By Abel Merawi
October 16, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Words such as good and evil, or humanity or brutality, can only be used for human beings because we are the only beings conscious of the consequences of our actions. We, humans, have created this illusion called humanity or morality and what a disguise it has turned out to be in covering our true nature. Humanity, a name so revered, reached a point where it is taken as synonymous with purity, piety, brotherhood, justice, care, compassion and plenty more where the issue is regarding the ‘holy human’. But, in the opinion of many, these ‘holy’ qualities are turning out to be not an end, but a means of achieving a rather devious end. The preceding statement was made assuming human beings are really humane. However, the more serious issue comes when we question if humanity is a natural characteristic of human beings.
It is better to talk about what humanity represents before we answer the above question on whether humanity exists and, assuming it does, on whether we genuinely engage in it or use it as a means to achieve some ulterior motives. What we call humanity or morality, or other names is a manifestation of care and love for one another: sacrificing ourselves for the good of others; helping a person in need; showing pity for a member of family, people and species. When the reverse happens in cases such as contemplating a harmful action on another person, killing another human being and doing more horrible things, we call it animalistic. Since this name-calling brings animals in uncharted territory, I would like to compare the actions of human beings with animals.
To begin with, it is only fair to point out that many animals will never do something that harms a fellow animal intentionally as humans do. Then again one can argue that animals will not do anything intentionally, whether good or bad. But this argument makes human beings more brutal or more saintly, depending on their actions since human action emanates from some sort of intentionality. Let us proceed by citing some examples to compare human actions with that of animals. We consider the sacrifice of oneself for the greater good of others the most humane act that puts human beings on a pedestal. Nevertheless, sacrifices should not be considered as actions solely reserved for human beings. A bee, for instance, when the hive or their bee colony is under attack, assaults the perpetrator by stinging. But when the bee stings, it is also bringing its own demise since stinging requires the bee to hook itself to the perpetrator leaving its abdomen detached from its body, which ends its life. This brings us to the conclusion that the soldier bee has sacrificed itself for the good of the bee colony. We call that humanity!
We can cite plenty of more examples to demonstrate this point, but let us add just one more extraordinary example and stop. Dolphins, which are of higher intelligence and in the third rank next to apes, have an individual case of sacrifice. There were this ‘couple’ of dolphins that were intimate and head over heels in love. The male dolphin was sick and could not manage itself, so the female dolphin supported him by bringing him near the shore and helping him to breathe. Suddenly, a perfect storm broke out and threw the male dolphin out into the sea and onto a rock which led to its death. At this moment, the female dolphin could not bear to leave without her love and threw herself onto the rock and died next to him. This is not just a manifestation of sacrifice but also of true love. This reminds us of our classic love examples such as those of the Titanic and Romeo and Juliet. I think this is enough of an example to demonstrate that humanity, which was endowed only to human beings, also applies to animals.
Based on the above examples, we can say that humanity is a shared trait of both animals and human beings, and also the term animalistic cannot be seen as synonym with brutal and evil because many animals do not harm others intentionally or in a premeditated manner as do human beings. If we agree on this point, we are left with no other option but to either attribute humanity for everyone and everything or to leave the term all in all and cease using it. I will now venture to reflect on the term by assuming that humanity does exist in some form and that we human beings do practice it in some measure and form. So, the question then becomes whether we humans practice humanity as much as we pride ourselves in possessing it.
The ideas I raise following this may make me appear as an idealist. I will say it anyway, and so be it! For me, we are presently living in a world where going out of our way to help others without personal gain is considered foolishness. The wise man is considered as one who only looks out for himself and even inflicts pain on others for personal gains or simply for the sake of manifesting power. This is utterly melancholic for me and it disgusts me to see that I am part of such a brute system. I am not arguing that in the old days people used to be humane, but at least the practice of preaching humanity used to work on crowds better and fewer displayed brutality out in the open. Of course, there were times when society as a whole was cruel, but it was mostly when the opinion leaders lure the crowd into that path. When only a few are brutal, it is easier to contain it since leaders change. But when we are sick globally, the situation becomes hopeless. The honest man who struggles in life is laughed at and looked down with contempt while the rich and powerful robbers are praised and loyally served. This is sickening since the next generation growing up with this notion in mind will not even have the option to be good for they will be totally detached from good to the point of doubting its existence.
Anyone who is not naïve will see how bad we have gradually become. The manifestations are all around us. The list of things to mention will make you lose your mind. It is utterly sad to see the truly needy suffering with everyone looking with contempt let alone affording help. It is sickening to see the numerous NGOs benefiting from the sufferers in a pretense of help and even foreign sponsors seeking ideological or religious domination. It is disheartening to witness the government proclaiming false promises for honest people with political gain in mind. It is sad to see the worldwide corporations that preach international brotherhood, only to use it to accumulate wealth and power. It is repellent to see a person in the same miserable condition always trying to deceive and rob his/her fellow sufferer. The list goes on and on. But why all this?
Using the pretext of humanity many have risen to power, and others have accumulated wealth. Jordan B. Peterson in his work, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” stresses the point that only humans can be good or evil because they are conscious of their actions and the outcome that follows. It is truly evil to do and be bad when we know and can be good. It does not take intelligence to trick others through deception, because true wisdom requires knowing and committing to the truth despite the consequences. For long, humanity has been used as a pretext to enslave others and extend a personal agenda. The true meaning of being humane is verily noble. A world in which a person can benefit with others is not ideal; it is a pragmatic solution to the unnatural calamities we face daily. Thus, let us live up to the expectation the word humanity presupposes by constantly choosing the righteous path.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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