Loneliness is not solitude. Solitude requires being alone whereas loneliness shows itself most sharply in company with others… What makes loneliness so unbearable is the loss of one’s own self which can be realized in solitude, but confirmed in its identity only by the trusting and trustworthy company of my equals. In this situation, man loses trust in himself as the partner of his thoughts… capacity for thought and experience are lost at the same time…. What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the evergrowing masses of our century. The merciless process into which totalitarianism drives… appears like a last support in a world where nobody is reliable and nothing can be relied upon…. But there remains also the truth that every end in history necessarily contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est – ‘that a beginning be made man was created’ said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.
Hannah Arendt’s ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ remains a seminal work and it well worth dipping into if one hasn’t the time or inclination to plough through its almost 500 pages. This is a quote from the conclusion to whet your appetites.