“Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”
~ Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
I think about the banality of evil a lot.
Machette Season, by Jene Hatzfeld is a horrifying book. The book follows Jene’s conversations with a group of convicted perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide against the nation’s Tutsi population.
Their lack of reasoning behind the horrific crimes. Their lack of responsibility. Their lack of remorse. The sheer banality of it all bellies belief.
“I think someone who was forced to kill wanted his neighbours to have to kill too, too so they would all be considered the same.” ~ A survivor who tried to rationalise the atrocities endured.
And yet, it happened.
To ordinary people; neighbours, children, mothers, grandfathers.
By ordinary people. Fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, priests, teachers, nurses.
And, there are no guarantees it will not happen again.
As Terry Pratchett said, “Evil starts when you begin to treat people as things”.
Right now, in our polarised, false binary world that pushes and pulls us to frame the other, [race, gender, nation, culture, political party, etc] as less than fully human we should read this and pause for thought.