Term Paper: Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt

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[. . .] These men and women were grimly, as they were systematically, starved and then (re)conditioned to behave inhumanly in their craving for nourishment - a "perverted animal," in Arendt's description - like Pavlov's dogs when a bell was rung. The contrived world of the concentration camp ruled out innocence as a virtue and guilt as a crime and obliterated the meanings and boundaries of innocence and guilt, right and wrong, virtue and vice and everything else relating and accruing to, or underlying the essence of being human. These abstractions ceased and vanished in them in the camp, as having no sense of these concepts and no recall or continuity with them. There, human beings were systematically, scientifically and successfully dehumanized for its own sake.

This tactical assault on human nature was carried out by the totalitarian government in the concentration camp in three ways. The first was by the most essential step of destroying the juridical or political identity of each person through disenfranchisement. By disenfranchising, the person's legal status was eliminated (Arendt), whether he was law-abiding or criminal. He or she was subjected to inconceivable torments not even the worst criminal deserved or connected to anything he or she had done. It could be for anything - for being a Jew, belonging to a dying class, being "asocial, mentally ill" or as carrier of a disease (Arendt)." The regime invented new categories if it had run out of old ones. The arbitrariness of the act was for the destruction of those individuals' civil rights as those of the whole population. This conduct was far worse than simple indoctrination or brainwashing by other tyrannies because dissent was not part of it. These creatures were purged of the capacity to dissent. In the totalitarian government's pursuit if dominating the human species unconditionally and absolutely, it had to impose this kind of conduct as a form of "discipline."

The second step was the elimination of the ingrained human capacity for conscientious choice. The human being in the concentration camp was coerced to choose between evils, such as one child over another to be murdered. It must be emphasized that the concentration camp had no contact with the outside world and no hope of being heard or saved. There was no place for martyrdom, either In it, the dead were quickly forgotten, as death was as superfluous as life (Arendt).

And the last step was the deletion of their individual identity and every sense of it. These organisms were herded and massed together in a common band and bond of terror and this effectively effaced any kind and hint of distinction from one another. They, thus, automatically yielded to torture and, as a result, became only heaps of insensitive, unthinking flesh. Having been deprived of spontaneity in essence, they were disabled from acting and thinking and aimlessly drifted as "zombies" until it was time to die (Arendt). This was the precise quest of Hitler's or the Nazi's totalitarian rule, so that these human subjects would cease to be sources of destruction to it. In later years at the slave labor camps of the Gulag and despite what was considered its "economic rationale," the workers were likewise starved or frozen to death and then quickly replaced by others whose lives and deaths were as superfluous as theirs.

III. As mentioned earlier, this sense of world-less-ness and the absence of a concrete selfhood and belonging-ness rendered the Mob vulnerable or inclined it to outside influence, manipulation and extreme kinds of assault. Its baseless-ness opened it to seemingly superior processes from the outside, such as becoming "integrated" into "supra-human" forces that vigorously and with logicality introduced an idea into the Mob's consciousness. The Mob mind, in which nothing stood on th way to oppose the idea introduced, would inevitably be swayed in its direction and through its processes and become changed into this "new" mode of "thinking and moving." It was this very same logicality that prevented the Mob's consciousness from accidentally perceiving and retrieving its previous capability to choose and was at the focus of the totalitarian regime.

The chief reason that made the Mob compliant to totalitarian dictates and conditioning was not the torment of political isolation, which could be deemed as the condition that deterred action (Arendt). Rather, it was the social loneliness of these uprooted and baseless, aimless masses of persons, their collective loss of common sense and personhood - in the form of community and communication - that disposed them towards ideological dictates and re-conditioning on the goals of (their basic) nature and history (Arendt). Furthermore owing to their moment-to-moment and seemingly un-ending witness of the shared experience of a common hell, they eventually acknowledged that they all had no place in this world, had no world that others guaranteed. This persistent and hopeless external reality deformed what was internal in each of them. The result was a deformation and conformity to the taunting of the totalitarian organization and, eventually, to its full and unconscionable domination of these miserable specks of humanity.


Arnedt, Hannah. (1973) The Origins of Totalitarianism. Paperback, new… [END OF PREVIEW]

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