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On Humanity

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I believe, given the vast and ever-expanding accumulation of evidence, that I am a Homosapien primate descending from the same ancestors that fathered a great many other primate species including chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. By extension, I believe that all human beings belong to a family tree that extends to the beginning of life on our planet and includes every living and extinct organism to exist and to have ever existed. I also believe there to be no predetermination or reason for one’s existence and that life essentially has no meaning other than that which we impart through our own conscious thoughts, decisions and deliberate actions.

Accordingly, I view myself as a citizen of this planet and every other human being, no matter their race, colour or creed, as variably distant brothers and sisters. I believe only education, wealth and tradition separate us, and contend that all human characteristics, good and bad, can be found present, more or less in equal measure throughout our species. In view of this, I believe the peaceful advancement of our race to be primarily hindered by those who reject or are ignorant of these premises and/or by those who selfishly place, continually and disproportionately, their own needs above those of their fellow citizens.

I believe life offers those of us free of chains and open of mind, the greatest of opportunities to expand our knowledge and understanding of the world, the universe and what each of us can contribute to it. I also consider it a great and noble endeavour for those in possession of such attainments, to help free and enlighten others, so that they too can afford such opportunity.

Discussion 3 Comments

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 28th Mar 2014

    Nice expression of One World Consciousness, Kenneth. Some questions this raises for me, as follows:

    "I believe the peaceful advancement of our race to be primarily hindered by those who reject or are ignorant of these premises and/or by those who selfishly place, continually and disproportionately, their own needs above those of their fellow citizens."

    How would you see the relationship between individual traits like 'selfishness' or 'ignorance' on the one hand and oppressive systemic structures and constraints, economic and cultural, on the other? And would you prioritise the former or the latter, and if so, why?

    "I believe life offers those of us free of chains and open of mind, the greatest of opportunities to expand our knowledge and understanding of the world, the universe and what each of us can contribute to it. I also consider it a great and noble endeavour for those in possession of such attainments, to help free and enlighten others, so that they too can afford such opportunity."

    Do you think that any of us are really 'free of chains' intellectually and emotionally? Would you see it as reasonable to to see the danger of a certain elitism and self-righteousness in viewing oneself as part of "those in possession of such attainments" who then are supposed to 'help free and enlighten others"?

  • Kenneth Jackson 4th Apr 2014

    Hi Peter,

    I think it is a complex, intertwined, amalgamation of philosophical ideas and social sciences and as such difficult to disentangle. The relationship also varies dramatically across different societies owing to the environmental conditions you’ve mentioned and is largely dependent on the extent to which we believe ourselves to be defined by nature or by nurture. Environmental constraints are like you say, determined by culture, oppressive systemic structures and economics. Access to and quality of education is another factor. On their own, these constraints are more or less understood, but the complexity builds as you combine them and increasingly so as you begin to contemplate their relationship to human behaviour. Some traits owe more to nurture and some more to nature, so where ignorance can be defined as lacking in education, knowledge or information and therefore greatly denotive of experience; selfishness is generally agreed to be a genetic trait aggrandized to a varying extent by a competitive environment.

    Cultural memes, as history has shown, can spread rapidly, infecting the general consciousness of a society with moral dilemmas which very often can lead to change. It should be a moral duty for each of us to attempt to discover the truth of our lives and our societies and contest injustice whenever we see or hear of it. The internet has already played a significant role in this, but surely must still be in it’s infancy in terms of it’s potential for promoting ‘one world consciousness’ and helping to free and enlighten others.

    It’s all relative of course whether “any of us are really free intellectually and emotionally”. I suppose I could argue that by your questioning what I’ve written, you are asking me to re-think or at least re-consider my propositions, thereby attempting to enlighten me or free me of any prejudice or ill thought out assumption I may have had. For this I am grateful and certainly do not consider you elitist for having done so. What I was suggesting here was that there are many people for whom even the slenderest chance of an education is unlikely owing to a power-distance ratio at the opposite end of the scale than is to be found in ‘Western democracies’. Their situations are unlikely to improve without some moral intervention.

  • Lambert Meertens 5th Apr 2014

    A good analysis of the respective roles of and intricate interplay between individual and systemic aspects in the reproduction of social (including political and economic) conditions is of more than philosophical interest. We need a better understanding of this for designing more effective strategies.

    The more I understand, the more I realize how little and brittle that understanding actually is. I'd love to help free and enlighten others, but perhaps we first need to free and enlighten ourselves. Or better yet, let's free and enlighten each other in a journey of discovery.