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The Banality of Evil in EU Imposed Austerity

I never could quite get round the idea of Hannah Arendt?s ?Banality of Evil?. What exactly was it? How did it ?work?? Living through the worst case of EU imposed austerity that is Greece, the meaning becomes quite clear.

In his book ?The Triumph of the Market? Edward S. Herman says: ?The concept of the banality of evil came into prominence following the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.”

What has happened to the Greek economy and the Greek people throughout this so called ?bail out? process which is just an excuse to impose the harshest possible austerity has never before been achieved in peacetime nor under democratic order as the EU purports to be.

The pain, the misery, the pauperisation of a people is unprecedented in the history of democratic states during peacetime. Even the Great Depression of the 1930?s did not achieve as much. What kind of people have taken it upon themselves to cause such pain and yes, indeed, evil. Senseless evil.

We have people like say Poul Thomsen and Delia Velculescu of the IMF travelling first class to Athens staying at the Athens Hilton, taking a swim in the pool and enjoying the sun before ordaining that already below subsistence wages in Greece must be slashed further in order to meet the targets. Unemployment, poverty, destitution, over-taxation are unimportant since all that matters is meeting the targets. But even when the targets have been met as in reducing the deficit and reaching a primary surplus, it?s not enough since no slack must be given lest these wretches (a whole nation) lapse into complacency and fail to complete the so called reforms.

And there is the clue. The Targets. The Reforms. What are these and who decides on them? Why, the prevailing dogma that all these bureaucrats and apparatchiks serve. And, I would add, not only serve but get extremely well rewarded for serving.

They cannot see beyond their orders. As was Eichmann?s defense. I was just following orders. I did nothing on my own initiative. Should there ever be a Nuremburg for those who imposed such a lethal economic policy on most of the world but Europe in particular, the plea will be the same.

We had to achieve the targets. We were only acting in accordance with our brief. We were implementing the rules.

And it is true. Anyone who dared so much as question these rules was castigated, anathematized and subject to character assassination by these same bureaucrats who could not even countenance anything other than the sacred rules.

Though the evil perpetrated by all these bureaucrats does not reach the level of the gas chambers and extermination practiced by the German Reich, it is nonetheless evil and especially so in peacetime.

The sheer banality of evil has become clear for all to see in our generation as well. Ordinary, mediocre, obedient bureaucrats who just follow orders blindly and efficiently, totally oblivious of all the unnecessary pain, misery and anguish their actions are achieving*.


*I use the word ?achieving? purposely because that is how they perceive their evil work. As achievements.



  1. Marie-Christine Rhally

    October 30, 2016 at 15:18

    Which targets and which reforms is a good question. It is obvious to all that the country is in dire need of reform. The most important must be the paring down of the public sector. Far too many are dependent on the state for their livelihood.

    The main reason why Greeks put up with repeated failed bail-outs is because of the fear that if they don’t, the state will find itself unable to pay salaries and pensions to the majority of its citizens. Stasis pliromon is the dreaded bugbear. Never mind sky-high debt. Never mind extend and pretend. Give us our salaries tomorrow, and we’ll hide our heads in the sand.

    Who says we’re bankrupt?

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  6. Thanks for raising this question over here. We live to achieve the certain targets. We are only acting in accordance with our particular plans.

  7. The banality of evil is reflected in our daily lives. We can see the grave consequences that led to the poverty and decadence.

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