Have We Forgotten How To Be Human?

How many times in the last month have you said “I just don’t know what is wrong with people today”?  Or, “What is this world coming to?”  If you are like me, you say that on a daily basis, perhaps every time you pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, or log onto the internet.  I sometimes think I need a 3-day hiatus from the outside world … no internet, no television/radio, no forays outside the home, just peace.  But alas, SIGH, I am a news junkie and unless forced by either death or an electrical outage, I am not likely to allow myself that break.

So, what is the world coming to and what is wrong with people?  The answer to both questions is the same, in my humble opinion:  a lack of humanity.  Humanity: compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, humaneness, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, tolerance; leniency, mercy, mercifulness, clemency, empathy, compassion, tenderness; benevolence, charity, goodness, magnanimity, love, generosity.  Now turn on your television … any program, any channel … and tell me how many of the above-named traits you can find in a 10-minute period.  I am betting your answer will be zero.

When we allow ourselves to believe that we are somehow ‘better’, or more deserving than other people, whether on the basis of race, skin colour, religious beliefs, or culture, we take a step away from the concept of humanity.  It is human nature to live in our own small world, to put our own needs and desires first, and I cannot argue with human nature, as it is no different today than it was 1,000 years ago.  But for a time it seemed that we were on the path to becoming a kinder, more gentle society; a society that was trying to overcome prejudices and see others as different, but not inferior.  But today that trend is reversing.  Today we are regressing back to a society that views all who do not look, act, speak, and think like us as being somehow inferior.  And that is just wrong.  It is a reversal of the lessons learned during the migration from Europe to the New World seeking freedom of religion.  It is a reversal of the lessons learned from the devastation of an entire group of people in the Holocaust. It is a reversal of the lessons learned during the Civil Rights era.  It is a reversal of the hope we once had that human beings might yet be able to learn to live together on this earth in peace and harmony.

Two hundred years ago, people lived in very sheltered, close-knit communities where they might pass a lifetime without ever straying more than 20 or 30 miles from their homes.  Children grew up and took care of their aging parents, neighbors pitched in to help neighbors in times of trouble.  But the globe became smaller, just as our individual worlds expanded, with the advent of communication tools such as telephone, television, and most recently the internet.  And our horizons broadened as access to travel thousands of miles via airplane was made readily available.  This should have been a good thing, should have opened a whole new world of experiences, of learning about other lands, people and cultures to us.  Today, I am not so sure. Perhaps, instead of taking the best of each other’s societies, we have taken only the worst.  Perhaps instead of learning to love more, we have learned to hate more.

Politicians, world leaders, and religious leaders alike, have failed miserably in their jobs to help bring peace among nations.  They scream, they threaten, they bully, and the people eventually follow suit.  Violence is the norm, where it should be the exception.  We believe we have a right to kill another human being, we believe we have a right to deny the basic necessities of food, shelter and medical care to others who are less fortunate than we are.  We believe that we have no responsibility to our fellow mankind.  And therein lies the problem.  We all have a responsibility to others.  But we, as a society, have listened to those who screamed that we must protect ourselves at all costs, even at the cost of another human life.  They would argue that abortion is wrong, yet that it is okay to murder a person because their religion or ideology is different than ours.  They rant that the wealthiest in the land have no responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  We have been told, in essence, that it is “all about us”, and we believed.

If there is any remaining hope for humanity, it lies with our children.  Children do not see others as black or white, as Muslim or Christian, as Syrian, Mexican, or American … they simply see them as potential friends, playmates.  If only we can stop ourselves from poisoning their young minds with our own prejudices, there may yet be hope for humankind.  I wonder how many of those words that I used to define ‘humanity’ any of us can honestly say apply to our lives today.  Can we do better?  Yes.  Will we?  I do not know.