On LinkinIn Pulse this morning, I encountered a column titled "Forget About Humanity." It's a critique of modern society and how we've structured it. The overall tone, as I perceived it, is set by the final sentence of the opening paragraph:
But yes, hurray, by all means, let's all run out and buy another gadget to distract us, from anything actually meaningful or real.To which I plead: Not Guilty. I am not distracted from the meaningful or real by gadgets. Instead, as the author notes, I ration out my "understandably limited humanity" (By which I think Mr. LoPraeste refers to my attention, time and resources.) as I see fit to do so. And I believe that other people do so as well. And "[m]ost of us suffer the lot of the bungled and botched" precisely because we live in a world where billions of people ration their limited means in a way that makes sense for them, rather than as a part of a grand worldwide enterprise of global uplift. Speaking for myself, when I choose to answer an e-mail or a text message rather than taking action to combat human suffering, the absolute degradation of the planet or bankers sucking $30 trillion out of the global economy, it's not because I don't know what's important, or I'm somehow not "awake." It's because that e-mail or that text IS what's important to me at that moment. I fully understand what I'm doing, and what purposes I'm serving. It's no different than when I choose to eat dinner, go to bed or donate to the food drive that the United States Postal Service holds every Spring. Yes, when I chose to purchase a tablet computer rather than spend that money to directly aid those less well off than myself or donate that money to a charity, I directly contributed to my own focus on what Mr. LoPraeste considers the wrong things. One of those "wrong things" it turns out, may very well be that judgement.
We can argue what is actually meaningful or real. We can argue it indefinitely. (Just as we can argue what the definitions of "meaningful" or "real" are in this context, or whether they have workable definitions at all.) But one of the cornerstones of our human-ness, if not necessarily our humanity, is that we choose these things for ourselves. It is one of the freedoms we have, and that cannot be taken away from us. Yes, it makes for a world were the things that certain people value are different than the things that other people (sometimes including ourselves) want them to value. If we don't like what others value, then it is our responsibility to demonstrate to them how the things that we value are also of value to them - and of greater value than the things that they already place value on. I note the irony of being told that we often have "a relentless focus on talking instead of doing." Because publicly judging via a column on a web site is just that - talking. It is not taking steps to correct the problem, nor is it leading by example. "Do as I would have you do" is not the same as "Follow me."
There is no shortage of people who have determined that the best way to secure themselves in their basic "humanity" is to question someone else's. But humanity is either a birthright or it isn't - when we come to the conclusion that some people are worthy of the term "human" and others are not - and that our judgments are an accurate reflection of some objective reality, we are doing the very thing we often decry.