A friend tipped me to watch the DVD “Hannah Arendt.” Wow! Not easy to follow the story, but what an ending.
Already a highly respected author, she covers the Adolph Eichmann trial in Israel. Her articles and book blame Jewish leaders for helping the Nazis and she appears to excuse Eichmann. She loses all public credibility, many and some close friends, and is also blamed for betraying her Jewish heritage. As public criticism explodes in her face, she refuses to defend herself. In the end, she does explain, and I learned the following.
The functional spirit of totalitarianism is based on the assumption that certain people are superfluous (her term). Evil arises out of the bureaucrat’s mindset fertilized, watered, and ripened by a totalitarian hierarchy that adds both legitimacy and pressure that accumulate and compound downward. She describes Eichmann as an ordinary, bureaucratic source of evil who brought crimes against humanity.
Absolved of personal responsibility by the promise that “the devil made me do it” via orders from above, the ones who do evil things eventually think of themselves not as a person but a functionary. The pressures at first singe and then pardon their conscience of any sense of accountability. They are innocent to their way of thinking, and it enables their sense of responsibility to more closely coincide with the totalitarian mindset about superfluous people.
Having several times been a bureaucrat in state and federal government (Navy HQ) and business, I’ve both felt myself and seen people shift under high-pressure conditions from dedication to do what’s right to what’s not right but ordered. It’s easy to do, need of job security adds its own pressure, and everyone sooner or later finds it very difficult to resist as the pressure builds and compounds from above. IOW, it doesn’t take all that much in a huge hierarchical structure for evil to be generated, emerge, and spread within the organization under the guise of doing good for the hierarchy.
It’s a pretty good flick about a brilliant and courageous lady. There’s a lesson to be learned by all of us as our government grows immensely and elections approach.
Happy New Year to y’all.