Monday, September 10, 2007

Out for blood? 

I usually think that Hannah Arendt's concept of the "banality of evil" is very useful. She developed it to describe the drab, ordinary, mindless way in which Eichmann, at the orders of superiors, went about organizing the Nazi concentration camps. Arendt's point was that everyone in the system was following orders (including some Jewish leaders), and that the evil acts were the expression of a tired, unimaginative desire "to do what was being done" rather than the expression of diabolical monsters who were intent on committing the ultimate crime.

This line of thought goes a long way in explaining the brain-dead drivel that pours out of the face-holes of Republican and Democrat apparatchiks when they explain why more war is necessary. These are just careerists who can't and/or don't want to see beyond their offices, beyond their TV's, beyond their next promotions. The "banality of evil" even does a lot to explain someone like Bush--a stunted, frightened, infantile little "man" who spends his life trying to make himself feel real and important by imitating people he's seen in WWII movies.

To invoke evil's "banality" is not at all to minimize the truly evil nature of Bush and the Republicans. It's just to say that this appalling evil flows more out of a terribly selfish and small-minded careerism than it flows from a diabolical desire to spill blood. Most of the time, the monsters in horror movies are fantastic distractions from the utterly vapid and ultimately more horrifying pettiness of real human bad actors.

Still, when I read about the way the monstrous "No Child Left Behind" act is destroying inner-city schools and systematically denying the humanity of black children, or when I read about Joseph I. Lieberman saying that critics of David Petraeus are ignoring the good news coming out of Iraq, I am seized by rage and by the desire to shake these motherfuckers and say, "Don't you know that you are, every time you spew this shit on TV or in Congress, killing people?"

And then I catch myself and think: Maybe these people really and truly enjoy killing. Maybe they really are diabolical monsters. Maybe they are, after all, out for blood.



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