13 April 2014

Although there is no commenting utility at this site, I am happy to publish articulate responses from readers. Please do take a minute! You’ll find the address at the bottom of the page.


In response to the entry entitled “XX” and dated 7 April, Walter Wade writes,

Why did this succinct and so to the point observation not find a wider audience?

In other words, what had happened in colonial America prior to the Revolution (and what had happened in no other part of the world, neither in the old countries nor in the new colonies) was, theoretically speaking, that action had led to the formation of power and that power was kept in existence by the then newly discovered means of promise and consent. The force of this power, engendered by action and kept by promises, came to the fore when, to the great surprise of all the great powers, the colonies, namely, the townships and the provinces, the counties and the cities, their numerous differences amongst themselves notwithstanding, won the war against England. But this victory was a surprise only for the Old World; the colonists themselves, with a hundred and fifty years of covenant-making behind them, rising out of a country which was articulated from top to bottom — from provinces or states down to cities and districts, townships, villages, and counties — into duly constituted bodies, each a commonwealth of its own, with representatives “freely chosen by the consent of loving friends and neighbours,” each, moreover, designed “for increase” as it rested on the mutual promises of those who were “cohabiting” and who, when they “conjoyned [them] selves to be as one Publike State or Commonwealth,” had planned not only for their “successors” but even for “such as shall be adioyned to [them] in any tyme hereafter” — the men who out of the uninterrupted strength of this tradition “bid a final adieu to Britain” knew their chances from the beginning; they knew of the enormous power potential that arises when men “mutually pledge to each other [their] lives, [their] Fortunes and their sacred Honour.

Because she was a woman and men did not listen to, much less hear, women back then.

Because, while cultural antisemitism was on the wane, that was still an Eastern phenomenon and in any case, no group of WASP men likes to learn the essential truism of their nation from an outsider.

Because, when a society is in chaos, as the 60’s was, conservative Pablum trumps reasoned truth, especially when the message is from a perceived representative of a group (liberal, cultured Jews) who at the time were closely identified as championing the dangerous new freedoms that were roiling the nation; the message was lost for want of an acceptable messenger.

Had she been a middle-aged, white male from an Ivy background, her laser beam precision might have been hailed by the nation’s educators and her work used to strip away, without destroying completely, the saccharine sentimentalism that had grown to enshrine the Founding Fathers.  That sentimentalism was appropriate for an earlier nation of relatively unlettered citizens who needed history, patriotism and the idea of a national identity fed to them in small, pre-digested bites, in much the same way as the Catholic Church taught it’s tenets to the great unwashed immigrants in the New World, and elsewhere.  It is a shame that Ms. Arendt’s work did not reach its intended audience, high-school and college students who had rejected the myths but had nothing at hand with which to replace it, without jettisoning the concept altogether.