International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Banality of Evil

“The Banality of Evil”

I remember first hearing this phrase and thinking how can evil be ordinary? It gives many great comfort to think that people are born inherently evil, that your neighbor, friend, colleague, would never be this caricature of evil. But that is not the truth, and the truth is a terrifying reality. Normal people can do more damage than the person holding the gun, The Nazis proved that. The bureaucratic officials of Nazi German were a well-oiled machine where one signature at the bottom of an insignificant piece of paper could send thousands to their death. It was so easy to blame the figurehead of the movement, Hitler, but he never pulled a trigger (except on himself). The power behind Hitler was the fire he ignited with his rhetoric and promises, and to a severely economically depressed Germany, his words sounded like salvation. People still question why anyone would follow a man like Hitler, but they didn’t follow the man, they followed the promise of a future that Hitler promised. Hitler made the masses proud to call themselves German once again after humiliation in WWI. People could have felt they had an obligation to the man who raised their country back up, they could have whole-heartedly believed in his rhetoric. The important thing to remember is that without the support of the masses, the ordinary people, no dictatorship or genocide would ever happen; they would have no army, no followers to fill their ranks, no support for their cause.


3 responses to “Banality of Evil

  1. bethanyparisi September 21, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I completely agree with what this is saying. It would be much easier to think that an evil person is born evil and that is the end of that. Sadly, that it not how the world works. People follow and listen to authority even when it means that they must harm or even kill someone. Like the they said, Hitler was not the one who actually got his hands dirty. Instead, millions of people did it for him, just because he told them too. These are just normal citizens, people with families, friends and loved ones. They all did it because the authority, Hitler or anyone higher up than them, told them to. This is why it is important that we go after the individual people and not a country. Because it is these individuals that add up to cause a genocide and they should be the ones who are punished.

  2. laurherv September 21, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    The “banality of evil” is a scary concept for most people to consider, because it leaves us without a target. Some find comfort in rationalizing that everyone is born with evil in them, yet only some act on this. However, the idea that ordinary citizens have the ability to carry out heinous and evil acts remind us that the world we live in becomes increasingly dangerous every day. Post 9/11, everyone thought the Muslims were the people we needed to watch out for, target our suspicions, and prevent from causing acts of terror. Yet the reality is that anyone, at any point, can become radicalized or obedient to a leader and carry out unthinkable acts. This reality is something we see occurring repeatedly in modern society, as ‘ordinary’ American citizens’ complete crimes of mass destruction due to radicalization and other motives. The “banality of evil” is not a concept we should choose to accept, but rather to combat. We should not allow people to justify their actions by simply saying they were born evil. We must hold all persons accountable for their actions, both those committing acts of evil, and especially those teaching people to commit those acts.

  3. addisonc42 September 22, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I believe this is a crucial topic not only when trying to understand genocide and mass atrocities, but also when trying to prevent such acts from occurring. Generally it seems NGO’s are focused on the groups or state officials which they perceive to be most likely to start the genocide, or put it into motion through hate speech and so on. Mostly it seems that they likewise focus on these people as they view them as evil rather than those who have the potential for evil. I think that while this tactic has the potential to stop those who could start a genocide that a more grass roots effort could better translate to stopping the formation or a genocide. By focusing on those who have the potential to create or participate in evil such as the local population and or soldiers, they can learn what can lead to genocide and the penalties for participating in such crimes. Focusing on the general populous can allow for those who have the potential for evil to not be able to so easily be swept into a genocide. Such as people can get swept up with a general idea while ignoring the obvious wrongs of such a movement IE: Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

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