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Banality and Evil — 4 Comments

  1. With all we’ve learned about brutality——-how the power-privileged so easily use it (e.g. slave-trade, Viet-nam, etc) police (e.g. segregation, peaceful demonstrators, racial profiling), even family-members (sexual abuse, physical punishment, etc)…..and especially with the epidemic of ‘home-grown’ mass murderers ——— it isn’t at all realistic or honest to automatically label the perpetrators “monsters”.

    They are, indeed, people like anyone, like most of us, who’ve been culturally conditioned to believe myths of superiority which, in times of stress serve as excuses to express frustration through brutality rather than through conflict-resolution and compromise. That has clearly become the modus vivendi of the political world as a whole….using and relying on force and threats to solve conflicts and having abandoned compassion and non-violence as true basic values of culture.

    • This makes it even more interesting, imo, of why we want to label “evil-doers” like Eichmann as other, distancing ourselves from them. It seems so utterly scary to admit that, given circumstances, we might have acted just like him! Maybe we want to avoid looking at our own contributions to the violence in the world…

  2. This is so deep, and so painful, at least for me, and being just one individual, I can only function in the world from my own point of view.

    This is what we are struggling with now, just as history proves that humans have been struggling with it forever, and still not found any truly workable solutions.

    The world situation demands, even begs, that we rise above the ordinary and banal, and be willing to sacrifice our lives, even just our creature comforts for the sake of justice, peace and even global survival. Yet, the everyday banal tasks of living demand so much of each of us that we usually back off the larger picture and stick with the banal for the sake of what feels like our basic safety or even our sanity.

    How different are we from Eichmann, today, when we continue to purchase products that ensure the continued enslavement and torture of millions of people we don’t relate to personally?! Worse, we, ourselves, keep eating unhealthy but tasty and easy-to-acquire poisoned food simply because it’s NOT convenient to procure anything better. How telling a situation!!

    Yet, and still, to halt this destructiveness demands an almost super-human quality of self-sacrifice and willingness to suffer along with the most unfortunate victims. How many of us are really capable of this, despite its desperate need?!

    How many of us can really and consciously do that? As hard as we may try, leaving the banal and rising into the higher sphere of spirituality doesn’t seem to work for long, even among the strongest of us……..yes, there are those few exceptions…..MLK, Gandhi, Jesus, etc, but none of them succeeded to teach even their faithful followers to stay with the program until it was fulfilled…

    Somehow, they each died before even completing their own plans to ‘save humanity’, and their very own human frailty and mortality was what prevented them from fulfilling the sublime dream of peace we all still hold in our hearts.

    It is a contradiction that keeps appearing in every attempt for solutions. Humanists believe, as I do, that all people inherently want this goodness and even strive for it, each in their own framework of possibilities……

    Yet the very existence of all these myriad and contradictory points of view is often the cause of the failure of this healing to happen.

    One more thing: those who thought that forcing all humans into ‘the right frame of living and acting’ could save us, also have been unable to do so with any success or moral justification. All that ever did was revert the effort right back to the model of force and power-over, and ultimately, utter cruelty.

    • Thank you so much for this, dear Shira! You captured more of what I was trying to express!

      Your comment also reminded me of my own struggle between seeing the issues and (not) acting on them. Your comment generalizes my personal experience well, for I believe that I am not the only one struggling with this dissonance between understanding the evil and failing to act on that understanding (for whatever reasons).

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