Immanuel Kant coined the term “radical evil.” It was the privileging of one’s own interest over that of others, effectively reducing those around you to objects to be manipulated and used for your own ends. But Hannah Arendt, who also used the term “radical evil,” saw that it was worse than merely treating others as objects. Radical evil, she wrote, rendered vast numbers of people superfluous. They possessed no value at all. They were, once they could not be utilized by the powerful, discarded as human refuse.
We live in an age of radical evil. The architects of this evil are despoiling the earth and driving the human species toward extinction. They are stripping us of our most basic civil liberties and freedoms. They are orchestrating the growing social inequity, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a cabal of global oligarchs. They are destroying our democratic institutions, turning elected office into a system of legalized bribery, stacking our courts with judges who invert constitutional rights so that unlimited corporate money invested in political campaigns is disguised as the right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Their seizure of power has vomited up demagogues and con artists including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, each the distortion of a failed democracy. They are turning America’s poor communities into internal militarized colonies where police carry out lethal campaigns of terror and use the blunt instrument of mass incarceration as a tool of social control. They are waging endless wars in the Middle East and diverting half of all discretionary spending to a bloated military. They are placing the rights of the corporation above the rights of the citizen.