Banality of Evil (or in some cases Malevolent Stupidity)
THIS GUEST POST (Oh, how formal!) COMES TO ALL OF US BY WAY OF FEARLESS READER DON “Tribe of Dan” “Prophet of Dan” “Dan the River Pirate” HILL. And may I offer the same opp to others of y'all. Certainly many of your great comments could be posted up front. Feel free to expand on what you've sent or write more.
Here's Don, or Dan...
Sometimes a bulb comes on in the head of Dan. While it is sometimes hard to see though the bong residue and Budweiser stains of a misspent youth, it often starts the wheels rolling. Although, I can never be certain where the cart is going, I figure that I should ride anyway.
While I am neck-deep in Eduland (a former teacher, graduate student and in-transition educational administrator), I consider myself, in the academic sense, as a reader of history. I say a reader because no other title seems to fit. In short, I think that I understand a bit of the past and reflect upon it to consider current events.
I believe now that I understand a bit about the condition of Eduland. Not how to fix it, but how it came to be the blinded Cyclopes that it is today. “Nobody has blinded me!!”
This is not an attempt to add anything to
the reasons already laid down by the distinguished
In the Spring of 1946, several of the leading Nazi figures awaited trial at Nurembergfor war crimes. Amassed in Bad Mondorf Prison were some of the most notorious human beings that the twentieth century had spawned. While villains such as Hitler, Grobbels, Himmler, Bormann and Heydrich had escaped earthly justice by way of cyanide or good old German steel, the roster included several figures that will surely have a wing in Hell named after them. Goering, Raeder, Hess, Frank, Rosenberg, Ribbentrop, Kaltenburnner, Seyss-Inquart et al were murderers on a grand scale. By 1945, they had killed six million European Jews along with millions of others, especially Slavic Europeans. While that alone would be enough, the methodology of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question was sinister beyond scope. The conspiracy ran so deep. There were schedules, 24 hour killing facilities, a whole national bureaucracy dedicated to the extermination of human beings. They had an agenda.
I am sure you have all heard the stories.
Nonetheless, Bad Mondorf was under the
jurisdiction of the US Army. The
Anyway, these headshrinkers interviewed these criminals almost to the hour of their rendezvous with the hangman. Gilbert, an army psychologist, wanted to explain how these people could be capable of such horrific acts. How does one send millions of people to their death? How does one allow children to be starved to death or gassed? All of these men could have stopped it or, at the very least, limited it. Each of these men had the ability to not follow orders. Why did they do it? Emotionally, how did they do it?
Gilbert said that he saw evil, in this respect, as two-fold; the complete lack of empathy for other human beings and the disassociation with the task. To his surprise, Gilbert found that all of these men (with a couple of exceptions) were not psychotic axe murderers. Most had a loving family relationship, happily married, and remembered as good fathers. Yet, these men would leave the happy confines of home each day and do the paperwork (or in the case of Kaltenburnner et al, “hands on” work) that led to the systematic murder of more than SIX MILLION PEOPLE.
“Bye, Honey! I am off to work.”
“Bye, Dear. Are you going to be working late again?”
“Yes, Hon. The damn crematoriums are working at full throttle and we still can’t keep up.”
“You take it easy, dear. Maybe next year you can get transfer to a nicer place like Treblinka.”
Not to trivialize the event, but a monster
such as Hoess (who personally came up with the idea of using Zyklon B and, as
the commandant of
The one thing that all of these men had in common was that they were “yes” men. They followed popular opinion and general orders without conscience.
Georing, a man of high birth and aristocratic background, would never lower himself to actually murder a person with his hands. Yet, he sat at desks and slaughtered millions with the stroke of his pen. Nonetheless, he was a “yes” man. Hitler wanted it; he did it and never lost a moment of sleep to question morality.
Another example of “desk murderers” can be seen with the CEOs of American tobacco companies. In the late eighties, the seven CEOs of top tobacco stood before Congress under oath and stated that they did not believe that tobacco was addictive. The companies had known that nicotine was highly addictive since the 1930’s and had been working on ways since the 1950’s to make cigarettes more addictive. As one whistleblower said, “We are in the nicotine delivery business.”
I am sure all of these CEOs were good people in ways. They were probably kind and generous. They gave lots to charity and had all kinds of programs and plaques to prove it. Yet, they were “yes” men to the core. The stockholders said they wanted a heap of money and they wanted their interests protected. I use these folks as an example because of their conspiratorial nature. It is a planned operation…schedules, facilities and agendas. The CEOs said “yes.”
Okay, what the hell does Nazi war criminals and big tobaccos have to do the Eduland? I am getting to that…
A wise man once said that there is basically one crime and that is theft. In short, all other crimes are variations of theft. Murder, being one of the most heinous crimes, can be defined as a theft of opportunity. In sum, the victim is denied the opportunity of existence and the rest of society is denied the opportunity to benefit from their existence.
In being a cult of “yes” men, the Nazi regime denied opportunity to millions. They denied opportunities of existence, opportunities of safety and opportunities of freedom. For greed and acceptance by superiors, they carried out these orders without remorse. In other words, their pursuit of approval superceded natural human inclinations concerning right and wrong. The result was the holocaust and a war that ultimately killed 70 million people world wide.
The tobacco CEOs continue to be a party to the death of millions each year. They are denying or stealing freedom and existence through the continued sale of addictive and potentially fatal products. Do you smoke? Is some of your day spent smoking? If so, some of your freedom and opportunity has been stolen. Do they sleep well at night? I wonder…
In Eduland, there is and has been a theft of opportunity. Just as with the Nazis and big tobacco; the organization, methodology and the bureaucracy makes it more sinister.
Maybe I am over the top with this, but hear me out. If a group of people get together and do harmful things, there can only be two assumptions; they know better and are therefore evil and harmful or they do not know better and are therefore stupid and harmful. I refuse to believe that an Eduland school does not know better. Most of the heads are very educated. They read reports and know that 50% or more of minority kids can not read. Yet, they continue to purposely promote a fraudulent method that they know doesn’t work. Greed and lack of empathy….a disconnection with the task…denial of freedoms and opportunities to others. It is systematic. They are “yes” men (and women). They seek profit and approval of peers. They know what they do and that makes it sinister.
One of my favorite quotes from the
Banality means dullness. I guess most of us think of evil as exciting…. Who knew?
Don/Dan is definitely the