As a devoted reader of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, I have always found the idea of evil deities fascinating. The existence of supernatural entities that somehow control people’s minds could explain a lot of things that otherwise would seem to be impossible to understand. But Lovecraft’s horror stories are so over the top that they are not really scary. His evil Gods are comic book characters, clumsy creatures stumbling around. Not even the mighty Cthulhu and his minions are said to have ever directly intervened in human political decisions, limiting themselves to haunting dark and desolate places.
Yet, sometimes you have the sensation that something truly evil is moving in the world. Naomi Wolf expressed the idea most clearly in a recent post of hers.
I could not explain the way the Western world simply switched from being based at least overtly on values of human rights and decency, to values of death, exclusion and hatred, overnight, en masse — without reference to some metaphysical evil that goes above and beyond fallible, blundering human agency. …
Lately, I’ve been thinking along similar lines, and I even argued that worshiping the evil deity Baphomet could be a good idea for really nasty people who want to dominate the world. Overall, though, I think it is not the right explanation. No matter how inexplicable the rise of evil can be, it is still something that comes from inside us, not from the outside. Evil is us, eventually.
The recent release of the “Lockdown Files” supports this idea. We were mistreated by bureaucrats, not by the minions of evil deities. These files contain the messages sent and received by Matt Hancock, the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care during the lockdowns in Britain. In these messages, Hancock doesn’t sound evil. He just writes as if he cared only about himself, and his personal prestige. He wanted to “own the exit,” and he didn’t care about the British people, whom he evidently considered a band of morons.
Now, I have a stated policy that I call the “Grokking Strategy” that consists in listening to everyone and trusting no one. So, I am perfectly willing to consider the hypothesis that Hancock’s files are a psyop designed to divert the public’s attention away from the hidden forces that governed the reaction to the pandemic. On the whole, though, I think these files are genuine. The reason is that they match with other examples of the same kind. For instance, we recently saw similar leaks of messages sent and received by the Italian equivalent of Hancock, Mr. Roberto Speranza, Minister of Health of the Italian government during the lockdown period. We can’t swear on the authenticity of these leaked messages, but they fit with the personality of Mr. Speranza. Like Hancock, he was clearly trying to “own the exit.” In late 2020, he published an autobiographical book designed to show how he had been valiantly fighting the virus and eventually had succeeded in squashing it. The book was quietly removed from the market when it turned out that the pandemic was not over.
Speranza and Hancock are just examples of the attitude of many people who reach the top. They are psychopaths, caring only about themselves, unable to feel anything for other people. They have zero or nearly zero empathy. Hannah Arendt describes this attitude for Adolf Eichmann, the German war criminal executed in 1962.
“What he said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”
We find another example of this attitude with Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 and part of it up to 1945. For him, we have the equivalent of the leaked messages by Hancock and Speranza in the diary kept by his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, who acted as foreign minister up to 1943. In a post of mine I described how the diary tells us of a man who had lost all contact with reality. Mussolini had no friends, just lackeys. He wasn’t listening to anyone; he was giving orders. He was not asking questions; he was haranguing everyone else. He was not learning from his mistakes; they were always someone else’s fault. Worst of all, he had no respect for the life of the people he was supposed to rule. Just as an example, during a cold wave, he was rejoicing because “the weak die, and the race becomes stronger.” In 1943, Mussolini even ordered the execution of his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano. He didn’t care even about the members of his own family.
Yet, a whole nation followed this man into doing whatever he thought was to be done. Let’s skip the many disastrous strategic mistakes he made, and let’s just focus on one that was pure evil: the persecution of the Italian Jews. It started in the mid-1930s, and it was a crescendo of harassment and mistreatment. The “racial laws” were enacted in 1938, and Jews saw themselves fired from their jobs, forbidden to work, and many forced to exile. Jews could not be administrators or doorkeepers of houses inhabited by Aryans, dealers in valuables, photographers, sellers of books, children’s items, playing cards, and stationery. Jews were also forbidden to be licensed as amateur fishermen, to publish mortuary announcements, to include their names in telephone directories, to own and sell radios, and to join sports or recreational societies. They were forbidden even to play chess in chess clubs. Even the Italian “Science” was compact in condemning Jews as an inferior race on the basis of what was presented as a certain and undisputable set of data. See in the image the front cover of a 1938 Italian magazine: it is self-explanatory (“razza” means “race”).
(*) I have an idea about what could have happened in Mussolini’s head. It goes like this. First, there is no evidence that Mussolini had anti-semitic ideas for most of his political career. He never wrote anything about Jews, and even in his 1911 novel, the Cardinal’s lover, there is no trace of anti-semitism. Mussolini even had a Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti (1880-1961), an intellectual, artist, and writer, from when they met in Milano in 1911. But, in 1933, Mussolini took a younger woman as mistress, unceremoniously dumping the older Sarfatti. From then on, Mussolini started to encourage anti-semitism, aligning the Italian policy with the German one. Was the whole idea of persecuting the Jews a result of Mussolini’s personal dislike of his former Jewish lover? Who can say? If a butterfly can start a hurricane by flapping its wings, the killing of hundreds of thousands of people might have started from a bedroom quarrel. But we will never know.
Originally appeared on The Seneca Effect Read More