It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being.
There is no monetary value to a human life. We are priceless. We, by the essence of being human, transcend the concept of material value. You would not know or realize this fact if you look around at the society we exist within. We are a commodity. We are an integer on a spreadsheet. A profit motive. We are a consumable good.
The previous sentence is loaded with multiple meanings depending on your perspective. We’ll put a pin in that for the moment. Now think about what is in the news presently. The myriad of issues at play. The countless debates being carried out by the multitude of citizens all in the name of truth, justice, and human dignity. Truth, justice, and human dignity. Such high and lofty social constructs that we have argued over since time immemorial. Wars have been fought to define them, to protect them, and to implant them into new minds.
All We Obsess About
We obsess over truth, justice, and human dignity and we also take them for granted. We, as human beings, wrestle with our nature and how we interact with one another. We wrestle with how we interact with ourselves and our nature. Humanity has also struggled with our sense of individualism and our collective identities as one race, one species.
Farmers grow food to provide for themselves and their families. They also toil in the fields to feed their communities. Those that toil in the mines and on the seas, those who patrol the streets here as police officers and as soldiers abroad on foreign soil, do so to provide for themselves and their families. They give themselves to fulfill a need, a purpose; to fulfill a duty. Our civilization is the product of both evolution and human ingenuity. Our daily acts of duty sustain us.
The dutiful farmer, miner, sailor, police officer, soldier, nine to five office worker, the cashier at the gas station down the road, the street artist, the teacher, the mother and father, and you. Civilization is a valuable thing built by invaluable beings. As I sit here typing this, I am captivated by the music of civilization, the track on my Pandora feed, the traffic on the street outside my window, and the voices of the people walking on the sidewalk below my home.
All We Don’t Understand
Those people outside my apartment are complete strangers. What would become of them if they were ever in need of aid? I am sure some of you have heard of a particular event that occurred in Florida recently when a group of teenagers recorded the final moments of a drowning man. How these individuals came to cross each other’s paths is irrelevant. What is relevant are the reasons why the group of teenagers recorded a man dying instead of rendering aid to him.
We may think we understand the reasons. We may even think we are aware of what their reasoning was. Only those teenagers know the true reasons for their actions. The true debate will be what were the influences behind their decisions, behind their reasoning.
We will argue for a law that compels citizens to call for or to render aid to their fellow citizens in a time of emergency. We will argue over what sort of parenting these teenagers were provided. We will argue over race. We will take to the comments section on social media and contrive of things sensical and nonsensical to construct and deconstruct the words of our neighbors, friends, and of complete strangers.
I fear, however, that we will once again fail to do what we must do to truly build a better country, a better civilization. We will fail to tackle our crisis of identity. We will fail to truly define who we are as a people. We will once again retreat into our safe spaces and our echo chambers and will not lift a finger to carry out the real and honest work of living out the words, “all Men are created equal.”
All We Deny
We deny equality to entire classes of citizens. We tear down people because of who they love. We tear down people who are black and brown. We tear down people because they are women, because they have a disability, because they are sick, because they are poor, because we find them ugly and undesirable.
We deny the love of humanity to those we are afraid of and do not understand. As citizens our duty to love our fellow citizens, our fellow humanity. As it is with the dutiful farmer, miner, sailor and so on, it is the purpose of the dutiful citizen to be there for each other; to treat each other humanely and to afford each other the dignity that is our birthright as human beings. Human dignity must be cherished and protected.
All We Can Achieve
We all have a right to live on this good earth and a right to live our lives in relative peace and comfort. These rights can not survive through passivity and the indifference of humanity. These are all undeniable truths. They are truths tempered with justice.
When called upon to do your duty for truth, justice, human dignity, be it to saving the life of a drowning man, to passing a law to ensure access to healthcare for all, what will you do? Will you stand up for what makes us truly human? Or will you cower behind your callous indifference and commit the inhumane?