Monthly Archives: August 2019

The Anger

Unfocused anger seeps into one’s bones. It’s like acid.

It’s hard to not feel a sense of hate against unfeeling bureaucracy and all its works. Within it, those who make it work and support its ‘legality’ whilst ignoring justice or human feeling.

Yes, this happening today.

It is as bad as it was back in the 1940’s, though the end product is not death camps. Yet the process is the same. A disconnect of human feeling from human life, to the extent that a person becomes a disposable object.

Consider Hannah Arendt and Adolf Eichmann. She went to Israel to observe the trial of one of Nazi Germany’s greatest ‘monsters’. The man who was the King Pin in the Endlosung der Judenfrage. He organised the logistics, set up the timetables, managed the staff at the camps, evaluated the project for quality and output, met his targets, recorded his sums and totals, disciplined those who failed in their tasks (not the murderers of the Jews, but those who stole from the Reich or were corrupt in their work), and liaised with international state facilities to insure that inputs were maintained.

Arendt found not a raving lunatic, but a classic bureaucrat. A man who was totally sane and totally lacking in any identification with anything other than the work he had been set. He was loyal, hard working, efficient, self-starting, operated to tight timetables, a forceful manager, a team player… indeed, everything that the state could need in a bureaucratic managerialist. From his point of view, he was just doing what he had been told by a legitimate superior. He was following the rules.

Arendt was shocked that such a prosaic and ‘grey’ little man could be one of the chief authors of such a crime. The epitome of the faceless office worker. Not the sneering villain she had expected.

Now, I’d say there was a lesson here. Remembering the Holocaust is not simply about the sentiments of disgust and sorrow at what happened to those millions of people, but in learning something from the act of memory.

What is the lesson? That people like Eichmann still exist, and operate in bureaucracies around the world. They very rarely send people to their deaths in gas chambers these days. But they do it other ways: by putting them into poverty, or on the streets, or into mental despair, or to a long slow descent into misery.

And they don’t care.
For them, it’s just a job.
How can they be doing wrong, when they’re just following the rules?
Know anyone like that?

That’s where the anger comes from.