I could start this high and mighty, by saying I’m getting sick and tired of seeing all sides of the political spectrum refer to other sides as though they weren’t human. I could. Except that I’d have to start by removing the log in my own eye. I think I was fourteen the first time a classmate — for good and sufficient reason (the woman had done war on the gifted-forms-that-weren’t-supposed-to-exist, including accusing us of breaking furniture in a room we’d never been in) — suggested we kill a school employee. To this day I’m not sure she wasn’t serious. (You kind of have to have known those people, in that place. R. M. Ballantine said there was nothing as duplicitous as a school boy. I’m here to tell you there’s nothing quite so dangerous as a group of highly intelligent young women who actually like each other, in a culture where women are, of course, assumed to be dumber than men.) But the way I chose to diffuse it was to say, “Lord, no. The SPCA would be after us the rest of our lives.”
Since then the like of such statements have left my lips at least a million times. Maybe more. We do it without thinking and without malice. “That dumb b*tch,” or “That worm!” or…
That’s okay. I could preen over it, but it would be like feminists going to war against the word “too” (I swear. Early and often.)
Fortunately I’m a linguist and I know that what passes our lips in those kind of circumstances means bloody nothing. It’s a joke, or a saying, or just an expression of extreme annoyance.
I have a “better off gone” list that is the size of three Oxford dictionaries and would take a magnifying glass to read, if it had physical existence. Those people (mostly politicians. It takes a lot for a non-politician with no power over me to obtrude on my consciousness long enough to summon that level of annoyance. Not to say some haven’t managed it, but it’s very tough) are perfectly safe from me. All that mental entry means is “I think you’re doing more harm than good in the world, and if I heard of your death I wouldn’t cry.” (In extreme cases I might open a bottle of bubbly. See Arafat’s death.)
Faced with the actual person, knowing everything about them, I might still find them repulsive human beings, but they would still be human beings. And unless I’m protecting others from imminent physical harm and/or defending my own life, I don’t think I could easily kill them. Now, if I’d come to the conclusion I needed to kill them, and did so, I’d still know they were human, and I would carry that knowledge with me to my grave. (Note that I’m weird enough to refuse to put down ant poison or in Portugal where window screens are non-existent, to refuse to spray a room for flies, because when I was around 9 I realized I couldn’t create life, and have felt bad about killing since. Not saying I won’t. In sufficiently provoking/needful circumstances I can kill, but I kill in the full knowledge I’m destroying something I can’t replace.)
What is dangerous and worrisome are the (usually extremely well educated, usually — though not always — of a lefty bend) people who want to erase the distinction between human life and other life.
This is usually done from the point of view of bringing the other life up. You can see it in vegetarians talking about meat being murder, and in Vegans who talk about the sexual slavery of cows.
It is done, at least supposedly, from the point of view of “I want to bring all life on Earth to this peaceful coexistence.” It at least takes on the hue of that beautiful vision of paradise where the lion and the lamb lie down together.
However because it erases distinctions and loses the shades of difference, it eventually slides into the idea that if we are to eat anything, we should eat human, because humans deserve it. This is just like every form of multiculturalism leads to hating western culture. Because the differences are obvious and you can’t really lie to yourself about which of these cultures provides a better standard of living for humans, so all you have left is denying that a better standard of living is important and fastening on to small flaws to drive the obviously superior culture down in others’ views. In the same way erasing the differences between human and animal, eventually leads to erasing the capacity for moral judgement and sentience in humans (thus the new ever popular idea that we don’t do things because we think, we just think to rationalize things we did by instinct or rote. [Yes, I know Heinlein said something like it, but the application was different. Your subconscious does drive you to stuff you then rationalize, but it’s not your every action, and it certainly isn’t what everyone does.] Right now there is a school of — spit — psychology that believes that humans really have no free will, and just act in pre-determined genetic/environmental ways. Man, I’d like them to explain my trajectory that way. Bah. Simplifiers and idiots.) And from there it leads to a purely utilitarian view of humans, which leads to “why not eat humans?”
It is a very easy route for humans to climb down. In fact, most of our great civilizations not influenced by Judeo-Christian thought had absolutely no issues with this. It was perfectly okay to crucify non-Roman citizens along the roads pour encourager les autres. It was perfectly okay to cut out the hearts of war prisoners for the sun god to do its thing, because, you know, they weren’t human.
Every human tribe has a word that means “human” which in the dim past applied only to the people of the tribe. Every word for “foreigner” or “stranger” once upon a time meant “not human.”
Against this, and to make the contact between tribes safe, there were elaborate rules for the treatment of the stranger and the guest which go back to our earliest origins. Having done extensive reading of myth over the last few weeks, I keep finding it at the root of our oldest stories. In fact, since we no longer have that much freight placed on hospitality, some of those stories are now incomprehensible, in the sense we don’t really “get” the cues for who is the hero and who the villain.
Because Judeo-Christian thought replaced those rules with the idea we’re all brothers and sisters, all descended from the same parents (and, look, other than the weird stuff that fell into the various regional family trees, or even counting that, we have gone through bottle necks where the human population was maybe a couple dozen pairs. So if it wasn’t the garden and Adam and Eve and all of us brothers and sisters, with that limited a breeding population, we are at the very least all cousins. Which where I come from means about the same thing as brothers and sister.) Now you might say in the wars intra-Christians and in the way society treated the poor and powerless that thought was more often honored in the breach. But if you say that you never saw two brothers fight (like Cain and Abel, my boys were at one time) and you also probably don’t know how much worse it can get.
Sure fratricide happens, but the notion of a common breed called “mankind” prevents — or prevented us — from considering others in purely utilitarian terms. If you look outside the West, you find Asian cultures treating humans as widgets to an extent we don’t fully understand.
All of this is important, because since the ascendance of the State as a dominant force that replace both family and religion, to a large part, in our private pantheons, we’ve seen people slip back into this.
It is no coincidence that the great atheistic horrors of the 20th century racked up even more dead bodies than the neo-pagan cult of the Nazis.
And it is important to remember that — to remember that once you start think of humans as THINGS who are USEFUL and lose track of the fact that each human, regardless of ability, opinions, disability, age, tribal affiliation, religion, color or any other characteristic pertaining to a man (or woman) is still valuable simply because he’s human like us, horror ensues.
In the end, as a human I must respect others like me, to respect myself. You start denying the humanity of others, and at the end of that road, what is left but to deny your own humanity? What makes you special that you arrogate to yourself the right to decide which of these “non-human” things is to live or die, to succeed or fail?
Oh, sure, the people who do that end up engaging in obsessive virtue signaling, some of which ends up (to make themselves “better” than the common people) having them defend the indefensible. And some of them “prove” they have the right by using force to reduce as many of their fellow humans as possible to the status of “things”.
But looking at them from outside, they became what they make others, and one has to wonder if in the darkness of night, in the hollowness of their own hearts, they don’t know it, and it doesn’t drive them to greater madness.
Which matters not. In the end, history will route around them and forget them, or relegate them to the bin of bad things inhabiting our collective nightmares.
Because the future belongs to life. The future belongs to cultures healthy enough to survive in great numbers. That can be achieved, at times, temporarily, by killing every other culture. But it seems to be a temporary thing. Cultures at least in modern age that view everyone, even their members, as things, seem to have trouble reproducing.
There’s reasons for that, including why make more of these “human things” if they’re interchangeable. These reasons — this viewing humans as humans and special — might be at the root of why Christianity spread so far, so fast.
So in the end, the future belongs to those cultures that value human life.
The others are just a momentary regressive glitch that passes.