Humans don’t always treat each other very well. A quick scan of the newspaper or flipping through cable channels is all it takes to remind us. In fact, we are capable of treating each other very badly. Our history is full up of all manner of atrocities and barbarities.
At the most basic level, we are in either a positive or negative stance towards other humans. For each of us, this splits all of humanity into three broad sets, the positively aligned group, the negatively aligned group and the set of those who we have no particular alignment. These alignments can vary over time, as when the person who doesn’t wait their turn at a four way intersection temporarily shifts to my negatively aligned group.
Beyond that, I think we each have a general alignment towards all of humanity, which particularly reflects on our cognitive relationship to our neutral mass of humanity. We can have a positive view of humanity, thinking of ourselves as members of a greater cooperative human community or a negative view, seeing other humans as antagonists, competitors for the scarce resources of life.
People can cause harm to other people by either deliberately acting in order to create that harm or by being indifferent to the hurt to others that results from their actions, that is, it can be either intentional or incidental. The motive for deliberate harm would be some form of malice, whether specific to the victim or some more generalized virulence.
By incidental harm, I don’t mean accidental harm, harm arising from unforeseen consequences, but rather a harm where one is aware, to some degree of the consequences, or possible consequences of an act, but does it anyway. The act is not done to create the harm, but rather is done for some other purpose.
Incidental harm is basically a result of self-interest trumping the interests of the other. It involves treating others instrumentally, that is as objects to be utilized to enhance one’s own satisfaction. This can happen either actively or passively; that is one’s actions can either directly cause the harm or the harm might result as a consequence of those actions.
A great deal of human suffering is the result of humans treating other humans as objects. In treating another person as an object, one is not doing unto them as one would have them do unto oneself. Rather it is regarding them as if they were scissors or rocks.
This instrumentalizing of people arises from an immersion in self, a blindness to the humanity of others. It is a glorification of one’s self, action auto-piloted on a template of self-interest.
But a world dominated by self-interest is a combative, difficult world. Based on a fictional premise it belies both the interconnectivity of the modern human, our deep reliance on others in every aspect of our lives, our interdependence with the whole vast human world. It also fails to be aware of the underlying common nature of all people, our shared being as human.
The proper treatment of humans is to treat them as humans, not as things. This requires a senstivity to their full humanness, an awareness that all humans on this planet are of equal worth and deserving of equal dignity and regard, a seeing of oneself in all humans and of all humans in oneself.
- The Human Ideology
- Let Us Be Human Together