Banality of Goodness?/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on June 30, 2018


Hannah Arendt, A German-born philosopher of Jewish heritage, created the term “banality of evil” to describe Holocaust-era activities. It was her way of explaining how common-place activities (i.e. banal acts) could lead to monstrous results. In the July-August issue of Smithsonian magazine, Joshua Levine refer to common-place “goodness” and its designation as the “banality of goodness”. There are places where people simply hate making a fuss about the kindness that they embrace and display. The family who hid Anne Frank and her family during the Holocaust period, at great personal peril, would be a perfect example of a group of individuals who performed extraordinary kindness with neither fuss nor fanfare. They believe in moral stands and then acted upon them.

Not everybody in a negotiation is dedicated to acting properly or even civilly. If you are in a mediation with such a party, there is a temptation to act “tit for that”. While that may be understandable, it is neither laudatory nor an example of the “banality of goodness”. Consider your mediation as a good time to show how goodness prevails even when it is not easy. More often than not, the alternative is more threatening to your well-being and moral compass. Mediate don’t litigate. And do it civilly and with a sense of goodness and propriety.