Truthdig! - October 14, 2019

"Defying evil cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life or the natural world. It refuses to see anyone as superfluous. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t do this.”

Immanuel Kant coined the term “radical evil.” It was the privileging of one’s own interest over that of others, effectively reducing those around you to objects to be manipulated and used for your own ends. But Hannah Arendt, who also used the term “radical evil,” saw that it was worse than merely treating others as objects. Radical evil, she wrote, rendered vast numbers of people superfluous. They possessed no value at all. They were, once they could not be utilized by the powerful, discarded as human refuse.

We live in an age of radical evil. The architects of this evil are despoiling the earth and driving the human species toward extinction. They are stripping us of our most basic civil liberties and freedoms. They are orchestrating the growing social inequity, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a cabal of global oligarchs. They are destroying our democratic institutions, turning elected office into a system of legalized bribery, stacking our courts with judges who invert constitutional rights so that unlimited corporate money invested in political campaigns is disguised as the right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Their seizure of power has vomited up demagogues and con artists including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, each the distortion of a failed democracy. They are turning America’s poor communities into internal militarized colonies where police carry out lethal campaigns of terror and use the blunt instrument of mass incarceration as a tool of social control. They are waging endless wars in the Middle East and diverting half of all discretionary spending to a bloated military. They are placing the rights of the corporation above the rights of the citizen.

Arendt captured the radical evil of a corporate capitalism in which people are rendered superfluous—surplus labor as Karl Marx said—and pushed to the margins of society where they and their children are no longer considered to have value, value always determined by the amount of money produced and amassed. But as the Gospel of Luke reminds us, “what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” ...
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