When David Brahinsky of Roosevelt takes the stage Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold, he will be displaying two sides of his multifaceted lifestyle and career.
The two-part program kicks off at 1 p.m. with a lecture titled “Hannah Arendt’s Philosophy of Totalitarianism and the Threat of ISIS” and moves into second gear at 2:30, as Brahinsky and his Roosevelt String Band perform a one-hour set of songs on the theme “Against Fascism: Songs that Promote Democracy, Toleration, and Peace.”
In Brahinsky’s view, the two segments are clearly related. “I chose Arendt for my subject because she was a deep thinker and a great writer, and her reputation as a great philosopher is growing every year,” Brahinsky told NJJN via e-mail.
“Arendt was born in Germany in 1906 and developed a theory of totalitarianism based on her experiences with the Nazis and her intense study of Western history that is unique among philosophers of the 20th century,” Brahinsky said. “And even though she died in 1975, I believe she still has a lot to teach us about the current totalitarian movements — especially the group we are calling ISIS.”
Brahinsky suggested Arendt would view ISIS in terms of her concept of totalitarianism, regarding it as a “novel form of government,” different from other forms of tyranny in that its adherents use terror to subjugate mass populations rather than just political adversaries. This theory was expounded upon in her first major book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism.
Brahinsky, who holds a PhD from Binghamton University and teaches philosophy and comparative religion at Bucks County Community College, said he plans to explore three themes in his talk: the evolution and development of Arendt’s view of totalitarianism, the evolution and history of ISIS, and how Arendt’s concept helps us understand ISIS today and so gives a means to hope for its eventual demise — as she pointed out, all totalitarian organizations that come into power eventually destroy themselves from within.
In the musical portion of the program, Brahinsky, a guitar player and vocalist, said the focus will be on songs that stress peace and getting along with one another as a cure for totalitarianism. “We’ll be doing tunes such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ and the Yiddish song ‘Zog Nit Kein Mol.’” The last song, “Never Say,” was written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, a young Jew interned in the Vilna Ghetto, and is widely regarded as an anthem of the partisans during the war and of Holocaust survivors.
Brahinsky’s fellow band members at the museum will be Guy DeRosa on harmonica, Phil Macauliffe on bass, and Nancy Hamilton on vocals.