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111. ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΠΕΤΑΙΝ ΣΤΗΝ ΛΕΠΕΝ, 2015



111. ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΠΕΤΑΙΝ ΣΤΗΝ ΛΕΠΕΝ
      Η αναφορά στον φασισμό παραπέμπει συνήθως στην Ιταλία και  την Γερμανία του μεσοπολέμου. Παραβλέπουμε έτσι το μεγαλύτερο βάθος και πλάτος που παρουσιάζει ο ιστορικός Γαλλικός φασισμός (ως «ουλτρασισμός», «μπουλανζισμός», «πεταινισμός» κλπ).
      Η Γαλλία είναι η πατρίδα της επανάστασης αλλά και της αντεπανάστασης. Όπως ξέρουμε, οι όροι της σύγχρονης πολιτικής μας ταξινόμησης, "αριστερά", "δεξιά", προέρχονται από την περίοδο της Γαλλικής Επανάστασης και από τον τρόπο με τον οποίον οι βουλευτές κάθισαν στα έδρανα της Εθνοσυνέλευσης του 1789. (Οι «αριστεροί», δηλαδή οι φίλοι της επανάστασης, αριστερά της αιθούσης, οι «δεξιοί», δηλαδή οι εχθροί της επανάστασης, δεξιά.)
      Μετά την ατυχή κατάληξη της Γαλλικής Επανάστασης, και αφού αυτή πρόλαβε να θέσει για πρώτη φορά το αίτημα της συμμετοχής του λαού στα πολιτικά πράγματα, ήλθε η περίοδος της Παλινόρθωσης. Στο προσκήνιο ξαναμπήκαν οι οπαδοί του παλαιού βασιλικού καθεστώτος, επί το αυστηρότερον τώρα (ως ultra-royalists). Οι αυτοεξόριστοι (εμιγκρέδες), αφού πρώτα συμμάχησαν με τους εισβολείς κατά της πατρίδας τους, επέστρεψαν αποφασισμένοι να υπερακοντίσουν ακόμη και την θέληση του βασιλέως. Θα ακολουθούσαν εξεγέρσεις, αυτοκρατορικά μεγαλεία, νίκες, συντριβές, ρεβανσισμός, αντι-σημιτισμός, η υπόθεση Ντρέυφους, οι φασιστικές λίγκες του μεσοπολέμου, το καθεστώς των δωσιλόγων του Βισύ, οι Γάλλοι ναζί του κατεχομένου από τους Γερμανούς Παρισιού, η άγρια φυγή από την Ινδοκίνα, τα στρατιωτικά πραξικοπήματα της «Γαλλικής Αλγερίας», τα φρικτά μαζικά βασανιστήρια εκ μέρους των Γάλλων αποικιοκρατών έναντι των αποικιοκρατουμένων (με αντίστοιχες αγριότητες να διαπράττονται και αντιστρόφως) και η συμμετοχή σε αυτά του νεαρού τότε λεγεωνάριου Ζαν Μαρί Λε Πεν.
      Η Γαλλική άκρα δεξιά έχει, σε όλα τούτα τα χρόνια, ισχυρά κοινά σημεία που μας επιτρέπουν να κατανοήσουμε το φαινόμενο. Η αντεπανάσταση ετεροπροσδιορίζεται αρνητικά από την επανάσταση. Οι Γάλλοι πρωτο-φασίστες, φασίστες και μετα-φασίστες απορρίπτουν πάντα τον οικουμενισμό των δικαιωμάτων. Δεν είμαστε όλοι ίδιοι. Υπάρχουν άνθρωποι και «υπάνθρωποι». Υπό το πρόσχημα ενός άλλοτε εκλεκτικού άλλοτε τυχοδιωκτικού εθνικισμού, γίνεται επίκληση της «παράδοσης», της «εκκλησίας», του «στρατού» και βεβαίως της ανισότητας μεταξύ φύλων και φυλών.
      Ο αυτο-εξόριστος φιλόσοφος της αντεπανάστασης, Joseph de Maistre, ήδη από τα χρόνια εκείνα, βάλλει κατά της φιλοσοφίας του ορθού λόγου, πάνω στην οποία βάσισε η επανάσταση τα οικουμενικά αιτήματα της ελευθερίας, της ισότητας και της αδελφοσύνης. Λέει ο  de Maistre: «Αποστολή ενός θεσμού είναι να είναι αυταρχικός, εξουσιαστικός. Αποστολή μιας κυβέρνησης είναι να κυβερνά». (Considerations on France, 1797).
      Η Μαρίν Λε Πεν, από το 2011, έτος ανάληψης της αρχηγίας του Εθνικού Μετώπου από την ίδια, έχει καταβάλει φιλότιμες προσπάθειες να «απο-δαιμονοποιήσει» και «κανονικοποιήσει» το κόμμα αναίδειας, ασέβειας και ύβρεων που δημιούργησε, το 1972, ο πατέρας της. Ο Ζαν Μαρί Λε Πεν, παίζοντας επί χρόνια και με επιτυχία τον ρόλο του δημόσιου προβοκάτορα της Πέμπτης Γαλλικής Δημοκρατίας, δεν επεδίωξε ποτέ ειλικρινά την εξουσία. Η κόρη Λε Πεν, όμως, εν όψει των προεδρικών εκλογών του 2017, την επιδιώκει. Προσεταιρίζεται τον μέσο ανασφαλή ψηφοφόρο με λείο λόγο και με όρους σύγχρονου πολιτικού μάρκετινγκ. Καταθέτει για πρώτη φορά επεξεργασμένο οικονομικό πρόγραμμα. 
      Η αντεπανάσταση κρύβεται πλέον πίσω από προσεγμένες λέξεις νέων ανθρώπων ενός νέου επιτελείου. Σε μια εποχή που η επανάσταση έχει αποτραβηχτεί από τα εγκόσμια, η αντεπανάσταση μόνη, χωρίς αντίπαλο, δεν έχει κανένα λόγο να εκτίθεται με την πλήρη αποκάλυψη του πραγματικού κατα-σκότεινου προσώπου της!
Ενημέρωση 20/12/2015
Αυγή 18/12/2015

110. THE BANALITY OF EVIL, 2015



THE BANALITY OF EVIL

Εισήγηση στο Συνέδριο της Περιφ. Ιονίων Νήσων με θέμα «Το Φασιστικό Φαινόμενο»
Κέρκυρα, 7 και 8 Νοεμβρίου 2015

      What and whence the evil? Is the evil something deeper or is it something superficial, something that is characterized by lack of thought and judgment? Is the evil something radical or is it something banal, something that is found around us and that does not frighten us  in a repugnant, bestial, monstrous form?
      12 years separate the Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951, from the Banality of Evil, 1963. The spiritual steps of (German-Jewish and subsequently American-Jewish) Hannah Arendt, in these 12 years, are distinguished by a consistent opinion but also by an important shift. The consistent opinion: totalitarianism intervenes in each aspect of the life of individuals, once it has isolated them in their most desperate and depressing individuality. The isolated, morally neutralized individual eventually seeks the adhesion to totalitarianism at all costs in order for his miserable life to acquire a meaning. Totalitarianism produces the evil and simultaneously is nourished by the evil. The new opinion: the evil is banal and outrageously superficial. It is not deep and radical as we once thought.
       The essential condition for the success of a totalitarian system is, as a matter of fact, the excluded in his miserable loneliness Eichmann who will do everything, without any qualms, in order to belong to a pompous movement and a terribly effective system. Eichmann, however, is not the monster. Eichmann seems to be an "ordinary" person. He can send millions of Jews to the crematoria of the concentration camps, but what he does is apply the laws of men and indeed with exceptional assiduity and order. He becomes the expert in the extermination of Jews, but not because of any deeper hate sentiments against them. Why was he found, he wondered, in the dock in Jerusalem in 1961? Wasn't he the expert of the experts, the most excellent of the excellent in a "technical" question who would find either the "political solution" or the "final solution" - that is to say either the organized immigration to Palestine or the physical extermination?
     During the whole four-month trial, Eichmann tried to convince judges that he was not guilty of the official charges that attributed "base" motives to him . He would have conscious self-control of base motives only if he did not execute the work that had been assigned to him. He was not an anti-Semite even if he led innumerable little Jews to certain death. Eichmann was not characterized by fanaticism and malice. To support this, he could invoke his confirmed long collaboration with leaders of the Zionist movement, before the beginning of the war, aiming at the orderly transfer of Jews to Palestine (f.e. Kastner affair and trial in Israel - 1950s).      
      Eichmann was a "reasonable" person.[1] No one, neither the judges, nor his legal defense, believed his references to this banal conscious activity that appears as the unique criterion for the assigned to him duty.[2]
      The direct and enraged reaction of the international Jewish community toward Arendt, after the publication of Banality of Evil, in 1963, has to do, firstly, with the direct and courageous mention of the responsibilities and the passive and fatal role of many leaders of the European Jewish communities for the duration of the Nazi and Holocaust period. As far as this is concerned, Arendt is corroborated by the testimonies and historical research. However, this has also to do with a big misunderstanding. The extreme evil  (of the extreme Auschwitz ) is no more described as deep, perverted and sadistic. It took the form of a "normality", a "regularity". However,  the "normality" and "regularity", reinforced by the lack of thought and judgment, were not less guilty of the big crime. It was merely a case of another indictment.
      Arendt followed the long trial of Eichmann unfailingly, and what she saw, and which she wrote about in the Banality of Evil was the opposite of what somebody would imagine if they have demonized the evil in advance, expecting the evil to take assume the form of the biblical snake. Of course, we should say that Arendt never wrote that, besides the cynically "normal" Eichmann, no other paranoid types of Nazi torturers existed. She addressed however a behavior that should not elude the analysts of the political phenomenon of Nazism. Without these "normal" and "assiduous" ones, there is no totalitarianism, but a tyranny, with the known - be it small - degrees of freedom in tyranny.  
      In totalitarianism, there is no such thing as freedom. In totalitarianism the body and thought are controlled to such an extent, that each hope collapses before it was even born. The body and the thought of Eichmann had absolutely surrendered to the Nazi power system from the very first command. For Arendt, the terrible shadow of totalitarianism consists precisely in the fact that all persons here appear to be equally superficial, equally deprived of a particular personality, equally prone to orders by their hierarchically superiors, independently of any demerits of the order itself. Thought and judgment are not present anymore.
      For the lack of thought and judgment, which the political philosopher attributes to the Nazi war criminal, she proposes an exceptionally interesting "literature" analysis on the structure of his reasoning and speech in the court. The defendant constantly speaks using cliché-phrases (of German-Nazi origin), that is to say, he speaks using somebody else’s mouth and brain. Arendt, being a native speaker of German, realizes the difficulty for translators. Eichmann believes that he becomes understood, while in fact he does not.
What he said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others.(Arendt 1965/1963, p.51.)
In addition, the mention of those few people who differentiated themselves from the regime is of particular interest. They did that not only risking their lives, but also judging with criteria and values that had been banished by the Nazi totalitarianism:
Those few who were still able to tell right from wrong went really only by their own judgments, and they did so freely; there were no rules to be abided by, under which the particular cases with which they were confronted could be subsumed. They had to decide each instance as it arose, because no rules existed for the unprecedented. (Arendt 1965/1963, p.295.)
      In a society of concentration camps, the essential condition in order for you to judge is to think in ways other than clichés and also to be able to think circumventing the existing rules.
      The biggest crime of the 20th century is not the one perpetrated by an organized gang of bloodthirsty politicians or military-men, who by being bloodthirsty are easily discerned and recognized. The biggest crime of the 20th century is the one perpetrated by the very many normal persons who simply did their "job".
      If everything is about organization, operation, "work", "legality", then why was Eichmann tried and convicted in Jerusalem? The court in Jerusalem never set such a question. It did not deal with the banal evil of the many, very many, people who contributed to the success of the most hideous undertaking that was ever carried out on earth.     
      The court pronounced Eichmann the absolute evil, the demon, the snake, satisfying the society of Israel, that, at the time, wanted to see the snake alive and then dead, without any need to explain the details of the mass mental activities of Nazism. The truth, of course, is that the 112 witnesses, who appeared in court, testified to their unspeakable hardships in the concentration camps; they were those that for the first time, sixteen years after the end of the war, liberated the voices of the survivors, letting them speak publicly for what still remained concealed and unhealed. The trial was recorded for television and was broadcast everywhere and, today, thanks to the Internet and YouTube, we can watch the expressionless and occasionally surprised Eichmann, behind the protective glass cubicle, as well the witnesses, one after another, baring  their irreparably wounded soul, stumbling, fainting, bursting out. The trial from its start had taken - and as the relative statement of Ben Gurion, the historic leader of Israel, went - a pedagogical and educational character for the new generation of Israelis and Jews around the world. Everyone should find out.[3]
      The most enraged criticism against Arendt finally came from an old friend from their common years in Germany, Gershom Scholem, scholar of Jewish mysticism, with particular influence on the letters and the affairs of Israel and the Jewish diaspora. In the through- open- letters conflict of two former friends, and following  Scholem’s characterization of the "banality of evil" as a cheap catchphrase, a far cry from the deep and "radical" evil of the Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt gave the following answer:
You are quite right: I changed my mind and do no longer speak of "radical evil"...  It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never "radical", that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is "thought-defying"", as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its "banality". Only the good has depth and can be radical. (Villa 1999, p. 55.).
      In 1996, in the United States, there appeared Hitler's Willing Executioners. A young Jewish American historian, Daniel Goldhagen, after researching the Nazi files and archives was led to a conclusion that would once more upset the German conscience and would awake its known nightmares. Only Germany could have committed the Holocaust! The German culture, imbued with centuries of hatred against the Jews, was the one that owing to its military strength would almost inevitably lead to the big crime of the 20th century. The whole German society participated in the evil, all its parts, each one of their own accord, and not because of fear or pressure from above. There were a lot of recorded cases when the executioners had the opportunity to avoid the implementation of an order for mass slaughter, and however the order would be executed with indescribable eagerness and ferocity as well. The executioners were not facing humans, but only "subhumans". Never, for the duration of the Holocaust, was scarcity of "willing" people for the implementation of even the most immoral orders observed. No, the evil is not superficial and banal, as it was claimed by Arendt. It has, according to Goldhagen’s opinion, the depth of centuries of hate. The Jewish victims of the Holocaust were 6 million and they would have been more if Germany had not been defeated.     
      Daniel Goldhagen was answering in this way to in the Ordinary Men of the Reserve Police Battalion 101, the 1992 book of the American historian of the Holocaust, Christopher Browning. Browning, following Arendt’s line, presented the executioners of the Nazi occupying force in Poland as "ordinary" persons that proceeded to their barbaric actions “unwillingly”. They simply did their "job", regardless of how dirty or immoral it was.
      The origins of the evil has preoccupied humans, aphoristically or synthetically, simply or dramatically and tragically, since the time of the Original Sin. Between the functionalism  of Arendt and the cultural interpretation of Goldhagen, there are combinational versions that equally concern the evil. The evil, that overflows the mouth of the Fuehrer (or neo-Fuehrer) in a hysterical speech to a crowd, is more easily detectable and combatable. What is difficult to be detected and combated is the history of the systematic cultivation of hatred that at some point will be turned into mass hysteria. On the other hand, the evil, which just like mould spreads over the surface of society, is recognized as evil only by thinking people. Without this thinking, mould can strike us even as a decorative mushroom and it could be praised and applauded. Personally, I believe that, when we refer to totalitarianism as the political system of absolute power on the spirit and the soul of a human, then the first question to which we should turn our attention is that of mould as a decorative mushroom: the thoughtlessness and the thoughtless administration of "work", that is to say, the banal evil of Arendt.[4]
      The first novel of the prolific German writer, Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum, was published in 1959, fourteen years after the German defeat; a punch in the stomach of his compatriots. The Grass was 32 years old and if he had died then (and not in 2015, at the age of 88), he would still be considered as the most important post-war writer of the country precisely for this reason: it forced the silent Germans of that period, the direct participants in atrocities a few years ago, to speak, to react at last. They appeared to be watching the new economic take-off without speaking, without self-criticism for the direct past, without guilt. As if Auschwitz had never existed.
      We know, from polls organized by the Americans, and which were conducted in post-war Germany, that the very big majority of the Germans continued to feel sympathy for Hitler. The Germans of the period resembled therefore the central hero-narrator of Grass, Oscar, who denied to grow physically, maintaining, however, certain intellectual if fully curious natural possibilities. It was the sense of rhythm in the drum that allowed him to play in circuses and sometimes in jazz groups; but it was also his singular reedy voice that allowed him to break glasses and crystals. Oscar spent  the years before, during and after the war in Germany as the man who refuses to participate in the world of adults, the man who refuses to undertake the responsibilities of adults. Soon, however, he realized that this refusal did not exempt him from the burden of permanent dangers and in order for him to survive he employed the most unearthly, even criminal, ways. In the end, found guilty of murder, ending up in a psychiatric asylum, he tells us about his life. The symbolisms of the rhythmical drum, the broken crystals, the juvenility, the asylum are obvious to whoever knew Nazi Germany.
      Although Grass wrote poetry, breaking the known principle of Adorno -"after Auschwitz there is no poetry!"- his poetry could not be the poetry that we knew:
    
Nursery Rhyme

Who laughs here, who has laughed?
Here we have ceased to laugh.
To laugh here now is treason.
The laugher has a reason.

Who weeps here, who has wept?
Here weeping is inept.
To weep here now means too
a reason so to do.

Who speaks here or keeps mum?
Here we denounce the dumb.
To speak here is to hide
deep reasons kept inside.

-----------------------------------
ΒΙΒΛΙΟΓΡΑΦΙΑ:
Arendt, H., 1976/1951. The Origins of Totalitarianism. London: Α Harvest Book.
Arendt, H., 1965/1963. Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil. N.Y.: Viking Press
Arendt, H., 1978/1975. The Life of The Mind. N.Y.: Α Harvest Book.
Browning, Ch., 1996/1992, Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. London: Penguin.
Reich, W., 1946/1933. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. N.Y.: Orgone Institute Press.
Goldhagen, D., 1996. Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf.
Grass, G., 2009/1959. The Tin Drum. N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Grass, G., 1999. Novemberland. Selected Poems 1956-1993. N.Y.: Harcourt Brace.
Villa, D.R., 1999. Politics, Philosophy, Terror. Essays on the Thought of Hannah Arendt. Princeton:  Princeton University Press.


[1] One of the 6 psychiatrists that examined him declared emphatically that the defendant remained more normal than him himself.   
[2] In spite of the studious defendant’s mention, at some point during the trial, of Kant’s categorical imperative! (overlooking, of course, the basic condition of the Kantian categorical imperative which sees the person as a goal and never as a means).
[3] We should not, in such a concise report, omit the important work on the mass psychology of fascism and Nazism that was presented, as  early as 1933, by Wilhelm Reich. Timely and with more clarity than anyone else, this ambiguous and surely wronged Austrian psychoanalyst showed the gradual and systematic trivialization of the human in Nazi Germany, the "little-man" that constituted the founding stone of the totalitarian system, among sentiments of fear, inability, awe, identification with Fuehrer, and aggressive overcompensation of the personality's void.
[4] Arendt must be credited with the systematic effort, unique in such intensity in the 1950s, to highlight, as the main topic of the political theory of the period, the roots of evil, the deeper causes of totalitarianism. If somebody judges the questions posed in her rich work but also the (semi-finished), Life of the Mind, that was published after her death, it becomes evident that the thought, the judgment, the absence of thought and judgment are what the political philosopher seeks as the main sources of ability or inability to deter the annihilation. Returning to the case of the banality of evil, she tells us: "It was this absence of thinking that awakened my interest. Is evil-doing… possible in default of not just 'base motives' but of any motives whatever… Might the problem of good and evil, our faculty for telling right from wrong be connected with our faculty of thought?" (Arendt 1978/1975,  v.1,p.4–5.)