Saturday, January 22, 2011

Greater Humanity

If it can be said that there is an overriding issue that drives the confluence of current events, from elections, to massacres, to revolutions, to the news we see on television or read on the Internet every day, it is that individuals or small groups feel the need to enforce their point of view on the rest of us. Terrorists wish to punish us for our perceived transgression of their beliefs. Politicians seek the glory of their party, by viciously attacking the other party while papering over their own faults. A lone gunman decides, for whatever reason, to alter political discourse by attempting to murder a Congresswoman and her staff. Hate mongers spew their bigotry on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Wall Street brokers push stocks to their limit, based on projection, rumor, and guesswork. The people of a nation tire of a corrupt government, and through off the yolk of their oppressors.

All these events, all these happenings, are united through that single thread: they are brought about because one group sets itself against another. The broader scope of humanity is never brought into play.
We continue to operate in a manner befitting out distant ancestors – tribe vs. tribe, social group vs. social group. We cannot seem to lower our defenses, strip away the physical and psychological preoccupations that force us to think of others in terms of attributes and actions. We continue to place others in boxes on shelves, cataloging and categorizing, as if enforcing artificial order somehow makes the world a better place. The problem is: the universe tends toward disorder. To build artificial structures, to create order out of chaos, requires energy, which, in turn, creates more chaos. Entropy is the true enemy.

If we were to simply accept that we are all human beings, that each of us has the right to their beliefs and their individual life, and that what is good for all is more important than what is good for a few, we would throw off the shackles that hold us back from making our true leap forward into the future, a future with abundance, with a lack of poverty and disease and hunger. As long as we continue to see others as enemies and sit upon what we have while others around us go without, we refuse to accept true humanity – it makes us mere animals, fighting over the bits and scraps that will keep us alive.

Our great power, as human beings, is the cognitive ability to override the pure instincts bequeathed to us by our ancestors, to aver the need to fall back upon those instincts in dealing with our fellow humans. We can break down the barriers that separate us. We can see the need to ensure the health and survival of our fellow human beings, upon which our survival depends. We are interlocked, interconnected community, we humans; as we all rise, so shall we all fall. In our current state, we do not see this – we convince ourselves that otherworldly powers will save us, or that our “superiority” positions us to survive where others cannot, or we hoard resources in preparation for a mythical day-of-reckoning, or we pay not attention to what goes on around us, merely being along for the ride.

I cannot write this without the help of my computer, built in a factory out of parts built in other factories, by workers who need homes and food and clothes, which are made in other factories by other workers or by farmers whose farms need seed and livestock and fertilizer made by others, or by construction workers who require wood and steel and concrete made by others, and on and on and on. I cannot bring my words to you without a connection to the Internet, brought to me by a server, maintained by a technician, employed by a company, with hundreds of servers and hundreds of technicians and customer service people and accountants, and cleaners, all of whom need food, and shelter, and clothing. The mere act of my writing has initiated a cascading series of requirements, that are mediated by other human beings at every level. If at any level, the system breaks down, the servers stop working, or there is no electricity, or the food supply is short, I and everyone in that long winding chain suffers. Even those who seek to insulate themselves from the vagaries of life, cannot escape their connection to the greater humanity. All they have, all they take, all the money they make, comes from somewhere else, made by one or more others, and on down the line. They, too, would suffer just as mush as I, or you, or your neighbor, or your best friend.

Long ago, we stepped from the simple communities that might support themselves, to become a globe-girdling society, built of many and disparate parts, but underneath, all the same. We are all human – we are all one. We may worship differently, live differently, look differently, act differently, but at the core,  the blood that flows through flesh, driven by the beating heart and moderated by the brain, is all the same. The mechanics of life are no different for any of us, though the parts may look different at first glance, or the shell in which they are housed be dissimilar. We share one form, we are one species, and we inhabit one planet, the only place we know of in the universe where such creatures exist and which supports our kind of life.

And it may very well end with us. The potentially first and possibly last bastion of intelligent life in the universe, snuffing itself out, because it cannot come to grips with the simple facts of its existence. What pain is there, truly, in admitting that our differences do not make us different, only our attitudes toward each other do so. What harm is seeing others, not as opposition, but as partners. What evil is it, that those who have can share with those who have not. The only place this suffering exists is in the mind, in the attitudes programmed into us by parents, teachers, newscasters, politicians, and authority figures we meet in our journey through life. These are constructs, artificial barriers to our development as a species.

To embrace greater humanity, we must first embrace ourselves. We must understand that we are individuals, capable of our own rational thought, our own purpose-driven existence, and that these attributes are no different than those of any other human being. We must then recognize our place in the greater milieu of humanity, as a raindrop is part of a cloud – individual and distinct, but also necessary for the existence of the whole structure. We owe ourselves much, but we owe humanity more, for it does not exist without each and every one of us. Only together do we survive to see a new dawn.

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