Hannah Arendt’s 1951 classic The Origins of Totalitarianism, defines it as such.
Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.
And the reality is that these concepts are complicated. But the irony is we have since 9/11 and have historically from Jim Crow laws to McCarthy hearings, America has always contradicted itself when it comes to Democracy. And in turn just how the laws were written and the ability to amend and alter laws in States versus Federal rights also enables way to circumvent the Constitution. We outright lie in the remark, separation of Church and State and this has never been a fact, from In God We Trust on the dollar bill, to the swearing in of a President on a Bible, where is this separation? In the bedroom? Hell no, we have had laws for years that discriminated against that as well. We have never been a fully realized free enterprise This is not new but this is perhaps Trump's outright disregard of our history of laws, the concepts put forward in the Constitution are the most disturbing. This is from the Boston Review and perhaps it is a wordy and complicated but accurate in explaining how we are skirting this political concept of what is totalitarianism.
Moreover, by thinking of totalitarianism as something that happens elsewhere, in illiberal, undemocratic places, we ignore the ways in which our government can and has behaved in authoritarian ways within our own country. Black Americans experienced conditions of dictatorial rule in the Jim Crow South and under slavery, to name but the most prominent examples.
The language of totalitarianism thus obscures how dictatorship and democracy exist on the same spectrum. It is imperative that we come to a clearer understanding of the fact that hybrid forms of government exist which combine elements of both. These managed democracies, to take political theorist Sheldon Wolin’s term—from Putin’s Russia, to Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey—have hallmarks of democratic republics and use a combination of new and old methods to enforce something akin to one-party rule. These states are certainly not totalitarian, but neither are they democracies.
Likewise, the Republican Party’s efforts to manage U.S. democracy through gerrymandering and voter suppression is similar to Putin’s, Orbán’s, and Erdoğan’s tactics of securing political power. Its strategies push the republic further toward the authoritarian end of the political spectrum. And, indeed, the sophisticated data-mining techniques of Cambridge Analytica, which assisted the 2016 Trump campaign to manipulate voter choices, would have made the Stasi, the Gestapo, or the NKVD green with envy.
In fact, if the obliteration of the wall between public and private is the defining characteristic of totalitarianism, can any contemporary society be described as anything other than totalitarian? What, after all, does agency mean in a world in which Facebook aspires to know what we want before we know it ourselves or in a country in which the NSA collects vast troves of data on our own citizens? To my mind, totalitarianism’s usefulness as a distinctive category of government simply evaporates when we begin to look at all the ways in which technology has compromised individual privacy and agency in the twenty-first century.
Fear of totalitarianism gives the right cover to denounce measures to control the virus: if freedom means freedom from government, then the worst government is one that makes a total claim on its citizens, even in the interest of saving them from a plague.
Use of the term also prevents us from thinking productively about COVID-19 and how governments ought to respond to it. For a state of quarantine necessarily forces everyone to give up—whether voluntarily or no—their rights of movement, assembly, and, to some extent, expression. It requires the private choices individuals make—whether to have friends over for dinner, go on a morning jog, or buy groceries—to become public in painful and sometimes even embarrassing ways. Technology companies are starting to employ their products’ tracking features to trace the virus’s spread, an application that many worry poses an unacceptable breach of privacy.
Yet, the destruction of the private sphere in the interest of the public good is precisely what theorists tell us lies at the heart of totalitarianism. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben made precisely this point, arguing recently that the extraordinary response to COVID-19 is totalitarian: “The disproportionate reaction . . . is quite blatant. It is almost as if with terrorism exhausted as a cause for exceptional measures, the invention of an epidemic offered the ideal pretext for scaling them up beyond any limitation.” Of course, we now know the measures the Italian government introduced went neither far nor fast enough. Now there are over 160,000 confirmed cases in Italy and over 20,000 confirmed deaths from the virus.
In the past few weeks we have seen that the American people are waking up about issues that surround race and for now that is focused on the Police and their incessant need to murder most of the black and brown faces they encounter in their work. As we have found that over the past five years they have managed to kill over 1,000 people annually, averaging 3 people a day. That in other words would be defined a serial killer. That said the enhanced need to militarize the Police, a side affect of 9/11 which enabled this bullshit, the drug war which also lent to modern versions of Jim Crow, and the push to target Immigrants as a political problem and further enhancing the role of ICE in America to run rampant and arrest and imprison children in cages shows we love being tough and manly and brute fist against the "other." And while we were enraged we somehow did not take to the streets en mass to protest this policy. But this did not happen during a massive quarantine aka lockdown where we all under house arrest.
Even as we debate what marks recognition and respect for those whom we have exploited and enslaved in the pursuit of American Exceptionalism, the statutes, monuments, school names, flags and of course even street names, we are facing a much larger debate regarding how to resolve an ingrained cultural belief that is not just about race but about the Patriarchy. Seriously what the fuck are we doing electing Joe Biden regardless of which Black woman he picks as VP. Talk about pandering and placating. My God it was the black electorate who gave us this white daddy, he was losing until he was deigned as "the Candidate" by Jim Clyburn and in turn won South Carolina. At that time the frontrunner was Bernie Sanders with Butitigeg on his heels and Klobuchar and Warren not far behind. But until that Biden was a no go. Imagine had that the Democratic process been able to go forward without South Carolina and the pandemic that followed that led many states to postpone if not contribute to low primary voter turnouts in the middle of this nightmare it may have been a very different contest. And that is the funny thing, even Sanders, a very divisive figure in conventional times, would have been a powerful potential candidate regardless. And in turn his VP pick would have also been a much more organic and expected alternative than one demanded of him.
And so we must go ahead and vote regardless. The reality is that resigning oneself to not having a choice is true but that said the alternative is much worse. I am not sure where you have been the last three plus years but it was not good and continuing on this track is not a great idea.
When I read the New York Times article about those who voted for Trump and will not be in 2020 I did laugh as again they proved to me that they were fucking idiots but hey a vote is a vote. And one of them is a Black man. But this comment stood out.
Cathleen Graham, 53, a nurse who lives in a mostly white suburb of Grand Rapids, Mich., has had very different life experiences, but came to the same conclusion. She said she had been shocked to learn how much racism still existed.
“I understand the movement and why it’s going on a lot better than I did than when the gentleman was kneeling at the football game,” she said, referring to Colin Kaepernick.
“Even speaking up to support it, I’ve lost friends, friends that were crude, and I was like, ‘How can you even think that of another race?’”
Mr. Trump fits in that category, she said. She plans to vote for Mr. Biden.
Truly I had to be in quarantine to finally wake myself up from the realization why people hated me and I them; I have been woke, opinionated and verbal all my life. Women are not allowed to be as such and talking about race, age, money, men, sex and all the other issues that you do not in polite company has left me very marginalized and very much ostracized. And it was not until I sat and did an inventory about how many times I have had shit tossed in my direction it explains why I am so tough and I owe that to my Parents who made me this way and for that I am grateful. Was it their intent? No but they did inadvertently and it worked out.
I laughed yesterday when I heard D.L. Hugely on NPRand he said, "Black people need to have amnesia." in reference to holidays as few apply to people who share his history. Yes, and having actually had amnesia, that I am going to say no, but I can say I have zero interest in any of them. So yesterday as we supposedly celebrated independence from England, I did what I always do, watched something that proved the contrary; I watched One Woman, One Vote from PBS. I thought it was fitting as I think of fireworks much like I think of a man, just a big bang and its over in few minutes with a lot of shit to clean up after.
I cannot stress enough how important this issue is for it is about voting and the documentary discussed the Women's Suffrage Movement how it began, the struggles and the reality of what was, and more importantly, who was, expendable in which the women chose to reach their aims. From arrests, to imprisonment, to force feeding and I abuse (and I suspect sexual abuse as well) this taking to the streets to find freedom is not new, it is embedded in our history. It was out of the Abolitionist movement grew the Suffrage one and that without Black leadership it may not have happened at all in gaining larger support. I urge many of you to watch this show and get woke that we are all players for the team and the team is vastly different, from race, to beliefs, to gender and all the rest of us that mark us different, just like everyone else.
But the key is that voting is critical and to quote the Queen B: Continue to fight for each other and lift each other up, because there are people banking on us staying at home during the local elections and primaries happening in states across the country. We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does.