The vital importance of thought, Arendt wrote, is apparent only "in times of transition when men no longer rely on the stability of the world and their role in it, and when the question concerning the general conditions of human life, which as such are properly coeval with the appearance of man on earth, gain an uncommon poignancy." We never need our thinkers and artists more than in times of crisis, as Arendt reminds us, for they provide the subversive narratives that allow us to chart a new course, one that can assure our survival.
"What must I do to win salvation?" Dimitri asks Starov in "The Brothers Karamazov," to which Starov answers: "Above all else, never lie to yourself."
And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march
collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left
unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no
longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to
us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the
harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to
our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction.
If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the
private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible.
It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one's own country, than an outcast from one's self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.