Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Banality of Evil: Further Musings

Still struggling with the banality of evil topic. I realized in the night (a tossing and turning one) that what I wrote yesterday could be read as an attack on those posters at the NCR threads as if they are evil.

But that’s not the point at all. In fact, that’s the anti-point.

My point (the point I take from Hannah Arendt’s analysis of evil) is that evil is never so easy to pinpoint. When we identify evil with a particular person or group of people, we have vitiated the analysis of the banality of evil.

Evil ensnares and traps us precisely because we don’t see it coming—not clearly. It comes in all kinds of bland disguises, including the sleep-bleared face we see looking out of the mirror at us when we get up each morning.

We know evil, we can sense its presence, when we see no hope in front of us. Because it is banal, evil does all it can to cripple our imagination, our ability to project a future full of hope, to foresee a world in which the possibility of being more adequately human is offered to everyone, and not just to a few.

Evil is what wants to stunt our ability to dream together, work together, build together.

This is why I focus my analysis yesterday on the crippling of hope among right-wing religionists today. I am not seeking to identify those right-wing political-religious activists as evil.

I am pointing out that the path they wish to set before us—a path leading nowhere, since its only word for the future is no—might turn out to be the path of evil. And it may attract us, because it is simply easier to replicate the tried and true than to set forth to the unknown.

But it is hard to justify choosing the tried and true, when its shortcomings have been definitively exposed, and call oneself a person of faith. This is the rub for religionists today. To the extent that we identify the path of faith with going nowhere except where we’ve already been, we are betraying the very core of religious faith—even when (and perhaps particularly when) we clamor loudly that we alone represent the bastion of embattled orthodoxy and divine Truth.

No comments: