Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

The Banality Of Evil Part II

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I hijacked a term in my previous post in order to make a point about how sucky and lame evil is. The words “Banality of Evil” come originally from Hannah Arendt.

“Banal” means trivial or common. So I first used the term to point out how unspectacular evil is. But for Hannah it goes deeper than this. She wrote about the Holocaust and other great evils and found that they were not perpetrated primarily by terrible people, but my normal individuals who accepted the premises and authority of the state (Lawful Neutral Folks)

To this extent the propensity for great evil lurks within all of us. Not just a select group of atomic losers as I previously implied.

The famous Milgram Experiment demonstrates this well.
At Yale university participants were invited to participate in a sociological experiment which they were told would measure people’s response to negative stimulus. Participant (marked T in the picture) were instructed to ask a series of questions to other people (marked L) while being watched over by an instructor (marked E)

They were told that every time they received a wrong answer they should push a button which would deliver an electric shock to the person on the other side of the wall, with voltage that increased each time. But unbenounced to them, It was not actually the Ls, but the Ts that were being experimented on.

Milgram wanted to see whether or not normal people would be willing to do something against their morals. So in the experiment L was in actuality just an actor, who only pretended to be shocked.

The L missed more and more answers the more he was “shocked” which eventually lead up to the T being instructed to repetitively give him what they thought would be a 450volt shock (more than 4 times a normal electrical socket) And more than half of the participants did!

This is the same mechanism which was found to be at play in Nazi Germany. Where many SS moraly opposed Hitler’s “Final Solution” but nonetheless continued to do what they were told by what they understood to be an authority out of cowardice and ignorance.
That is to say… The propensity to be an SS, is not a strange and distant human trait. it exists within all of us.

Another idea I borrowed in order to make my point was the information about Patient Zero. In Banality 1, I used Dugas as an example of how evil people are ultimately uninspiring. but for Randy Shilts who wrote the book that introduced Zero to the public, he represented much more.
Aids was allowed to happen.

Shilts introduces us to the history of the onset of the AIDS epidemic, And makes the point that in not for the indifference of governments and relief organizations about what was considered to be a “gay disease” the epidemic could never of tipped.
In other words, because we don’t care about somebody going around killing people as long as they’re Gay. You and I also, are responsible for Patient Zero’s success.
Evil is banal. It’s uninspiring, it’s not awesome, it’s common, it’s lame, it’s…all of us.


Written by RyanGaffney

June 3, 2011 at 12:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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