There was a time in my life when I was exposed to the death of others on a scale far grander than that of most humans. I viewed lives being ended and I viewed the remains of lives that had ended shortly before my arrival on the scene. I saw enough of it to cause a complete shutdown in the part of my nervous system that should have reacted with horror, disgust, fear, anger…any emotion at all. Since then, as the blues song goes, “I feel like some old engine, lost my driving wheel.” It’s as if some unseen hand, deftly reached in and snatched my neocortex when I wasn’t looking. I have read of people who had trauma that resulted in the loss of memory, spatial recognition, language, and I envy them. I would exchange my loss for theirs in a heartbeat.
In an extended moment of self-pity I was visited by a blinding moment of clarity that would alter my life forever. A supernova of self-realization. I have long considered myself a humanist, one who is concerned with the welfare of others, one who believes in the core goodness of the species. It was like a shot to the solar plexus when I became aware of the fact that those people who drove a metal object into Gaddafi’s ear before they beat and tortured him to death were the true humanists…I was a sham. They were committing acts that they unwaveringly believed were to the benefit of mankind. Humanism, it appears, is not judged by the definition of the act, but rather by the effect it has on mankind. Whether or not that effect is real or perceived is unimportant. To reflect on my opening statement, I no longer react to exposure to what some would call “barbaric” behavior in any way. I am no longer repulsed, frightened or shocked. I don’t approve or disapprove although I have learned to automatically insert the commonly accepted reaction to such activity. Please don’t misunderstand, there are numerous acts of cruelty and anti-social behavior that I do react to in an honest, emotional way, but these acts produce not horror, disgust or fear…but rather rage. Rage that is frightening to those around me was commonplace. I say “was” because I have worked with extreme diligence to unlearn this reactive behavior.
We have evolved into a genus that frequently traffics in fratricide, genocide, infanticide, suicide and homicide. We “create” death in the same fashion we create automobiles, hair dryers or yachts. Death has become a tool of the new genus and, as with all genera, we refine the tool’s usage as time goes on…we “evolve.” Evolution can sometimes be a hideous thing and soil the souls of those it effects. To prevent any feelings of guilt we provide ourselves with any number of psychic buffers; from video games, to elevating “troops” to gods, to blood drenched action movies, to reality TV. We have worked hard at, and succeeded in creating, the “new” human.
I can watch the video of the death of Gaddafi and not blink an eye. I don’t alter my gaze, my facial expression; my pulse doesn’t quicken, my breathing is regular; I am seemingly at peace. From time to time I go online and check the “Cape Cams,” that are set up to monitor traffic onto and off Cape Cod. Were you observing my face you couldn’t tell if I was watching the traffic at the Bourne Rotary or Gaddafi being dragged by the hair and pummeled with his own shoe.
Drones are the tools of the new humanism in that they kill with “surgical precision,” a terminology I am particularly fond of. What exactly is “surgical precision?” If you kill an enemy and an innocent bystander dies, is that still surgical precision? What if two innocents die? Is that still surgical precision? What if six die? What if one hundred die? The answer is simple. It is less than was killed by the Dresden firebombing, or the blast on Hiroshima, or the companion carnage on Nagasaki. It is less than “Shock and Awe.” It is less than the B-52 carpet-bombing of “Rolling Thunder.” It is humanistic.
Humanism has become a comparative tool. A moveable feast. It is the “Easter” of all moral standards in that one is never quite certain of its position. It is event defined.
I am a humanist…and I am ashamed of it.
Skilled professionals converted me into humanism. I didn’t choose this mindset, it was chosen for me, and once chosen there is no return. You cannot go home again, and so I’m angry. I’m angry that I don’t feel the appropriate flood of emotions that I know should be generated by the macabre brutalization of the human being that was Gaddafi.
I ask a simple question. What is the single, universal quality of the humanist? Is it a parable driven property? Sir Julian Huxley stated, “We must now be prepared to abandon the god hypothesis and its consequences like divine revelations or absolute truths and to change over from a supernatural to a naturalistic view of human destiny.” This is well stated and has good intent, but what if the “naturalistic view” has become distorted from Huxley’s understanding and intent? For that matter, what is “naturalistic?” If one were to simply review the history of man you would see that war, death, torture, violence and cruelty were indeed, “natural.” The sheer overpowering number of occurrences of these acts makes them natural, for if they were “unnatural” would they not have been removed at some point along the path of evolution that lead to a steel object being driven into Gaddafi’s ear? If humanism is any philosophy which recognizes the value or dignity of man and makes him the measure of all things, then does it not follow that the “measure” may be flawed…as flawed as man? Immanuel Kant said, “Man himself must make himself into whatever he is to become…” Man has “become” a creature that flies planes into buildings, killing thousands; immolates six million for no other reason than their being born; sacrifices twenty million to provide himself with slaves; incinerates one quarter of a million people in seconds because they had yellow skin. This is Kant’s man making “himself into whatever he is to become.” Hail the new humanist.
This country is now considering attacking Syria with no observable thoughts about the humanity that will be effected by a Cruise missile impacting a target less than one hundred yards from the bedroom of the cobbler who just went to sleep after a fourteen hour work day. Or the woman who is seven months pregnant living seventy-five feet from ground zero. Or the child sleeping fifty feet away who is dreaming of becoming a schoolteacher. Those who ordered the drone strike, those who built the drone, and those who are piloting it are, by their definition, acting in a humanistic fashion. What makes them humanists? They could kill in greater numbers but they are choosing not to. The cobbler, the woman, the child are sacrifices at the alter of the New Humanism.
I would say to all of you, “be careful.” Once you have surrendered the power of the neocortex, once you have removed God and inserted yourself in God’s place, you begin the believe that you are God. Once you chant “Allahu Akbar,” or “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” you are determining what man is to become. To survive we have to stop believing in God and we have to stop being God.
Most people in the Western world believe the last words of Jesus Christ were, “It is finished.” John 19:30, when in reality, according to the New Testament, they were, “Father, I entrust my Spirit into Your Hands.” Luke 23:46. Remember the conversation that took place between Jesus and the thief who was crucified beside him. “And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42. “And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23: Martyrs have an express path into heaven. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
Muhammad’s last words were, “No Prophet is taken by death until he has been shown his place in Paradise and then offered the choice to live or to die. With the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered his favor, the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous, most excellent for communion are they. O Allah, with the supreme communion.” Martyrs, as with Christianity, are provided with special access to Paradise. As the Qur’an states, “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of the Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the Shuhada’s [martyrs'] glory is in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.”
Two major religions of the world speaking of a paradise open to all those who followed the path laid out by the “righteous” on earth, for the teachings of Christ and Muhammad are based on the word of God as written by man. Christians believe in the concept of “free will”…a gift from God that is used time and again to explain inhumane acts. Muslims state that they will not die until they have been shown their place in Paradise, a concept that allows suicide bombers to believe that death will not touch them for they have not yet been shown such a place. Both religions accept martyrdom as the holy key unlocking the gates of paradise.
If we follow Huxley’s observations and remove God from our destiny, if we are to rely on the “naturalist” view to determine our destiny, to define our humanity, then what secular yardstick are we to use? I pose this question without having an answer. The reader(s) determines that destiny.
I am on the horns of a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. We appear to have two choices in determining the definition of “humanism,” and the future of mankind. We either rely on the faith based, dogma grounded offerings of religion, or we accept the undetermined “naturalist” machinations of the secular mind. Both are frightening prospects.
The secular and the non-secular worlds have seemingly morphed into what I refer to as nationalistic humanism. For example, in the United States, as much as we acknowledge the mandate of “separation of church and state,” (a phrase never used in our Constitution) religion, especially Christianity, has never been excluded from government, but rather plays a prominent role. The legend of Jesus Christ is an integral part of the national conscience. We only celebrate one national, religious holiday in this country and that is the birth of Christ. It would seem to follow that the teachings of Christ would be one of the building blocks of American humanism, but no, America chose to integrate the vengeful Father from the Old Testament rather than the benign Son of the New Testament as its humanistic yardstick.
The New Humanism is serving a human that is vengeful and violent. “Goodness” is transient and metaphoric with no moral definition. Driving a metal object into Gaddafi’s ear was an act of “goodness” in the era on New Humanism. I am a product of the New Humanism. I can view the tortuous death of Gaddafi and not blink. I can view it and sit down to dinner without as much as a sigh. I can view it and immediately lift my granddaughter into the air and listen to her squeal with delight as I dance across the room with her clutched to my chest. I can do this because I am a humanist.Leave a Comment
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