If Arendt is right and we are susceptible to radical evil because we cannot conceive of it, then the work of opposition must begin with learning to call it what it is. So here is a definition for our time: Radical evil is the manipulation of others’ perception of reality in order to increasingly concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few. It is a strategy to sow chaos in order to take advantage of the fear that chaos brings. It is the twisting of facts to frighten citizens into believing that their safety requires them to turn against others. And it is the collapsing of what is good and moral into what is rich and powerful, and ruthlessly using that wealth and that power to accrue more wealth and power.
That is why our efforts have to be aimed not at diagnosing Trump, but at stopping Trumpism. To call it madness is to try and bring it into the realm of the familiar and to miss the real threat that Trump embodies: He thrives in turmoil, he has an uncanny ability to bend the world to his reality, he is charismatic and ruthless, hypnotic and terrifying, and we, in this country, have rarely seen his like before. To fight Trumpism, we must actively expose and combat the overpowering reality he is trying to create—and we must abandon the comforting delusion that Trump is delusional.
Perhaps he’s as mad as a hatter;
Perhaps he’s just mean… what’s it matter?
(Though collusion’s suspected)
the man was elected
by our sisters and brothers… what’s sadder?
Lily Beth Baker, 5/19/17