than 540,000 from 325,000 in 2012. Some 250 immigration judges were assigned 200,000 cases in 2015. The average wait time for a case is 677 days and can hit five years at some locations.

More than 500 judges-who would each require an entourage of translators, paralegals and clerks-would need to be hired to eliminate the backlog within a year. Each full-time position costs about $200,000, so taxpayers could be billed more than a half billion dollars for this surge of government attorneys. Add all this to the cost of Mr. Trump's border wall, and the bill rises into the tens of billions."

(Source: VDare)
Laurie Patton, President of Middlebury College, wrote an open letter to the College Community after students and others violently shut down a talk by Charles Murray and injured a Middlebury professor who had invited Murray to speak, leading the Professor to be taken to the hospital emergency room.

"As many of you are aware by now, a large group of student protestors disrupted Charles Murray's talk yesterday afternoon in Wilson Hall in McCullough Student Center. I am deeply disappointed by the events that I witnessed and it was painful for many people in our community to experience. I know that many students, faculty, and staff who were in attendance or waiting outside to participate were upset by the events, and the lost opportunity for those in our community who wanted to listen to and engage with Mr. Murray.

With some effort, we were able to move Mr. Murray to another location where he and Prof. Allison Stanger, who was scheduled to moderate the Q&A following his talk, were able-though with challenges-to go ahead with the talk and a probing conversation afterward.

Following the event, protests continued outside of McCullough as well. Unfortunately, one group of demonstrators aggressively confronted Mr. Murray and Prof. Allison Stanger as they left McCullough Student Center. That confrontation turned into a violent incident with a lot of pushing and shoving, and an attack on the car in which they were leaving campus. We believe that many of these protestors were outside agitators, but there are indications that Middlebury College students were involved as well.

We will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred inside and outside Wilson Hall.

Today our community begins the process of addressing the deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night. I am grateful to those who share this goal and have offered to help. We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us. That work will take time, and I will have more to say about that in the days ahead.

Last night we failed to live up to our core values. But I remain hopeful. Last evening, several students, faculty, and staff representing a large spectrum of political perspectives remained in Wilson Hall to discuss the events and to talk about building bridges. Their ability to reach across differences in a rigorous but respectful way was a stark contrast to the events that preceded it. I firmly believe these are the Middlebury values that we have lived so long and that we must strive to embody in the future.

I extend my sincerest apologies to everyone who came in good faith to participate in a serious discussion, and particularly to Mr. Murray and Prof. Stanger for the way they were treated during the event and, especially, afterward.

Laurie L. Patton


"Throughout the interview last May, Asad expresses to his interviewer, Fadi Bardawil, a sentiment akin to those penultimate notes of Only Lovers Left Alive. He recalls living in Egypt in the early 1970s. His taxi driver showed him the favelas of Cairo, the corruption and poverty there, and Asad asked: "What is the solution to this?" The driver, at first puzzled, replied casually: "Ma fish hall" ("There is no solution"). This response surprised Asad. He wondered why he had presumed that such a deep-set problem correlated to a solution; that his question could be answered as easily as it had been asked. In the interview, Asad emphasizes the value of reflection, particularly in turbulent times. He is cautious of the ways that modern states have wrought havoc by jumping to solutions-as in Euro-America's political interferences across the world-and the ways in which emancipatory politics, quick to search out "solutions" in revolutionary struggles, often backfire, as they did during the upheavals in Egypt over the last few years and in decades past... Asad is uncomfortable with, and acknowledges, the privilege of "sitting back and thinking" as people struggle with far more than contemplation. But the alternative-emancipatory politics geared toward purely practical solutions-doesn't satisfy him either. He believes this narrow approach is a symptom of the modern state's rigidity. Asad values reflection about these quandaries; he wants to imagine ways of living beyond the state."

As we confront political lies of surprising boldness-just this weekend the President tweets that former President Obama had his phones tapped, for which, apparently, there is no evidence-there is a conversation still to be had about what uncompromising truthfulness would mean. Hannah Arendt styled herself a truthteller; but she knew well the dangers of too much truthtelling in politics. But artists are truthtellers. And Wyatt Mason offers a provocative profile of Emmanuel Carrère, the French non-fiction novelist known for telling all kinds of forbidden truths.
"Carrère's priority of frankness has forged, from book to book, new ways of managing to be truthful, new ways of including the first person. Self-conscious approaches to nonfiction narration, those that favor the reportorial "I" in the proceedings, aren't new, with examples as old as, and not limited to, Daniel Defoe in the 18th century, Thomas De Quincey in the 19th and Joan Didion in the 20th. In an era when nonfiction with a vaguely journalistic foundation has been a thing so mutable that it has been rebranded across three generations as "new journalism," "gonzo journalism" and "creative nonfiction," Carrère's approach still defies category. Even to call his recent books, as Carrère sometimes has, "nonfiction novels" doesn't do much to clarify what makes them so unusual. Though it's easy to notice the mechanics of a Carrère book - his characteristic inclusion of himself in the proceedings, his habitual inclusion of the process by which the book in question is being formed - what is genuinely original in Carrère's work is the sensibility that animates those varied approaches, infused as it is with Carrère's at-times-skeptical, at-times-maniacal way of thinking, his well-stocked intelligence, his spare, unfussily lyrical prose, his shameproof feed of uncensored interiority, his tireless storytelling energy and his unstinting attempts and, importantly, failures at maintaining sympathy for his subjects.

"To write a book," Carrère told me, "you've got to be persuaded that you're the only person who could write it." Some of his books make this claim more obviously than others. Carrère's latest, "The Kingdom," which appears in the United States this week, is at once a memoir of his time as a devout Christian and a fictional account of Luke and Paul as they wrote the first books of the Christian story. Or consider his "My Life as a Russian Novel," from 2007, which tells, in part, the story of Carrère's mother's father, a brilliant but depressive Georgian émigré who, failing to integrate into French life after the Russian Revolution, ended up interpreting for the Germans during World War II. One day, he disappeared, not to be seen or heard from again. Carrère's mother was 15 at the time, and she never spoke of his disappearance or his fate. Carrère sought to tell that story as fully as he could, but it wouldn't be a Carrère book if, in telling that story, he didn't also tell the story of the making of the feature documentary he shot in Russia, in 2002 (Carrère has a parallel career as a film and television director and writer), about the town, Kotelnich, a backwater 11 hours from Moscow, where a 75-year-old Hungarian soldier from World War II was discovered 53 years after he fought against the Soviets and, having been taken prisoner, confined to a tiny mental hospital. But in telling that story, the story of the making of the documentary, Carrère also told the story of the relationship he was in at the time he was making that movie, a troubled relationship with a woman of a different social class, a woman to whom he wrote a pornographic letter, one he published in Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, a letter that he didn't tell her about and that was meant to be an erotic surprise - a surprise that went catastrophically awry, taking with it Carrère's psychological balance. His unraveling, as documented in the book, is one of the most compelling conjurings of mania a reader is likely to encounter. As improbable as this confluence of elements might seem, they marry into something remarkable, especially given that "My Life as a Russian Novel" ends with yet another open letter, one to Carrère's mother, about the fact that they had never talked about the darkness that hovered over their family, a darkness that he hoped might be lifted by his telling of this story in the most open way possible: a public way. Given that Carrère's mother, Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, is arguably the most famous Russian historian in France, a constant presence on French television not merely for her expertise but also in her capacity as the permanent secretary of the Académie Française, the 382-year-old institution founded by Richelieu to safeguard the sanctity and purity of the French language, Carrère's claim of ambivalence over having used la gégène on other people seems not at all overstated."

In an interview, the psychoanalyst and visual artist Brancha Ettinger muses on the adequacy of art to represent suffering:

"Painting pains me. And it will pain you. We join in sorrow so that silenced violence will find its echo in our spirit, not by imagination but through an artistic vision. Light and space can flourish without us, the humankind. Light and space in painting works in color, line, and forms for the humane. After an earth-shattering catastrophe, must I not allow the traces of the horrifying to interfere with my artwork? Why should this be any different to psychoanalytical and critical interventions?

The question "What is art?" is certainly not a question of aesthetics, styles, and technique alone. Art proceeds by trusting in the human capacity to contain and convey its rage and its pain, and to transform residuals of violence into ethical relations via new forms of mediation that give birth to their own beauty and define them. I work a lot with transparent layers upon transparent layers. I mix pigment with ashes. Suddenly, something passes through. The idea, like the painting, becomes translucent. In between the layers appear the space of a potential subject and the subject of that becoming-space. The shareable "matrixial"-space-subject, associated to the feminine in the human, doesn't only contain its "objects." It carries. It is to trust that we will be able to bear in compassion the unbearable, the horrible, and the inhuman in the human. Critique is not lost in this artistic entrustment. Rather, critique becomes participatory in it.

The purpose of art is not to represent reality or to aestheticize it. Art invents images and spaces, whether it uses traces of earlier images or not. Art works like a maternal healing when it solicits against all the odds the human capacity to wonder, to feel awe, to feel compassion, to care, to trust, and to carry the weight of the world. What you see doesn't reflect reality or your own self; the image is not a mirror. When violence kills trust, art is the space where a trust in the other, and by extension of one's being in the world, can reemerge."
Jennifer Gersten has a chat with some cyborgs:

"Part of this confusion over firstness might stem from a broader confusion about how we're defining "cyborg." In her TED Talk "We Are All Cyborgs Now," Amber Case, who helped pioneer the field of cyborg anthropology, explains that anyone alive today can lay claim to the term. Our cell phones and other devices are external prosthetics offering constant connection and accessibility. Our memories thunder down from the Cloud. We might hide, but our texts, those endless summons to the court of our relationships, will find us. We admit that we have patted the pockets where forgotten phones ought to be and moaned as though amputated. These technologies, Case argues, have permanently changed the way we live, and our relationship with them merits its own field of study.

Harbisson and Ribas also see a universality to cyborg life, but with a critical distinction: for them, the emphasis is less on cyborg as a way of being that we happen to have wandered into and more on 'borghood as a choice. The duo views it as they do gender: as a matter of how one identifies. "Anyone who identifies as a cyborg is a cyborg," Ribas says. "We all have the right to be the species we want or feel that we are, in the same way we all have the right to be the gender we feel that we are." Harbisson maintains that his project wasn't born of a desire to undo his achromatopsia: "It wasn't about fixing anything, it was about designing your own perception."

When we fuse our bodies with technology, we are often regarded as obscene, having violated some definition of what it means to be fully human. This perception isn't limited to Terminator: people who wear prosthetics or have disabilities they cannot hide, trans people, and others on the margins whose lives are dependent on or shaped by technology are common targets of hatred and discrimination. Harbisson and Ribas, both of whom identify as trans-species, mean to convince us that technological modification has the potential to make us not less, but more: that the process of becoming a self is additive and fully within our control. The team founded their Cyborg Foundation in part to provide resources for those hoping to follow their example. The Cyborg Foundation's slogan, plastered across the website's front page, is "Design Yourself.""
The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College announces one post-doctoral fellowships for the 2017-2018 academic year. The Deadline for Consideration is this Tuesday, March 7, 2017. For more information, qualifications, and how to apply, visit our website here.

View all of our upcoming events at

MARCH 10th, 2017 - 1pm (UTC-5)
HAC VRG continues reading Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism

Our 10 session discussion series on Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism continues with a 90-minute discussion of "Pt. 3: Totalitarianism - A Classless Society, Ch. 10," on Friday, March 10th, at 1:00pm (UTC-5). Participation is free for members and Bard students. Download a copy of the full schedule through the image to the right or view more information at the Virtual Reading Group web page.

MARCH 14, 2017 - 6:30p (UTC-5) in OLIN, ROOM 102
The Hannah Arendt Edition Series with Susanne Lüdemann: Hannah Arendt and the Problem of Judging (in) Modernity

Susanne Lüdemann's talk claims that, from the book on totalitarianism onward, Arendt dedicates her thought and writing to coping with this doubled challenge of judgment through the rupture in civilization in the extermination of the Jews on the one hand, and through the rupture in tradition of Modernity on the other. At the core of Arendt's work, judging and distinguishing are thus not only to be viewed as recurring themes or objects of her thought but also as ways of thinking and writing, as operations performed in her own discursive practice.

For more information, visit the event page here.

About Amor Mundi


Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. "What is most difficult," Arendt writes, "is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it." And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.


Until next time,
The Hannah Arendt Center

Hannah Arendt Center, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale, NY 12504

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