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Editor's Column

WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?

22-Nov-2023

By Shreejal Mainali

Image source: DALL.E 2

You might think this is an absurd question to ask because it’s blatantly obvious that whoever is reading a paragraph of text is a human. Maybe from your self-perception, you are human but it is not so apparent if you look at things from an external perspective for it is not uncommon for people to dehumanize the counterparts of their own species. Dehumanization is an inherent trait in the human species, it runs rampant from the office spaces where employees think of their boss as the evil incarnate to the Jewish genocide orchestrated by the Nazis. Especially times of peril and violence like wars give way to dehumanization as it is easier to kill your enemy classifying them as a monster rather than a fellow human.  

 

If it is a possibility that we can get declassified from human status then what made you human in the first place? Is it your physical exterior? Your body, that resembles the archetypal human anatomy? If you were to turn into a giant cockroach but with your consciousness intact could you still be called a human? If so then what about your consciousness is predominantly human? Your ability to think and feel or simply the ability to appreciate the red-shifted light of the sunset reflecting off of the perfectly imperfect symmetry of the clouds? What makes us human?

 

Maybe it is not at all so intrinsic what makes us human, maybe it is something as crude as the value you provide to immediate society, for it is not only dehumanization that is common amongst humans but also humanization to anything that deems worthy. But the case can be made for the value the dehumanized provide for the “humans”, the urge to be greater than something, the desire of dominion and power is fulfilled through the act of dehumanization, the slave trades that emerged through all civilizations is proof of this, dismissing the idea of value as the ultimate human trait.

 

Conformity could be the solution to the value problem as only those who conform to the group sentiment might be regarded as equals in that group. But this prompts one group to dehumanize the other as they don’t share the same beliefs and anything that doesn’t represent theirs is lesser. Perhaps this is the human condition, rudimentary tribalism might just be what makes us human for if there is someone who can move beyond the vileness of conformity, they have ascended into something greater than a mere human.

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