Reversals: How Psychologising Evil Makes Private of the Political and Alleviates Responsibility and Judgement

In: I Want to Do Bad Things: Modern Interpretations of Evil
Author: Sophia Kanaouti

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This chapter examines the ways in which psychologising evil is used by the media in Greece at this point in historical time, the time of debt crisis. The coverage of opportunism in politics – hence political evil – uses psychologising evil to alleviate responsibility of the politicians who ‘were found with their hand in the jar’, so to speak. Thus, when politicians embezzled money that belonged to the state, they did so because they ‘were mentally ill’. On the other hand, the coverage of suicides of laypeople because of the crisis, which leave behind letters that accuse the political choices of the ruling elite who votes for higher and higher taxes, uses psychologising to intensify the responsibility of the people who commit suicide, to privatise their deed in spite of their claims to have been a political choice. If you are hurting the common good and are a politician, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the blame and bring it to society, for making you ill in the first place; if you are hurting yourself and you are a lay person, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the reasons for which you killed yourself, and make them private instead of political. The chapter uses Arendt, Castoriadis and Aristotle’s work to demonstrate how this kind of instrumental/mechanical thinking, which sees people as nothing more than a specimen of the species and takes choice away from them, is a ‘science of misanthropy’, and signals a ‘profound crisis’ in our judgement of what is right and what is wrong. Their work shows that evil is a-political because it refuses to acknowledge an other; psychologising this evil manipulates a moral issue to make it anything one wants, and makes morality a relative value where we need a clear judgement most: in regard with evil in politics.