Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don't ever call me humane

Even though I wasn't one of his students, he never minded that I used to sneak into his seminars or lectures to hear him when I got the chance. His philosophy classes were fascinating and his intellect sharp and piercing. I remembered asking him once how someone who tortures or murders can be humane? How can we still see humanity in them? He thought for a while before answering me, it is perhaps because we are human that we can hurt each other. If we see someone being hanged, we can almost feel ourselves standing on that stool, we hold our breath when that final drop takes place. The death penalty is never about "righting" a wrong for how can you change the past? No, it is an example to others so they may take notice and learn. If we did not know what getting hurt felt like, we would not know how to hurt each other, how to torture each other and humiliate each other. We do so because we know how it feels. Ironically it seems, it is our shared humanity which allows us to hurt and kill each other in the ways that we do.

Far from being something which would make us stop and think, it has in fact only increased the amount of cruelty we have seen. I remembered a story I read once, of Moses meeting Adam and asking him why he had caused humanity's fall from grace. Adam answered him to the effect of, do you think it was all up to me? Look what is written beneath the throne! As in, this has been something preordained. You many not have to believe in Adam to have wondered about human nature, is there such a thing even? I don't know, but I do know that as good as we all pretend to be, deep within us is a Mr or Mrs Hyde. We watch the news and see stories of tyrants, dictators and mass murderers, we deride them and safely vent our hatred on them. We think we are different, that we are not racist, not capable of such things, yet I ask you, the reader, how different are we really from them? Who has made "them" as such, and "us" the judges? You, who think you can change the world, what can you do when you can't even change what's within yourself? Did you not know that "I" is the middle letter of the word "blind"? What power does "I" have then? Not a lot I imagine...


1 comment:

The Syrian Brit said...

I believe that 'humane' is probably the worst description you can bestow on any one!.. What we often describe as 'beastly' behaviour is, in fact, what WE humans tend to inflict on each other, but beasts rarely resort to.. Have you ever seen a bear torturing its prey over a thought or an expression?.. Have you ever seen a wolf kill another wolf because its fur is of a different colour?.. In fact, have you ever seen any animal kill another, except for food?.. I know there are exceptions.. but thats what they are.. exceptions... the most notable one is the dove, the symbol of peace for us, 'Humans'.. It is one of the few species that would kill another dove simply for the heck of it, or for conrtol of territory..
Next time you want to praise my compassion for my fellow-being, don't call me human.. call me an animal!