Pro-Human Extremist

Extremism in the defense of humanity is no vice

…and a way to become sane again

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Thousands of generations of Homo sapiens have lived and died on this planet. In that time, there have been countless natural disasters, plagues, droughts, and famines. Civilizations have risen and fallen. Stronger cultures have slaughtered and subjugated weaker ones. The collective suffering that has accrued throughout human history is beyond imagining.

Yet through all this, humanity has endured, and will endure. People have continued to live and feed themselves and look after one another, even as their world has been crumbling around them. Humans have been able to endure so much suffering because we have each other. We assist each other practically and we comfort each other emotionally. A little kindness and consideration brings great relief even in the most trying times. It keeps people from giving up even when they are sorely challenged. Humanity’s great strength is that we are all looking after the people around us, even while we are also looking after ourselves.

Sometimes, too many people have had to fight over too few resources, and the life of one has meant the death of another. But all of the violence piled up through the years is as nothing in comparison to the steady, business-as-usual pursuit of living by people working side-by-side in largely cooperative groups—in clans, villages, towns, and cities. If you were to travel to a random time and place in human history, you would almost always find yourself among people caring for themselves and their families, and generally respecting the rights of their neighbors. Horrific as it is, violence is the froth on the wave of human social existence, which works well far more often than it fails.

Because we are social animals, humanity’s existence is a succession of relationships. We are all products of our culture. That means that our personalities have been built up out of countless interactions we have had with our family, neighbors, friends, enemies, co-workers, and passing strangers. Each generation learns from the generation before it, inheriting its culture and only slowly, collectively adjusting it to fit changing circumstances.

Countless times each day, we brush up against our fellow humans and through our actions add to their accumulated sense of what it means to live a human life. “Little pitchers have big ears”—children learn more from how adults actually act than from how their parents tell them they should act. And the learning continues beyond childhood, throughout each person’s life, and we each contribute to that learning in the people around us far more often than we know.

Yes, we will each die and in time be forgotten, but while we are alive we will touch the lives of our family, neighbors, friends, enemies, co-workers, and passing strangers. Whatever large or small influence we may have on them will affect how they in turn will influence their family, neighbors, friends, enemies, co-workers, and passing strangers. And from them the train of influences will spread out contact-by-contact through and beyond our communities and down through the generations.

We are each just one atom in this vast resonating network of human interactions that is the embodiment of human culture. We probably cannot sway the greater course of human history, but we can at least control what part we ourselves play in it, for that is ultimately our legacy. We could live our lives as means to our own ends, without regard to the effects our actions have on others. Or we can live thoughtfully and with consideration, influencing the people around us in ways that we would want to be remembered for. Our actions may or may not in fact be remembered. But if our influence is good, we will benefit in some small way not only the people we have shared time with, but also other people that they influence down the road, including people who will live long after we are gone. We will have done our small part to nudge the wave of humanity down a path that will be better for everyone.

© Joel Benington, 2011

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Written by Joel Benington

July 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm

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