Growing up as a child, the closest I came to a war zone were the little fights my friends and I picked amongst ourselves over pieces of candy and biscuits. But then again, I watched wars on TV which I was too young to understand. The mere fact that people were being killed left, right, centre was bad and gruesome enough to me. I asked the question most people asked themselves: Why on earth are these people fighting and killing themselves? I didn’t get an answer. Instead, I got a reason why they shouldn’t.
My young mind understood it as something close to this. What if we’re all trapped in a huge prison? The least we can do is to start figuring a way to escape or make the most out of our sentence instead of killing each other. I didn’t know the people on the TV but my human instinct went out to them and I didn’t care if they were a part of a segregated group. All I knew was, no one deserved to die in such a horrible way. That began my thought about other people.
People across the world have been treated differently for so many reasons. Some because they are of a different colour, religion, country, continent, and ethnicity; reasons that do not define a person’s personality or their capabilities. We tend to be easily blinded by our differences instead of appreciating them. Our task should focus more on getting to know people who are not like us in any way because they may be full of so many amazing things that we may not be aware of. That’s how growth comes about. The only thing we truly have in common with others is the fact that we are human. And really, that’s enough reason to stop us from being hostile and trigger in us any form of kindness towards them.
Of course, there are times when people do things that are explicitly wrong. Still, it is not our prerogative to treat them in inhuman ways; like provide mob justice – which is actually injustice – to people we suspect to be thieves or criminals. That is why there are laws and systems in place. We cannot take the law into our own hands. Sometimes, we are angered or we have genuine intentions but in meting out justice, we should always be aware of the golden rule. It’s a fantasy to think the world has become totally postmodernist, we can’t live in an illusion thinking what is wrong in society is right to us and should be accepted just because we think so. But even if our society fails us, even if our society is a barbaric one, we should always remember in our treatment of others that they too are human. Just like us!
I know there may be so many definitions of what humanism is. But to make myself clear, I’d go with what is stated in the Merriam Webster Dictionary which simply is a “devotion to human welfare”. That resonates with me. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be in the same religion as them or in the same locality. All we must do is seek their welfare just because they are humans who deserve the best in life just as we do. As one of my favourite authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it, “We are human first, before we become immigrants or refugees or anything else”. That is the fundamental and most important thing we share which should stop us from being biased or judgmental against anyone.
The truth with being judgmental is, it’s very easy to do. The moment we utter phrases like “us and them” we begin to propagate stereotypes which are mostly negative and influence our interactions towards our fellow humans from actions as little as sending hate messages and to even bigger ones like starting wars.
WRITER: Mawunyo Avetsi