03 March 2009

The banality of evil

I am at work, and have lent to my clients the film "City of God." I have not been watching, but attending to tasks of the evening. I went out at random and watched the following scene:
This taking place in the slums of Rio, two neighborhood leaders are vying for control. The first is up and coming and celebrated by the community for bringing a level of order to his neighborhood. The second is more laissez faire and controls a gang of prepubescents. These kids are running rampant, mugging and stealing from within the community etc., disrupting the so-called order of the first. Initially the second lead man is confronted, then a group of kids is caught in the act by the first and two are apprehended - approximate ages: 6 & 9. They must choose between being shot in the hand or the foot. The foot. But wait, this is a perfect opportunity for the leader to initiate his own prepubescent protege, aged maybe 11. He must kill one of the kids, and eventually shoots the older one.
I experienced an intense emotional distress watching this scene, that has not really subsided an hour later. Most likely and most viscerally because the youngest kid reminded me of one of mine. More cerebrally I am affected because I am aware that though this is a potentially fictional scene from a movie based on real events, it is possibly a representative of a real event and is a representation for uncountable similar events and worse. Regular events.

I have often contemplated the narrow path of civilization, where a deviation toward the lack of can create situations of horrific chaos in otherwise respectable people and deviation toward too much can create horrific bureaucratic indifferences at the hands of otherwise loving individuals. The more horrific events in human history have not occured because someone suddenly emptied all the maximum security prisons. They happened because something or someone found a switch that empowered many people to realize their always present negative potential, be it the dismal power trip of an anonymous desk job wherein submitting certain forms literally destroys people, or the lack of moral accountability that allows people to exlore and exercise their otherwise externally monitored feelings toward violence.

Read about how terrorists are not inhuman monsters and neither really are the people who tortured them at guantanamo bay here: http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/projects/the-guantanamo-testimonials-project/testimonies/testimonies-of-military-guards/testimony-of-brandon-neely

Jesus supposedly said "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

I am not prostelytizing here. I am not a Christian but this is my upbringing and my knowledge-base. What I see in that, is the potentiality in all of us. His larger point being that we are all "sinners" and the playing field is rather level. It is a freightening bundle of potentialities, from Godlike to daemeonic, but most horrible things come from the mediocre in between.


Quote of the day from a woman who's husband and children are vegetarians: "They tell me, 'Your body is a graveyard for dead animals,' " she says ruefully.

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