“Evil comes from a failure to think.” Eichmann in Jerusalem.
That’s the flip-side of the James coin noted in my last two posts, “the intense interest that life can assume when brought down to the non-thinking level, the level of pure sensorial perception.” There’s no contradiction here. The non-thinking level of existence is an emotional respite that recharges intellect and broadens perspective. It actually expands empathy and mental space, as it displaces our default tendency only to see things from our own self-interested point of view.
But the healthy kind of non-thinking is necessarily occasional and temporary. People who never think, never try to imagine the world through another’s gaze, are a danger to us all. And as Hannah Arendt reported from Jerusalem, they’re all too common, ordinary, banal.
Failed vacuum oil salesman Adolf Eichmann’s “incapacity to think, or to think from another person’s point of view,” made him insensitive to the harm he’d done, and makes us cringe to realize the depth of ordinary, unremarked thoughtlessness that surrounds us still. “The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a ‘completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him.’”
The feckless American politicians atop the current polls, indiscriminately demonizing immigrants and others, are a pretty banal bunch too. Their partisans don’t read much, or think. They’re almost completely normal.
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