We like to stress the commonness of heroes. Essences seem undemocratic. We feel oppressed by the call to greatness. We regard an interest in glory or perfection as a sign of mental unhealthiness, and have decided that high achievers, who are called overachievers, owe their surplus ambition to a defect in mothering (either too little or too much). We want to admire but think we have a right not to be intimidated. We dislike feeling inferior to an ideal. So away with ideals, with essences. The only ideals allowed are healthy ones -- those everyone may aspire to, or comfortably imagine oneself possessing.
Odd, don't you think? I have seen war, and invasions and riots. I have heard of massacres and brutalities beyond imagining, and I have kept my faith in the power of civilization to bring men back from the brink. And yet one women writes a letter, and my whole world falls to pieces.You see, she is an ordinary woman. A good one, even. That's the point ... Nothing [a recognizably bad person does] can surprise or shock me, or worry me. But she denounced Julia and sent her to her death because she resented her, and because Julia is a Jew.I thought in this simple contrast between the civilized and the barbaric, but I was wrong. It is the civilized who are the truly barbaric, and the [Nazi] Germans are merely the supreme expression of it.