Hannah Arendt was a 20th century Jewish philosopher whose family had to flee their home in Germany upon the rise of the Third Reich.  Years later, she witnessed the trial, in Jerusalem, of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust.

Eichmann, Arendt observed, wasn’t at all the monster that she expected to see.  His actions were monstrous, but he didn’t strike her as monstrous or wicked at all.  However, what Arendt did notice about Eichmann is that he exhibited “a curious, but quite authentic, inability to think.”

An inability to think.

It wasn’t that Eichmann was stupid or otherwise unintelligent.  Nor was it that he was literally or intrinsically incapable of thinking.  Rather, he had no inclination, no will, for critical thought.

However monstrous the deeds were, the doer was neither monstrous nor demonic, and the only specific characteristic one could detect in his past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.” 

Eichmann, Arendt continues,

“…functioned in the role of prominent war criminal as well as he had under the Nazi regime; he had not the slightest difficulty in accepting an entirely different set of rules. He knew that what he had once considered his duty was now called a crime, and he accepted this new code of judgment as if it were nothing but another language rule.”

Eichmann’s speech while on trial inspired Arendt to coin the expression, “the banality of evil.”  The latter is

“…no theory or doctrine but something quite factual, the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.” 

Ordinary people, Arendt contended, could become purveyors of wickedness, not because they necessarily subscribe to a false and malicious doctrine or belief system of some sort—they needn’t have any doctrine—but because they may possess an “extraordinary shallowness,” i.e. an inability to think.

She continues, remarking that Eichmann not only was guilty of “inconsistencies and flagrant contradictions” during his trial; he was not “bothered” by such contradictions. This is because he could think only in terms of stock phrases and clichés (today we could add “bumper sticker slogans” and “memes”).  Arendt explains why this is a problem:

“Cliches, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking attention which all events and facts arouse by virtue of their existence.”

Now, this in itself is not problematic, for if “we were responsive to this claim all the time, we would soon be exhausted.”

What distinguished Eichmann, though, is “that he clearly knew of no such claim at all.”

Whether through advertence or inadvertence, Eichmann didn’t recognize that thought that’s limited to what amounted to the memes of his day isn’t thoughtful.  Thoughtful people dare to think through the implications of the myriad of “standardized codes of expression and conduct,” recognizing that not only do they fail to do justice to the intricacies of reality; they must fail to do so, for, omitting as they do large swaths of the world, they tend to contradict one another.

This inability, this unwillingness, to think, Arendt suggested, is inseparable from evil doing.

“Is evil doing, not just the sins of omission but the sins of commission, possible in the absence of not merely ‘base motives’ (as the law calls it) but any motives at all, any particular prompting of interest or volition? Is wickedness, however we may define it, this being ‘determined to prove a villain,’ not a necessary condition for evil-doing?”

Simply put:

“Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining and reflecting upon whatever happens to come to pass, regardless of specific content and quite independent of results, could this activity be of such a nature that it ‘conditions’ men against evil-doing?”

The answer to Arendt’s question is a resounding “YES.”  And she is correct.

If ever proof was needed of this, we need only observe with our own eyes and ears the rise of The Flat-Curve Society.  On the show The Walking Dead, a virus has brought to fruition an apocalyptic scenario that reduces the dead to zombies who the living refer to as “walkers.”

The Flat-Curve Society consists of what we may refer to as “the Corona Walkers.”  With an eeriness the likes of which I don’t recall ever having seen in my nearly 48 years on this planet, the Corona Walkers, aching in desperation to “Flatten the Curve!” even at the expense of causing immeasurable suffering to untold millions of human beings both here in America and around the globe, increasingly resemble zombies.  Readers here know the beings to which I refer:

The Corona Walkers avoid, not just physical proximity with other human beings, but even eye contact, and now most have half of their faces covered with surgical masks. Nor do they speak much at all.

They basically cower in their homes—“Shelter in Place! Save Lives!”—and have ceased living.

And yet, the Walkers of the Flat-Curve Society, though they have Socially Distanced unto the point of their own social deaths, are indeed members of a herd.  They are, as their Leaders in Big Government and Big Media remind them with a phrase that could’ve come from one of Orwell’s dystopian novels, “apart together.”

Cut off from their churches, their families, their friends—yet apart together.

The Flat-Curve Society, if asked to identify itself, would have to give the same answer given by the demon who Jesus exorcised from a possessed man in Mark 5:1-20:

“My name is Legion, for we are many.”

The Corona Walkers are everywhere.  They are Legion.  They are many.

They are scary and, I fear, promise to become more irrational and, hence, scarier the longer their Leaders continue to spook them with tales of the Apocalypse.

Let me be blunt: The Flat-Curvers are no different than Eichmann as far their invincible mental conformism is concerned.  Like Eichmann, they too possess a curious, but quite authentic, inability to think.

Nor did Arendt understand herself to be limiting her characterization of Eichmann solely to Eichmann.  She was referring to a phenomenon, a phenomenon that—unfortunately, and as has become glaringly obvious to all who observe the Corona Walkers with a mixture of bemusement, incredulity, and, yes, horror—all too common.

The countless billboards and traffic signs on interstates and turnpikes flashing injunctions to “Stay at home!” and “Flatten the Curve!” express as unambiguously as can be for all with eyes to see “the curious, but quite authentic, inability to think” on the part of the Flat-Curvers.

Social distancing; Self-Isolation; Self-Quaranting; Stop the Spread; and, of course, Flatten the Curve!—these are the “clichés, stock phrases,” and “conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct” that immunize the Flat-Curvers against the “claims” on their “thinking attention” made by reality.

It is their inability to think through the propaganda with which their Leaders incessantly besiege them that has produced some concerning outcomes.

(1)Their inability to think has rendered them oblivious to the contradictions of their Leaders (Dr. Fauci, despite scaring the public with the claim that The Virus is ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu, quietly conceded in The New England Journal of Medicine, along with his co-author, Dr. Redfield, director of the CDC, that for all they know, it may have a mortality rate comparable to that of the .1% of seasonal influenza).

(2)Their inability to think has left them unaware of the world-distinguished epidemiologists, virologists, and other medical experts whose testimony have been conveniently omitted from the official narrative but who have been insisting from the outset that the hyper-fear mongering over COVID-19, grounded as it upon bogus assumptions, incomplete information, and falsehoods, is wholly unwarranted (A list of these specialists and their remarks can be found here).

(3)Their inability to think has consumed them with what Al Ridenhour, founder of the combative system, Warrior Flow, and his instructors at Warriors Way Combatives refer to as “irrational fear.”  While rational fear Master Al, echoing Plato, Aristotle, and most of the ancient and medieval thinkers who identified it with courage, recognizes as indispensable to keeping people safe, he never tires of insisting that irrational fear is an enemy to be surmounted.

Though everyone has their share of irrational fears, the objective should be to resist them, not indulge them.  The current situation, the Flat-Curve Society, supplies as instructive a lesson in irrational fear as any that any of us have had ever had, for it is an opportunity to witness irrational fear en masse. 

It is rational to fear getting sick.  It is irrational to fear it to the extent that one is willing to spare none of the major expenses listed above in order not to get sick.

But it is very rational for the rest of us to fear the Corona Walkers.

Edmund Burke had memorably remarked that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  His point here dovetails with that of Arendt’s in that both recognized that otherwise reasonably decent human beings, from fear of the repercussions of defying the Zeitgeist, can be responsible for the evil actions brought about by the evil dictates of indecent human beings in which they have acquiesced.

Otherwise reasonably decent human beings, that is, by virtue of their lack of courage to follow the Human Imperative to think, a command and a blessing from God, must share culpability for the evil that they’ve permitted.

Would the Flat-Curvers, in order to win The Corona War of 2020 (or is it a war in perpetuity, like “the War on Terror?”), permit, maybe even encourage, the executions of those who they judge to be guilty of violating Social Distancing protocols?

This may sound like a stretch, but consider that just a month or so ago, no one could’ve imagined that but so many weeks later, a whole new vocabulary—Social Distancing, Flatten the Curve, Stop the Spread, Save Lives!—would not only emerge, but monopolize, our political discourse.

In order to prevent people from catching what amounts to a flu, consider what has happened over a period of just a few weeks (admittedly, a period that has seemed like an eternity):

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that Americans would so readily, eagerly, relinquish their Constitutional rights.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that Americans would demand that millions upon millions of their fellow Americans be forced out of their jobs, into debt, and, in the case of business owners who have been coerced to shutter their doors, out of their very livelihoods.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that Americans would demand that the dreams of millions and millions of their fellow Americans be shattered.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that Americans would be complicit in and, more distressingly, cheer on the establishment of hotlines to police for neighbors (and relatives?) to use in order to report those who they think are not observing Social Distancing guidelines.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that Americans would allow, and endorse, the harassing, shaming, physically attacking, arresting, and even killing of their fellow Americans who they, or the authorities, charge with being in violation of Social Distancing guidelines.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that just a few weeks later, Americans would bombard their local grocery stores, transforming them into something like the equivalent of Great Depression-era soup kitchens: Because of their determination to hoard items, throngs of people line up outside of their supermarkets waiting for the doors to open.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Yet even the soup kitchens of the 1930s, I’m pretty sure, didn’t require the presence of armed security officers as our grocery stores now require—another thing that no one just a few weeks ago could’ve imagined.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined that churches would be closed for Easter—and that millions of Americans, including American Christians and church leaders, would be fine with this.

Flatten the Curve! Stay at Home! Save Lives!

To summarize the foregoing, the point, ultimately, is this:

Just a few weeks ago, no one could’ve imagined the explosion of The Flat-Curve Society.

This being said, if, by the lights of the Flat-Curvers, Victory over The Virus is of categorical importance, then is it really such a stretch to think that, given the injection of just a little more fear and panic, they would support the execution of dissidents and resistors, i.e. those who challenge the dominant line that The Virus is the second coming of The Black Plague whose defeat demands the sacrifice of every good for which generations have fought and died?

Perhaps, hopefully, even they would draw the line there.   Yet what I’ve been at pains to show here is that they have already gone, and at neck-breaking speed, much further than any liberty-loving, truth-seeking, God-fearing American could’ve genuinely thought as recently as one month ago.

The Corona Walkers are more frightening than the zombies on The Walking Dead. The zombies will just eat the living.  The Corona Walkers, if they have their way, will kill their victims by a thousand cuts, destroying their dreams; driving them from their homes, their jobs, their livelihoods; isolating them from their friends, family members, religious communities, neighbors; saddling them with debt, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, criminal records, fines, and, yes, suicidal thoughts.

The study of the harms—and they will prove to be immense in both number and degree—brought about by The Flat-Curve Society and its “curious, but authentic, inability to think” has yet to be done.  But I suspect that there will be numerous such studies that, hopefully, will receive the attention needed to dissolve the Society and prevent it from rearing its ugly head when the opportunism of Big Government and Big Media leads to the declaration of the next incarnation of the Black Plague.

As for the rest of us who have been turned into dissidents for daring to leave our homes:

We must never forget.









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