OPINION

The banality of fear

The panic that gripped Britain after reports of a foiled airline bomb plot and the mass cancellation of flights was long expected. After 9/11 and the carnage in London and Madrid, everyone must agree that we now live in a different world. History flows thicker and faster. It moves toward a world of fear and intimidation. The West has discovered a protean threat, a constant and often invisible enemy coming out of Islam. The modern parliamentary democracies have responded by curtailing freedoms and strengthening their security network – measures that are backfiring. The sole modern, secular state of the Middle East, Israel, has over the past 50 years been in a state of endless conflict, killing and losing innocent civilians and children, caught up in the vicious cycle of blood. The pre-modern societies in Islam fire back, returning to the Hashashin traditions: children wrapping themselves up in explosives. The biblical cycle of violence and endless retaliation is making a comeback in today’s modern times but is this time stripped of messianic and eschatological pretensions. Ultramodern travelers may carry their medicine, passport and a small wallet – all in a transparent bag. Just the basics in what could be their final destination. Half a century after the fall of totalitarianism and the cult of death, fear is creeping back through gates first envisaged by the futuristic authors of the political dystopias – Orwell’s «Big Brother,» Huxley’s «Brave New World,» Zamiatin’s «We.» When Hannah Arendt watched Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, she reflected on the nature of Nazism and the Holocaust – all that she said exemplified the «banality of evil.» That’s how the first half of the 20th century seemed to be summed up. The 21st, it seems, will be summed up in the «banality of fear.»