Samantha Rose Hill
Originally published 16 Oct 20
Here is an excerpt:
Why loneliness is not obvious.
Arendt’s answer was: because loneliness radically cuts people off from human connection. She defined loneliness as a kind of wilderness where a person feels deserted by all worldliness and human companionship, even when surrounded by others. The word she used in her mother tongue for loneliness was Verlassenheit – a state of being abandoned, or abandon-ness. Loneliness, she argued, is ‘among the most radical and desperate experiences of man’, because in loneliness we are unable to realise our full capacity for action as human beings. When we experience loneliness, we lose the ability to experience anything else; and, in loneliness, we are unable to make new beginnings.
In order to illustrate why loneliness is the essence of totalitarianism and the common ground of terror, Arendt distinguished isolation from loneliness, and loneliness from solitude. Isolation, she argued, is sometimes necessary for creative activity. Even the mere reading of a book, she says requires some degree of isolation. One must intentionally turn away from the world to make space for the experience of solitude but, once alone, one is always able to turn back.
Totalitarianism uses isolation to deprive people of human companionship, making action in the world impossible, while destroying the space of solitude. The iron-band of totalitarianism, as Arendt calls it, destroys man’s ability to move, to act, and to think, while turning each individual in his lonely isolation against all others, and himself. The world becomes a wilderness, where neither experience nor thinking are possible.