Humanity, news, art.

humanity reflections for professionals Mar 08, 2024
four lyrics for humanity

This post is a personal reflection. There is no call to action, except to reflect on what I'm wrestling with.

Our technology today means almost every human being can watch humanity in action. We are all witnesses to everything good and everything evil. That is demanding, when you consider that humans typically relate closely to no more than 100 people.

Like our fellow mammals, we are particularly alert to danger, perceived or real. That's why our 'News', is so full of threats and disasters. We're addicted to keeping an eye on a steady flow of what passes through the sewer of humanity. We're provided a diet of local murders, bad behaviour in the streets, wars filtered not by care and pity but by reinforcing 'our' side and dehumanising the other side. And we never watch the news the other side sees. It never occurs to us until too late that the evil we accept for others can swiftly turn back on us. 

All this is leavened by tiny amounts of good-feel stuff, sports, pets and entertainment as a tool for forgetting. Nothing about challenging art, music that penetrates the soul, generous actions of spirit, deep kindness, wonder, new ideas, the deep soil of philosophy. Nothing, really about the positive meaning of humanity.

The effect is a failure to provide the correctives that in the past have led to sustained collaboration & celebration of life. Rather we are rendered blind to our true interconnectedness to the natural world. We're entertained by wars when we should be focussed on repairing the world. We need to regrow fish populations to those our grandparents enjoyed, to attract bird populations that sing for us, to recreate complex forests that create the oxygen we breathe, to restore more than we consume.

We're being delivered a distorted view of what 'humanity' means. To be humane means caring, considerate, humble and generous towards all other living beings. It's based on empathy. An empathic approach to the world improves everything for everyone. It means taking care of the planet, or at least your little bit of it. It means starting with trust. It means taking care of those who need help. It means expressing wonder, delight, the beauty of others and our world. It means knowing that there is no 'Other' worth hating. And it means building greater connection between ourselves and the world.

We need to reclaim our humanity. We need news of our better humanity. It is our better humanity that knows we only need enough, not always more. That trusts that we are mostly safe. That ensures those to whom we have delegated certain tasks, like recycling our waste, creating fair laws, and using our combined wealth wisely for our shared benefit, do so with integrity and wisdom.

Looked at through this lens, our new forms of connection feed our addiction without improving anything. The lure of seeing what our friends are doing instead places us in a cacophony of universal noise. 

Media, social or otherwise, push us into seclusion, not engagement, intensified by the pandemic lockdowns to the point of near-agoraphobia. The reverse action to media addiction is old-school, handwritten letters, telephone calls and walking together. We need to reinvent conversation as a way of learning news relevant to our lives and dismantling the strangeness of others.

The tough part, for me, is that I don't trust causes and movements, even the virtuous ones, because I've seen their members become blind & deaf to anything else. Finding the right form of activism is therefore tough. I'd rather make art. Can a small watercolour or a ceramic pot influence anything?

Perhaps. Art is how humanity becomes its best self. It requires wonder, passion, seeing how others are like you, in your strangest, truest ways, exploration without destination, trust, humility and generosity. An activist's plate, vase, mug or bowl.... what could that possibly look like? I have no idea, which is quite a normal artistic starting point. It feels soft, gentle and subversive to the forces of hate. 

Which is where this ends. The task is to start something unknown. Seeking humanity in clay, water, paint, conversation. 

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