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The Banality of the Banality of Evil by Banksy

"We're better than that, even after we catch ourselves having been no better than that."

Seeing it probably won't enable you to know it, or even recognize its presence. Understanding lags considerably, and acceptance lags even further behind. Its presence will likely startle you. Its influence will already be draining your life force before you catch on that you're being had, or have already been had. Evil does not at first organize any occupation parade, no show of overwhelming force. It seems to first seep in, putrefying from the inside out, leaving the peach apparently pristine until you try to pick it up. It will seem banality incarnate, more banal even than that, imminently ignorable until it becomes nearly inexorable.

It will not be dismissed. You will need to forcefully escort it to the door, so it remains essential that you always remember where to locate the door and to remain mindful of the conditions necessitating removal.
It will try to seduce you away from your moral center, to persuasively inch you toward the abyss. It can only succeed by degrading you and the offer might at first seem reassuring, even just. Evil will masquerade as a greater good until you belatedly recognize the imbedded lesser god. By then, you might feel a sense of guilt from association. The taint will not yet be complete, but pervasive enough for your decency to feel complicit. At that moment, evil doubles down, providing some permission you might have never known you craved. Then, you'll cave (or not). Once you cave, not even bravery is likely to save you.

Stay skeptical, I say, I tell myself. Try to remain alert to the tinier tells. Grip harder onto that moral and ethical compass. No, we have not entered a new era. The rules of engagement have not changed. Your parents were not wrong just because you once upon a time decided to trust nobody over the age of thirty. Trust yourself now that you have come of age. Nobody's here to save you, but only because only you can save yourself in the event that you need saving. The kindly preacher will try to lure you into dark temptations and deliver you into the very arms of evil, promising eternal life for the meager price of temporal damnation in the form of possible dominion. Imagine how horrible it might actually be to have the power to lord over others. Consider just how degrading it might be if you got to judge anyone else's righteousness.

Evil seems to be the work humans ascribe to God rather than to themselves. Evil is not the violation of The Ten Commandments, but the self-important adjudication of them. Evil throws the first stone. Evil castigates the first sinner. Evil insists upon justice against rather than for. It seeks retribution rather than recovery. It wants advantage above all, to protect its position, and justifies others' misfortune as no more than their just deserts. It seeks no level playing field but higher ground. It reveres the memory of the mythical righteous Noah and prays for another great flood to wash away the sins of the world, by which they mean 'drown every remnant of humanity left in this world.' Evil is first self-destructive. It craves company. It speaks warmly of law and order while working tirelessly to pervert the law to encourage ever greater disorder. The more disorderly, the more powerful evil feels. The more justified it claims to be.

Fools are not being born at the rate of one per minute, but even the wisest among us can be fooled for a minute. The key to smothering the banality of the banality of evil might lie in catching ourselves being ourselves, mustering a short ounce of forgiveness for our complicity, then escorting that evil influence to the doorway leading back outside.

We're better than that, even after we catch ourselves having been no better than that.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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