A small circle: A Report on the Banality of Evil    
 A Report on the Banality of Evil5 comments
picture5 Dec 2004 @ 02:04, by D

“Saturn devouring one of his children” (1821-23), Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain)

Hannah Arendt, in her ground breaking book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, discovered what she least expected and least wanted to face. During multiple interviews with Eichmann, the German Jewish author discovered that he was not a monster. He was not even an anti-Semitic maniac or twisted, distorted demon of a man. Eichmann, she said was a man who simply wanted to get ahead, to succeed in life, to please his superiors, to be respected by his peers, to do his job well, to be patriotic, devoted, and responsible.

Since the ovens of the concentration camps and the mushrooms clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, mankind seems nowadays to have managed to industrialized evil to the point where total madness and collective evil can now be perpetrated with no intention at all.

Are we increasingly becoming participants in a system which progressively has been turning ordinary citizens into “willing but intentionless death dealers”?

So asks Joan Chittister in a timely article published in the December 2004 issue of Spirituality & Health:

"Today, the breadth and depth of human complicity in mass murder knows no end. We have assemblyline systems that crank out sheet steel for bombs in one state and warheads for bombs in another, fins for missiles in a third state, and delivery systems of trains and ships and packing crates in the next. The profits of this system, reaped on Wall Street, leave us all innocent, all intentionless, and all guilty at the same time."

"This is the new faceless evil of our time. It’s the compartmentalization of evil in corporate laboratories around the world that is now engaging us all in the service of death. We are all making seeds, making toxins, making spy satellites, making bunker blasters, making financial decisions that impoverish the rest of the world, silently, secretly, smilingly, smugly."

"It is not the horror of evil intention in our time that is evil, as Arendt teaches us. In fact, none of us really intend the racism or sexism or nuclear destruction or global hegemony that make possible incomprehensible wealth for us, but incomprehensible poverty for most others. No, it is not personal, private, individual intention—once the mainstray of evil—that now determines either our guilt or our innocence. It is the commonplaceness of evil. It is, in Arendt’s world, the very banality of evil that is the new evil with which this century must deal or die, if not in body at least in soul."


One out of every 318 people on our planet today is a refugee rooting through garbage cans in search of food, following the resources stolen from their own land that have become wealth in ours.

Mourn for those who mourn, said the Jesus who wept over Jerusalem. Grieve for those who sit in cesspools in India starving while we sit in chaise lounges in our clubs. Mourn for the African farmers whose lands have gone to stone and whose seeds cannot be replaced. Mourn for them as real human being, not as quaint, partial replicas of your humanity. At the very least, write letters demanding that our companies pay the sweatshop children, who are working 70 hours a week for 20 cents an hour to make our shoes, jour jeans, and our shirts, what their work is really worth. Only if we mourn for the battered lives of these children as we would for our own can the banality of evil today be erased. Let meekness and humility be your hallmark, taught the Jesus who went to John to be baptized. Know that we are not God. We do not need to dominate the rest of the world. Our ways are not best, they are simply different. As both individuals and as a people, we must begin to respect other living things, to learn from the environment, to respect the whole community of life. Of the 25 species seriously affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, only two have fully recovered, scientists now tell us. Only if humility becomes the hallmark of this great nation can the banality of evil we take as a necessary byproduct of business be curbed.

Hunger and thirst for justice, taught the Jesus who cured lepers on the Sabbath. Seek equity. Practice equality. Give what is fair and practice a law that is just both here and at Guantanamo Bay. Since 1999, the number of U.S. households in which there is hunger and poverty has increased by 22 percent – in the richest nation in the world. Only when we provide for others what we demand for ourselves can the banality of evil in our time be reversed.

Be merciful, said the Jesus who listened to outcasts. For those who are weaker than you, poorer than you, simpler than you, demand a fair world. Of the major donor nations of the world, the United States ranks last – 22nd out of 22 – in per capita foreign aid, most of which is military. Nonetheless, polls tell us that Americans believe we are leading the list of donations to human development. In the U.S. since 1998, 2.4 million Medicare patients have been dropped by HMOs, claiming inadequate reimbursement. Demand that we provide the essentials of life for others so that futility is not excuse for drugs and drink, and frustration and despair are no excuse for terrorism. Only if we are merciful can the banality of oppression be exorcised from this world. Only if we are merciful can we expect mercy from the rest of the world.

Be pure of heart, taught the Jesus who contended with both Herod and Pilate to the grave. Be of one heart and one tongue. Act without guile, without greed. When we export our factories, we must export with them as well our wages and pensions, our medical plans, and our fair labor standards. Require truth from government. Realize that one-third of the bombs dropped in Iraq were not precision-guided, and thousands of innocents died as a result. Only if we are pure of heart can the banality of political propaganda, which refuses to be self-critical and so becomes self-justifying, be banished from this world.

Be peacemakers, taught the Jesus who said, “Peter, put away your sword.” Refuse to make havoc in the name of liberation. Refuse to make war as a so-called weapon of peace. Refuse to impose democracy at the end of a gun. Of the 22 countries the United States has bombed from 1946 through 2003, not one has maintained a permanent democratic government respectful of human rights.

Be still in your own heart. Make no one an enemy. Be no one’s enemy. And the world around you will be still as well. Only if we ourselves are peacemakers, negotiators, and listeners, can the quiet acceptance of shock and awe, the banality of human destruction be abolished from this world.

And, whatever happens as a result of such action, stand up and speak out. Refuse to be silent in the face of public fear and a patriotism that refuses to honor the best this country can be. Be the woman who released the pictures of coffins that speak to the cost of war. Be the New York policeman who was suspended for refusing to arrest a homeless man sleeping in a parking lot. Be the soldier who reported the soldiers who abused their Iraqi prisoners.

Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B



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5 comments

5 Dec 2004 @ 06:43 by hgoodgame : We create others as monsters
so we don't have to face the monster in ourselves.
Great article, Dianne! The last paragraph really summed it up for me - don't be afraid to speak truthfully of that which we actually witness - "whatever happens as a result of such action, stand up and speak out".  



7 Dec 2004 @ 14:36 by jerryvest : Evil & Indifference
"Stand up and speak out." Very thoughtful article, Dianne. There seems to be much indifference about war and precursors to it. We know that no one wins and everyone loses when peace talks, interaction and cooperation fail. When Bush called our enemies EVIL, he created a climate that closes the options for negotiation and peace.

Religions, their leaders and followers, have a tendency to demonize those who do not agree with their belief systems. Now, our international body see America as the 'evil empire'. Those who call themselves christian should examine their zeal and recognize their part in creating terror in the world. Historically, it appears that christians love war. "Onward christian soldiers....."  



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11 Feb 2017 @ 14:51 by Writengine @175.110.106.10 : Good
Good report, we also provide such reports to the students depending on what their requirements are.

Have a nice day!  



15 Apr 2017 @ 17:12 by Work Experience Degree @221.132.113.190 : Differences of Evil
This is the new faceless shrewdness of our time. It's the compartmentalization of abhorrence in corporate research facilities around the globe that is currently captivating all of us in the administration of death. We are all making seeds, making poisons, making spy satellites, making fortification blasters, settling on monetary choices that devastate whatever remains of the world, quietly, subtly, smilingly, pompously.  


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Other entries in
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3 Jul 2006 @ 01:48: Where is Abel thy brother?
23 Aug 2004 @ 01:20: Imagination vs. pride & nationalism
17 May 2004 @ 13:20: We And They
31 Mar 2004 @ 11:47: And we, who are we anyway?
2 Dec 2003 @ 13:19: Wayfarers
30 Nov 2003 @ 16:40: Wayward
19 Sep 2003 @ 22:38: Evolve



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