Friends, one of the more searing images burnt into my mind lately was watching as our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calmly sat with a group of Indigenous leaders for a meeting where he set down conditions for fruitful discussions for the future, all while a group of 14 Wet’suiwet’en Nation protesters were being brutally arrested by the RCMP, one a 72-year-old grandmother.
When these kinds of scenes become a normal part of our lives, it brings to mind the words of Hannah Arendt, a German Jew, who herself survived arrest by the Gestapo and fled her country. She wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, a must-read for anyone with any concern for human life and what consent really means.
To put this into context, Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust, which was the outright murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany, was made to stand trial in 1963 after his arrest in South America.
As a reporter covering the nine-month trial for the New Yorker, Arendt had a hard time getting a handle on Eichmann who came across as an ordinary, rather bland, bureaucrat.
Here was THE monster, who saw to the deaths of masses of humanity, continually pleading that he was just “doing his job.”
It wasn’t until she came up with her now famous concept of the ‘banality of evil,’ the absolute ordinary in extreme behaviour, that she was able to understand how single human beings can so thoughtlessly claim innocence.
What makes sense of this in our modern times is this practice of individual non-guilt plays into the hands of power and politics.
Nazi Germany at its most effective worked by those in control never letting on what was really going on. Indeed, for a good majority of Jews hauled off to the gas chambers, the truth never came to light until the very last moments of sheer and utter terror, behind locked doors, the gas doing its grim, final work.
The Nuremberg Trials, held shortly after World War II, took to task the Nazi leadership responsible for the horrors of the concentration camps.
From these trails arose the concept of promoting consent and denouncing coercion.
But although these legal principles are important to our lives, they are not always put into practice, as we see every day.
Over recent times, we as ordinary citizens have been intentionally numbed to any human feelings to the point where a dozen or so Indians are slammed into the frozen ground, all so we can make money at their expense.
The fact that these people never did sign away their lands doesn’t faze any of us.
There will come a point, though, when we will need to answer for our own lack of humanity, and sooner than we think. Mahsi, thank you.