That 'banality of evil', it seems to me, can be seen loitering in plain sight amidst the news headlines and updated reports on the experiences of Alfie Evans' family, with Britain's 'govt provided health care' service - that same service which we're told that all 'modern industrial societies' must provide to their citizens. In their case, 'free health care', has doomed their unwell infant, to die in the 'care' of the NHS, on their terms, according to their calculations - no matter the choices of his parents, and without regard to what expenses and aid that other people, and even nations, might be willing to provide in their stead. Take for instance, this press release, which reads like what might be a regurgitated mission statement, of their hospital:
"Our top priority therefore remains in ensuring Alfie receives the care he deserves to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained throughout. This includes working closely with Kate and Tom as they spend this precious time together with him."In case you missed it, that's a carefully worded bureaucratic way of saying,
"Everyone please calm down, and let us give Kate and Tom some quality time with their child, as we force them to stand helplessly by as we follow procedure and put little Alfie to death."This statement smacks of what Hannah Arendt described as Eichmann's ‘inability to think’, an inability to connect words to deeds in a logically coherent manner, not out of stupidity, but from an effort to evade intentionality. Can you not see the hospital's quote above, in her quote below?
"I was struck by the manifest shallowness in the doer [ie Eichmann] which made it impossible to trace the uncontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer – at least the very effective one now on trial – was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.", and within that, there lurks a devastating critique of our modern world's ability to mask even the most horrifying of evils - and putting a child to death in front of its parents under a pretense of caring, has got to rank high on such a list - wrapped in layer after layer of passively worded cliches, in such a way that our systems enable the vast majority of us to dismiss our concerns about what IS is, brushing aside 'middle class' concerns over what is and isn't true, and pooh-poohing notions of 'Right & Wrong' - that fog is what has slipped into all of our lives, as the purest of evils go unremarked under the cover of their concerning boring and irrelevant issues, totally unworthy of consideration.
You see, IMHO, Eichmann's problem wasn't so much that he had an ‘inability to think’, as that he had chosen much earlier in his life, not to think, he had chosen to not bother with the business of integrating what he thought, with what he did, could, and should, know was in reality true. That is a choice - a lesson that is drilled into us to make from Kindergarten to College - which untethers your mind from reality, encouraging and permitting (in all of us) just about any action, so long as it doesn't cause a stir. Monsters, you see, are only monstrous because of how they appear, if someone looks and sounds like a monster, then they are a monster. But the real monsters of modernity work their horrors in the most unremarkable, mundane and utilitarian sorts of everyday actions, which we all thoughtlessly engage in, and people you probably have contact with every day, and those nice sounding policies which you might support, involve us all in choosing to produce these actions of purest evil, and they go unnoticed, because we've been taught to brush off that one thing which makes recognizing (or caring about) such evils a possibility for us - a decent regard for what is True.
Here's another instance of that distillate of evil, from the UK's Telegraph, that brings little Alfie Evans, and us, face to face with Arendt's 'Banality of Evil', in all its blandly bureaucratic darkness:
"...But a doctor treating Alfie, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that for Alfie to be allowed home would require a "sea change" in attitude from the child's family, and they feared that in the "worst case" they would try to take the boy abroad...."Here again we have an example of what I think that Hannah Arendt was talking about: we have a Doctor, someone who presumably set out to commit to the Hippocratic ideal of 'first do no harm', who, in the face of parents being forced to endure and witness the forced circumstances of their child's death, has casually turned away from that reality which he's directly involved in, and instead makes an aside of political commentary to a reporter, anonymous and off the record of course (thanks legal system!), in a very matter of fact manner, as 'this whole fuss' being an unfortunate reality of the institutional process which is the norm. This 'healer' gives little or no thought to the evil he's participating in, but instead notes the uninteresting points which the process requires, and in which the 'real problem' is one of Public Relations, rather than the rights, interests and well being of either the parents or Alfie, and Alfie's life is the token price the system requires, in order to continue functioning. For the greater good. One can easily imagine the doctor, and no doubt various levels of the hospital's administrative staff, dutifully making notations about various factors in this case, likely filling in one blank, then another, and then, perhaps as you may have recently done when filling out your IRS 1040 Form, they dutifully total up lines 1 & 2 , and then check the appropriate box indicating whether or not the filled in blanks meet the requirements for option A (Life), or option B (Death). 'There now, that's done. Next case.'
The concerns of the hospital and the helthcare system which a great many of Britain's people had clamored for, is for their well being. Systems have been drawn up and written down. Decisions are made according to its rules, far away in time and place from the human beings involved, so that totalling up lines 1 & 2 is all that will really matter, once the machine rolls around to the here and now. What is important to them, they've surely told themselves, is that their needs will be attended to, that's the important thing, so important in fact, that the results of lines 1 & 2 just might require the system to kill you, or your baby, for the greater good, in order for the NHS to ensure your comfort, dignity and privacy. And after all, such things are what's really important, right?
It is when we turn away from what is real, true and important, to favor the things we urgently desire, and place decisions about them outside of the active concerns of human hands, that a people end up cheerfully bargaining away the last vestiges of the Individual Rights inherent in their humanity. We will do so in return for a guarantee of those needful things, and we will do so, will demand to do so, because the efficiency of that system is 'trusted' to be just the common sense thing that all 'modern industrial societies' need to provide for their people - and that somehow it will be magically able to do so. That is exactly what is being put in place when, as Kira Davis put it :
"... a nation votes for socialist healthcare they are agreeing to let the government treat their lives as algorithms..."People, like the healer quoted above, had better prepare themselves for when those who're distributing 'needs' to 'the people!', will do so in a way that totals up the results of lines 1 & 2 for them, for in the world of socialized medicine, by necessity, people, their rights and responsibilities, are exchanged for those inhuman calculations that are more appropriate to balance sheets (and conveniently making "...it impossible to trace the uncontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives..." in order to satisfy the 'needs' of all. Once that system is put in place, those same people will enter into a world where they, their lives and their rights, will be exchanged for something very different. Kira concludes:
"Sadly, Alfie – and little Charlie Gard before him – is doomed to be the sacrificial lamb at the altars of pride and socialism.The reality is, that once you remove the bureaucratese, and the media, and the politics, then what will be revealed to you is that whichever mask you've chosen to mask reality with, that of banality, or of a fanged monstrosity, what has been laying under either disguise, is what you've been trying to hide from all along: Evil.
You will never convince me that this is right in any way. Never.
Because what this is… this is nothing short of real, actual, genuine evil."