What radical evil is I don’t know, but it seems to me it somehow has to do with the following phenomenon: making human beings as human beings superfluous (not using them as a means to an end, which leaves their essences as humans untouched and impinges only on their human dignity; rather making them superfluous as human beings). This happens as soon as all unpredictability- which, in human beings, is the equivalent of spontaneity- is eliminated. And all this in turn arises from- or, better, goes along with- the delusion of the omnipotence (not simply of the lust for power) of an individual man. If an individual man qua man were omnipotent, then there is in fact no reason why men in the plural should exist at all – just as in monotheism it is only God’s omnipotence that makes him ONE. So, in this same way, the omnipotence of an individual man would make men superfluous (Kohler, Lotte and Hans Saner, Hannah Arendt Karl Jaspers: Correspondence 1926-1969, #109, 166.)
For Arendt, what makes human beings superfluous is the consolidation of power in a single omnipotent individual- or, better, an ideology articulated by an individual or group. This consolidation of power creates a “delusion of omnipotence” that prohibits the emergence of new beginnings precisely because nothing can emerge that is not already known by the omnipotent individual or accounted for by the ideology. This delusion of omnipotence eliminates the the unique manifestation of power that every human being possesses by nature of their birth – the capacity for novelty. Following Augustine, who wrote in The City of God that when a person is born “something new comes about in time”, Arendt viewed natality (the “new beginning” inherent in birth) to be the central category of the human condition (Augustine, The City of God, trans. R.W. Dyson, Book XII.21, 516; Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition, 8-9). The birth of a human being is the advent of a something new. To block this creative genesis in the individual is tantamount to making them superfluous.
Each human being possesses a potentiality that exhibits itself in unique and previously unknown talents that are developed through the institutional structures of a society and contribute not only to the local community but also to humanity as a whole. However, this potentiality – or better, this dynamism - is also unpredictable and therefore involves an inherent threat or danger to the established structure. Possibility threatens reality with change and calls into question every hegemony – every delusion of omnipotence. It is this danger that ideologies seek eliminate in human beings by providing an unquestionable account of the whole. Natality, the central category of the human condition, is eliminated whenever the possible is rendered inoperative by the omnipotence of certainty. This destruction of the possible eliminates the new beginnings that every unique human being possesses by the fact of their birth. When human beings are made superfluous through disenfranchisement or marginalization they lose the opportunity to develop their talents in concert with others within the society in which they are embedded and consequently their ability to contribute to humanity as a whole. One has only to consider the countless contributions that were rendered inoperative in the camps of Nazi Germany, the fields of Cambodia, or the streets of Rwanda. And,lest we forget, the plains of North America, the segregated streets of the American South, or a fence post in Wyoming. It is a short walk from superfluity to Auschwitz.