Op-Ed: A Lens of Us and Them
The term ‘human nature’ is one that is often tossed around as justification for a number of destructive habits perpetuated by modern society. Some might argue that perceiving the world with an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality is simply human nature; it’s not. The lens through which most modernized humans view the world is a creation that stems from an insatiable need for power and control created by the overarching cultural influence that contemporary man has established and succumbed to. Rather than striving to acquire the knowledge and wisdom necessary for the sustenance of humanity, the culture of ‘different equals bad’ leaves mankind with almost no chance of survival.
The origin of man’s catastrophic desire for ultimate power and control can be traced back to the most popular explanation of creation: Genesis. The book describes God’s seven day endeavor of creating everything, starting with the separation of light and dark and finishing on the sixth day with his pinnacle of creation, mankind. As explained in Genesis 2:7, God created Adam from the dust of Earth and finalized his creation by forming Eve from Adam’s rib. This popularized story birthed the toxic misconception that man is by definition the exception to biological law. This is seen not just on a societal level but also on an individual level. Whether it is consciously recognized or not, most people live assuming that they are the exception—“That would never happen to me”. This mindset is reciprocated into the very dangerous ignorance that forces people to see anything that isn’t exactly the same as their norm as lesser, strange and negative. The root of man’s desperate need for unlimited control lies in the misjudgment that man is in fact the pinnacle of creation.
Various world religions and ‘human nature’ has led most of mankind to believe that everything on Earth was created for them. Seeing themselves as the leaders of all things creates a fatal false sense of divination. John Donne explained in his brief essay “No Man Is an Island” that the bell which tolls to call a sermon to order does not ring for the sake of the preacher but rather for the sake of the entire congregation. Similarly, natural law applies to all life, including humans. Therefore, it is not man’s responsibility to lead and control everything around them but instead they should strive to live in harmony with the rest of the natural world.
The most important aspects of humanity (strong relationships, appreciation for the natural and sublime, genuine experiential wisdom) are utterly disregarded in the frantic unwinnable fight for material goods . Although this warped perception has spread to the edges of the earth, there remains societies that are able to live in harmony with nature and difference. Michel de Montaigne discussed these kinds of people in his piece “On Cannibals”, explaining that besides some primitive practices, modernized man can learn quite a bit from a group of tribal people. He establishes that their war practices are “wholly noble and generous” and that the tribal people desire “only as much as their natural needs demand; anything beyond that is superfluous to them”. The priorities which the ‘Us’ group strives to meet are destructive and frankly inhuman. To approach life with the raw essence of the human condition as a priority allows mankind to access the critical values that are cherished by the tribal people described by Montaigne and that hold to key to perpetuating humanity.
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