I borrow the term „dark times“ from Brecht's famous poem To Posterity which mentions the disorder and the hunger, the massacres and the slaughterers, the outrage over injustice and the despair when there was „only wrong and no outrage“, the legitimate hatred that makes you ugly nevertheless, the well-founded wrath that makes the voice grow hoarse. All this was real enough as it took place in public; there was nothing secret or mysterious about it. And still, it was by no means visible to all, nor was it at all easy to perceive it; for, until the very moment when catastrophe overtook everything and everybody, it was covered up not by realities but by the highly efficient talk and double-talk of nearly all official representatives who, without interruption and in many ingenious variations, explained away unpleasant facts and justified concerns.
„Dark times“, in the broader sense I propose here, are as such not identical with the monstrosities of this century which indeed are of a horrible novelty. Dark times, in contrast, are not only not new, they are no rarity in history, although they were perhaps unknown in American history, which otherwise has its fair share, past and present, of crime and disaster. That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth—this conviction is the inarticulate background against which these profiles were drawn. Eyes so used to darkness as ours will hardly be able to tell whether their fight was the light of a candle or that of a blazing sun. But such objective evaluation seems to me a matter of secondary importance which can be safely left to posterity.
However, the equality before the law whose standard we commonly adopt for moral judgments as well is no absolute. Every judgment is open to forgiveness, every act of judging can change into an act of forgiving; to judge and to forgive are but the two sides of the same coin. But the two sides follow different rules. The majesty of the law demands that we be equal—that only our acts count, and not the person who committed them. The act of forgiving, on the contrary, takes the person into account; no pardon pardons murder or theft but only the murderer or the thief. We always forgive somebody, never something, and this is the reason people think that only love can forgive. But, with or without love, we forgive for the sake of the person, and whde justice demands that all be equal, mercy insists on inequality—an inequality implying that every man is, or should be, more than whatever he did or achieved.
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Flight from the world in dark times of impotence can always be justified as long as reality is not ignored, but is constandy acknowledged as the thing that must be escaped. When people choose this alternative, private life too can retain a by no means insignificant reality, even though it remains impotent. Only it is essential for them to realize hat the realness of this reality consists not in its deeply personal note, any more than it springs from privacy as such, but inheres in the world from which they have escaped. They must remember that they are constantly on the run, and that the world's reality is actually expressed by their escape. Thus, too, the true force of escapism springs from persecution, and the personal strength of the fugitives increases as the persecution and danger increase.
Excerpts from the book
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Hannah Arendt (Hannover, 1906 – New York, 1975) is a German-born American philosopher and political scientist.
She studied at the Universities of Marburg, Freiburg and Heidelberg, where she received her doctorate in 1928. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, she left Germany and since 1940 has lived in the United States. Among other things, she taught at the University of Chicago from 1963 to 1967. and at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she taught political philosophy. Arendt is world-renowned as one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century, and numerous books and articles she has written have had a lasting impact on political theory. Some of her most acclaimed works are We refugees (1943), The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963) and Men in Dark Times (1968).
In 2017, the TIM press published a Croatian translation of Letters: 1925-1975 by Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger.
- ISBN: 978-953-8075-67-4
- Dimensions: 142x205 mm
- Number of pages: 280
- Cover: paperback
- Year of the edition: 2019
- Original title: Men in dark times
- Original language: English
- Translation: Srđan Dvornik