The only amusing thing I ever heard Hannah Arendt sayadmittedly I only met her once or twicewas at a seminar in Princeton. The speaker was Dwight Macdonald; his subject was the inanity (or worse) of popular culture, and as he warmed to his theme, the counter-example he increasingly invoked was that of Europe. On the one hand Masscult and Midcult; on the other hand Athens, Florence, Paris, Weimar He drifted on in this vein for about five minutes, until Arendt, who was sitting in the front row, permitted herself a very audible whisper: Ach, Dwight, I could tell you a thing or two about that old Europe of yours.
No one in his right mind would want to defend the European past en bloc. In the twentieth century, Europes gifts to the world have included Nazism and Communism, and even before that, Europeans had quite as much to be ashamed of in their history as Asians, Africans, or anyone else. No, if one worries ...
John Grosss most recent book is A Double Thread: Growing Up English and Jewish in London (Ivan R Dee)
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