SPEECH

 

illustrations-political-space-20

In political space we speak with and talk to each other.

The participants only talk with each other. A debate does not tolerate any form of action other than speech; and who does not speak, does not actually participate in the debate.

We usually think of speech as a way to make ourselves understood, that is, to communicate our wants and needs, feelings, opinions, beliefs and also facts. While this is certainly true, Arendt sees more in speech than just a means of communication. She sees in it the way how unique individuals reveal their “living essence”. Through words – and also through deeds – we disclose who we individually are. Who somebody is can never be described or defined with words, but it is actualised in the when we speak. Political action is not exclusively a matter of words but “many, and even most acts, are performed in the manner of speech” (HC: 178). Moreover, those acts which in and by themselves are silent need to be accompanied by words so that they become understandable and meaningful for humans beings. If Rosa Parks, for example, would have just remained seated in the bus and then never explained or talked about what she had done, her act would not speak for itself as readily as we might assume. Without an actor who we can recognise as a distinct somebody, any act, no matter how great, would remain meaningless from the perspective of the human world.

“In acting and speaking, men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities and thus make their appearance in the human world […] This disclosure of ‘who’ in contradistinction to ‘what’ somebody is – his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide – is implicit in everything somebody says and does. It can be hidden only in complete silence and perfect passivity, but its disclosure can almost never be achieved as a wilful purpose” (HC: 179)

Political action is bound to speech. Political spaces thus have to provide a good environment for speaking with others.

 

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