Don’t talk to me about Transcendent Humanity

(You’re not Walt Whitman)

“You know, this idea of globalization, I think it’s a good one. Black, white, asian, whatever, we’re all the same because we’re like, all humans.”

Thus spake Franknorance, the Frankensteinian construct of the worst of general ignorance (not to be confused with the ignoranus, the person of poorly-informed opinion who is also an asshole.)

“I’m for Humanity, y’know? Like, general, Transcendent humanity.”

How controversial of you. The rest of us clearly despise humanity and propose eating babies.

Frankie has some valid points though. Something doesn’t become general ‘knowledge’ unless it feels like it makes sense. Transcendent is, as Frankie shows us. So is humanity, nice, warm, fuzzy connotations. Unless you’re talking about the Hindenburg. They are nice terms to talk about, but don’t have an awful lot of intrinsic meaning.

Who (whose names, whose faces, whose accents, whose laughs) fills your head when you think of humanity? How much do they look like you? How often would you get each other’s jokes?

Maybe you’re like me and you get stuck with a blank-faced mass of people. They’re always grey-tinged and have nothing better to do than stand around in lines to give us a sense of scale.

Who are they (we) and what are we transcending?

Franknorance, if pressed, and Franknorance should never be pressed because bits fall off and it makes people uncomfortable, might make sweeping statements about racism and colonialism and general discrimination.

This is where being a South African comes in useful. It allows you to say some things about discrimination. For example, there’s this nifty section in our post-Apartheid constitution that outlaws UNFAIR discrimination, not discrimination itself. For example, blind people are tangibly discriminated against. The law doesn’t allow them to drive buses.

See, our constitution doesn’t mistake sameness for equality.

Human beings are fundamentally different from each other, in more ways than I could list or even conceive. The way I experience my city is sometimes so different from the way that other people do, that I don’t recognize the city through their eyes. And that’s just people, who should by age, progression, gender and socio-economic class be the same as me

Expand the group size and you get more likelihood of greater difference. How much do I have in common, say, with the average woman? (Another formidable, fictional construct)

We have different worlds in my city, probably in every city, more than I can write of, more than I can imagine. And I do mean, self-sufficient, all-encompassing worlds. Only if you’re looking or lucky, will you be able to find the boundaries and the doors.

By and large you can’t completely understand someone else’s world, certainly not the same extent that they do. To claim otherwise is pure arrogance and intellectual fraud.

But, somehow, incredibly, in this country we can still talk to each other. We can offer each other the opportunity to stand in the doorways of other worlds and catch glimpses of the inside. We won’t completely understand, but we can listen and we must respect.

If we train ourselves to approach those doors with empty hands, we may learn things. We may be enriched through our mutual differences.

So let’s really talk about Transcendent Humanity. The words feel nice in the mouth sure. So does candyfloss or one of those Take 5 ice lollies that they sell at the robot. Those are probably a more productive use of time.

Leave the Transcendent Humanity to the poets who sing the body electric. Read Whitman aloud, that feels nice in the mouth too.

For the moment thought, leave even that. There are a hundred secret, human, worlds all around you right now. On your street, or in your local supermarket or filling the rest of the lecture venue around you.

We can still talk, despite, through, from, over, around, because of our differences. Delight in that.



From Randall Munroe’s phenomenal webcomic XKCD



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