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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


The Origins of Totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt




"The best criterion by which to decide whether someone has been forced outside the pale of the law is to ask if he would benefit by committing a crime. If a small burglary is likely to improve his legal position, at least temporarily, one may be sure he has been deprived of human rights...As a criminal even a stateless person will not be treated worse than another criminal, that is, he will be treated like everybody else. Only as an offender against the law can he gain protection from it. As long as his trial and his sentence last, he will be safe from that arbitrary police rule against which there are no lawyers and no appeals. The same man who was in jail yesterday because of his mere presence in this world...because of a little theiving will now get a lawyer, complain about his jailers, and he will be listened to respectfully. He is no longer the scum of the earth but important enough to be informed of the details of the law under which he will be tried." - Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958)

Reading this book reinforces the suspicion that perhaps the 2000's will replay the 1900's. But perhaps it's just that the political technology of 'the state' has not come up with any new ideas about undocumented immigrants.

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