Monday, June 13, 2005

A Humane Human?

The idea of a humane human would certainly sound absurd at first. Isn’t a human supposed to be humane in the first place or else where does the word humane come from?

To clarify what I mean by ‘humane’, I will refer you to:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English humain
Date: circa 1500
1. marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
2. characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture : humanistic humane studies

Collins’ Cobuild English Dictionary for Advanced Learners
1. Humane people act in a kind, sympathetic way towards other people and animals, and try to do them as little harm as possible.
2. Humane values and societies encourage people to act in a kind and sympathetic way towards others, even towards people they do not agree with or like.

In today’s societies, we have been numbed in our senses by the bombardment of media, the hectic ness of our lifestyle, the cruelty of life happening around us and sometimes the struggle within us.

How often do we come across a violent scene in a movie or TV screen and yet protest against the film maker for generating the scene just to enhance the cinematic effect? Or have we encountered so many violent scenes on the screen such that we are already immune to it? Do we scream in horror at the decapitation of a body or at how a bullet can effectively destroy a life within a split second or even at the marital arts guru who can effectively finish off a human life with their bare arms within seconds? Do we revel in horror or disgust at the crude level of civilisation when humans are portrayed only as sex slaves no different from animals on the scene or on the Internet? We join in with the others for the level of entertainment that is supposed to be intended? I wonder how far we come degrade ourselves in the level of civilisation. Some people will disagree with me and will generally categorize all these scenes as a form of entertainment.

I would agree that there are some forms of violence in some films that are unavoidable in order to convey the reality of the scenes to us. Examples are ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Schindler’s List’ that try to show us how the soldiers died in action and how innocent Jews died in the hand of the Nazis. I greatly applaud the director Steven Spielberg for bringing the reality of war onto the scene. These scenes should make us be more wary about causes of war, the tragedy it would inflict on the affected family members, the cost of human lives and the insanity it might propagate. But there are some films and TV serials like ‘Rambo-First Blood’, ‘World Wrestling Federation’, which I question the effect of explicit violence on the audience. Would the audience be lead to think that the lives of human being are worth nothing in the eye of the portrayed hero? Is this one of the reasons why there are more and more violence in the school campus? I would believe so, because of the mass appeal of such popular media and the other form of media such as the video games. Human beings in stunning and captivating video graphics are being made targets to be shot at and points are awarded for successfully destroying or crippling a human being. More recently is the kind of nudities that are shown in the pictures and videos on the Internet. The broadcasters are trying to satisfy the sexual desire of viewers by dehumanizing the victims or their so called actors.

Do we regard one another as human beings or objects? If we see them as human beings, as being made in the image of God, as being made as the highest level or at the pinnacle of God’s creation, then those actors who are portrayed as sex slaves and victimised objects are as valuable and dignified as a human being just as we are. What outrageous and selfish right do we have to demand that these people should degrade themselves just because we have created a market or demand for them? Is it because that we are able to afford this form of entertainment that they should continue to degrade themselves? Is it because that we are able to afford it that these people can be treated as an object to be toyed with? An object that we can dress and undress them as and when we like; an object that we can choose to have sex with and yet not be held accountable for; an object that we can choose to shoot at, to maim at, to decapitate with, so long as our desires can be satisfied?

Dear human beings, we are not fit to be human if we are not a humane being. We have not reflected much on what we have seen in the screen and what we have done to each others and what is actually happening around us. We are inflicting harm to each other and destroying each other and belittling each other such that we resemble less and less like a true human being who is made in the image of God.

When we are so tied down and burdened by our daily work, where is there space for us to reflect? Where is there avenue for us to relax and de-stress in a convenient way except to turn on the TV screen or sit ourselves in a theatre? But such a convenient and perhaps entertaining way to relax and de-stress may open up an avenue for us to dehumanize ourselves without us knowing it consciously. Do you realize how easy it is for us to succumb to external influence when we are tired mentally and physically? We lack the willpower to oppose whatever values which are inhumane when so many around us are doing the same thing, i.e. to entertain themselves to death. If you were to read C.S Lewis' ‘Mere Christianity, notice how he makes a mockery of those who abuse their physical needs. He acknowledges that we have physical needs. Some people satisfy their sexual desire needs by appealing to sexually explicit scenes. C.S. Lewis asked whether it would be absurd if we will also degrade ourselves to a live show of actors displaying us what they are eating on stage when we believe that our needs can be satisfied by appealing to scenes.

Yes, we have needs, but we should seek to satisfy them through legitimate means and through avenues that maintain our dignity and self-respect for each other. It is only when we treat each other with dignity and self-respect that we can continue to be a humane human. It is only when we are humane human that our life is more meaningful. It is only when we are humane human that we can continue to help those who are in needs; to extend our hand to help those who are in disaster; to lend a helping hand to those who are victims to inhumane humans; to create a world which is a better living place. Just to quote Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Refer to http://www.lyrics-domain.com/Man_in_The_Mirror_Lyrics.html,
for full text)

To make the world a better place, let us start with ourselves. And to echo the spirit in the ‘Communist Manifesto’,
“Let us unite to make this world a better place by learning to treat each other as a human being. We have nothing to lose but for the inhumanity that will continue to degrade us and demonize us. Humane human of all countries, unite!”
Lastly, we should and must spend more time to REFLECT. Stop allowing ourselves to be numbed by our senses and by the hectic ness of our lifestyle. I would like to end with a quote from David C. Stolinsky’s Entertaining Ourselves to Death:

Real life isn’t a video game. If we expect it to be, we encourage non-human behavior and mindless violence. Real life isn’t a TV show. If we expect it to be, we are more likely to act like hormone-drenched adolescents than like responsible adults. Real life isn’t a movie. If we expect it to be, we are likely to wind up not with a comedy or a drama, but with a tragic farce. If we’re not careful, we may succeed in entertaining our civilization to death. But we won’t die laughing.

(Refer to http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/8/27/220435.shtml,
for full text)

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