Humanity–that collection of everyone here, in a common fate, on this very small planet, in an infinitesimally large universe—has been caught in a “whirpool of reduction,” as Kundera reminds us in The Art of the Novel. We have discussed some of these many “reductions,” as has Glover in his Moral History of the Twentieth Century, Humanity. We have been having this discussion for a long time, but most assuredly since the advent of that first modernism we could say was inaugurated with the likes of Montaigne.
Our discussions have borne debate; they have endured a certain distress,; they have weathered our dissatisfaction; our discontent; our disappointment,; all of them over whether any headway toward a sane and clear understanding of what we mean by the term ‘humanity’ will ever be reached for ourselves, either individually, or in the fore stated “common fate,” which is where our humanity rests mostly, does it not?
It is our commonality as a species–and I am not herein reaching for an overarching definition of humanity, totalized in some imaginary way outside of its capabilities as a term to designate what we experience beyond culture or beyond gender–yes, our commonality is what has become the axis on which every theory or programmatic of the new humanism rotates, revolves. We are all 99.9% identical in our DNA, and this identicalness in biology sits at the center of all attempts at being humane toward others. These attempts are even aimed at those who are truly “other” than we are—whoever this we may be—and in the more traditional sense of those who are obviously unlike ourselves, but to include those who are other as either one of twins are each other for the other. There is a transcendence of culture possible in our analyses even if we never find a person outside of a cultural context. Not being outside a cultural context and that cultural context have metaphysical primacy over our humanity–our Humanity–are not the same thing.
This new as well as some forms of the traditional, humanism, also sits at the center of most of our atrocities, our inhumanity —although I do see the new humanism as being central to our atrocities, where the traditional humanism wa one from which we deviated every time we entered into atrocity after atrocity. [see Christian humanism]
We do not live biological lives as much as we do cultural lives; of course; yet and still I have to insist that humanity is something that transcends culture. Although it is there in culture that we maintain our identity as that identity is framed by, supported by, social conventions, we need to understand that the complex of human in the mind is something that in every individual is greater than the forces of identity as a social construct–super-ego, as Freud would or might call it, does not have greater weight by necessity than does ego or Id.
The fact that the idea of a supremacy of culture over one’s humanity or humanity in general has easily been used to support the most heinous of human political programs—a neo Nazis anti-semite might reason as thus: But why is it that we believe that this common biology should inspire us to respect each other extra, love each other more deeply, be for one another as brothers and sisters . . . nothing wrong with the latter, eh, unless we examine some simple facts: Murder victims are killed most often by people they know, and that means most people who are murdered are so by family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or other acquaintances. The fact that we are 99,9% related genetically does not in itself guarntee that anyone will feel brotherly love unless a metaphysic of brotherly love were adopted by all of humankind, which would mean to adopt the kind of humanism that would be pan-humanism for a pan-humanity transcending culture, race, linguistics, religious dogmas and gender or sexual orientation.
This “common fate” is other than just a biological harmony among humans. I am also 98% identical with a chimpanzee; I am not–although obligated to respect another species, as we often say in our efforts to sound as if we were humane creatures. It’s not a crime to kill a dog.
This usually results in painting the human as a new Adam—no, I am not going herein to argue for broadening our sense of humanity to include other animals. And thus a special problem arises—our animal nature. What do we do with our animal nature? How is it that we address such a duality in each of us: human and Homo Sapiens?
Much of Native American, or African, tribal wisdom has returned in our contemporary biology; there is an intricate web of interconnection between the cosmos and ourselves, our being. But without a further exploration into the realm we call ontology, anything said hereafter might prove a bit unwieldly to manage. This too will be discussed in the upcoming pages. For now, let us consider what our responsibilities to the future are, perhaps Any future that will not share our cultural heritage, our cultural bigotries, dogmas, manias, et cetera?
In a well organized, thesis driven essay, of about three pages in length, discuss how Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being addresses this question of our responsibility to each of our own humanity and our collective humanity? Do not forget to use evidence from the text; be inside the text. Quote often to support all assertions and conclusions. We will work out in revisions the most effective ways of using quotes.