There’s one thing that I’m scared of: being capable of evil without wanting to be. I rarely hurt a friend deliberately, but I still do it incessantly despite my good intentions. I also don’t voluntarily create addictions for myself, but I can end up becoming dependent upon something or caving into one desire or another. And it’s only when I wake up, feeling less than my best and say to myself with disbelief, a posteriori: ‘Why on earth did I do that?’

But the one thing that really scares me is the prospect of collectively creating political evil without wanting to. It’s terrifying to think that the major political figures of the last century more or less had collective good at the top of their priority lists, and yet it’s possible that we too will fall down the spiral of shoddy politics without knowing it. Is it possible to be blind to the pain we cause and the fact that we become conscious of it too late?

Nobody deliberately seeks to destroy the Earth’s resources. No ideology is built around pillaging nature; no power expresses an explicit desire to do this. And yet we are capable of it. Nobody sets out to make public spaces ugly. And yet advertising boards have been placed left right and centre, to the point where we scarcely notice them. Nobody wants eugenics as a norm. And yet most of us would choose to abort a handicapped child rather than keep it. Jürgen Habermas evokes the possibility of “liberal eugenics”, a type of eugenics desired by no one, is unlikely to have political backing, but would be the fruit of individual behaviour. Individuals who want to achieve an individual sense of good are thereby capable of collectively committing political evil, one that affects society as a whole and influences the direction of human history.

Translated to english by Amy Clarke


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