Saturday, October 10, 2015

Does How We Define Ourselves Set Us Up for Destruction?

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Why do we label people? Why do we label ourselves?

If I were to be forced to choose a label for myself, I would say "human being."  That's the only label that matters to me, bottom line.  But I would also add "writer" to human being.  These are the only two labels I consider truly important in my life.

That's not as if I haven't heard or become aware of other labels.  By the government, the first label is "citizen."  Then there's gender, race, marital status, location of residence.  These are the "official" labels.

Some people want to add sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national heritage, and so on.  Or gunowner, murderer, rapist, embezzler, and then there are the job titles, or other descriptors like lazy, hard-worker, a patient, etc.

Last week, my blogger friend, Damyanti, brought up this question at her blog: "How do you define yourself?" She talked about how insignificant human existence is in the universe and in time, and yet:
And yet we’re at each others’ throats, we murder, we rape, we shoot, we kill, we wipe out entire generations of humans, animals, plants. We can’t give life back, but we don’t hesitate for a minute before we take it. We live as if we’ll never die, as if this planet can bear our depredations.
This is a bleak assessment.  Is there no hope?  Some days, I wish I could just stop the media from reporting all the bad news -- the shootings, the scandals, the accidents and deaths, the politics, the wars.  Putin bombs

in Syria, claiming he's bombing ISIS but the survivors of the bombings claim they are not ISIS but anti-government rebels.  I suppose in Putin's mind, they are one and the same, i.e. ISIS = anti-Assad rebels. There are shootings on college campuses, at high schools, middle schools, in churches.

Americans of a certain belief will not give up the gun collections they own or their gun shows even though gun shows are fertile ground for criminals to acquire their weaponry. We have individual citizens who are gun owners, law-abiding and not, not a "well regulated Militia" of civilian citizens set to support our official Militia, i.e. the National Guard, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  We really don't need a civilian militia because our military is quite large enough, although perhaps they spend more time abroad than at home.  The National Guard, however, is here.

Do human beings need to accept the definition that they are a violent species and not try to do anything about it?  Violence is a choice, even when it was used during the time we were hunter-gatherers.  Each of us has the capacity to be violent, and the ability.  And some of us don't have the psychological or mental capacity to be able to make a rational choice.  But not all of us.  There are criminals out there who are well aware of what they do and the choices they make.

It's a wonder we as a species have made it this far.

We have the intellectual and psychological abilities to change the way we think and the way we behave.  It is a lie that human beings have no control over themselves.  Each individual controls how he or she thinks, feels, or behaves.  And now I'm wondering if human beings actually have a problem concerning power and that's the reason we're where we are today.

Power.  In my experience, there are two kinds of power: external and internal.  The former breeds dictatorships, fear, and destruction while the latter doesn't.  People who are empowered internally, have no desire to have power over others.  They are powerful in themselves and they know their personal power.  They do not feel powerless in a dangerous world.

People who need external power, i.e. power over others, feel powerless and have no internal power, or very little.  They've not learned that they can have personal power and not need external power.  These people seek control and/or influence over others, they use intimidation or fear, the threat of violence or actual violence, and they have a need to control those closest to them.  If they feel out of control, they can lash out.  These people are not mentally unstable, but they have a psychological problem, one that is mostly unrecognized by the general public, especially in America.  Some in the psychology field call them clinical narcissists.  The world must revolve around them, or else.

Damyanti used "#compassion #peace #humanity" in the title of her post.  These are important words. Compassion especially, and I would add empathy.  These two words when practiced force a person outside of himself and into someone else's shoes.  I don't believe they all can be fully realized until we deal with the power problem.  But these words and what they mean are what we can strive for. 

And we can begin by not putting such importance on labels for people.  Some of them we may never be able to get away from completely, like the "official" labels the government uses to keep track of people, although they do not need the "race" or "gender" labels really.  Labeling people is a way to have control and power over them.  And we can begin also by strongly objecting to those labels.....


Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Some people feel entitled to exert power over others. And some people feel powerless, and can be manipulated to blame others who are even more powerless, e.g., "the immigrants are taking our jobs." Some days I feel like throwing open my window and shouting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"

Gina said...

Loved that scene from "Network," Nancy! We, that is human beings, really need to examine our relationship with power, whether or not we feel powerless or powerful, and what kind of power we value.

Ms Sparrow said...

It seems that power, like guns (or is that redundant?) should never be given to those who are the most adamant about acquiring it.