In Arendt’s writing titled “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, she deduces the notion that the only way to truly have power over a mass of people can be traced back to dividing that aforementioned mass of people. As power began to expand and evolve, the idea of separation became ever more clear, particularly in Great Britain and the United States. Since she is dissecting these cohabitation of peoples post-slavery, it is clear that these two countries both had their troubles with this “issue”. For example, Arendt writes that the abolishment of slavery created “a highly confused public opinion which was fertile soil for the various naturalistic doctrines which arose in those decades”, and this notion of “fertile soil” can still be seen in the 21st century political climate. For instance, the constant belittling of one’s opponent and constant spread of political propaganda are solely intended to sow the seeds of distrust among the public, for if the public is divided then no one person is able to gain power per say. Yet, the most curious aspect of this decision to divide, is that their is no true basis for one’s hatred of another, it is simply just pure hatred. In this work, Arendt notes of a sect of people called “polygenism”, which means that one seeks to isolate all people that are the same together: “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”. I think that this sect of people perfectly encapsulates the idea that common dictators have, that a nation divided cannot thrive.
Season Two of HBO’s critically acclaimed drama series The Wire follows a group of stevedores working on the docks of the Baltimore harbor and the police who’s goal is to ultimately take them down. Within this crime ridden family, two main players in the international smuggling rings are Frank Sobotka and his troubled son, Ziggy Sobotka. In the second to last episode, the police eventually raided the union offices of the dockworkers, lead by Frank Sobotka, and arrest these criminals. Of these criminals are Frank’s aforementioned son Ziggy, and his nephew Nick. After Frank is released from jail, he goes to see Ziggy in prison to talk with him about their future steps, including the matter of bail, which is said to be “tricky”. It is in this scene that a clear psychological strain has been placed upon Ziggy, as if these years of being a criminal have finally broke his conscience. It is in this scene in which he confronts and begs to his father, he confronts him over this life of crime he was essentially born into and he begs his father for anything, just any sliver of hope. Perhaps the most poignant line in this scene is when Ziggy looks at his father, and for the first time is completely honest with not only his father, but also himself: “I got tired I got tired of being the punchline of every joke”. This line sums up his entire psychological state at that moment, a state of which he is simply given up all hope. At this point Ziggy has become all but a passive passenger in his own life.
By boiling down his entire essence into simply seeing himself as nothing more of the constant punchline, Ziggy has unknowingly opened the Pandora’s box of why he is like this. Immediate after hearing this confession of hopelessness from Ziggy, Frank says, “if you had problems you coulda [sic] just came to me”, to which Ziggy replies, “You wouldn’t of heard”, thus showing that perhaps Ziggy was not so secretive of his active psychological unbalance, and rather it falls upon the father to simply be more attentive. This shows that no matter how old a child ages, the constant need for parental guidance will be ever present. Ziggy follows up that, with a blatant accusation of over neglect, saying “You were always too busy drudging up the canal”, once again showing that a parents role in a child’s life has a direct consequence on that child’s psyche. For Ziggy to say this, it now places the blame for his hopelessness directly upon Frank’s shoulders, at least in Ziggy’s eyes.
A second accusation is levied upon Frank Sobotka by his child, this time encompassing the lies being force fed to Ziggy his entire life: “I always used to think you were working all that time”. This line truly sums up the entire reason for Ziggy to be without hope, his one person who he had been dependent on his entire life, his father, his absolute role model, built a relationship with his child based solely on lies. Not only did he lie to his child, once he determined his child to be of age, then incorporated him into the life of crime, most likely without ever a second thought to the wishes of Ziggy.
Ziggy did not lose hope, it was stolen from him before he ever realized.
When further inspecting the major themes of Ariel Dorfman’s Death And the Maiden, the most prominent one was the notion that this cycle of violence and injustice is inescapable. This cycle is simply a closed circle, constantly continuing around and around until someone makes the active choice to break the norm and begin the cycle of forgiveness. Yet, Dorfman raises the question that seemingly no one tends to think about: why is it the victims responsibility to be the one ending this cycle. At the culmination of Act II Scene I, Paulina wrestles with putting her own needs above the decision to break the cycle: “And why does it always have to be the people like me who have to sacrifice, why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded, why always me who has to bite her tongue, why? Well, not this time. This time I am going to think about myself, about what I need.” I included this whole quote to further stress just how this cycle is able to continue, by everyone having their own idea of what justice is. In this case, Paulina equates justice to the death of her rapist/doctor, while her husband Gerardo equates justice to having the accused go through the proper channels of a trial. Yet, even if Paulina chooses to perform her definition of “justice”, who’s to say that it is her responsibility to allow this doctor to have a proper channel. For in certain societies a “proper” trial is nothing more than a sham, and in this one (which had recently just emerged from underneath totalitarian rule), the people’s faith in the justice system seems low. When one loses faith in the only system known to solely be meant to bring justice and balance to society, this is all but solidifying the overall cycle of injustice perpetrating throughout the land.
The universality nature of court renders the accused to be required to not only be prosecuted, but also defended and judged. No matter the severity or feral the crime is, a human’s natural right allows he/she to have a trial (if it is fair is an entirely different debate). For Adolf Eichmann, the same is able to ring true, after being kidnapped from Argentina and taken to Israel to stand trial for his part in the eradication of the Jews during the Nazi regime. Yet, this Holocaust was not perpetrated by one man, it was a culmination of several factors all leading to the apex that is WWII, but the court does not see it in this way. For this day, the only factor/situation that matters is the lives that Adolf Eichmann directly affected and stole. On page 5 of Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt notes that the surrounding factors of this mass extermination are simply inconsequential: “and that all the other questions of seemingly greater import—…be left in abeyance”(Arendt 5). Some of these mitigating factors that Arendt notes becoming obsolete are the roles of other nations, why did they allow this to happen, and above all why did this happen to the Jews. Arendt continues, noting that when it boils down to the true justice system, the only spotlight should be on Adolf Eichmann: “Justice insists on the importance of Adolf Eichmann”. This shows that the true “item” (for lack of a better word) on trial here is not the overall suffering of the Jewish race, not the overall racism and antisemitism, but the only think on trial here are the crimes were strictly committed at the hand Adolf Eichmann. For me, this brings up the case in Les Miserables whether stealing (a crime) a loaf a bread to feed your family (good deed), is truly a bad act. I believe that (following along the train of thought of Arendt) that this would be considered a crime because in this notion we are strictly looking at the act and not the mitigating factors surrounding it.