On The Nature Of Evil (Friday, May 21, 2004)
Hannah Arendt, in her book about the trial of Adolf Eichman, the architect of the Holocaust, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil writes of how she sat there day after day, trying to understand how a mild-looking human being could have authored such monstrousness. Ultimately, she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe the essential thoughtlessness -- ie. without thought, without feeling, without compassion -- that results in evil deeds. The [majority of the] monsters of the Holocaust weren't monsters, they were acting without regard, without conscious awareness, without empathy, without connection to the larger spiritual realm of humanity.from David Gerrold's Bottomless Soup ( www.gerrold.com/soup/page.htm )
[Shown in Roman Polanski's The Pianist, based on the memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman] ... it seemed to me that Polanski understood the nature of industrialized evil better than most other directors who have tackled this job. The perpetrators of the evil acts are not portrayed as gleeful monsters as much as they are portrayed as thoughtless, as if their humanity has been put on hold, as if they have somehow detached or suppressed their ability to feel anything at all. As if they have been brainwashed into monstrousness ...
... There's another book about the nature of evil called The People Of The Lie by M. Scott Peck, in which he discusses his own research into the nature of evil. He tells some pretty chilling stories ... Again, it's a question of emotional deadness, a question of acting without regard for morality or consequence or rationality ... But I don't think that's all of it. I think evil occurs as a complex cocktail of forces ...
Most Hollywood directors are apparently illiterate, emotionally tone-deaf, inexperienced, and unable to meet the challenge of showing the extremes of evil -- because we live in a society where (for the most part) we have isolated ourselves from exposure to real evil. What we get instead is sublimated evil -- the little evils that we can excuse, explain, justify, rationalize, and ultimately mitigate because we have a good story to tell about it.
... evil does not see itself as evil. Those who commit evil acts do not see those acts as evil or even malicious. They see themselves as justified.
It is for this reason that justifications are suspect.
People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
Polanski's The Pianist (www.imdb.com/title/tt0253474)
memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/ (Schindler's List - film);
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0340335017/qid=1143795958/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/026-8107210-6558802 (Schindler's Ark - book)
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
"Far from being evil incarnate, as the prosecution painted Eichmann, Arendt maintains that he was an average man, a petty bureaucrat interested only in furthering his career, and the evil he did came from the seductive power of the totalitarian state and an unthinking adherence to the Nazi cause. Indeed, Eichmann's only defense during the trial was "I was just following orders."
Arendt's analysis of the seductive nature of evil is a disturbing one. We would like to think that anyone who would perpetrate such horror on the world is different from us, and that such atrocities are rarities in our world. But the history of groups such as the Jews, Kurds, Bosnians, and Native Americans, to name but a few, seems to suggest that such evil is all too commonplace. In revealing Eichmann as the pedestrian little man that he was, Arendt shows us that the veneer of civilization is a thin one indeed."