|Tahrir Square July 3, 2013 (Getty Images)|
In the middle of all this, I went to the movies with a small group of friends. We saw Hannah Arendt, the 2012 German film directed by Margarethe von Trotta that focuses on the period in the political theorist’s life when she covered the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker, and the controversy her series of articles caused. It was at this time, in her articles, that she described Eichmann as an example of the banality of evil. She found him unexceptional, an ordinary human being, a “nobody,” as she called him, who was evil because he blindly followed orders. He didn’t think about the consequences of those orders, but focused on what he needed to do to follow them. He headed the Gestapo agency that handled the logistics of transporting Jews to concentration camps. His defense during his trial was that he simply followed Adolf Hitler’s orders, therefore, he was not guilty of the deaths of all the Jews he insured arrived at the camps. Arendt was shocked by what she called his “thoughtlessness,” his failure to think about the orders given him and what those orders meant. He was a bureaucrat who claimed to have no opinion or feelings against or for the Jews.
He was not alone, of course, in his “just following orders.” But how does this relate to the events in Egypt this past week?
The Egyptian people failed to blindly follow their President. They have watched their President’s performance over the last year and the majority has deemed him a failure. The Egyptian military chose to support the majority which I believe took a great deal of thought and weighing of options on the part of the military leaders. All these people, ordinary citizens and the military, thought about their government and then they acted of their own free will. Neither America nor Israel had anything to do with it. They refused to blindly follow the Muslim Brotherhood and its policies.
I worry about any belief system – religious, political, scientific or social – that does not tolerate challenge, doubt, questioning, or change. Leaders who require blind obedience and strict adherence to a belief system present a threat to human thought, imagination, creativity, and conscience. Adolf Hitler was just such a leader. He has a lot of company in human history. What I wonder now is: was Mohammed Morsi such a leader? Is the Muslim Brotherhood such an organization like the Taliban, for example? I think that’s for the Egyptians to answer for themselves. They may have dodged the beginning of a government that might eventually have denied democracy in Egypt. The people chose to act on their thoughts and consciences, unlike Adolf Eichmann who chose to just follow orders.