Benality of Evil

When mass killing is thought to be just a number and development is reduced to mere economic growth, human struggles and tragedies remains forgotten. This is how we were bewitched by propaganda that positioned someone as a vikaspurush . Little did we realize that we were hit by what Hanah Arendt called the banality of evil. She was talking of the seemingly ordinary actions of Adolf Eichman which turned out to be gravely and grossly evil. Our tolerance of evil has almost become unlimited and we have become blind and deaf to the fact of the existence of evil. Such a state leads people to commit heinous crimes without feeling any remorse for it. This is why ordinary people participate in riots and lynching and justify their acts of violence as serving some or the other ‘ noble’ cause. When a society reaches this state, evil does not look like evil. Evil has become faceless. It has put on the mask of goodness.

We seem to be facing the banality of evil in our society in India. Our moral sensibilities are numbed. We seem to have lost the moral calculus and some are even ready to kill while invoking God. We have lost the horror of evil. Evil has a mask of justice. We have stepped into a new psychology of evil. We do not seem to care for the suffering of people othered and estranged from us by a hate propaganda machine. This is why the demonized other appears to be disposable. Our human condition seems to have become a heart of the heartless and the cry of the poor. Evil no longer shocks us. We, unfortunately, accept what is really evil as good or noble. The condition that characterises us is nothing but the banality of evil. It is the banality of evil that explains our silence and refusal to feel morally challenged to discern how hate has come to take control over us. It is the banality of evil that makes what is simply hate to appear as the performance of nationalism.

Evil appears innocent when it becomes benal. Let us take a thought experiment. Let us consider a statement: ‘All our problems as Indians have to do with Muslims and Cyclists’. What some of us will promptly ask is: what cyclists have to do with the problems of India and Indians but would not contest the positioning of Muslims as contributing to the problems of our country. We reached this state of belief through organized lying and conspiratory narratives that keep us in constant doubt. The organized lying attacks the framework of facts that ground our life and since we have nothing substantive to rely upon, we have entered a massified society that has atomized us.

The banalization of evil leads to the trivialization of grave crimes. One is thought to be innocent until one is convicted by the law. Innocence before the law is a time-proven principle. But the banality of evil leads to twisting of the long arm of the law in order to appear innocent even when one is culpable of the crime without an iota of doubt. Human deprivation, trampling of human rights, vandalism of public property, and promotion of elite business have ceased to disturb us. This means a crime against humanity has become banal in our society. This is because our society has become atomized or massified and thinks of itself as a Hindu singularity or Hindu-Metaman. This is why there are real fears that seeds of totalitarianism have already sprouted in our society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao