– Hannah Arendt –


14th October 2014, Google made a doodle for Hannah Arendt – to wish her 108th birthday.

Hannah Arendt was famous for theories over political situations such as power, Totalitarian and the ideology of evil. 

Often in general perspective and understanding in human, evil is something absolute – the person who does evil must be evil from the very start like a devil, it was a long while before some evils being understood as necessary evil. The meaning itself could go either the person was forced to choose a certain evil in order to achieve greater good, or the person was forced to do the evil because of situations. For example, in some crime novels people commit crime to protect families.

Then her idea of evil came along, based on her observation toward the trial of a Nazi general call Eichmann – he was trialed for killing many Jewish people during the Second World War. The trial was set in Israel – the trial itself was problematic from the start, people’s attachment to Israel (the Jewish culture) would very likely affect their judgement on Eichmann. As for Arendt, she felt Eichmann gave up the ability to think or make judgement toward right and wrong, when “under the spell” from the sense of duty and anxieties over many matter. Especially the possible effect on family, or he or herself.

482806_324176741038791_1889206784_n (Cantonese version of Hannah Arendt’s theory)

While many people questioned her judgement and believe she was against Jews, I was wondering on the other hand what Bettina Stangneth (author of Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer) claimed about Eichmann. Why would he kill those innocent people, if he was able to think as Stangneth believed? This area reminded me of Erving Goffman, an American sociologist who claimed that “life is like a drama”, we human played different part. My argument was – if Eichmann was able to think as Stangneth believed, could he…separate himself between his home, his workplace and him at elsewhere. We acted differently to different areas and situations, like an actor or like someone with split personalities. This as a result, might not be a surprise of partly Eichmann’s detachment toward his killing..?

As a matter of thought, Arendt’s theory could partly explain certain actions/attitudes that different people take. Especially in some cases army’s blind faith or loyalty toward the high authorities, for example Kamikaze from Japan in Second World War.

Anyway, happy birthday Hannah Arendt, I wished I have met you. 🙂



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