While a recent movie documenting her life accompanied by media covering has drawn some attention, Hannah Arendt’s work still remains largely underappreciated. I believe that if we would collectively learn from her, then we might solve some of the most pressing issues of global scale.
Recent published articles prove that even intellectual people didn’t get Hannah Arendt’s point from Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, a work in which she was analysing life and the cruel actions of Adolf Eichmann. Blindness and the inability to differentiate between facts and their own identity (many of those who criticised the loudest were Jewish) made it impossible for the audience to see what Hannah Arendt aimed at, that is, finding an explanation to an extremely pitiable tragedy which would enable us as a society to learn from it for the future. Instead of getting her lesson, the masses condemned her work accusing Arendt for lacking empathy for the victims.
Fifty years later, as a society we aren’t any wiser. Each of us prefers to think as being a victim rather than to make a change: we need to rush to work, we need to have a SUV to protect our offspring in case of accident, we need to provide our kids with the latest iPhone, because everyone has it, and of course “why should we abstain from doing something if nobody else does?” Later is one of my “favourites” of all excuses to take action against overconsumption. I remember well how even twenty years ago it drove me mad when my Swiss colleagues claimed that “it is useless if Switzerland tries to be green. Being such a small country surrounded by big polluters (sic!) we won’t change anything if only we care. If everyone was as good as we were, then we needn’t worry.” Indeed. Switzerland is one of the nations that didn’t even meet its very unambitious target of the first period of the Kyoto Protocol.
As complex as it is in terms of effects, impacts and feedbacks, anthropogenic climate change is quite trivial in its cause: overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources and wrong attitudes (all by humans) account not only for 99 but a full 100% of it. We have been warned of climate change and possible consequences as early as in the 1970s. In the meantime more than 97% of scientific experts agree on the facts of climate change and a large body of literature is available to read about the harm it will do. Some of us have even suffered first consequences it in recent years. Yet, we don’t do much to change it.
Ah you do? Then I’m sorry. Maybe you are an exception, because what I observe is that every day there are more cars on the road, more ACs running at full speed and more food being thrown away. I further learn that global energy demand will increase by as much as 56% in 2040, while 80% of that energy will still come from fossil fuels! For a long time it has been acknowledged that GDP is a bad means to measure progress, because it only accounts for progress in economic terms, which in turn is enhancing the problem of climate change. Alternatives to the GDP as an indicator of progress have been suggested for decades. Yet, reality didn’t change. While “awarding” economies for increased GDP, we motivate them to pollute further.
The banality of evil as described by Hannah Arendt lives from the fact that we do what we know is wrong (and eventually lethal), but because we think that we are not to blame for it (being only part and hence victim of the system) and because nobody is holding us responsible for it, we do it anyway. We all know that there will be more misery but as long as we enjoy what we are doing, we needn’t feel bad about its consequences, do we?
Maybe we could answer the question with one of my favourite quotes from Hannah Arendt. It was her answer to the question of whether we should judge or not: “Of course we should judge. In fact, we should judge vehemently.” As said above, there is a lot we could have learned from her.
 Various countries report that as much as 50% of food we buy goes to waste without being consumed, a large part of it not even being removed from the package to check if it was still good. See world , UK , USA or Switzerland.