Daily Editorial Analysis for 8th January 2021

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  5. Daily Editorial Analysis for 8th January 2021

Reading Hannah Arendt in Joe Biden’s America


Mains: G.S. II Polity and Governance, International Relations


  • For the first time in the history of the United States, a President has incited insurrection by his neo-Nazi brigade of right-wing supporters, opposing the peaceful transfer of power.
  • It is tantamount to encouraging hostility when the world stood horrified as a witness to the rioters storming the U.S. Capitol.
  • The violence against democracy is a blotch on the American constitutional democracy.


  • With Joe Biden walking into the White House on January 20, there can be no overplaying the enormity of the tasks ahead of him, what with the deeply polarised nation divided into two belligerent camps.
  • US already afflicted with an escalating novel coronavirus pandemic, an ailing economy, racial discrimination, and a climate crisis rebuffed by millions.
  • Tragedy, for Joe Biden, is the very condition of life. Having lost his wife and daughter in an accident and a son to cancer, Joe Biden has always had the deep-seated desire to urge politics towards humanism in the wake of the overwhelming systemic racism that has underpinned American culture recently.

How Hannah Arendt has come to the scene?

  • The bitter assault on democracy is better understood in the recent revelation of his letter written in 1975 to the famous German-American philosopher, Hannah Arendt, requesting her to send him a copy of her paper read at the Boston Bicentennial Forum. It reflects his desire to find “deeper causes” underlying the economic and social collapse as well as the scourge of racism.
  • The paper to which Senator Biden refers is “Home to Roost,” a lecture Arendt read on May 20, 1975 at Boston’s Fanueil Hall, which also was broadcast by National Public Radio.
  • “Home to Roost” is a complicated essay that embraces Arendt’s lifelong concerns with totalitarian lying and theoretical obfuscation, alongside her deep fear about the corruption and failure of the American republican tradition of free government.
  • Arendt sent out a warning in her paper entitled “Coming Home to Roost” which the present generation must heed: “All speculation about deeper causes returns from the shock of reality… the stark, naked brutality of facts, of things as they are.” Her focus is largely on her deep-seated interest in political humanism and a free space in the world inhabited by people who are inspired by public principles and an ethics that stands in stark contradiction to the inherent ethno-nationalist populism.

  • Boastful and deluded like Mussolini, and with an overriding penchant for self-glorification, Trump is overwhelmingly obsessed with not letting go of his power. More frighteningly, his conception of reality is different and facts have no significance for him.
  • Arendt argues, “lying was guided by ideology and backed by terror”; here, it has been directed at creating images and bolstered by “hidden persuasion” through the manipulation of public opinion.
  • Hannah Arendt was German Jew political thinker who fled the Nazi Germany to escape the atrocities of Hitler’s regime. She wanted to stop the state to be turned into totalitarian and for that she voiced for citizenry to be active, she established freedom as a need of individual.

Lessons that Mr. Biden has learnt

  • Biden had early on in life learnt from political philosophy that the rise of a more workable political and public humanism depends singularly on Arendt’s “free spectators of action” who determine the meaning of action and its public relevance that saves humans from the abyss of a miserable existence.

What US shall do?

  • America must know that politics of terrorism will not work any more at home or abroad. And it is hoped that many around the world would go to Arendt if only to learn a lesson or two about the vulnerability of our democracy.
  • Her writings have always been a powerful foundation of inspiration to the people’s movements fighting against totalitarian lying and the infringement of basic human rights. Her persistent warnings of failure of the American republican tradition for self-government asks for an ideological position underpinned by a more cognitive existence that is mindful of the facts ‘coming home to roost’.
  • For Arendt, if you remain an onlooker and express no reaction appropriate to the circumstances, your inertia will amount to deliberately perpetrating violence and accepting lies to prevail.

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