We experience so much hatred in the world, so much fighting, so much stealing, so much death. It has been like that for as long as humans existed. Just think of Cain and Abel.
Why is it so difficult for some people to see that the course they are on will damage others? Why are there so few people who are making choices based on the interests of others?
Where is the love?
The more self-centered we are, the less we can love for love requires sacrifice and vulnerability and the ego resists that all the time. The word "narcicism" has become a commonplace term lately, so commonplace that it has lost its connection to evil, to destruction, to sin.
The banality of evil
Some people believe that this phenomenon can be linked to evil becoming so commonplace that it is not recognised as evil anymore. They use the words, "the banality of evil" and connect that to what happened in Nazi Germany before the Second World War.
First from the dictionary:
"Banalities are sayings that almost everyone uses, and because they're so well-known, they've lost all their power. These expressions are clichéd and many people find them annoying. "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" is one good example ... platitude, trivia, truism, triviality,"
Then from Amos Elon in his introduction to Hannah Arendt’s book, "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil".
"[Arendt] concluded that Eichmann’s inability to speak coherently in court was connected with his incapacity to think, or to think from another person’s point of view. . . . He personified neither hatred or madness nor an insatiable thirst for blood, but something far worse, the faceless nature of Nazi evil itself . . . aimed at dismantling the human personality of its victims. The Nazis had succeeded in turning the legal order on its head, making the wrong and the malevolent the foundation of a new “righteousness.” In the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognized it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm. . . . Within this upside-down world Eichmann . . . seemed not to have been aware of having done evil. " (Quoted from Richard Rohr CAC)
And from Jack Maden (philosophybreak.com)
"The “banality of evil” is the idea that evil does not have the Satan-like, villainous appearance we might typically associate it with. Rather, evil is perpetuated when immoral principles become normalized over time by unthinking people. Evil becomes commonplace; it becomes the everyday. Ordinary people — going about their everyday lives — become complicit actors in systems that perpetuate evil."
Arendt had Nazi Germany as her template, but argued systemic oppression and the gradual normalization of evil can occur anywhere, any time, and at any scale.
Can you think of anything you’re desensitized to today?
Her view on evil’s banality suggests its antidote begins in active thinking. By being sensitive to different viewpoints and scrutinizing everything we might otherwise adopt or conform to unconsciously, we can be guided by reason, rather than misled by rhetoric or propaganda.
In other words, it is only through thinking for ourselves that we avoid drowning in the tidal wave of information, custom, and circumstance the world throws at us."
Now my ten cents worth:
I remember how I was caught up in the rhetoric of Apartheid for many years without being able to see the inherent evil in it and even now I know how deeply ingrained white body supremacy is in my genetic make-up. It influences a lot of decisions from the hiddenness of my sub-conscious and neither me nor the people around me pick it up for all of us are caught up in the banality of racism. The way white people talk to and act around black people have become so commonplace through literally ages of practice that a great part of society is not able to see the evil in it anymore. From there the big debate around the existence of "systemic racism". Many people are unable to see the evil for the evil is our secret salvation.
Racism is just one example of that. Other examples are our inability to see that we are working ourselves to death, or that we are sacrificing our children and marriages to work ethic, advancement, being popular or in the right crowd. Or that we are eating or smoking or drinking ourselves to death. Or that we are killing our planet. The evils are not evil anymore for we profit from them and they are so commonplace that they are unrecognisable as destructive forces.
We have covered the evil of self-centered narcicism so well that it became the populist politician's tool and it has caused untold agony in the world.