Two millennia after Cicero argued that the human capacities for envy and compassion have a common root, Arendt argues that our moral flaws and our imaginative flair spring from the same source: .
In order to make room for one’s own action, something that was there before must be removed or destroyed, and things as they were before are changed.
Men who act, to the extent that they feel themselves to be the masters of their own futures, will forever be tempted to make themselves masters of the past, too.
Insofar as they have the appetite for action and are also in love with theories, they will hardly have the natural scientist’s patience to wait until theories and hypothetical explanations are verified or denied by facts.
Arendt considers one particularly pernicious breed of liars — “public-relations managers in government who learned their trade from the inventiveness of Madison Avenue.” In a sentiment arguably itself defeated by reality — a reality in which someone like Donald Trump sells enough of the public on enough falsehoods to get gobsmackingly close to the presidency — she writes: The only limitation to what the public-relations man does comes when he discovers that the same people who perhaps can be “manipulated” to buy a certain kind of soap cannot be manipulated — though, of course, they can be forced by terror — to “buy” opinions and political views.
Therefore the psychological premise of human manipulability has become one of the chief wares that are sold on the market of common and learned opinion.(Oddly enough, the only person likely to be an ideal victim of complete manipulation is the President of the United States.
But even more worrisome, Arendt cautions, is the way in which such flattening of reality blunts the judgment of government itself — nowhere more aggressively than in the overclassification of documents, which makes information available only to a handful of people in power and, paradoxically, not available to the representatives who most need that information in order to make decisions in the interest of the public who elected them.
Arendt writes: Not only are the people and their elected representatives denied access to what they must know to form an opinion and make decisions, but also the actors themselves, who receive top clearance to learn all the relevant facts, remain blissfully unaware of them.
Instead, they will be tempted to fit their reality — which, after all, was man-made to begin with and thus could have been otherwise — into their theory, thereby mentally getting rid of its disconcerting contingency.
Much of the modern arsenal of political theory — the game theories and systems analyses, the scenarios written for imagined “audiences,” and the careful enumeration of, usually, three “options” — A, B, C — whereby A and C represent the opposite extremes and B the “logical” middle-of-the-road “solution” of the problem — has its source in this deep-seated aversion.