In Humanity

This feels deeper than it is and I'm sure I'll talk in circles as I let the words out.

That said. 

It's been bouncing around my mind recently - probably due to the sudden influx of darker-themed media consumed in a short period of time - that humans only make up an incredibly small percentage of the creatures with whom we (poorly) co-habitate on this planet. But the only time that we call something inhuman or inhumane is when we're referencing another of our species engaging in some sort of deplorable action. Or inaction.

Dogs can't be inhumane. Octopuses and corvids can't be inhumane (though I hold strongly to the belief that they are at least as sentient as we are).

We expect, demand?, a certain level of humanity, which can vary socially or culturally or generationally (etc.) within certain parameters. Anything that falls outside of that is inhuman. Some things come very close, like spanking children - it's been determined that this does nothing positive and only results in trauma. But is it inhumane to spank children?


Cannibalism is still practiced in parts of the world, and there are many people still living who had to engage in cannibalism to survive horrific situations. I have little doubt that I would be willing to cannibalize another person - within certain parameters. The circumstances matter, of course. Anyone who has no need to resort to eating another human falls outside of those parameters, so casting those aside, is it inhumane to engage in cannibalism?


I recently watched the five-episode show Chernobyl on HBO.

I imagine you can see where I'm going with this. And yes, I know certain liberties were taken for the sake of consumable media.

When we finished the last episode, I was generous enough to give myself space to grieve, and advocate for myself when I needed more time to sit with my feelings. I really am proud of myself for that, because there was a time not-very-long-ago when I would not have, and instead would have carried a much heavier emotional toll for much longer for the sake of people who hold no resentment in my need of time.

Greed is not inhuman. Selfishness is not inhuman. Arrogance is not inhuman. Pride is not inhuman. Stupidity is not inhuman. Haste is not inhuman. Curiosity is not inhuman. Lying is not inhuman.

So many things happened then, and have happened since (some of them arguably worse), that are perfectly human responses, reactions, but their combination was the root and cause horrors very much now conceivable. 

So many lives lost in the most terrifying of ways. Why? Was there a reason? I'm sure it felt very real, very important, at the time. It's incredibly unlikely that any of the people guilty of causing the nightmare of Chernobyl's explosion were trying to cause a catastrophic meltdown.

And yet.

I always find it interesting to ask people what they believe to be anathama. The answers sometimes surprise me, and when there is time for follow up and specifics, my questions and their own answers can surprise them. 

I think it's a thought experiment worth considering. Even though it's unlikely that you know how you'll respond in the moment, what is humanity to you? What is inhumane? What is anathama? And what is heroic? We know it when we see it, but maybe we'd be better off identifying it before arrival.


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