priorities

The word, “humane” means “having or showing compassion or benevolence.” and it originates from “late Middle English: the earlier form of human….” and more etymology describes the word as meaning “having qualities befitting human beings.”

“Inhumane,” obviously, is the opposite. It means “without compassion for misery or suffering; cruel.”

This all presupposes that humans are the stick against which compassion or benevolence are measured. That humans are the epitome of goodness and if you are not behaving well, you are obviously lower than human.

Are we better because of our opposable thumbs? Our ability to poison large swaths of water or radiate huge populations? Is our wonderful humanity defined by our polluting of the oceans? Is it because we send probes into space and can make fire? We are truly an amazing species. We can make new limbs with 3-D printers , can contact anyone around the world within a matter of minutes. We have harnessed energies from the earth and the sky, we love and care and play.

Are humans truly the measure of “humane”? I think the word is a misnomer. We war, we torture, we create lives that are “nasty brutish and short,” then create laws in order to avoid that. We torture animals for our pleasure in a state of cognitive dissonance. We can generally agree that this is not compassionate nor benevolent. And while not every human is awful, we have a built-in capacity for such atrocities. Because of this ‘built-in’ capacity to commit great acts of misery how can we say that humans represent the highest good that is “humane”?

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