Sunday, October 16, 2011

The One Hundred Percent

Numbers are bandied about continuously to make a point in the Information Age. Statistics, percentages, tallies, proportions, and the like are becoming the drivers of social change, the mirrors behind which truth is hidden, the towers in which power is created and kept, and the walls that keep groups separated. Even now, across the globe, a battle line is being drawn between the ninety-nine percent of the population that is suffering under the economic and social oppression of the other one percent, in which is invested great wealth and greater power.

While it is all well-and-good to be cognizant of the disparities and divisions that are the heart of our current place in human history, the polarization effected by numerical comparisons in any number of axes, far from delineating and defining the problems and potential solutions of those problems, serves to only increase the divisiveness and demonization extant in human societies all over the planet. If our conscience and social change are to be driven by numbers, then there are only two numbers that should truly count: one and one hundred.
One and one hundred represent the totality of humanity: we are one species, Homo sapiens, differentiated by many and varied categories such as physiology, psychology, faith, nationality, to name a few, but in the end, all one and the same. One hundred percent of us are affected by the actions and thoughts of our fellow humans, even in the most seemingly trivial ways. We all exist on one planet, Earth, which supplies us with one hundred percent of what we need to survive (outside the contribution of energy we receive from the Sun). We each have one life to live on this planet and we are one hundred percent responsible for those actions we take in living that life, even where our actions are dictated by the actions of others.

These numbers represent the most simple math that can be applied to our functioning in this world. They are inescapable, and no matter how we might go about using natural and artificial differences to segregate, calculate, qualify, or quantify our lives, at the end of the day, we as a species are inextricably linked by our common ancestry and history. At no point since the earliest days of recorded history, has any segment of humanity managed to place itself outside the collective humanity, save by the most artificial of means. Money, power, influence, property, intellect, race... despite every attempt by any group to somehow isolate itself from the main body of the species, inevitably that group has been drawn back in or died out, bereft of the mutual benefit and protection that is a function of human society.

We can question propriety, morality, justice, belief, and any number of other derived principles for their "rightness" or "wrongness." We can establish order in any fashion we choose. We can subject the very fabric of space and time to analysis. We, as human beings, have an evolved capacity to move beyond the simple reactive systems that allowed our ancestors to hunt, create flint tools, gather in groups, establish language, and learn to farm the land; we need no longer be slaves to the base emotions that were thoroughly written through the software of our humanity by millions of years of trial-and-error. We have shown that, given sufficient impetus, we can overcome the barriers that keep us from progressing as a species.

Right now, at this moment, here in the beginning of the latest century, we stand on the brink of a momentous change, but it is unclear in which direction the change will go. Old systems tied to dogma and heritage and fear seek to retard the forward progress of humanity, even as new systems make it possible for all the people of the world to harness their individual abilities in pursuit of change on a global scale. Even as the disparate parts of humanity can finally sit down in common dialog, the old, cautious, conservative elements of humanity rebel at the idea of this coming together, seeking to derail or deny the change at every turn. They rally to the cause of the maintenance of their position, unwilling to allow their power and influence to become diluted in the human milieu, choosing to sit behind walls of denial and fear, and attempting to drag as many behind the walls with them as they can.

As humanity struggles to put an imprint on its newest aspects, it must continue to contend with these forces that would drag us back into the Dark Ages. But -- and this is important -- we cannot simply write them off or deny them their seat at the table. What we have to do is ensure that we can level the field, that these forces are clear that they are accepted as part of broader humanity, but gain nothing from whatever artificial constructs they have created to separate themselves from the rest of us. If we are to be true to our new ways of thinking, if we are to honor those sacrifices made to bring us enlightenment, then we cannot offhandedly dismiss our enemies, because they are human, too. If they seek to tear us down, denigrate us, deny us our rights as human beings, so be it, but in the process of enforcing our expansive view of humanity, we must be careful not to stoop to their level or treat them with contempt, as they may have done to us. We must all go forward as one.

Therein lies the challenge: how to move into the future while still anchored to the past by so many among us. In coming years we will be challenged as never before, and the fabric of many a human group will be shaken. If time and history teach us anything, however, it is that we reached our place today through our perseverance and adaptability. We have overcome obstacles and barriers in the past that seemed too formidable or insurmountable, but inevitably, we found a way. We shall overcome our latest barriers, though perhaps not in as platonic a fashion as we would like or hope for. At some point, even the most peaceful are forced to push the envelope of their pacifism, in the name of the greater good, or are driven to take risks they never would, in the name of human duty. We must continue to struggle to make our voices heard, no matter the cost, but we must never, no matter how bad it gets, abandon the principles that make us human.

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