Opinion Poll: What is it like to be a human?

I decided to end 2021 with this post; what is it like to be a human? The first time I came up with this question was after a group session I had to give about loss and death. L. suggested keeping this topic, so I thought of discussing what makes us humans and how we spend the life we have ahead. In a social psychology class, we had to dissect the difference between humans and humanity, and we chewed over that our animal side is tamed by the concept of humanity. We concluded that what makes us humans is the difference between our social and animalistic sides. Considering the chaotic and unprecedented events that we are still living in, I believe that reminding ourselves of what makes us humans can give us a glimpse of hope. Especially thankful for all the participants who shared their thoughts on this topic. Due to confidentiality, nicknames were randomly given.

Θα έλεγε κανείς ότι το να είσαι άνθρωπος είναι ευχή και κατάρα μαζί. Αν απλά αναλογιστούμε ότι από τη μέρα της γέννησης μας ως τη μέρα του θανάτου μας καταβάλουμε μία συνεχή προσπάθεια επιβίωσης, μόνο αυτό είναι αξιοθαύμαστο. Ξέρουμε πολύ καλά όμως ότι δεν είμαστε το μοναδικό είδος που προσπαθεί να επιβιώσει σε αυτόν τον πλανήτη. Παρόλα αυτά ως ανθρώπινο είδος κυριαρχούμε μεταξύ των υπολοίπων ειδών ως το πιο «έξυπνο». Το πως χρησιμοποιούμε αυτή την εξυπνάδα μας όμως είναι το πιο σημαντικό, για εμάς ως πρόσωπα αλλά και για τους άλλους. Ο αγώνας του ανθρώπου να μπορεί να ισορροπήσει την φυσική και ψυχική του κατάσταση σε έναν κόσμο γεμάτο διακρίσεις και κατατάξεις είναι δύσκολος. Από μικρά παιδιά ‘’έχουμε’’ στόχους! Να πεις την πρώτη σου λέξη, να κάνεις το πρώτο σου βήμα, να έχεις καλούς βαθμούς, να σπουδάσεις, να βρεις δουλειά, να κάνεις οικογένεια, παιδιά, λεφτά, και άλλα πολλά. Ως άνθρωπος μαθαίνεις να έχεις στόχους, νιώθεις πιο γεμάτος με αυτούς, σαν να δημιουργείς μια πορεία στη ζωή σου. Αυτή η πορεία φυσικά έχει τα πάνω και τα κάτω της και πολλά είναι τα κριτήρια που ξεχωρίζουν τους δυνατούς από τους αδύναμους. Εμένα όλο αυτό μου ακούγεται αρκετά αξιοθαύμαστο. Εσένα;ΉΡΑ

To be a human means to fight, learn, fall, turn against its own self. It is an eternal daily internal struggle. To be a human means to evolve, grow, develop, create. An inherent need to give and take more and more, to go forward. To be a human means to combine spirit and body, a unique form of energy in the universe. To be a human is the same as being stardust, a tree, an animal, a planet, the sun. To be a human means to dream, love, hope, try, laugh. To be a human means to be with others, help, solve, give the best for those who have not met yet. To be a human means to look for a purpose, explore, question, be curious. But to be a human also means to destroy, kill, hate, hurt, fear. It is not that easy to be a human.DENMARK

My answer to the question “What is it like to be a human” will make no sense unless I explore why it is actually impossible to define what “human” means, at least presently. First of all, the term “human” is deprived of all meaning if it is separated from social context (where, when, and most importantly with whom). Recognizing that “what is human” is completely and utterly defined by social parameters (including, inter alia, our relationship with nature), showcases the most important reason behind the impossibility of its definition in the present. Within the current dominant system of social relations, i.e. capitalism, humans are increasingly less and less free to define this social context and, through the process of this definition, actualize themselves as humans, materialize their humanity. In other words, we cannot answer what is human because humanity was never completely free to define itself. So we are seemingly left only with the option to view answering the original question, “What is it like to be a human”, as an effort of approximation; an approximation based entirely on a model – humans within capitalism – that we recognize as progressively inhuman since we are allowed less and less freedom to define ourselves through defining our social environment. I say seemingly because there is another option if one chooses to opt-out from the static, and ultimately stagnant and conservative, the reasoning of identity politics and set-to-stone labels. We must understand that defining humanity is a question of “becoming / γίγνεσθαι” and not of “being / είναι”, it is a dynamic ever-changing process. The more we try to freely define our social context, our relations with each other and the world, the more we accept our role as humans, the more we act as humans. This is an effort that cannot be achieved individually, it has a necessary collective precondition; moreover, it necessarily goes through, as unfortunate as it may seem, the violent demolition of the current system of social relations, i.e. capitalism. It is, however, the only way to practically and materially shift the object of our approximation from its present inhuman model to what “human” truly is. So, to answer the question “What is it like to be a human”: human is having to constantly struggle to become human.

MAD MARX