English and Humanity Essay—what makes us Human?
In the past weeks, I have read different essays, blog posts, and articles about the different sociological as well as paradoxical issues that exist in our society. Throughout the entire time I spent reading and analyzing the different literatures that are somewhat related to humanity, I was able to discover that they could actually be a part of a bigger puzzle that could answer the question “what makes a human a human?” or simply, what the essence of being a human is? That is mainly the question that I am going to answer in this essay paper. I will use my critical thinking to analyze the different views that the authors of the posts I have read are trying to portray and from that, I will formulate a conclusion synthesizing the different qualities that could makes human a human.
One of the most important qualities of being a human for me is the ability to be free. I was able to read Haider Hamza’s (2012) stories about the different events that happened during the still controversial war between the United States and Iraq. Before digging in deeper into the identification of freedom as one of the essentials of being a human, let me begin by introducing the author of the perspective-changing ideas I have contemplated with is.
Haider Hamza was a 24-year old Iraqi citizen when the war between the Iraq and the U.S. broke out. He, at that time, was working as a journalist. Obviously, he, together with all other Iraqis are unfree because their actually were being invaded by the U.S. Having been inspired by the spirit of humanism, he published different news articles about the Iraqi war. He also maintains a blog and a social media site wherein his subscribers are being fed with, I must say, socially-relevant and meaningful information.
In one of his writing, he demonstrated the importance of freedom. What I can say is that Hemza gave me a good starting point. I started to think whether it is necessary for an individual to be free before he could be classified as a human. From a person living in a democratic country’s point of view, that could be the case but in general, I guess not because if you come to think of it, there is almost an equal number of people living in this planet that we could say are able to enjoy freedom and are unable to do so. But how about those people living in communist countries like China and the states that belonged to the already-disbanded Soviet Union? How about those people who used to be bounded by war and those who live in a country involved in a serious international military conflict? These people, even though they are technically bound by war or any other entity, are still humans aren’t they? It’s just that there is one part of them that is missing.
I think a sense of whether we are really free or otherwise can be obtained from Kotkin and Warner’s post about the current generation. She stated that there is a huge difference between the past and the present generations. Basically, what I wanted to emphasize is the idea that the current generation of world citizens are basically not free because the previous generations have entrusted them with so much consequences and responsibilities. This inhibits the current generation’s ability to enjoy their lives because they will be obliged to fill in their societal roles instead.
Freedom for me is largely different from free-will. One may still be able to exercise his free will even though he is bound and unfree. Freedom for me is being able to do what you want, what your will dictates you to do, without being subjected to any form of violations, threats, or sanctions. Being free enables an individual to enjoy most, if not all, opportunities in life. This is why in most cases, an individual bound by government or any other type of restrictions is deemed to become less successful compared to an individual who has full control of his life and basically every decision that he makes. We need to be free to be able to exercise our creativity, our intellect. That’s how we were made and we are going to be bound by the government, we would be very similar to the robots that we have created. Being unfree makes us look inferior.
I would just like to emphasize Seitz’s article post about the different characteristics of online comments. This man stated that due to the protective force field brought about by anonymity and pseudonymity, people become able to say nasty things and basically every little thing, regardless whether these are libelous statements or not, they want to say. I think this could be directly associated to freedom because it simply means that people are not really free if they still have to have the protective force field of anonymity just to express their real thoughts.
In essence, anyone who has a state citizenship is practically unfree. Why? Because every state has a set of by-laws which is more often than not called a constitution and they, as the one in-charge of organizing the society and preventing chaos, are by all means, obliged to enforce those laws. Then what if an individual’s will or decision is directly and indirectly against those laws? This is where the conflict between being free and having a state citizenship enters. Can you still consider yourself free even if in reality, you are still bound by laws and constitutions? For me, definitely not. Nevertheless, I still believe that being free should be considered as one of the essentials of humanism. Being free is how God created us and wanted us to be after all.
Belonging to a culture, for me, is a very important part of being a human. To begin with, I want to reiterate that culture is different from citizenship although both could be used by someone as a predicting factor that could tell how a person would act or behave when in certain situations. Nevertheless they still differ in a way that culture relates more to the person’s inner self or how he was raised while citizenship relates more to nationalistic and patriotic ideas. To belong in a certain culture means you are something. Culture is one of the things that could define the totality of a person and who he is. It is having something to hold on too. I think these thoughts are really valid because I used to think if there are any people in this planet who do not belong to any type of culture. After doing some research, I was able to come up with the conclusion that no man is an island and so for some reason, one will always have a culture where he belongs to.
One fascinating thing about culture is that it serves as a good basis that could predict how one would turn out to be, in terms of behavior and points of view in life, in the future. Whenever I read texts about culture and its relation to sociology and anthropology, I always associate it to the molder—the one used by blacksmiths whenever they forge a weapon or basically any steel or metal tool.
The culture acts like a molder because it serves as an individual’s guide in growing up. In a way, I think that culture could really influence the way how an individual will be like later on in his life but it can never dictate the different outcomes that will happen. Culture is just one of the instruments that serve as a molder that shapes an individual’s personality, social skills, etc. Furthermore, it is merely a factor that is more concerned with the environmental impact of things.
Ultimately, it is inappropriate to say that a person who does not belong to any culture is not human. The more appropriate assumption at this point would be “culture is an essential aspect of being a human” because there isn’t a single person living in this planet who does not belong to a certain culture in the first place.
Feelings and Rationality
These two variables are actually the only things that differentiate us from other animals, especially the mammals. Scientifically, we are mammals, only that we are the highest forms (of mammals). From a sociological point of view, we can assume that we have control over every living being in this planet, especially in the past few years that more and more scientific, both medical and technological advancements have been made. I know for a fact that some animals have feelings as well. They tend to want to get vengeance after being abused or downplayed and there are also animals that feel fear, anger and sadness. They also have feelings just like humans.
It’s the part about rationality that counts the most and that’s why I would like to focus on that. Additionally, it’s the only thing that I can proudly say we humans have that the other creatures living in this planet do not. Rationality or the ability to think and perceive things clearly and in an organized manner is usually associated with creativity. I actually agree that these two could be associated because an individual who frequently thinks of creative thoughts that are more often than not irrational is usually thought of as crazy. On the contrary, an individual who is purely rational and lacks creativity would be most often considered naïve. It is really necessary for these two to coexist because too much of either of these two would make any idea created by that certain person biased and at some point, unacceptable.
In line with the context of feelings, rationality, and creativity, I would like to remember what Robinson said about the current way how we humans explore things around us and generate creative ideas. Robinson stated that people should use their brains in much different ways instead of just sticking to the conventional and basic things that in this present era are already being considered creative even though they really are not. I believe that some trends and ideas today are completely naïve but there are also things and ideas that we could really consider as breakthroughs for humanity.
This is where humans’ never ending quest for improvement comes in. We are always looking for something greater and better than the ones we currently have. At some point, we could also consider this as one of the most fascinating things about humans; we use our rationality and our creativity to quench our never-ending desire for improvement.
Freedom, Culture, and our feelings, rationality, and creativity all make us humans. It is the combination of these and other qualities that make us distinct over other creatures. Though I am still fascinated by how the creator made us this way, I still believe that rationality and creativity and the ability to carry out higher cortical functions are the major key characteristics that make us humans.
Ahrensdorf, P. "The Fear of Death and the Longing for Immortality: Hobbes and Thucydides on Human Nature and Problem of ANarchy." American Political Science Review (2000).
Bekoff, M. and J. Goodall. The Emotional Lives of Animals. New World Library, 2007.
Boulding, E. Can There be World Citizenship. n.d.
Kotkin, J. "Are Millenials the Screwed Generation." The Daily Beast (2012).
Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. Capstone, 2011.
Seitz, M. "Why i Like Vicious, Anonymous Online Comments." Salon (2010).
Warner, J. "The Why Worry Generation." The New York Times (2010).