Social scientists, philosophers, and theologians have written volumes with definitions and descriptions of humanity and what makes mankind different from other primates, mammals, and other animal organisms. Scientists compare us with chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. They examine behaviors such as grooming, caring for their young, dominance and hierarchies, interpersonal relationships, territorialism, violence, and inter-clan belligerence. Philosophers from differing cultures cite moral conduct that will lead to peaceful lives among people. St. Paul, in chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians defines love and what its antitheses are. Christian doctrine cites Jesus of Nazareth as the epitome of humanness including his upturning of the moneychangers’ tables in anger with their defiling God’s house. Christ has been preached for two thousand years as the perfect person. Then we read or watch the daily news, editorial blogs, and Facebook posts.
I have to wonder how after tens of thousands of years on this planet we have not yet learned to live together without clashing on personal and large-group levels. Is there really any hope for homo sapiens? Are we doomed to be more homo than sapient? For all the articles and books written by those who study human kind our behavior shows that we can’t agree on basics such as the sanctity of life.
As societies have evolved from hunter-gatherers to what we are today in our different forms around the globe, and our clubs and stone tipped spears have become nuclear weapons, heat-seeking devices, and drones, we still have those who seek to dominate lands and their inhabitants by rock throwing, by mass migration, and by the most potent weapon of all, fear.
When we place side by side the writings of the sages and the news of the day we find extreme dissonance. One party feels entitled to some land and the other party feels just as strongly. One party feels its religion is the true religion and it is imperative to enforce it on other parties whose beliefs teach that theirs is the one and only way…but we’ll tolerate others’ beliefs. That makes us the better humans. One party feels that by organizing it can dominate businesses, the economy in general, and even the government.
Humans, when they had no other explanation or excuse for conditions, blessed or blamed a god or gods for putting them in charge or casting them in a subservient role. The Divine Right of Kings and Manifest Destiny are just two of the terms that come to my mind when I consider the justifications employed in conquering, enslaving, and destroying people, cultures, and nations over the millennia. Tribal chiefs, kings, presidents, religious leaders and dictators have taken power to the limits throughout history. And while we have walked on the Moon and contemplate visiting planets we have not learned to live together on Earth any better today than in 10,000 BCE. The technology which has enabled us to communicate with almost anyone on the planet in seconds should have brought us closer together. Our purported common desire for peace and good will among our kind seems to get lost in attempts to apply the practices to achieve a global community.
In my old age I’ve become a pessimist. I accept Bob Dylan’s conclusion that the answers are blowing in the wind. As I approach my personal demise I welcome the day I will depart from this sad and futile existence. In the meantime I will weep for my grandchildren and their descendants whom I will never know. Despite all of mankind’s technical advances, discoveries, inventions and explorations we have not moved any further along socially since we shared the planet with Neanderthals. Humanity? Where is it?