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By Punkerslut

Image by NiD
Image: "Someone" by NiD

Start Date: Sunday, March 3rd, 2002
Finish Date: Sunday, March 3rd, 2002

     How is a person made humane? What are the methods that have drawn the sympathies, the affections, and the passions from the mortal soul of individuals? Kindness, empathy, sincerity -- that is, to say, humanity --, of what manner does one go about when it comes to deriving these characteristics from the inner most depths of consciousness? When a father aids his child when crossing a bridge, hand in hand, what trait makes him do so, and where does it come from? There is a certain sickness, a very distinct feeling of distress that happens to all conscious beings when we understand that others are suffering. It is not necessarily a feeling of duty nor of obligation. The feeling of obligation may naturally come to some of us, but this is a sort of empathy-driven inclination.

     When we see another suffering, we always feel that we can relate. We, as conscious beings, inevitably, will feel suffering at one time or another. And when we see another suffer, as I said previously, we can relate. We understand what suffering feels like. In our own hearts and in our own minds, the suffering of another becomes our own suffering. In this respect, it is a type of humanity, a kindred feeling embraced by all sentient beings. As conscious beings, we all suffer. It is not through Humanitarianism that I focus on this point. Humanitarianism acknowledges that we are all conscious beings and that, unfortunately, we suffer. By understanding and acknowledging this, we may be more sympathetic towards each other. It is by being empathetic and understanding, desirous of relieving all suffering, that we are humane and acting like Humanitarians.

     The cruelty wrought by authorities is great indeed. Ruling popes have ordered crusades, unfeeling kings have ordered wars, and community leaders have condoned prejudices and bigotries of their people ever since the dawn of time. Rarely in any of these circumstances would someone step forward and shine the light of reason. There are those few brave individuals who are willing to defy religion, government, superstition, or whatever stands in their way, when it comes to spreading humaneness. From signs of emotion, people are quick to see what humanity means. When Frederick Douglass delivered a speech to Quakers, William Lloyd Garrison -- a leading Abolitionist -- asking the crowd, "Have we been listening to a thing, a chattel personal, or a man?" The crowd roared back, "A man! A man!" Henry Stephens Salt argued for the rights of animals, and he is known to have said in his book Animals' Rights, "I saw deep in the eyes of the animals the human soul look out upon me." Pythagoras made a nearly identical observation, creating the theory of the Transmigration of souls: that, as humans die, their souls migrate into the bodies of other animals. Many of these individuals, Douglass, Salt, Garrison, Pythagoras, and the like, fought for some kind of reform. They felt that the rights of a particular group had been oppressed. To quote Jean-Jacques Rousseau...

"I believe I need have no fear of contradiction when I credit man with the one natural virtue that the most intemperate detractor of human virtues has been forced to recognize. I speak of pity, a fitting predisposition for creatures as weak and subject to as many ills as we, a virtue all the more universal and useful to man because it precedes any kind of reflection in him, and so natural that even the beasts themselves sometimes show discernible signs of it.[...]

"Hence, it is certain that pity is a natural sentiment moderating the action of self-love in each individual and so contributing to the mutual preservation of the whole species. It is pity that sends us unreflecting to the aid of those we see suffering; it is pity that in the state of nature takes the place of laws, moral habits, and virtues, with the added benefit that there no one is tempted to disobey its gentle voice; it will deter a robust savage from robbing a weak child or infirm old person of his hard-won sustenance if the savage himself can hope to find his own elsewhere; it is pity that, in place of that sublime maxim of rational justice, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' inspires in all men that the other maxim of natural goodness, much less perfect but perhaps more useful: 'Do what is good to yourself with as little possible harm to others.' In short, it is to this natural feeling, rather than to any subtle arguments, that we must look for the cause of the aversion that every man feels to doing evil, quite independently of the maxims of education." [A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, translated by Franklin Philip, (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1994), 43-48. First published in 1755.]

     By seeing another and knowing that they are fully conscious, these individuals were made into reformers. By seeing the trembling skin, the teary eyes, the scared face -- we all sympathize. By seeing these emotions of suffering, we hurt deep inside. As conscious beings, we understand what it is like to suffer. To suffer, be it by the hand of nature or man, is to feel inferior, to feel pain, to feel helpless, to feel ignored, to feel neglected, to feel distress, to feel displeasure, to feel all that is undesired -- this is suffering and as the life of conscious beings goes, we will all feel it at one point or another. The question presented to us is how we deal with others when it comes to suffering. Do we offer our hand of help and aid, or do we turn a blind eye and embrace ignorance of pains? What it fundamentally comes down to is a question of humanity. Are we humane, understanding, and empathetic of others concerns and interests, or are we inhumane, brutal, barbaric, and unfeeling of the desires of others?

     Art, be it movies or books, paintings or drawings, is a field of higher understanding which is reflective of humanity. Within art, our senses and our emotions are aroused and tickled as we are presented with a story line that renders us merciless to its reality. It is true that it depends on the movie or the book, but art captures a situation, a conflict, a suffering, a pain, and it allows us to rewatch or reread it over and over and over. We are reminded that we can feel sympathy and understanding of others. From art, we are reminded that we ourselves are conscious beings, that when we see others suffering it is almost unbearable for us just as it is for those who suffer. All the signs that may be seen from suffering -- tears, cries, trembling skin -- should render us merciless to their pains. There is no distance too far between two conscious beings to say that they are indifferent of each other. Whether comparing a peasant and a king, a worker and a boss, we are comparing two conscious beings.

     It has been said that the reasoning presented in Paine's speeches was the greatest argument constructed opposed to slavery. This may be true when it comes to pen and paper, but no greater argument can be developed than that of the blood and sweat of the life of a slave. If you may present the life of a slave to community members, showing them the strife and pain, making them understand the suffering -- then this is the greatest argument. You may state "god created all equal" innumerable times and may go on endlessly about how "all races are equally intelligent" countlessly, but when you present the sufferings of the slave, his misfortune, the blights of his life, the tragedy -- then every individual who sees this and has any aspect of humanity will be horrified. For every lash felt upon the bleeding back of a slave, there will be a slash on the minds of the humane minded. It is not at all a feeling of fear of suffering. It is understanding suffering, knowing that although a slave and an Abolitionist may be separated by thousands of miles, as long as the slave is a slave, the heart of the Abolitionist will be rent with tears. All conscious beings, to some extent or another, are kin to each other. Since we are all conscious, we are all fully capable of suffering. Since we are all capable of suffering, we are all fully capable of empathy, of understanding, and thus, we are capable of sympathy, of warmth, of affection. We are capable of tenderness, a thing manifested from understanding and will. To affectionately touch another, making their lives seem all the more brighter, and to do so sensitively with understanding -- this is tenderness. This is humanity.


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