I read an article in the New York Times; it was interesting, but I want to take one paragraph out of context and focus on that. The author, Roger Berkowitz, describes people like Adolf Eichmann, head Nazi during the Holocaust, as being joiners. It’s not Eichmann that fascinates me, but Berkowitz’s explanation of what a joiner is. Read the paragraph and see if it resonates with you,and see if you can think of modern day joiners.
Here it is: “That evil, Arendt argued, originates in the neediness of lonely, alienated bourgeois people who live lives so devoid of higher meaning that they give themselves fully to movements. It is the meaning Eichmann finds as part of the Nazi movement that leads him to do anything and sacrifice everything. Such joiners are not stupid; they are not robots. But they are thoughtless in the sense that they abandon their independence, their capacity to think for themselves, and instead commit themselves absolutely to the fictional truth of the movement. It is futile to reason with them. They inhabit an echo chamber, having no interest in learning what others believe. It is this thoughtless commitment that permits idealists to imagine themselves as heroes and makes them willing to employ technological implements of violence in the name of saving the world.”
Apparently I wasn’t the only person who connected with this paragraph as I found multiple commentators also referencing it. The other commentators spoke of the Republican party being full of joiners. Because of my context, I first thought of the joiners as a majority of the people in this country: the Zionists and settlers, the suicide bombers and stone-throwers, and many in between. Additionally, many expats who come are joiners as they are usually more politically vocal and outraged than the locals.
It’s easy to point fingers at joiners, but it’s difficult to turn it on yourself. To some degree am I a joiner? I think we all are. I definitely used to be; I was an Indie joiner, an athlete joiner, a literary snob joiner, but I was mainly an Evangelical joiner.
Although I’ve been working hard to become less of a joiner in recent years, I’m sure I still am to some degree. Because to be completely independent is, as the article stated, lonely and alienating. It’s important to be part of communities that share purpose, but this article reminds us to be careful of the evil of allowing ourselves to be so swept up in our community’s movement that we become joiners.
“Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’”