February 28, 2007

Wisdom from the Arendt Thread

Wisdom from the Arendt Thread

The dense and electric thread on the Hannah Arendt show is, as of now, nearing 240 comments. Here are some nuggets of wisdom pulled from the conversation:

Claiming that evil is banal removes its power, yet also makes it harder to recognize…Even the most horrible things in our world do not have Satan’s hand behind them. Evil acts are not committed by ‘Evil-doers’ but rather by ordinary people who see them as ordinary acts. This, I believe, is the only evil which exists anymore.

Bobo, in a comment to Open Source, 2/18/07

By making evil the possession of others – it is outside of the self – you release yourself from responsibility – ‘I was only taking orders, my actions can’t be evil.’ To remove the overwhelming power of evil, is to place it in the individual, where it originates.

Lumiere, in a comment to Open Source, 2/18/07

It seems that in the American context the real banality of evil is that it is always the other that is evil, and even if it’s me, it’s the other me, in different time and place, while my real me is here and now, and it’s good.

Igor, in a comment to Open Source, 2/21/07

The word ‘Evil’ attempts to explain a concept that ‘exists’ exclusively in the (subjective) opinions of humans – it ‘exists’ entirely in our minds, not in the natural world. (Hence the definition’s concluding — and predictable — retreat into supernaturalism.)

Nick, in a comment to Open Source, 2/21/07

A little over a year ago, I was talking to an old man who sometimes begs on the street when he can’t get through the month. I told him that I had become homeless that day. He took $2 out of his wallet and told me to buy myself a hamburger. The people who were decent to me during that time tended to be poor people. They treated me with warmth and usually made a point of telling me that I shouldn’t feel ashamed that this happened to me…

Empathy is not banal. It is not common to all, pervasive, ordinary or unremarkable. If you are capable of empathy, you may assume that most people are capable of it, that what you see and feel is obvious. It’s not. Someone who is capable of empathy is at the upper end of psychological health. Empathy may even be relatively rare. Certainly, it is unusual.

Kate McShane, in a comment to Open Source, 2/18/07

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