Our Editor Lyndsey Stonebridge was interviewed by Krista Tippet for On Being, where they discussed Hannah Arendt, the vulnerability of facts, and lessons the Origins of Totalitarianism may hold for today. The full transcript can be accessed here.
MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah. I was very interested about your question about imagination because I think we talk a lot today about empathy and suffering. And I’m like Arendt. I’m always a bit wary. It sounds like a terrible thing to say. I’m really a bit wary about empathy. [laughs] I really don’t know about this.
MS. TIPPETT: I wanted to ask you about that because when we talk — talking about loneliness, as we’re discussing it in the context of her work, it’s clearly the human condition, and it can be a personal experience. But it’s not talking about loneliness as something that, if we can be compassionate towards each other’s loneliness, things will get better.
MS. STONEBRIDGE: Well, I think for her — I mean, she was critical of pity, and she wrote very famously in her On Revolution book that what she didn’t like about pity is it kept the power relationship. Other people’s suffering for the one who’s doing the pitying or the empathizing keeps the power.
And also, she didn’t like it because once you have suffering as your ground zero, you can allow for anything in the name to end that suffering. And that was the tragedy for her of the French Revolution. We have to be piteous in order to save the suffering people. And she’s thinking about what it’s like to imagine not being in the place you’re in, to be imagine to be in the place of another.