By Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
I am not afraid of ghosts nor am I afraid of beasts. But I am terribly afraid of human beings—that sneaky repulsive species, which claim to be the highest product in the evolutionary process, to which I too belong with all my faults. Of course there are man and man. I am not talking about those super human beings, who can claim to be really good and honest in this world of evil forces. I do not include these extra ordinary persons in the common category of human beings like us. We may mention the names of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindra Nath Tagore and many others like them who can be termed as extraordinary human beings with superior intelligence and other excellent qualities. They were great reformers and social workers without any selfish considerations. Such good people are not affected by pleasure or pain, flattery or defamation. The majority of the human beings are selfish, unscrupulous and unbelievably cruel.
The majority of human beings seem to be the lowest and the filthiest product in the evolutionary process. Leibnitz, the German philosopher, asserted that God made man in his own image. Then why are the human beings so hateful—ready to pounce on anybody who is down? It is said that rats always desert a sinking ship. I do not know about rats, but I know about human beings who do the same things. When you are having a spell of good fortune, you would be surrounded by scores of unwanted well-wishers, who would overwhelm you with flattery and show of affection. But the moment you are down, they will scuttle away like rabbits. Running away is not half as bad as vicious talks and spreading rumours. There are some people who enjoy making derogatory remarks about another person. Some people love to hear ill of others. Perhaps it is our nature to disparage others.
Human beings are a selfish lot. I wonder how we can claim to be the highest product in the evolutionary process. Some of our actions demonstrate to what extent we can stoop to harm fellow human being. Our cruelty greed, vengeful nature clearly indicate that our claim of being the highest creation of God cannot be justified. Friendship means nothing to us and most of us are only fair-weather friends.
Human nature is such that we are usually ready to believe any scandal concerning another without giving the story benefit of doubt. We believe the worst things about others and gloat over another’s misfortune. We do not bother that our poisonous tongue may do irreparable damage to some one’s reputation. Sometimes I wonder why we get pleasure by defaming somebody or by listening to some slanderous incident in some one’s life. I suppose human nature is like that and we often succumb to baser instincts.
The frequent incidents of terrorism have demonstrated clearly how cruel man can be. Human beings do not hesitate to perpetrate any heinous activity if it brings some gain to them. They do not mind killing innocent people including children and infants. People are getting killed without any provocation all around the world.
I wonder why we unnecessarily torment ourselves with jealousy, greed, vengeful feelings and other degrading emotions which demean humanity. All our actions clearly indicate that self-love is our driving force. Even public good is done for private gain—to achieve name and fame for the do-gooder. That is what we are—supposed to be God’s greatest creation. In talking about the depravity of human beings I am not trying to make an exemption of myself. In fact, I am as bad as others, may be even worse than others. Actually I know about the depravity of human beings from my own experience, since I am also one of them. It is not that I am not trying to get rid of temptations, jealousy, greed and all those evil feelings. It is not easy. But I am really trying to be a better person at this fag end of my life. I think that if all of us try hard we may succeed in being better persons than we are. For that we have to develop strength of mind and sincerity. It will not be easy, but worth making the attempt.
I suppose love of humanity is essential for a happy life. Only then the world will be a better place to live in. But unfortunately we have not been able to generate this excellent quality in our minds till now. We do not have love for others. Rather we have animosity towards others and this feeling may lead to disastrous consequences. Mahatma Gandhi had remarked that it is easy to hate, but difficult to love. It is love that can bring peace and happiness to this earth of ours. But we are going in the reverse direction and it is hate which is directing all our feelings and activities.
That is why we are usually ready to believe any scandalous gossip about another without giving the person the benefit of doubt. Human nature is such that we believe anything about someone as long as it is something bad. I really do not understand why we prefer to hear abominable things about someone rather than the good. Jealousy often gnaws our heart, when someone we do not like is praised. I believe that jealousy is at the root of our ill behaviour and disreputable conduct. Not for a moment do we realize that by our evil talks we are actually lowering ourselves in the eyes of others and not the person we are trying to discredit.
A majority of human beings, including myself, are a disgrace to Mother Nature. We never have any genuine feeling for anybody. We are all in a hell of our own making. We feel happy when another human being suffers. We spread false rumours regarding another person, without sparing a second thought to his feelings. Our nature is such that we believe anything about another as long as it is the worst possible scandal. If we wish to damage somebody’s reputation, it is easy to do it. We can create any number of scandalous stories to take away the character of somebody, only because we are jealous of the person concerned. I think jealousy is the cause of our malicious gossip. Truth cannot be concealed for long, it is bound to reveal itself some day. That is why it is said that no man can harm another human being. We often forget that we belong to the same species of human beings and certainly have kinship with one another. Then why should we try to hurt another?
Tongue is deadlier than a knife. Backbiting is more injurious than stabbing. Even if we cannot do any good, let us not do at least something bad. Surely it is not an impossible task; all it needs is resolution. May be human beings have very weak character, but why should we gloat over somebody else’s misfortune? How will it benefit us? How can we be happy at the cost of somebody’s suffering? I think it is very important to awaken humanity in us, which we seem to have lost. If God made man in his own image, then there must be something good in us, which is being lost in a morass of evil. Perhaps we should try to cultivate spiritualism in order to realize the inherent good in man. Only then we will be happy and content and the earth will regain peace. It is worth trying for the good of humanity and for the good of Mother Earth.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)
I appreciated the way George Yancy talked about guilt in his recent New York Times piece. I have been trying to think through what it means to attempt an ethics in a world where ideal ethical living is basically impossible. Without going all the way with someone like Dworkin, I know that the relationship those of us with partners have as a couple or even those in polyamorous relationships, however loving and supportive and equal we all try to make it, is still structured by patriarchal norms, capitalism, and heteronormativity. I use that example because it is something most of us live everyday and can reflect on easily. In our homes all the problems of nature and culture meet, all the problems of politics and ethics coalesce, and we navigate them the best we can, but we are bound to failure. The failure of our society and our culture. This is true of myself too but I don’t feel guilt about that. Feeling guilt would imply I was doing some individual action that sullied something that was working before. But I do feel uneasy, I do feel a certain sense of shame because of the subject position as male I am recognized as and inhabit in the social world.