Monday, October 27, 2008

Banality of Evil

In line with my last couple posts, this morning I finished reading an article titled "Blueberries, Accordions, and Auschwitz" by Jennifer L. Geddes in the Fall 2008 issue of IASC publication Culture, in which the author discusses Hannah Arendt's reference to the "banality of evil" in her 1963 coverage of the trial of Adolph Eichmann for Nazi war crimes during WWII. Geddes pointed out that Arendt's words have been misunderstood and maligned over the years to suggest that "evil" deeds are banal, or trivial, commonplace, trite, when in fact the person committing such acts was to whom the descriptor was being applied.

Arendt found Eichmann himself a "fool," according to Geddes; "she stated in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, a 'dilemma between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the undeniable ludicrousness of the man who perpetrated them.'" (Geddes page 3)

Geddes asserts, far more prettily than I have in my past two posts, but perfectly getting across what I've wanted to say (and that's why she has the fellowship and I don't, right?), "Arendt came to the striking conclusion that thoughtlessness- that is the failure to think reflectively about the world around us, our actions, and their possible consequences- can be a moral failing of the highest order."

Enough said on that.


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