being

March 17, 2011

“Adonai Nathan veadonai lakach, baruch shem adonai” – the Lord hath given and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. The utterance of this phrase in the face of death is a grim reminder of the futility of the efforts that we humans take in order to sustain life and the reality of it, considering one believed in the Creator in the first place. The weight of this phrase is lost however in the midst of consequence among some of the refugees in the world (Arendt p.72). It seems like a lost state of existence, one that is unfortunate, one that proves little hope, one that deprives one’s self the very ability to exist as a human being with a sense of individuality or belonging. It is a state and a status that one is forced into that at times, removes the ability of being and individual on society.

By being robbed of this very value of a human life, some have felt that they have lost the very essence of being alive. Even more depressing to this is the very fact that, as a result of the prolonging of this uncertain and volatile state, some have come to their own conclusion that death is no more that worst outcome of it (Arendt p.71). Life and death therefore goes from something that amazed one’s mind and brought fourth great thought and insight from thinkers and theologians and philosophers, to become meaningless babble. Death, in this situation has been tamed in the light of these refugees; not because of the certainty in their minds of knowing what lies ahead in the afterlife, but rather a certainty in knowing that that will be the ultimate end of what their existence has come to be – conventional and meaningless as Arendt (p71) has described.

Within this state of lucidity or limbo, the morality used to deal with this human condition is put into question. There has been a distinction made among these displaced people that has started to blur the line between the position of being and belonging. Taking it a step further, it is an issue that to some, they have been convinced that there is a difference between the two. The question is therefore; should there be any distinction in the first place? It becomes apparent however, that as one tried to navigate his / her way through this forest of terms and labels, that one also negates the matter of one’s being. People are therefore made out to become statistics rather than individuals (Agamben 1998). It is this very fact that one still holds on to their nationality, most of the time unintentionally, as in the light of their current situation, which might be the only thing that gives them the ability of being.

Joel Lee

One Response to “being”


  1. We carry our nationality as a flag in our back pocket, relying on the holy (or secular!) trinity of nation-state-territory. Yet if the refugee is to become the vanguard of a coming community, a new people, then this flag of identity needs to be reconfigured. Arendt warns that as a refugee, the archetypal Mr Cohen of her essays tries to fit in, to assimilate, to make his former Jewish identity disappear. THis dissimulation in the end leads him nowhere but into despair. How much of his identity, and how much of the trauma of his past should this exemplary Mt Cohen hold on to?


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