Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:22:49 — 75.9MB)
Continuing on Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), on how ordinary people can do—or acquiesce to—horrific things. How do people rationalize this? What's required to cut through the environmental haze and have an authentic moral reaction? What can we apply from this story to our present political circumstances? Also, how was genocide a new type of crime, and what's the best rationale for punishing it? We talk justice, revenge, and ways that we too might be morally mass-confused.
Listen to part one first or get the unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition. Please support PEL!
End song: "Hiding from the Face of God" from Judybats 2000; listen to me interview singer/songwriter Jeff Heiskell on Nakedly Examined Music eps. 5 and 63.
thanks you guys are on a roll with sticking to the text and really working bits thru, I think Arendt (like Heidegger, Benjamin, and all) was really struggling with how to come to terms with a truly novel historical development (and not just say as we do with emerging phenomena like platform/surveillance capitalism that this just a reiteration of the printing press or the tractor, or to resurrect some antiquated notion of the “Sovereign” or such), one sees that now with the work of folks Saskia Sassen as she tries to move past just repeating outdated modes/models to try and begin to outline the assemblages and brutal impacts of new kinds/economies of extraction:
Evan Hadkins says
Here’s an example of ‘boiling the frog’; from Helmut Thielicke – a Christian pastor under the Nazi’s in Germany. At school people were required to frequently pledge allegiance to Germany. This meant an endorsement of the present regime in some way – and yet, when was the point that it was right to object or not comply?
I love the podcast and have been listening to it for several years, but this is my first comment. In listening to this episode and considering its application to our current society and societal norms, I have continually comeback to the idea of government drone strikes on either non-combat targets (whether intentional, e.g., issuing a strike against a religious leader who is not technically a combatant or “terrorist,” or unintentionally on civilians in other countries). In the U.S., and in particular in the cities in which I have lived which are near U.S. military bases, It appears to me that the vast majority of citizens may question the benefit of such strikes and view strikes that kill civilians as unfortunate, but they do not view the strike as murder or consider the government agents who authorized, were involved in, or carried out the strikes to be criminals or murderers. In 20-30 years, if the world’s view on drone strikes changes, would another country, or the ICC, be justified in detaining and prosecuting a drone pilot, or in perhaps a more analogous situation to Eichmann, a government official who oversaw / ensure the delivery of the target details or the weaponry used in the strikes? I realize the situation is not exactly analogous in that the goal of drone strikes is not to eliminate an entire population, civilian or otherwise, the scale of the deaths is much less, and at least as of today the government is not totalitarian, but it still strikes me as a relevant question as to whether those individuals should, as Eichmann, have a responsibility to exercise their own judgment and object to the actions, or otherwise retain some amount of moral culpability. Any thoughts or criticisms are appreciated.
my guess is the Arendtian concern would be more about the sort of abstraction/distance that comes with killing via electronics from far away, dropping bombs and then driving home to the burbs for dinner if you will, so hard for us to grasp in any concrete way and so to think thru, take response-ability for,
Sam Weller says
It is quite telling that when it came time to look for modern day applications that “animal rights” was mentioned but not the the holocaust that we have been rationalizing every day since 1973…….abortion. Sixty million human beings sacrificed on the altar of the sexual revolution.
Hey, this might be a little late, but I’m revisiting this episode, and something struck me about the talk around conceptualizing what to fo about Jews in Germany as the ‘Jewish Question’ before it was then turned into talk about the ‘Final Solution’.
Beyond the problematic way in which this frames the situation, like what’s wrong about calling bad race relations the ‘Negro Problem’, there’s long historic precedent in using this turn of phrase ‘The … Problem’ to refer to the social situation of significant minority populations that do not or are not allowed to integrate into wider society. Just as an example, Marx had an article ‘On the Jewish Question’ dealing with the question of whether and how German states should enfranchise their Jewish minorities, since they were in the early 19th century barred from participating in society due to medieval laws on religious exclusion. Similarly, one talked about the Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire, and had WWI not taken place, there was talk about a solution there as far as creating an Armenian state under Russian protection. Rhetorically, I think that there are more cases where such situations were characterized in that way, and I think it only gets to be dark and sinister with the genocidal overtones that the formulation takes with Nazi Germany.
I’m not sure it’s inherently a problematic formulation, although it does have that risk that phrases have in conflating the problem it’s identifying with the people who are refused a just treatment.