Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Humanity lost, humanity found

The level of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man has been legendary. The suffering inflicted by the strong on the weak is gut-wrenching.

Is it sanity or insanity? It is unintelligible to say the least, and the sorrow that ensues leaves us wondering about the state of our humanity. Some acts elude analysis and defy description. 

How has our behaviour affected nature, man or human life? Volumes are needed to attempt an explanation since this task is more difficult than any other.

Advanced technology, materialism, lust for power has produced wars, genocide and terrorism.

Whatever happened to our humanity? Did our brains bury it in a labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers? Does it manage to surface when nature or evil exposes its might? They desperately call for man’s humane qualities and there is nothing nobler than when man heeds the call.

A thousand prayers for the victims of the recent hurricanes and deadly floods that devastated the Southern Coast of the US, not to mention the terrorist bombings of the underground in the city of London that has yet to recover from the London Bridge horrific suicide bombings.

What a heart-warming sight to watch close to 100,000 volunteers leaving the comfort of their homes, risking their own lives to face dangerous terrains of storm, rain and floods, in order to save total strangers from danger and death. Man helps his fellow man, expecting nothing in return. Is there anything finer?

Is not that the reason we are here, to help our brethren, not kill them?

Do we not belong to one human race created by One Almighty God?

Who are we if not humans, born with pure souls, to love and care for each other?

At what stage do we become haters, persecutors and killers?

Dr Felix Warneken of Harvard University has been conducting studies on children’s behaviour as well as chimpanzees, for the last decade. His conclusions have rocked the world of psychology. He found that even an infant of one year understands the concept of help and cooperation. The infant or the chimpanzee will extend a hand and pick up an item dropped by an adult and return it. The evolutionary origins of very young children helping each other or sharing resources proves that infants have a pre-disposition for altruism.

It is society that teaches them selfishness, not nature. 

Humanity is alive and well inside of us, when do we start to dispose of it and become selfish, greedy, angry, indifferent and cruel? How do we become numb to the suffering of others? Those “others” who do not look like we do, who do not think like we do, who do not share our beliefs, must be eradicated. It has occurred regularly throughout history. Evil therefore is learned or taught by the societies we form that encourage acts of immorality. Were we to remain infants, we would know no evil.

We like to think that religion teaches us morality, but scientists have found morality among several animal species. 

How can we attribute the heinous acts of Islamists terrorists to their religion? Overcome by hatred and zeal, these killers have abused their religion, doing it a great disservice. Islam represents love, compassion, sacrifice and kindness, but watching those brutal savages, who can believe that? They have choked whatever humanity they may have had and are able to laugh as they slaughter a group of their brethren, gloat over helpless women being raped by an army and look on with glee while watching a caged man burn to death. Their acts are abysmal heights of horror.

Could it be instinctive? Is there still a caveman within, who can on a different scale, beat his wife, kill his children, shoot a driver who overtakes him on the highway? What do you call these heartless creatures? Criminals... Even criminals have some good in them.

There is a missing link in their brain biology that alters their human behaviour. They have discovered that the brain of a reader functions very differently from a brain of one who never learned to read. Yet both can kill equally.

Are we not our brothers’ keepers?

No we are not, not any longer. Will you instinctively help a blind man or an elderly lady cross the street?

Maybe one in a crowd would, but do not count on it. Unfortunately we have become indifferent to others and indifference spells guilt. If we do not rise above this human race, we are sure to destroy it. We have no time to wait for Nietzsche’s “Superman”.

Some analysts point their fingers at technology. Technology ultimately alters us. We should not become its slaves or its victims but use it to enhance not diminish our humanity.

Physicist Stephen Hawking believes we only have 100 years to save the human race before we totally destroy humanity. Hawking identifies artificial intelligence, nuclear war and genetically formed viruses as some of the man-made problems that pose an imminent threat to us.

Could we learn to slow down, lend a hand like those brave volunteers, discover who our neighbour is? Dalai Lama XIV said: “Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them humanity can’t survive.”

We have reached a fork on the road. There are two possible paths: human and technology. Let us take the right path before we blow ourselves up by killing our humanity.

“Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man.”

 Sophocles (c 495-406 BC) 

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