What It Means to be Human

Aristotle had once said that humans, due to their social nature, are ‘political creatures’. In a way, it holds water as people tend to engage in a variety of activities that blur the line between the public and private spheres. To some, politics is the art of governance, the machinations of the bureaucratic machine. However, in the same vein of thought, the unspoken struggle for power in the office, the constant chaos of a student’s life in high school and the invisible imbalance of power between one person to another are also considered politics to a degree.

This complexity of human interaction is what I believe to be one of humanity’s defining features…and also its most confusing.

Humans, with their stellar intellect, with their current position on the top of the food chain, are said to be rational. Rational equates to behaviours and patterns that can be calculated and predicted within the realm of mathematics and science. Yet, as many who study social sciences can tell you, people never behave exactly the way you think they would given a set of criteria.

This realisation sparked a number of questions within me.

Firstly, why is it that we are often told to stand out from the crowd when society at large enforces the law of conformity? The constant mantra of “being different, to be different, being unique” is oft repeated to the point they lose meaning. The words are reduced into buzzwords. We, too, desire to stand out from the rest but we feel at home once we are accepted by others once we change ourselves to fit in. For the most part, people do change themselves, for better or worse.

So why then, when people decide to stick to their guns and adapt to the situation to best fit their own stance, they are ostracised? Is it because we hate those who are different? If so, then why strive for uniqueness to begin with?

Then comes the issue of morality and justice. Everything we do and everything we don’t do stems from what we perceive as right and wrong. Sure, a lot of problems can be explained away through simple terms when presented with a surface-level of understanding such as John being sent to detention for punching another student in the face.

Simple, right? We must not harm another person with no good reason lest we be punished for it. However, conflicts are never that simple and always have a key event that acts as a cause for it.

What if the victim in question was actually bullying John psychologically through taunts and social isolation by convincing people to stay from him and this time John decided it was too much? Would he be justified in his actions? And if so, was it the right one to make?

We could potentially go on and on about the complexity of cases that are more sophisticated than the one presented and we would never come to a definitive answer.

Does it mean we should stop, then?

Practically speaking, if it impedes the progress of more pressing matters, sure. Yet, we have clergymen arguing with each other over the correct way to place your hands when conducting prayers, atheists engaging in a war of words with their peers over the correct usage of the very term they identify with, men and women debating over perceived social injustices that may or may not exist just to name a few. Why? Is it to convince the other that their stance is just or right? Is it to convince the other that they have the moral high ground? Is it to sate the innate pleasure we feel when we dominate the other in a battle of wits that is a speck in scale when compared to problems that affect all of humanity?

Or is it just our nature as human beings to seek out conflict and assert power over others? Do we like hurting other people?

It certainly seems like it to me. The proxy wars that have been started by the USSR and the US were done to¬† impede the others’ influence on the world while simultaneously spreading theirs. The news that gets the most views is often the worst that the world can offer, not the best of it. Oftentimes when we look to history for examples of prominent leaders, peaceful or violent, they accomplished what they accomplished not only because of their wit or talent or ideals or strength, but because they had the power to do so.

The power of influence. To convince and/or coerce people to do what you want them to do.

Is life then an eternal struggle for power supremacy?

Not quite. Is it bad?

No. Not really.

I think this complex mess of contradictions and illogical actions are what makes us human. The world we live in is a daunting place and it is logical and therefore human to try and make sense of it. To attempt to rationalise what goes on around us and wanting to get others onboard with what we have got is human too. We operate as a whole, each individual part of the collective doing their best to contribute towards the benefit of the mass we call humanity.

What I’ve written here might not make sense and it does not need to. If we could fully understand ourselves and what makes us tick, then this article did not need to be written to begin with.

 

 

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2 comments

  1. Robert · January 31

    Politics is the art of getting what you want. If my dog messes inside I can handle it several different ways. That’s politics.
    People want to control other people and themselves…they can also be hypocrites.
    Social systems organize people by limiting their choices/freedoms. Too many choices can result in dissatisfaction as a society or an individual.
    Most problems result from not agreeing on the boundaries!

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  2. Disney · January 31

    I suspect that hate and fear are greater motivators than we would like to think. Fear (kiasu) helps to propel mankind forward but forward is not necessarily the best direction. I agree with Robert that social systems (especially religions) deliberately limit the freedoms of others in order to elevate one’s own status. Trust all goes well with you – someone is calling me to go watch the new Churchill film. I’m interested to see how they present this ‘greatest Brit of all time’ (and one of the greatest bastards!!

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