How do we know if we are still human?

Bird Droppings August 23, 2022
How do we know if we are still human?

Perhaps it is from growing up in a situation where we were daily aware of special needs children and adults from the birth of my younger brother till his passing almost twenty years ago. Those in my family have directly or indirectly connected with exceptional children in our careers and life’s endeavors ever since. Most of us went the teaching route, and most are in Exceptional Education. Several are in the medical field, and several have gone into psychology. My brother linked us as a family to the humanness of humanity.

“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Albert Einstein

Over the years in my undergraduate and graduate studies, internships, and various clinicals, I have experienced situations many will never know exist. I recall walking through wards in a state institution where tiny infant-appearing patients lay in bassinets connected to tubes and not moving. Some were born with no brains and kept alive by feeding tubes and respirators. I asked one of the attendants during a walk-through in 1968 how old was this particular infant. I was informed this was not an infant but probably older than I was, I being twenty and the baby at twenty-three. The attendants turned the children to prevent bed sores and occasionally would talk to their charges. Later as I worked on finishing my psychology degree at Mercer University, I visited several more units very similar at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, once the largest mental hospital in the nation, and at a Regional Mental Hospital in Atlanta. These units were filled with fifty to sixty patients each. Central State Hospital had more than one ward.

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our society exists through a historical development from when the first humans began living in villages and using commodities in exchange for other goods. Many historians and anthropologists will offer that society and civilization began when this early bartering started, and a value was placed on a particular thing. A goat is worth a bushel of wheat or rice, and banking began. Soon more precious commodities were found, metal for weapons and tools, precious stones, and gold for adornment. Granted, this process happened fairly rapidly in the grand scheme of things, and soon someone decided they could get more for an item since they had most of it, and price gouging was begun. These days, an imperfect infant would be tossed off a cliff or fed to the sharks.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
However, that idea that got me started on the idea that maybe we are losing or have lost our humanity is rampant in our society today. Over the years, I will get in discussions, some get a bit out of proportion and over the board, and some I will walk away from, but when we look at cutting programs that provide housing and food for people who do not have anything, I take issue. I take issue with the greed that drives bonuses and profits that tax most families to frustration, all in the name of capitalism. I get upset when education is first on the chopping block, not because it could impact my pay but because it is through education that we can regain our humanity.

In a recent discussion on drug testing, those on Medicaid, Food stamps, or any Federal assistance because all on welfare are on drugs and using welfare money to buy drugs, I asked what we do. I was suggested I use my own money if I think they need help. Almost immediately, in curiosity, I should have questioned what religion you are. A legislator from Kentucky wants to cut nearly every federal program. I find it ironic that down through history, men and women who try to help others find themselves hated by those in power and usually end up dead.

“You know that those considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Credited to Jesus Bar Joseph, known to many as Jesus the Christ, Mark 10:42-45

So how is it that the people are so greedy in a religion based on self-sacrifice? How can the image of a religious leader driving a Rolls Royce and living in one of their many multi-million-dollar homes be comforting to anyone? How can anyone say it is a federal healthcare bill that drove up their insurance when a CEO of a health insurance company is making over one hundred fifty million dollars a year and can deny a claim or treatment due to cost at any given moment? I recently watched the leader of the majority in the house of representatives roll his eyes at comments the President of the United States as he spoke in his State of the Union Address. Of course, those are the images the media flashes repeatedly.

“We need a coat with two pockets. There is dust in one pocket, and in the other, there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”
Parker J. Palmer

Having worked in service-oriented jobs, pasturing, teaching, and counseling, I have seen people who do not wish to be poor with my eyes. It is through no choice of their own they have a congenital heart defect and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes, let alone try and work. I had seen mothers whose husbands left when a baby was born with severe congenital disabilities, and the child requires constant care, so the mother does not work and cares for the child. I have seen families torn apart by mental illness and those with mental health conditions with budget cuts pushed out into a not-so-caring world to fend for themselves, only to end up homeless and destitute. These are not unique cases, but when we cross the country and multiple, they are many thousands of times the situations that occur. I have heard the stories of that famous welfare mother with six kids driving to family and children’s services to pick up a check in an Escalade or Mercedes. First off, checks are no longer mailed. They load to a debit card. Not all on welfare are using the system, and not all on welfare are using drugs. Our system is not perfect by no means, but the lack of human civility bothers me. It is how we can say we are of religious persuasion and live an entirely different life when not in church.

“Out of the Indian approach to life, there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Black Elk

In most Indian societies, all were taken care of and provided for. I am not promoting a return to the primitive but a more realistic view of life. Indians held all as sacred and would not demand or extract more than was needed from the land or another person. It was a very humanistic worldview. We stripped away the sacredness of the land and used the resources till they were gone in the name of progress. We do not as a society want to help others is the soundboard of many people. I was informed last evening if I want to help others use my money, to which I replied I do. For my entire teaching career, I have given a small portion of my paycheck to a local charity, yet it amounts each year to nearly ten percent of the giving from the teaching staff at my former high school, and I am less than one percent of the staff numbers.

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the white man’s avarice and oppression, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

Our dominant society has eradicated the indigenous populations of the Americas from the first slaughters by Cortez’s men in Mexico to the cutting of funding to the reservations. Suicide and infant mortality in Indian societies is considerably higher than in dominant societies around them. It has only been a few days since I watched the movie about Wounded Knee and the slaughter of unarmed Indians, the last major Indian war battle, even though only one-sided. Around the world, native peoples are eliminated for wealth and power.

“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before anyone even at the cost of your life.” Mahatma Gandhi

In a set of materials given to me by my mother on the Bushmen of South Africa, who call themselves the Sans, I noticed the date on the literature, which was pre-mining leases in the Kalahari. There were beautiful pictures of hunting and villages moved as they would follow the herds of animals. Today much of the Kalahari Desert has been sectioned off into diamond mine leases, and the Sans moved to concrete buildings on a reservation. They are a people losing their identity and culture so that greed can fill the void.

I have started watching American Idol again and am enjoying the softer image. Still harboring within the midst of us is hatred rampant and rancid that keeps rearing up. A young man drove his mother’s car to school with an OBAMA bumper sticker torn off in the parking lot and replaced with a derogatory note and the extra addition of never parking here again, or it will be worse. We have come so far to be so lost. I wonder if it is with a deaf ear I offer each day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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