Are Mavericks fully human? A few years ago a friend of mine starting posting on social media about become fully human. He was using the term to mean something approximating self-actualisation, or reaching one’s own full potential. It is still in use today.
Whilst I celebrate the idea of everyone reaching for their full potential and the good intentions that go with this, I still have great issue with the language being used.
If someone is not fully human, this means that we have fully humans and less than fully humans. Once we start to define some humans as less than human we are opening the doors to treating them differently.
Words creep into our subconscious. If every time we hear the word dog it is accompanied by bad – we still start to hear bad dog whenever anyone says the word dog. It won’t happen instantly or rapidly, but if this is repeated long enough and frequently enough this is what happens.
It is a function of how our minds work.
Our cognition works on easy access sub routines to avoid us having to think long and hard every time someone says something to us. Anyone who has studied neuroscience or cognition will tell you how this happens. It is something around frequency.
And if you couple it with strong emotions (shouting bad dog at your own pet dog) the connection will be more deeply embedded and harder to uproot. This is why those people who shouted that you were stupid when you are a child still have some tenancy in your head even though you know they were wrong. Repetition or emotion.
So we let the quiet notion of more than human and less than human slide by us as the nice therapists challenge unwanted behaviours and help the world.
But the notion of less than human has also been used down through the ages to categorise other human beings or groups as not worthy of respect, or safety or protection. I once visited an Anglo Saxon church in Norfolk where the ten commandments were still visible on the wall – and one said “Do not murder” not “Though shall not kill”.
The erudite Judge who accompanied me explained that in Saxon times murder was a concept that could only apply to people who were in your tribe! If you hurt them you paid compensation. For people not in your tribe, there was no such thing unless it was a formally allied tribe. The people who didn’t count – who weren’t in your group – had less legal rights than the people in your Anglo Saxon tribe. It’s not confined to the Saxons (or to history).
Once we define people as ‘other’ it is easy to define them as ‘less’ and there is a long and nasty history of violence, even genocide that starts with viewing someone as ‘less than’.
Today we see refugees being labelled as migrants with somehow less rights than us to a safe place to live and a way to earn an honest living. We are already encouraged to see them as ‘less than’ us. Black people have suffered a long history of being viewed as ‘less than’ even to the extent that we still see bogus science being quoted to prove they are less intelligent than white people. Though the people who quote that show no demonstrable signs of outstanding intelligence despite their colour.
Women too are viewed in most of the world as somehow ‘less than’. Many world religions combine to present the view that we have either no soul, or are temptresses that should be bound and controlled, or that we are vessels for breeding and little more.
Defined as less than.
Our daily newsfeeds and social media are constantly invaded by people calling for the ‘less than’ and the ‘others’ to be appropriately treated – which often means eviction, subjection and violence. I have never seen a call for ‘people like us’ to be badly treated. And you won’t. ‘We’ are always the more and ‘they’ are always the lesser!
Dehumanisation and feeling a particular group of people deserve to be treated differently (usually worse) sets the stage for us turning off our empathy and for demonisation. Well documented work shows these are the preconditions for torture – the dehumanisation of the subject – and for violent fascism. There is a lot of this in our current benefits system as people who have fallen in need discovered this year. The idea that poor people are somehow morally deficient is a vicious one bedded into the very fabric of its administration, but what is truly shocking is how cruel people are when commenting on cases of real need. The idea is always ‘they and their children must deserve this – they made a mistake’. The mistake in this case being poor.
If you look at the history of Nazi Germany or any proto fascist regime today you will see the same patterns: The declaration of who is fully human and the identification of who is not, followed by the scapegoating of the ‘not’ then eviction, violence and even war. A campaign for ‘we’ the fully human to have it all, keep it all, steal it all justified on the basis that the ‘less than’ human is not entitled to it, is too stupid to know what to do with it, and anyways has no right to any of it. From empires of all origins to current day nationalism there are few exceptions.
So please understand why it is when you invite me to become more fully human why I flinch. In all my inadequacies and genetics, I am already fully human and so are you.
And if you feel that makes me a snowflake (also I imagine not entitled to a full range of rights as I may be oversensitive to the rights of others) well please remember, someone may classify you as less than fully human one day. The othering and the hating moves on endlessly from group to group. You may feel this is nothing to do with you today but that is far from guaranteed.
Now would be a good time to recognise the full humanity of us all. And if you want to improve your spiritual or emotional fluency or competency go for it. But you will never be more human than you are today. Nor less so.