“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Extricating Arendt from the Dustbin

Not so fast Mr. Historian

This, of course, is not the Eichmann of Hannah Arendt (“the world’s worst court reporter,” as I’ve described her), who credulously bought into his “poor schlub,” pen pusher trial defense — just following orders, moving things along deep within the bureaucracy...
Functionalism [the idea that the Nazis simply exploited the Jews], going strong when I first wrote this book, has been cast into the dustbin of history along with ‘the banality of evil’.”

That's so not what Arendt is talking about. She is describing how banality itself is evil, not a cover for evil. Banality depends upon a lack of anxiety, the basic affect, the emotion that never lies etc. Psychopaths offer extremely banal explanations for their behavior. Which is not in the last to say that they didn't sadistically enjoy it. Banality is a form of sadistic enjoyment. 

Just listen to anything by Throbbing Gristle, e.g almost anything on 20 Jazz Funk Greats, or the first track on the Second Annual Report. You will hear people talking blandly about absurd cruelty. Casually.  

Hypostasizing “evil” as this smoking metaphysical lump of coal totally misses this, as the end of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits makes quite clear. 

Banal << “pertaining to compulsory feudal service” (OED). The enjoyment of being a component of a hierarchical machine. Casual. Slack. Just another day...

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