Stop and Think
The Power of Pausing
In 1961, The New Yorker made the decision to have Hannah Arendt cover the trial of Nazi SS officer Adolph Eichmann.
Arendt was a German-Jewish immigrant who’d fled Nazi persecution decades before. She’d had a front-row seat for what it was like to live under Nazi rule and prejudice and had seen the inside of a concentration camp.
And yet she discovered something remarkable during Eichmann’s trial…
There was nothing remarkable about him.
He wasn’t demonic. He wasn’t greedy or power-hungry. He made a point of not overstepping his mandate. He didn’t even have particularly strong ideological convictions.
He just managed logistics. He was eager to do a good job and didn’t ask questions — of his employer or himself.
In short, he was an excellent bureaucrat, likely to climb the ranks in virtually any industry. Only his industry was the Holocaust.
He was unexpectedly ordinary for someone whose actions enabled so much death and suffering.
He just never paused to stop and think.
Eichmann was able to escape the inconsistencies, the hypocrisies, the cruelty of what he orchestrated because he stayed busy.
In a world full of people always on the go … constantly taking in new information and taking multi-tasking to new levels … practically living on our devices …
That should give us pause.
Where do we need to stop and see? To look for the big picture? To ponder ethics beyond the morality flavor of the month? To gain historical context?
Do we stop and think any more than Eichmann did?