Hannah Arendt on Terror

To be effective, some power must be held in reserve; power, like money or talent, mustn’t be used up. The victim also cannot be capable of forcing a particular reaction from the oppressor. An abused child might, for example, tell his father to go fuck himself and the father might just laugh it off or pat the kid on the shoulder. But later when the same child ties his shoes improperly, he might get a beating. If a prison inmate can spit in the face a guard and provoke a beating, then the guard loses his power. The point is, the beating must be unpredictable and arbitrary. The powerful force must be a self-determined system; it decides when and how to exert power.

The self as an object

In a counseling or therapy setting, we are encouraged objectify the self, or to create a self and then talk about it. Even in casual conversation, if someone asks you are you’re doing, you are asked to objectify yourself–to fabricate a self to talk about. When you say “I’m fine” or “I’m not fine,” who is the I? We project an I and then assess its wellbeing. How is this I feeling today? A person might feel just fine, but when asked how she is doing, she might not feel so fine anymore. We are encouraged to almost constantly observe this objectified self. This process might be called introspection or self-reflection–and it is highly valued in environments that demand that people (or “personnel”) constantly improve or innovate or attain some goal.

Jean Klein on mindfulness

Look at your fear; become very familiar with it. You don’t really know your fear; you know only your idea of it, your memory. You must face the actual sensation of fear, in the moment itself, when you are in the fear. Become more sensitive to your body and mind. One must become more and more acquainted with innocent observation. Take note that you don’t observe, that you don’t observe without qualification. Your observation must be completely open. The observed must come to you because the observed is you. Let it come back to you, let it completely unfold in your observation. Then you will have a right relation with your surroundings, a love relation. The poet knows how to observe, to look at things completely innocently.

Self-observation & Self-determination

ychic system) becomes a machine for producing misery. The unhappiness (or happiness) isn’t a direct result of some external reality or cause; it’s a production of the mind. If a doctor tells me I have cancer and will be dead within six months, my reaction (whatever it is) is self-produced; it’s not caused by the doctor’s words. There is no reason why I can’t react with laughter, relief, happiness, or any other emotion. This is what self-determination means.

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