True evil is ordinary people, our neighbors, performing horrific acts under the delusion that they are being patriotic. Hannah Arendt’s phrase “the banality of evil” is something every school child should be taught. Evil is not some stupid cartoon character or fictional devil; evil is us, being stupid and vile, because some other stupid and vile person has managed to convince us that being stupid and vile is the smart thing to do.
Here’s the problem: nearly 43 million people believe quite sincerely that Trump is their salvation. These aren’t intelligent people, these aren’t educated people. They are what used to be called “the underclass.” But in a system of governance that requires no demonstration of competence in either those standing for election or those voting for candidates, it is inevitable that democracy always ends in tyranny. Plato was very clear about this 2,500 years ago and in our folly and hubris we imagined our situation would magically be different.
Trump is merely one example of the wave of mindless populism that is tearing civilization apart around the entire world. Brexit in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Babis in the Czech Republic, Orban in Hungary, Le Pen in France (likely the next President there), Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, AfD in Germany, PiS in Poland, Salvini in Italy… the list goes on and on. Democracy has led us to disaster and unfortunately there’s no way back. Hence we shall all be seeing a great deal more evil in the world and it will be our neighbors and family members who will be embodying it. Just as happened in Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Mobuto’s Zaire… the list goes on and on.
“We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”