Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The banality of evil

There she was again, this time damned near large-as-life in the two morning papers I read, Karla Homolka telling all to the TV cameras. For once, Christie Blatchford (or an editor) got the hang of the thing: "Not much silence from this lamb."

It is simply impossible to read what she has to say without noticing that it consists almost entirely of shallow, trite and sentimental observations of the Hallmark variety, strung together in a well-rehearsed narrative. It's an ambiguous discourse in which we don't really know at some points whether she's faking remorse or boasting:

"I am a woman and it's very rare for a woman to do the kinds of things I have done."

"I was an exemplary detainee."

The rest of the time she sounds like a celebrity guest just out of de-tox on a late-night talk show:

"I am a very private person and don't like to talk about my feelings."

"I think I can remake my life."

"I think socially I have to do as much as possible to help people."

"I don't want people to think that I am a dangerous person who's going to do something to their children. I think it's time I talk."

and here's my favourite:

"I'd like to have an iced cappuccino...from Tim Horton's."

Karla, the quintessential Canadian.

I've always thought that evil, far from being something evil people have that the rest of us don't, is a lack of something. Call it empathy, although that doesn't seem to capture it entirely. Clearly sociopaths don't have empathy, but when you read Karla's words, what's skin-crawlingly creepy about them is their very ordinariness. It's as though she had only been caught stealing a cookie, and, having to face the wrath of a parent or teacher, demurely says "Yes, that was a very naughty thing and I'm sorry and I won't do it again." There's a missing dimension here, and it's not just the obvious absence of genuine caring or human feeling.

Anyway, Hannah Arendt has said it much better than I ever could: Karla Homolka is a living example of monstrous, mind-numbing banality.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • Corporations vs. warm and fuzzy. In Edinburgh at the G-8 demonstrations, a protester dressed as a rabbit waved a carrot at police horses, while, here at home, the National Capital Commission, now red-faced and falling all over itself to apologize, caved in to pressure from Shell Oil and banned the mascot of the Canadian Renewable Fuel Association, Corn-Cob Bob, from Canada Day festivities.

  • Cordon blech. Britain is furious that Jacques Chirac made fun of British cuisine. (British cuisine, there's an oxymoron if there ever was one. I remember a fellow from the West Indies standing on a box at Hyde Park some years back: "Every country in the world has its own cuisine," he shouted. "What does England have? Table manners!" Right on.)

  • Not a prayer. A Nortel executive, Gary Daichendt, told his board of directors that God had intended that he be CEO. He wanted them to boot out the incumbent, and the chief financial officer for good measure. They disagreed. He is now a former executive.

Enough for one day. In fact, more than enough.

1 comment:

Annmarie said...


She should be free to go..No matter how you feel, she has served her time
Additional restrictions would be unconstitutional.. I do believe she suffered from Battered Wife Syndromes, reading the whole sad story I know the signs..