Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Collateral damage; that is all we are

“Human beings have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving.  This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees the hands for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other living species on earth.”

That is one of Wikipedia’s many short notes about human beings as a race: a very generous and fittingly flattering description of what human beings are, you may say. In fact, some may go on to feel cheated, insisting instead that human beings are not only the most advanced animals on earth but that they are its divine custodians, having been put in charge of the world and its entirety, by God the sole creator.

Human beings are important; so important, humans have sanctified their own lives. Human life seems to be so valuable that no monetary amount can be equated to just one human life. Not only do we value the life, we value the standard which that life lives. So in the end we have issues like human rights coming up, giving every human a minimum standard below which it would be considered unfit to live. The entire show being run on earth seems to be centred around one set of beings – humans. They seem to be all that matters. They seem to be all that God cares about. They seem to be the stars of the movie, without whom, nothing goes on.

Then in that midst, at the top of the hour, you switch on your stereo, or your TV set for the latest bulletin of World News. Mark that, world news, not news of your Local Council leaders. And the picture that comes to your mind 65 per cent of the times you listen to World News starts to finally bring you back to reality.

In the news, a few thousands will have been detonated into oblivion by a road side bomb somewhere in the middle-east. Somewhere in Europe, another few thousands will have stayed stranded for hours if not days at airports and train stations because of volcanic ash and snow. Down in Africa, another few thousand have suddenly died because of malnutrition and famine and another hundred or so, butchered by some primitive guerrilla force. Over in Asia, just a few more tens of thousands had also died after a tsunami had swept on-shore. And of course, over in the world of the free, the mighty USA, another thousand have been scorched away when two planes are flown into sky scrapers.

And when you sit in front of your TV set, as the news is aired, and thousands, (not of rats or termites or flies), but of human beings, are crashed and detonated and starved and burnt away with effortless ease, you cannot help but think that something must be amiss with our thinking. We are not, we simply cannot be as important as we think we are.

We can’t beat nature
Consider the forces of nature, against our over-priced intelligence and technology. The Dutch reclaimed the sea and settled where waves used to rise, we discovered fire to keep us warm, built houses to keep us safe and discovered drugs to fight disease. Watching generations of mankind trying to improve their stay on earth is like watching a crawling baby climb up a stool so that he can punch his 7ft dad.

When Mother Nature goes into full gear, human beings have to run in full retreat. In such moments, human beings are reduced to the nothingness that they largely are. Breathing with fury and vengeance, nature, which is solely responsible for existence, comes in with frequent reality checks, as stark reminders to man on who exactly matters around here.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." Genesis 1: 27. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1.5. And to that, you add, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

You read those there scriptures and you realise why human beings, a vast number of who are religiously faithful to at least one god, think they are the best thing to hit the road in these parts. It seems to all be a divine plan, God seems to have held man in his hands, walked him down to earth, pointed to a crocodile, and told man that you would now rule this creature for life. And because it’s an undisputed fact that most human beings take every religious teaching to be factual truth beyond any doubt, it is no wonder that we take ourselves and our lives so importantly.

But if our life matters so much, if indeed human life is so sacred, especially to god the almighty, how would you take some of these bits of scripture?

Genesis 6-7, God, unhappy with the wickedness of man, killed every living thing on earth, except Noah’s family, and a few animals. Exodus 32:27, upon seeing the Jews, his chosen race, worship a golden calf, God commands the Levites thus... “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.” And of course we cannot forget the Egyptian first born sons, including those that were hardly a day old (and hence sinless) who were killed simply because God wanted to show Pharaoh who exactly was in charge.

And here, we are making the perfectly safe assumption that God exists. So you ask yourself, where does Jeremiah 1.5 and 29:11, or the perception we have of sanctified life for humanity, weigh into such actions by apparently the one being who values our lives most highly? How come he can sweep us all away into oblivion in a brief moment’s anger, if at all we matter much? With so much life being laid to waste by the very being who created it, human life cannot be as important as it is deemed to be. Instead, it’s safer to assume that human beings are just ponies, simple puzzle pieces in a long chain whose end humans themselves have no idea of.

Or, of course, there could be the other assumption that no God exists and hence no body categorically gave human beings the mandate to run the show here and that just like other animals, human beings are just still, only searching for their bearings.

Human stupidity
Among the things anybody should never neglect, it is the strength of human stupidity. You simply never underestimate human stupidity. It is everywhere and what makes it most acute is that human beings are themselves not aware of it. And to add to that, the fact that human beings have a higher sense of intelligence than other animals, they assume that they have avoided the stupidity plague altogether.

For all the intelligence we have, human beings should be ashamed that they can still do what they do today. The relentless bigotry that runs so rich in our blood streams it almost makes you want to choke. A white man sees a black, naked, poverty-stricken (although fellow) human being and what does he do – he forces him to become his slave. A black man gives birth to an albino child and guess what he does – sacrifice the child to some gods. A group of heterosexual human beings runs into a homosexual man and guess what they do – suggest a death penalty for whoever is homosexual. A man brings a bride home from another tribe and guess what his family does – reject the girl because she is from the wrong tribe. An intelligent woman rises and stands for political leadership and guess what the men do – shout her down simply because she is a woman.

And so on and so on and so on. That is the quality of intelligence that human beings, in all their glory, boast of.

The value of the human race has surely been inflated way beyond its actual worth. We love to busk in the ability to send men to the moon and into space, to overcome gravity, to change gender, and many such wonders. But at the very core, in the most basic of our forms, we are still very primitive, susceptible to superstition, scared of one another and just living to die another day. All the intelligence we boast of is a only a bubble, one that is burst every time Mother Nature strikes to remind us that all we are is collateral damage.

1 comment:

  1. I think it all boils down to the meaning of life, why we're here.
    You should take a look at http://idealisticrealities.blogspot.com/2011/04/meaning-of-life.html .. :) Might find it interesting..