The Evil of Banality Reviewed by Michelle Kaye Malsbury of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Michelle Kaye Malsbury:
Michelle was born in Champaign, IL. Currently, she resides in Asheville, NC
and is in her second year of doctoral studies at Nova Southeastern
University in Ft. Lauderdale with specialization/concentration in
conflict resolution and peace studies. She has over six hundred
articles published on the web and one book published thus far with
many more in the wings. Hobbies include; reading, writing, music, and
playing with herÂ Australian Cattle Dog, Abu.
Author: Elizabeth Minnich
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Elizabeth Minnich, author
of the evil of banality, has authored numerous other books
(Transforming Knowledge, How Privatization Threatens Democracy, and
The Fox in the Henhouse) (2017.
Ms. Minnich has a PhD from the New York School for Research, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Sciences. She is also senior scholar for the Association of American Colleges and Universities and a professor for Philosophy at Queens University.
In the Introduction (2017, p.4) Minnich states that “I believe that close in is the only way we can think if we want to get past explanations and interpretations that have not reached us on levels that bring about real change.” She adds that mere observations falls way short of actually answering her hypothesis about the banality of evil. Therefore, one must get at the person or persons who are perpetrating such godawful deeds to truly learn what goes on in their minds or does not go on in their minds.
Chapter one introduces The Plague. (2017, p.17) Minnich says that “The Plague is a prolonged allegorical reflection on how extensive evil emerges, takes hold, and finally entirely takes over a small city.” What a frightening thought. I shudder to think that entire cities can be evil and if so, what society must have done to these citizens to find them in such a state. Furthermore, Minnich states that “Arendt was struggling even then to think about the ordinary rather than the extraordinary condition of evil, and to do so directly, attentively remaining as open as possible to the most prosaic aspects of realities that especially---included mass murder.” (p.28) What a horrific thing to consider. However, I assume we must cross this border in order to truly draw some significant conclusions about the basis for evil in people. Minnich then reaches out to compare Adolph Eichmann to Saddam Hussein stating that both were “…radically out of touch with the realities of his victims as well as his prosecutors.” (p.35) “…But, never, not once, did the man convey anything but the feeling that everything he had done was absolutely appropriate.” I hope I am not the only one who finds this entire scenario troubling.
Minnich then attempts to reverse the concept that Arendt had put forth stating that “It holds before us the lack of congruence between monstrous acts and the petty people who do them, between horrors of plague and its cause, a mere bacillus.” (2017, p.45) Furthermore, “There is nothing at all “banal” about what we want to mean by evil”.” While I find evil something that I would not normally contemplate Minnich poses some keen observations and hypothesis. For instance, I would not simply dwell on the mindset of one who can casually perpetuate mass murder as that makes me extremely sad and not just for those who have been killed, but also for the person who could find this acceptable social behavior. However, unpleasant I might find this line of discussion it is also something that someone must research and write about in order that we, regular citizenry, might come to understand who and how people become evil. Therefore, I thank Minnich for her research and writings on this sad topic.
To learn more about the banality of evil please read this book. I will fall short of inviting you to enjoy it because it is a very horrific topic. I will add that it can, and should be, a learning experience.