Sometimes I wonder what’s going on with humanity. I know I’m not alone in that thought, but somehow that doesn’t really help much. I mean, what is it we’re all a part of? And why are we treating each other this way?
This sense of human life having intrinsic worth and dignity, each person being valuable and deserving of respect, seems to have truly flown right out the window at some elusive point in the past. I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong in thinking it’s a principle that used to be there? A fundamental part of life that carried more weight than simply being a legal premise everyone’s intent on testing at every turn.
Looking back, it does seem there was some degree of basic respect for human existence. Obviously, between different communities, respect for “others” was perhaps as lacking as today, but within those communities it seems people had value or that there was at least some attempt at civility or recognition for what each person brought to society.
Western as much as ancient thinkers were always grappling with the worth of life, the responsibility of being human, the “right” way to integrate people into social structures so individuals might find fulfilment and collective needs be met. There was this “weight” to the task of humanity; the challenges we faced; the moral or spiritual significance of different arrangements; and how well essential values found their home (Notes One).
But, somewhere along the line, we’ve become so incredibly quick to judge and dismiss one another. All this talk at the level of society where we’re blaming, belittling, mocking others within our community. All the ways people are goaded or cast aside for lapses in judgement, innocent mistakes or situations beyond their control. People being hounded or deconstructed seemingly as sport or a display of mental prowess. (Notes Two)
Writing this, I’m also wondering if I’m somehow missing the point or being “precious” about our worth? Is it simply the “modern way” to be slightly callous and dismissive, to view things with a cold intellectual gaze that’ll happily deconstruct another human existence then discard it under some withering psychological assessment? Is that almost a by-product of critical thinking and freedom of speech?
Surely it can’t be “right” from a human perspective that anyone’s life be picked over as if by vultures: exposing their vulnerabilities, pouncing on inevitable weaknesses or imperfections, turning them inside out and declaring their life “not worth living”? Isn’t every life something of a mystery, a miracle, an amazing phenomenon of consciousness, experience, identity, thought and purpose? (Notes Three)
Sometimes my writing takes me by surprise, as if I’m not sure what indignation is bubbling up deep within my soul. Here, I think it’s simply that – philosophically – human life, any human life, is an incredible gift that’s worthy of respect, courtesy, dignity, love. Of course, societies have their challenges to be worked out, but I don’t think I’m missing the point in placing humanity above many other concerns.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Plato & “The Republic”
Note 1: “The Measure of a Man”
Note 1: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 1: Working through mind & society
Note 2: The dignity & power of a human life
Note 2: Empathy in a world that happily destroys
Note 2: Is anything obvious to someone who doesn’t know?
Note 2: Living as an open wound
Note 3: Beauty in unexpected places
Note 3: The difference humanity makes
Note 3: Absolute or relative value
Parallel to these thoughts, Finding flaws was looking at what we make of our individual or collective potential.