The Banality of Human Kind
By David Alberto Muñoz
The events that took place this past weekend have made a lot of people think more carefully about what is means to be an American. Even if we think in official terms, to be a citizen of the United States, represents the basic concept that everyone has been created equal, and that we are all endowed by our Creator (whoever or whatever he, she or it may be), with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
When we question: What does it mean to be created equal? The answer immediately states that all human beings, regardless of religion, sex, or skin color, possess the same natural rights; by natural, assuming we are born with these rights.
In recent years, we have added the principle that different people are unequal in physical and mental capacities, and yet, under the law, under the so called “American character,” we all have the same rights. This includes the white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, who decided to show up as a “militia group,” descending on the city, openly carrying handguns and military-style rifles to intimidate and spread fear.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a Jewish-German woman who escaped the Holocaust. Eventually she migrated to the Unites States, and among her books there is one entitled Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. In it, she makes the point that all the Nazis who were engaged in causing pain and suffering to the Jews, were doing it as an insidious action. Slowly, those atrocities became banal, ordinary, it all became normal for them, the torturing, the killing, all the mayhem.
“It was as though in those last minutes he [Eichmann] was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness has taught us—the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defining banality of evil…”[i]
Nelson Mandela is very often quoted as stating: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…”
The hate we saw this past weekend is the real reason for all the violence. Such hate needs to be eliminated, and the only way to remove it from our society, is to stop teaching it. It is very easy to blame a group of people for the problems of humanity. The Nazis did it, look at the result. No one is born hating a different color, a different culture, we are taught to hate, and until we realize this is the root of such banal evil, we won’t be able to enter into a more peaceful and tolerable society.
Many times I have stated that in America, there is a lot of anger. Everyone is angry about “something.” The younger generation is angry because of the older generation does not allow them to live their lives, and the other way around, females are angry towards males, and the other way around, conservatives hate liberals, and the other way around. It seems we all need to blame someone or something for our condition, and in turn, we teach our kids to hate that which we dislike or plainly abhor.
Think about the language we use in common situations.
“I hate my neighbor…I hate homeless people…I hate rich people…I hate women…I hate men…I hate blacks…I hate whites…I hate Mexicans…I hate Asians…I hate Mondays…I hate traffic…I hate my life…I hate, I hate, I hate…”
Pretty soon such words can be turned into acts of violence with an ideology stating that the only way to be heard, to be understood, or to change things in this nation, is by violence, by spreading all that hate.
There is a saying in Spanish that states: “A todo se acostumbra uno menos a no comer” (We can get use to anything with the exception of not eating). Therefore, the banality of evil, we have been engaged in hating each other for too long because of the color of our skin, that we have forgotten that we should not judge one another on those bases, but on the bases of our character, our behavior, our nature, not whether we have blue eyes, dark skin or yellow teeth.
We are a banal kind, as ordinary as getting up every morning and doing what we are used to do.
Anton Chekhov expressed: “There is nothing more awful, insulting, and depressing that banality.”
Unless we realize it, and escape this condition, there is always the danger of remaining in the banality of human kind.
© David Alberto Muñoz
[i] Arendt, Hannah, The Banality of Evil, 1963.
David Alberto Muñoz
Se autodefine como un cuentero, a quién le gusta reflejar "la compleja experiencia humana". Viaja entre 3 culturas, la mexicana, la chicana y la gringa. Es profesor de filosofía y estudios religiosos en Chandler-Gilbert-Community College, institución de estudios superiores.