Friday, July 28, 2006

Evil as a Problem in Politics

I think Arendt’s work on totalitarianism is key to showing us that evil is an important problem in everyday politics and that it has the possibility to emerge at any time and in any place. I believe that many have experienced in Iran what Arendt describes in the Origins of Totalitarianism as “the anti-political principle.” It is the end of ethics in the political realm and the unlimited degradation of civic morality. In 1979 the abyss between men of civility and men of brutal deeds was filled in Iran with the ideologization of the public sphere. One saw the breakdown of the old system, followed by the failure of political liberalism and the formation of the ideologies of 1979. One can say that when common sense breaks down or becomes impossible, hopelessness and resignation set in; people lose the capacity for action and despair over their ability to influence things.

Ramin Jahanbegloo, in an interview with Danny Postel. He goes on to say later in the interview:

Life is not easy when you have to live morally in the face of untruth. Maybe intellectuals in Iran have learned to face a life of challenges because the challenge of truth is more crucial to their existence than it is to others....I think this internal dialogue with oneself — listening to one’s inner voice, as Gandhi used to say — but also having an acute sense of the world, could be a quest not only to understand the meaning of our world, but also a ceaseless and restless activity of questioning on the nature of the evil that one has to confront in political life.

In Iran we have grown accustomed to living with political evil but to not thinking about it. I think today more than at any other time our mode of thinking and our mode of judging in Iranian society have a crucial role in determining where Iran can go from here.

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