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The Banality of Evil and the Consequences of Foolish Ideas

Thirty Years

In 1963, Hannah Arendt published her fascinating book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem – A Report on the Banality of Evil.” In 1933, she was a Jewish woman who had fled Germany during Hitler's rise to power, but was now, thirty years later, reporting from Jerusalem, on Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker Magazine. 

The Banality of Evil

She is considered one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century.  While Eichmann, on the other hand, was one of the senior organisers of the Holocaust. He had escaped to Argentina but was eventually brought to justice in 1960. 

Her concept of “the banality of evil” was not employed to trivialise the unimaginable crimes of the Holocaust. Rather it was a stark reflection on the moral responsibility of every ordinary person, fuelled by Hannah’s observation that Eichmann was “not a monster or a sociopath, but an extremely average, unexceptional person”.

Normality and Cruelty

It was this co-existence of normality and incredible cruelty in the same person that makes the “banality of evil” such a disturbing reality. During the trial, Eichmann displayed no guilt whatsoever for his actions. He calmly claimed that he bore no responsibility because he was simply “doing his job”. 

He seemed incapable to think for himself, always obeying orders and the law. The final result of his detachment was the systematic murder of six million European Jews, about two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe between 1941 and 1945.

100 Countries, 1 Century, 1 Billion Babies

Last year, a report called, “Abortion Worldwide: 100 Countries, 1 Century, 1 Billion Babies” was released, analysing statistics between 1920 to 2015. The overall results are numbing. In 100 years, in 100 countries, approximately 1 billion children have been legally killed, in what they called “the greatest deliberate slaughter of human beings in history, far exceeding all wars.” I invite you to stop for a minute to reflect on this reality.

Otherwise Good People

While discussing the upcoming abortion referendum in Ireland, I have heard many opinions that prove that most people have enough experience of life to think for themselves and not be led astray. Through terms like “foetus”, “tissue”, “cell”, “termination”, “unborn” or “wellbeing” are used to cover up the truth, they can see the truth for what it is: abortion as the killing of an innocent child. 

But I have also met people who will vote to legalise abortion in Ireland just because the Catholic Church (or their parents) say otherwise. I have also met a few decent people who think that individual freedom of an adult has to prevail, so they see no problem in legalising abortion in Ireland.

Inability to Think

But it’s the fact that they are otherwise good people that disturbs me. I know they would ring ISPCA immediately if they witnessed animal cruelty. But because, most likely, they haven’t seen a real abortion operation, they have no problem with it. Maybe they haven’t really thought deeply enough about what they are supporting with their vote.

1 in 5

In Britain, a child has a 1 in 2000 chance of dying in a car crash. The odds of a child dying in an airplane crash are almost 1 in 7.6 million. But one in five unborn children will be aborted, making the womb the least safest place by far. 

Stand Up and Be Counted

In the Irish referendum on the 25th May, you and me, ordinary people, will be asked to vote to legislate this modern version of “banality of evil” or stand up against it. If we turn a blind eye, it will eventually come back to haunt us all and who knows who will be next - The sick? The crippled? The elderly? The blind? Who will they legislate for next and who will then stand up for you?

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