Thursday, July 19, 2007
Arising from the fiery exchanges among the comments on my previous post, here is some clarification. Seeing banality in Eichmann and concluding there is some deep connection between banality and evil is like seeing a man with a red hat catch a fish and concluding there is some intrinsic connection between manness, red hatness and fish catching. Furthermore, as CaptainB points out, with his usual erudition and wisdom, Eichmann was not really that banal; Arendt was being superficial. But, behind all this, lies the superstition that we can find a key that will unlock the problem of evil and, somehow, 'cure' the condition. In order to do this, we must first diminish evil into something manageable, by, for example, classifying it as 'banal'. Another, more common, way is to classify it as dwelling in society; the individual, in this case, is innocent until corrupted. This is a very romantic view, inspired, essentially, by Rousseau. It is also wildly illogical since it evades the question of how evil found its way into society in the first place. I covered all this almost ten years ago in my review of Gitta Sereny's deeply deluded book Cries Unheard: The Story of Mary Bell.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 10:18 am