“HOW INHUMAN!” my friend remarked with a tone of disbelief and disgust. He had just been sharing with me on how Organg Utans were being mistreated in Thailand. It seems that some are used as forms of entertainment during some Thai boxing bouts and even featured in pornographic films. My response was to say cynically, “No, how human these acts are.”
It is an irony that no other species is depraved enough to do this to any other species, or even to its own kind, than the human species. Yet we humans use our identity as a human species to serve as a benchmark of good moral behaviour such that when one of our kind behaves deplorably, we say, “Stop behaving like an animal!”
My cynical view of humanity is perhaps fed by being exposed to accounts of mankind when we are not at our best. I hear of husbands who abuse their wives, wives who cheat on their spouses, fathers who commit incest, and children who beat up their parents. You might say that it is an occupational hazard of being a Marital and Family Therapist. Yet I am sure that you too are acquainted with stories that speak of the inhumanity of man.
Which is why the story of the rescue of the 32 Chilean miners last October came as a breath of fresh air. It was the “feel good” story of the year, if not the decade. With the past decade that began with 911 and was quickly followed by a series of man-made disasters and atrocities; wars, acts of terror, catastrophic financial meltdown, to name a few examples, the good news from the Atacama Desert revives our faith in mankind.
There people from all walks of life and across national boundaries came together to help miners that they did not know. The victims themselves displayed such selflessness that they put others ahead of their own survival. It was reported that when rescue was imminent, they all argued over who should be the last to be rescued. So strong was their bond that they did not want to deprive their fellow men of the chance to be rescued earlier.
This one act, and many other countless acts of kindness like this, reminds us that we can be humane to one another. It restores some of our faith on humanity. And if we so happen to be one of those who show kindness to another, it helps make us more and more human.
As we stand at the threshold of a new year and a new decade, we each have in our hands the capacity to demonstrate the two faces of humanity to the world.
One of these faces is the exploitative, selfish and cruel face of humanity.
The other is a kinder, more giving and sacrificial face of humanity. We will be confronted each day, in ways big or small, to choose which face we want to bear to the world. As we choose, so too will our inner being be formed and shaped by our choices.
Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.