Monday, May 4, 2015


     “What does it mean to be human?”
     The capacity to speak about humanity and to see humanity as a topic reflected in public conversation has disappeared. We have a hole in our consciousness when it comes to thinking about our humanity.

     If you are incapable of having a conversation about what it means to be human, does that make you inhuman? After all, one of the qualities which is essential for being a human, is to talk to one another and tell stories. Humans are the only beings which tell stories. The richest stories which have most meaning for us are about what it means to be human.

     Rarely do the stories which are reported these days talk about how “news” affects someone’s humanity.  Parents never have a conversation with their children, or one another, about their humanity. How our humanity is being changed by actions reported in the press is what the news shows never report. Humanity and the human question is the last thing that politicians want to talk about. How to protect humanity is something which cannot find its way into laws. How Corporate actions enhance our humanity certainly is not on the Fortune 50 Board agendas.

     Caring for the humanity of customers is not discussed in sales meetings. The health of the patient’s Humanity is not taught in medical schools. Is the Humanity of students  discussed enough in a majority of high schools? Are Teachers held to a humanity proficiency scale?

     Does the military give Humanity training? Are elected officials ever elected because they talk about and demonstrate their capacity for humanity?


     The reason we don’t talk about our humanity is because we now have a gap in our thinking and in our culture regarding humanity. We cannot think about how our humanity is nurtured or sustained in the American culture today, because only very small groups or individuals in our broader American culture today, pay any attention at all to humanity. So, if our broader “sense of self” pays little or no attention to our humanity – or actually works against it - then we have an attention deficit regarding humanity.

     Our view of the human being is not based on general conversations about humanity or understanding of what makes us human because in order to gain power and control, the general view of the human have been reduced to viewing humanity through specific lenses – genetics, behavioral psychological, physiological, chemical / pharmaceutical, economic, culturally specific, dogmatically religiously views, or others. All valid. All important. But the specificity has left a gap in our thinking – our capacity to think about humanity is now a negative or worse – laughed at.

     We now do not want to see our humanity or the humanity of each other because if we indeed strove for this, we would have to treat one another differently. We would have to give up our specialist thinking, our professional status, our positions of power and control. If we treat one another as objects, if I am able to label you, things are so much easier.


Is our public life so one-sided in our thinking that we are unable to think about our humanity? I want Humanity to re-emerge in our public thoughts. Because some of us have lost the ready, facile ways to think about humanity – the generally human – let me put my 2-cents on the table.

Here are some basics of humanity: kindness, tenderness, goodwill, sympathy, openness, modesty and benevolence?

We don’t see these much today discussed in our outer culture. What has hardened the hearts of the outer culture and made these appear so rarely in our public thoughts today?

Or, do the do-gooders simply do the good in the private human-to-human culture without calling attention to themselves? This means, as Vaclav Havel points out, we have a “parallel polis”.  An official culture in which humanity is disappeared and a human-based culture where humanity is alive and well – but silent.

I’m afraid the outer polis has Humanity Attention Deficit Disorder. If this continues, it will be catastrophic.

© Copyright 2015, Jean W. Yeager

All rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for bringing this up. What you say is true and most likely due to the worship of the Almighty Dollar.

    But there is hope, for there is a movement growing evidenced by the advent of the “B Corp” and the benefits corporation structure, that puts stock holders on notice that there is more to the company than making money for stockholders.

    We are in the process of forming a startup and want to make provisions in our charter that we will not only make a profit but will do so in a manner not adverse to the environment and also make a foundation part owner of the company so that it always has funding.

    Because our customers will be women, we want the foundation to benefit the women of the world. Unfortunately, the attorney we hired thought that the foundation being a chartered partial owner of the company was a bit much and that if we should ever seek venture capital we would be turned away because of that.

    We believe there is a place for a corporation such as ours to provide for those who cannot help themselves, like those who suffer from postpartum fistula in parts of Africa or who are battered by their spouse and seek refuge or the thousands of young girls sold into slavery or the female orphans in India who are left at the orphanage door because “raising a girl is like watering a strangers tree”.

    There is much we can do for the women of the world, but we cannot do it alone. We seek help so that we may begin our trek.

    Where are the investors who would like to help such companies who may harbor compassion for the less fortunate among us? Finding investors is hard enough, finding some that care about others is much more difficult. The same people might give their money away to a non profit that promises impact, yet they don’t know what to do with a for profit that wishes to share a bit of that profit in a mandated way.

    We think that such an arrangement will attract people to work for us who want to make the world a better place.

    We have an idea that technically has been deemed practical and novel by people who should know that will benefit most of the world’s women, making their lives less stressful. We have yet to meet a woman that does not find our work at least intriguing and at most, exciting.

    On another note the younger people, my daughters age, who are about to go off to college, are not happy with the world being left behind by the boomers. For it is the product of greed and the Ayn Rand crowd.

    I for one want to do something to change that. But, when I talk to people about this I can see Don Quixote riding off into the sunset of their minds as they roll their eyes and say something about the size of the problem and the impracticality of even attempting.

    Yet, I am buoyed by the likes of a young girl known as Malala, who at 12 was shot in the head and left for dead, but came back stronger than ever. Up against a stalwart institutionalized misogyny thousands of years in the making, she is unfazed by the enormity and gravity of her chosen task.

    Maybe that young girl can teach this old man to be as unfazed as she is.

    The B Corp is a start, but we have a long way to go. Where is the Venture Capital version of the B Corp? Where are the real Angels?