If what is humane is now the question, then one of the first responses would have to be directed at the notion of love. Herein stated as a priori true, love is the principal attribute in anyone in being humane, in acting humanely, in elevating our humanity to where we can live beyond surviving, which if we recognize the French in our English, to survive is always beyond or other than living, sur/vivir in French means just that, beyond to live.
Love is an entity some say. Others say it is a spiritual principle that pervades the world. Mozart called love the soul of genius. How so then for the creation of our humanity? There is contingency between the two. There is little humanity without love; in direct proportion we must understand that love is necessary to be humane. We must then understand that love in this way is not a pasion in its entirety, passion itself not an emotion, the latter distinct from what is meant by human passion, something we come to understand through mediating our terms in the Christian tradition where we can speak of the Passion of Christ. It’s not Emotion Week, not the Emotion of Christ. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior were men of great passion, not emotional men, the latter also being a way in which men have sought to control women and their state of being or becoming, only allowing them emotions while cutting off through access to passion or the expression of passion, except in highly proscribed and circumscribed contexts or outlets.
I connect to humanity by choice, thus as an act of freewill, which I accept as self-evident. Humans have free-will. This choosing to have is exactly what distinguishes humanity from other things we are able to have without choosing. We do not choose to have blue eyes, we do not choose to breathe, we do not choose to be the homo-sapiens we are, presented with the heredity we have—we do not choose our biology as it is given to us at birth. No one chooses if he has to piss; the will to piss and the bodily function of pissing are exclusive. If holding one’s piss and shit has its limits. We do choose to be the kind of human we are, though. Thus we choose our humanity; but, of course, we do not choose it as we do other things; if we do, so much the worse for our humanity.
For certain, humanity is not a thing in the sense of an object, whether that be a rock, a chair, a tree or a piece of paper, or a part of the body separate in consideration from the entirety of one’s body in symbiosis with mind. It is also not a thing in the sense of idea or energy, such as freedom or love. But it is a thing in the notion of thing present in the idea of entity, and in this we find our humanity residing as an ingredient in the manner in which we exist. Yes, humanity is an entity we choose; it is an entity that possesses us, becomes one with us, transforms us, and transfigures us even in the eyes of others who can see, seeing here a part of our knowing our understanding our ability to learn, something even the blind can perform, this kind of seeing.
An entity has being; it exists as one. Humanity is therefore a thing as a state of being is a thing, and herein henceforth, human being is the thing we must most highly prize because to be human in this sense is to have what we have herein so far come to understand as humanity, which is to be human in the way we mean when you cannot be human unless humane. Humanity is thus an a transfiguring entity, it exists for this purpose; it is to be had, it is to be allowed, it is to be held, and what is to be held is to be done so with care, with caress, with tenderness. It cannot be extinguished, exterminated, and not even by the most monstrous inhumanity. It is the most fragile and yet the strongest thing in the universe.
The Nazis did not win; the concentration camp was not—is not—victorious. We cannot allow it to become so in our imagination.
Having humanity then is to be human in a way that can only be thoughtful, selfless in the sense that egocentrism (as we mean in the pessimistic connotation we have given this term) is not the primary way in which we choose to interact with others. Love is the axis of the humane; love is the essential ingredient in kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, and compassion. Without these virtues, there can be no humane treatment of another human being. They are, though, the first qualities to disappear in any society suffering from a protracted dehumanization, the kinds we have seen throughout the history of totalitarianism, whether Bolshevik, fascist, Nazis, Stalinist or Maoist; or the kind performed in one dictatorship after another, whether Franco’s, Pinochet’s, or Hussein’s; whether Romanian, Serbian, Cuban, or Haitian. Dehumanization seems to have become one of the leading pastimes around the world; the forms of which have been at the disposal of, for instance, one African war-lord or another; one ethnic group against others, in Iraq, the former republics of the Soviet Union, during the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, or in Israel/Palestine; in Rwanda. Tribal politics are always in the service of oppression or genocide. All the fore mentioned isms have aided in the transformation of the nation state into tribe.
Tribal life is the beginning of the humane, not the further cultivation of being humane. Inhumanity has been all too human throughout history. How often we repeat this or the ways we do only insure we will forget the message. In our media culture, where the medium is the message, the content gets lost in the conduit. The way we are taught to read now only further makes certain we will dis-understand the information conveyed. America is not immune to inhumanity; the fact we are human leaves us susceptible, the fact we are undereducated only insures we will mismanage our legacy and responsibility to ourselves and our posterity.