Taken from a journal entry dated August 3, 2010:
In the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt speaks of the differences between solitude, isolation, and loneliness. Solitude is the dialogue with the self, who has had sufficient experience with the world to conduct such a dialogue which is better known as philosophizing. In solitude, one is never really alone because you are conducting a discourse with your experienced self. It is by choice and Arendt attaches a positive connotation to being alone as opposed to being lonely.
Isolation is other-imposed on the self, in most cases by the sovereign. Isolation is often punitive in this sense, but Arendt elaborates another type of isolation which provides the illusion of unity (i.e. nationalism, communism) with the masses and fellow man. However, as Kierkegaard notes, men lose their individuality in the herd mentality. Some are even excluded. This isolation-by-exclusion goes hand-in-hand with isolation-by-illusion. Insiders in the sovereign state may be treated like outsiders (Schmitt’s state of exception or Agamben’s camp) and outsiders are defined in binaries (us versus them, being with us or against us). That is, a suspension of the individual’s moral conscience and ability to reason in joining the herd mentality, thus exiled from his basic humanity and self.
Loneliness occurs as a result of this purposeful isolation. It is against the will of the individual (where isolation in the herd may be consented to through ideological brainwashing). Man is cut off from the human race. He may be in the company of his fellow man, but none choose to recognize his individual existence or everyone chooses to recognize his identity as conglomerated with the masses (communism, fascism). The lonely individual is denied thymos. He is lonely not alone.
A little dated, but a very good capture of the 21st century scene just prior to the 2008 financial crisis. I would contest his idea of the Big 3, only insofar as the optimal currency zone is no longer functioning in Europe and internal unrest in China and regional instabilities with respect to its Southeast Asian neighbours may distract the country from achieving global hegemony.
We are all familiar with the phrase “affirmative action”, policies that try to roll back a history of discrimination against a disadvantaged group in terms of gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. These policies permeated family law, hiring practices, job promotions, political representation, social norms, and sexual expression. Such policies were intended to bring fairness and equal opportunity to these previously disadvantaged groups by making it easier for them to reach positions of power that had held previously by predominantly old, white, Christian males.
However, many years have passed and these policies have outlived their utility for such disadvantaged groups. Yet a narrative continues to be perpetuated that such groups are still inherently disadvantaged when it comes to opportunity and societal freedom. In some cases, the disadvantaged group has an unfair advantage of being hired over the previously privileged group. Some examples are the favouring of compensation for the woman in divorce court and government department hiring practices.
I have dubbed the continuation of these practices as “affirmative privilege”, which project a new set of power relations that had originally striven to build a new meritocracy, but now provide a sense of self-entitlement and superiority at the expense of other qualified individuals. The new disadvantaged group, the one previously privileged, cannot fight the chimeras of this new power narrative without appearing themselves to be regressive.