Is the Banality of Evil Back Again?

Reading about Hannah Arendt, who wrote about the Banality of Evil and the Eichmann trial. He was everybody’s functionary. Think the postal clerk with no moral concern for the purpose of his office – just act as part of the ‘machinery of pursuing’.  OK, I’m obsessed with her findings; that evil can flourish through non-thought.

eichmann_in_jerusalem_book_coverBecause I saw it happen in my years working for the public service – we went from an ethos of public service and a clear purpose outcome-focus (though we never used the word ‘outcome’) with engagement expected within the professionals (you were expected to think, and we had some incredible characters who could express!)

….. to a machine of transactional relationships – instruct & obey – job descriptions of tasks – assumptions that this sort of autocratic hierarchy was ever going to be effective – the promotion of the B graders and C graders. I saw the least cooperative and the least motivated by any concept of a better world promoted.

And then I read what Eichmann said when he was interviewed in Argentina, ….

“Where would we end up if everyone would have his own thoughts?”¹

Riot police.jpgNaturally, I laughed. Such a small mind. Such a dangerous mind. Such an autocratic mind. A pure functionary. Scheduling trains without thought of the inhumanity of what he did … in the interests of obedience and a certain, mechanical, hierarchical world. Who would not reject this view?  It is not what a life should ever be.

It. Should. Never. Be.

And then I recalled an ex-colleague manager reporting to a friend that he was told by his CEO ….. in 2016! – our current oh-so-much-more-enlightened age than the age of state totalitarianism pre and post WW II …. this …

“You are not paid to have an opinion.”

And I thought, how similar is that statement to Eichmann’s.


Read the book!  Explore the idea!  Talk about it!

What a similar mind to Eichmann must he have to have said such a thing?

This banality of evil could happen again.  IS happening again.  It is happening in our public departments and in many mega-corporations.

hugo-boss-uniformInhumanity dressed up as “just doing my job.”

It just isn’t dressed in Hugo Boss designer SS uniforms with those lovely boots.

Chris Perley

1.  From Willem Sassen’s Interview with Eichmann in Argentina as quoted in the docudrama Eichmanns Ende.

This entry was posted in Thought Pieces. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Is the Banality of Evil Back Again?

  1. James P Barton says:

    Personified by Hillary or Don?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.