Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Week 8 Journal: The Banality of Evil | Abc Paper

All information needed is provided below and/or attached! Please see ARTICLES PROVIDED.DOCX for all articles pertaining to assignment!This week introduced us to the now famous concept of the banality of Arendt coined when she introduced and examined it in The Origins of Totalitarianism and the Milgram experiment on authority. Consider the following quotations:”The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists” “It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never ‘radical,’ that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is ‘thought-defying,’ as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its ‘banality.’ Only the good has depth and can be radical.”One of her critics summed up one of her significant contributions in the following words:“Arendt’s insight into the banality of evil remains undiminished: human character is malleable, not fixed; in the right circumstances masses of otherwise ordinary, decent, law-abiding people can be transformed into collaborators and perpetrators of reprehensible crimes against humanity.” Consider these quotations as well as the results of Milgram’s experiment. What does the work of Arendt and Milgram contribute to the body of knowledge about evil?As always, journals should be between 2 to 4 pages double-spaced in length and supported with paraphrases and/or brief direct quotations from the critical articles.Anything else that is needed I will post to discussion!



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The Complexity of Evil
and the Banalizing
of the Un-forgivable
During the last decade or so the Christian concept of forgiveness, the very DNA of Christianity,
has been under attack. Postmodern philosophers
have criticized Christianity with its claim to forgiveness for making it too easy for evildoers, whilst
recurring to an absolute understanding of Kant’s
“radical evil” as a substance. In a post-Holocaust
era, forgiveness and the turning of the other cheek
should be relegated to utopian spheres. In tandem
with politicians’ apocalyptic calls to revenge on evil
tyrants/states, “monsters” more often than not created by their own power plays, these discussions
made me ponder the conundrum of the unforgivable and the complexity of evil. If the Copenhagen Zoo’s autopsy on a two-year-old inbred
giraffe (whose meat fed the lions as it would in
the African savannah) can ignite Westerners to determine it “unforgiveable,” is that not (apart from
disclosing absolute estrangement from nature) an
indication of a banalizing the unforgivable, to twist
Hannah Arendt’s coinage of the “banality of evil”?
In her book against Stalinism and Nazism, The
Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Hannah Arendt
posited that there is radical evil, though it is
not identifiable with original sin. But on having followed the trials of the Nazi “executioner”
Eichmann and seeing how ordinary a person he
was, Arendt concluded her book on the trials,
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of
Evil (1963), by polemically stating the “banality

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of evil.” Having investigated the trajectory of the
Nazi regime and the mind of the trivial Eichmann,
Arendt discovered that evil had no root, was not
radical; not only because Eichmann, by his inability
to plead guilty, disclosed an ordinary character, but
also because Arendt’s investigations revealed that
European Jewish councils participated in the evils
toward Jews. As a consequence of her excavations,
Arendt, a Jewish agnostic intellectual, was accused
of anti-Semitism and her criticism seen as unforgiveable. Only years later, people began to understand the complexity of her argument, which was
not excusing Eichmann. In Eichmann in Jerusalem,
Arendt examined how a totalitarian state could turn
seemingly ordinary citizens into criminals displaying a perplexing lack of feelings, whether hatred to
or empathy with those they dispatched to torture
and death. She saw how their evil was a “superficial phenomenon,”1 enacted and entangled in a
spiral of obedience to orders from superiors and
the totalitarian ideology. By banalizing the totalitarian evil of Nazism, Arendt aimed at indicting the ideology and Eichmann’s engagement even
more than would be the result of a demonizing.
The latter would serve as an excuse for Europe’s
“moral collapse,” in the same way as the trial, according to Arendt, served to stage Jewish history
as a narrative of persecution. Hence, Arendt rejected a Manichean perception of the Holocaust,
and in fact took an Augustinian strand. The Eichmann trials had changed her opinion regarding radical evil, as she explained to her former friend,
Gershom Scholem: “It is indeed my opinion now
that evil is never ‘radical,’ that it is only extreme,
and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic
dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole
world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on
Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 53, Number 3 • Fall 2014 • September
the surface. It is ‘thought-defying,’ as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to
the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with
evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That
is its ‘banality.’ Only the good has depth and can
be radical.”2 Arendt’s polemical statement may be
influenced by Sartre’s identification of Baudelaire’s
evil as “a counter-Good,”3 but both indeed mime
Augustine’s doctrine that evil is nothing. Evil is not
a substance; it is the absence of good, privatio boni.4
Arendt’s engagement was to call to human forgiveness, not least in discussion with her fellow Jews. In The Human Condition (1958), she
poignantly stated, with a reference to the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, that humans are capable
of forgiveness, and God eventually will forgive. In
Men in Dark Times (1971), she unraveled the complexity of judgment and forgiveness, emphasizing
that while judgment is an expression of equality
for the sake of justice pertaining to the act, forgiveness is an expression of inequality and an act of
love pertaining to the person. Arendt could forgive
her ex-lover, the intelligent Heidegger, for joining
Nazism in 1933 and remaining a member until
1945, even though he, like the rest of the Nazi
intelligentsia, legitimated the totalitarian madness;
and even though there were no punitive actions
against him and he never publicly pronounced his
regrets. But she found the banal Eichmann unforgivable even after the trial, because he showed
no self-recognition or acknowledgement of personal
guilt and instead pointed to what we know is the
principle of the totalitarian system: you are to obey
orders, and independent thoughts are treason.
Three recent films that illustrate the ambiguity
of evil, often resulting from what is assumed to be
good from a specific angle, may shed further light
on the conundrum of the unforgivable.
The first film is Irish journalist Nic Dunlop’s
documentary Comrade Duch, about the torture and
killings of about 20,000 people imprisoned in the
Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh during the Cambodian Pol Pot Regime in the years 1975-79.5 It
tells the story of a prison, from which there was
no return from a cruel and slow death, and of
its cold leader, comrade Duch, whose logic followed that of the totalitarian system, in this case
the Khmer Rouge’s revolutionary organization, the
infallible Angkar. Several post-modern philosophers
have published on the horrors of this narrative,
analogous to Arendt’s treatment of totalitarianism
and Eichmann, many raising the rhetorical question
whether or not even God’s limit for forgiveness has
been crossed. The question became pressing when
Western observers discovered that former comrade
Duch converted from Buddhism. “He simply converted to Christianity where he could easily get forgiveness,” as a relative to a non-Cambodian victim
indignantly exclaimed during Duch’s trial. Given
that Duch was tried, why was his conversion regarded such a scandal?
Duch’s story is intertwined with the story of the
paranoid Pol Pot regime that was behind the brutal torture and killing of about two million people in an irrational attempt to legitimize its existence and make excuse for its economic fiasco.
Duch became a wheel in this terror machine by
means of which 20% of the Cambodian population
was accused of and killed for being “adversaries of
the revolution.” The madness was not stopped till
Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea in 1979
and started a trial, although all Khmer Rouge
leaders already had found shelter in Thailand,
supported by anti-communist Western politicians.
However, the Khmer Rouge regime only collapsed
in 1997 when it was no longer needed in the Cold
War; and only in 2006 did the Cambodia War
Crime Tribunal begin its work: to try the most senior and responsible members of Khmer Rouge for
planning, instigating, commanding, aiding or being
an accessory to as well as having committed criminal actions against humanity. All violations of the
Cambodian population that led to the evils in the
Cambodian civil war as the two superpowers’ war
by proxy were left out: Prince Sihanouk’s violations
of human rights and extermination of Cambodia’s
left wing before the Lon Nol coup in 1970; the
Lon Nol regime’s violation of the Geneva Convention and the US air terror against the civilian population in 1970-75; the Vietnamese support of the
Khmer Rouge and their terror against the civilian
population up to and through 1973. All these violations that contributed to the complex of evil will
probably never be tried. Nonetheless, they exhibit
that evil is far from banal, though how it surfaces
in one individual may seem banal, as Arendt found
In 2009, Nic Dunlop found comrade Duch in
Thailand, and as one of few Khmer Rouge leaders he was tried and eventually sentenced to life
imprisonment. It was not an unrepentant sinner
who received the sentence. After the crimes, the
man who grew up as a dutiful child and became
a kind teacher of mathematics, Kaing Guek Eav,
repented and asked for forgiveness for his deeds.
In contradistinction to most other Khmer Rouge
leaders, Eav gave himself up voluntarily to the authorities and the tribunal, and he is so far the only
one who has admitted his responsibility, publicly
apologized and asked for forgiveness. According to
Arendt’s logic, Eav should therefore not be unforgivable. However, postmodern philosophers debate
whether it is a banalizing of guilt to even consider
forgiveness pertaining to a crime of proportions like
that committed in Tuol Sleng.
The second film is the Israeli documentary One
Day After Peace. In this film, directors Miri and Erez
Lauder weave together storylines of killings and
processes of forgiveness in South Africa (specifically
related to The Truth and Reconciliation Committee) and in the Israeli/Palestine conflict. In parts
we follow the explorations of Robi Damelin, Jewish Israeli citizen and native of South Africa, whose
son was shot by a Palestinian sniper when serving
as an Israeli soldier. Without ever yielding to platitudes, they document how Damelin, inspired by
South African reconciliation efforts, approaches her
son’s killer and, though having to accept his rejection of her forgiveness, perceives her forgiveness as
her own liberation from being a victim of her son’s
killer. She echoes the statement by a South African
mother who forgave the black man who incidentally killed her daughter: “Forgiveness is to give up
one’s just right to revenge.”
In the third example, the film Sorrow and Joy,
Danish director Niels Malmros tells the true story
about his and his wife’s common tragedy when
his wife killed their nine month old daughter in
a psychosis thirty years ago. The agnostic Malmros, grabbling with how his and his mother-in-law’s
shortcomings contributed to the tragedy, tells how
his wife was going to spend the first weekend home
from the mental hospital, still psychotic, and how
he arranged with his wife’s mother to look after
her while he was at work. He tells about his considerations that day, how he thought of asking his
wife not to harm Anna, and how he hid the axe
that was visible from the kitchen window. When
he returns home, the house is what it should not
be, dark and silent. He enters the living room only
to learn that his wife killed Anna and that the police had come for her. Everything is wrong, yet his
worst fears have come true. Confronted with the
question how he could forgive his wife, Malmros
thoughtfully answers: “A person who is psychotic
has no guilt, and when there is no guilt, there
is no need for forgiveness. I’d rather say that it
is about love, which, if it is there, conquers everything.” The unthinkable evil that happened had
no root, and the perpetrator was not evil, either.
Therefore, questions of guilt or unforgivable are irrelevant. What is essential is a mature mutual love
that, he acknowledges, might be perceived as some
form of Christian forgiveness.6
Is Christianity wrong when it maintains forgiveness as its DNA? The battle stands between a Kantian idea of “radical evil” coupled with a Manichean
world view, and an Augustinian idea of original
sin and the ambiguity of evil as privatio boni. It
seems to me that we should keep problematizing
the former as an over-simplification of evil and a
banalizing of the unforgivable, while honoring the
Augustinian and Lutheran insights into the ambiguity of life, the corpus permixtum or the simul justus
et peccator, where the indicting finger also always
points at oneself: “et tu?”
Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen
Aarhus University
1. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1982: 330.
2. Hannah Arendt, letter to Gershom Scholem, in Encounter (January 1964): 51-56. Cited in Julia Kristeva, Hannah Arendt, (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2001), 152.
Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 53, Number 3 • Fall 2014 • September
3. Ulrich Baer, “The De-demonization of Evil”, in Cabinet (Winter 2001/02), downloaded from
issues/5/dedemonization.php on March 6 2014.
4. Aurelius Augustinus, Enchiridion de Fide, Spe et Caritate III, 11.
5., downloaded February 2014.
6. Politiken: Kultur, 2nd November 2013, 7-11.
Hope in the Midst of Lament
Over Violence and
In our study of history, in our awareness of the
events in our communities, in the nation, and
across the world, we have learnt of events that bear
close resemblances to the ones that Jesus mentions
in Matt 23:37–24:14. In our own lifetimes, I am
sure we can think of events that may have been
seen in an apocalyptic horizon akin to Jesus’ picture
in this text: “And you will hear of wars and rumors
of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must
take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth
pangs” (Matt 24: 6–8).
We do not have to think for long to call to
mind natural and human-made disasters, violence,
and destruction. The rapidity and proliferation of
news reports of tragic events numb us, and we are
pressed to throw up our hands and cry, “I can’t bear
hearing of another such tragedy.” Add to that the pervasive, shallow, distorted and distorting apocalyptic
interpretations that either paint a picture of God
whom we cannot recognize in the face of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, or a picture that
calls us away from the foot of the cross to trust
in some idol who purportedly possesses ultimate
In the kingdom of God, there is no place for
anyone to seek the downfall of another in order
to improve one’s status before God. In the
kingdom of God, there is no place for the use
of Jesus’ name—the name that all bear who believe
in him as Savior and Lord—to tear down anyone,
whether she or he is a sister or brother in Christ,
or not. In the face of what I just wrote, we hear
Jesus’ sobering, prophetic words, “Then they will
hand you over to be tortured and will put you to
death, and you will be hated by all nations because
of my name. Then many will fall away, and they
will betray one another and hate one another. And
many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love
of many will grow cold” (Matt 24: 9–12). Jesus
has no illusions about the power of sin. He has
no illusions that betrayal, hatred, and violence can
and will be found even within the community that
bears his name. The passing of the first century
to the twenty-first has not seen the growing inapplicability of Jesus’ indictment! With humility, a
Christian community of critical reflection centered
in worship, in which learning leads to mission and
mission informs learning, recognizes the truth of Jesus’ words. The community hears Jesus’ words and
is reminded of its calling in the economy of God’s
Jesus knows full well that being the descendants
of those whom God liberated from bondage in
Egypt is not an inoculation against idolatry and its
concomitant injustice in the fabric of Israel’s life.
Indeed, this text begins with Jesus’ own haunting
lament, “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills
the prophets and stones those who are sent to
it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you were not willing! See, your house
is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not
see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who
comes in the name of the Lord”’ (Matt 23:37–39).
We know the story of Jerusalem’s utter destruction
in 70 C.E. by the Romans.
Just when it would seem that hopelessness is the
logical conclusion to Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem’s
failure and impending destruction, just when it
would seem that hopelessness is the logical conclusion to Jesus’ mind-numbing candor about the
reality of the destructive behaviors of many against
those identified with Jesus, we hear Jesus’ words
of promise: “But anyone who endures to the end
will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom
will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will
come” (24:13–14).
Thus, the invitation to the Lord’s Table is a
salutary reminder again and again that we live in
the interim between his coming and his coming
again. Jesus’ invitation is to eat and drink for the
forgiveness of our sins.
Winston D. Persaud
Wartburg Theological Seminary
Interreligious America:
What’s Changed—And What
I Have Learned
In the midst of Chicago’s brutal 2014 winter, a
few Metro Chicago Synod pastors and lay people
braved a near-blizzard to join the bishop and faculty and staff from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) to talk about local interreligious relations. We LSTC folks were prepared to
tout all the interfaith resources and services offered
by the ELCA and by LSTC’s Center for ChristianMuslim Engagement for Peace and Justice. We did
all that—but fortunately we had the good sense to
listen too. What we heard were surprising stories of
neighboring Lutheran and Muslims congregations
collaborating on ESL classes and petitioning zoning
boards to allow for new mosque construction. We
learned that in some places it is challenging simply
to make connections with religious others, and that
some pastors and parishioners wonder why they are
being encouraged to do so in the first place. This
meeting and several more like it have prompted me
to think more about the potential disconnect between academics who live and breathe the theology
of religious pluralism and those at the grassroots
who are pondering mostly how to be good neighbors.
My recent encounters with pastors and congregations have led me to consider also what’s changed
in my own career since I spent my 1995–96 sabbatical year researching the theory and practice of
interreligious relations in the United States and
Western Europe. The notes and duplicated articles from that research still occupy two file drawers
in my over-crowded home office. But my current
digital files reflect a new urgency to make that research relevant to the varied communities in which
I live and work. At this early stage in my ongoing
exploration of how times have changed, here are
some observations.
My Own Work has Changed
Back in 1996 I was assembling a massive interreligious bibliography and interviewing MuslimChristian scholars in North America and England,
people like Jorgen Nielsen and Sigvard von Sicard
(then at Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham), as well
as David Kerr, Jane McAuliffe, R. Marston Speight,
Leonard Swidler, and Mahmoub Ayoub here in
the U.S. At the 1996 Convocation of Lutheran
Teaching Theologians I presented a paper on “The
‘Other’ in Biblical Perspective.” Then in May 2002
I joined 40 other Jewish, Christian, and Muslim
academic and religious leaders at the International
Scholars Annual Trialogue in Skopje, Macedonia.
Ostensibly we came to help the newly independent
Macedonians with the …
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