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Photo by Gian D. on Unsplash

When We Dehumanize Others, We Dehumanize Ourselves

On coral, fractals and the monsters killing us all.

Perhaps you’ve noticed humanity seems to be standing at a precipice. Our pride and vengeance creeping toward chaos. These are not recent concerns — they have always murmured — but they appear to be especially urgent now. These sins are original, yet they echo ever louder as our species proliferates. They are our weakness and our wickedness. They are the crutches we stand on when our legs grow too tired to hold ourselves high.

These concerns are dispiriting for humanity, for we are born human. We are born with the capacity to be perfectly, flawlessly ourselves. And yet, we spend a lifetime whittling our humanity down into dust. What causes this? Why? Let’s explore our essence.

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Look at the image above. It’s a visual representation of a complex equation, an evolving and expanding symmetry that winds through space and time, emitting life, and illustrated to illuminate a representation of living things. They are the Fractal; chaotic, yet predictable, meandering, yet fixed to that which came before them. They are mathematically rigid, yet perfectly flawed.

When we talk about humanity, we often talk about ourselves as surface-dwellers — independent actors competing for scarce resources for as far as time and technology can reach. We give, we take, we wax and we wane. We do this for a finite lifetime, while our breath still affords us the right to stay upright — able to satisfy our needs to the best we know how, until we expire and recede back into the surface, to be covered and paved over by those who follow our paths.

But the image above— and life itself — paints an altogether different picture. We are predictable, because we are not bound to our individuality. We are, instead, fixed upon the shoulders of that which cradles us, that which gave rise to us, that which came before us, and that which surrounds us. For as far as we travel, and for as much as we amass, we are merely — to borrow a cliche — blooming from where we were planted, bound by our shared origin and our shared history. We are not singular — we are a collective of tentacles for a many-armed entity; the arms are not the organism. Perfectly flawed, nearly-rational actors in an irrational system created by irrational people working off imperfection information.

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Look again. The above is still a fractal, yet it is as real as you or I. It is coral, photographed from above, looking very much like the sea of life, but also as a mathematical curiosity in perfectly flawed, chaotic order. Coral bends, breathes, blossoms, blooms, flourishes, withers, bleaches and builds. It is a venerable city larger and more diverse than any man-made metropolis. Traffic clogs and collides, and their high-rises crest toward the sky. Each coral sustains the other. Food, light and energy are shared, stored and synthesized. This is life — simple, flawed, harmonious. And, not to put too blunt an edge to it, it is also us. We are coral — we are also the reef.

It should come as no surprise that as we’re slowly decimating humanity with our greed, our fear and our rage, we are also causing coral to recede. We’ve stripped away it’s vibrancy through our incessant and careless quest for more — energy, food, power, access. We’re not efficiently creating or sharing what we have, but plundering and pillaging that which grows around us. As we’ve forgotten our humanity, and celebrated our supremacy and individuality, we’ve forgotten where we stand and how we got here. The humans who fear, ache and hate lash out against those they deem unworthy of the infinite, dooming the reef to receive what falls into their waiting and withering hands. They kill off the brethren that keep them alive. This is the cruelty of our time, and our race. This is not as the fractal. This is not as the coral. This is not as the human.

But, we have been given free will! Personal responsibility! We are to seize what is ours and only share with those who deserve it! This is what separates us from mere animals and organisms!

Yet, couched within this retort, we have perverted Social Darwinism into Draconian Machiavellianism. The cream was not meant to rise to the top, and the fittest were not meant to persist, at the expense of those who dared to dream and were dashed and derailed by cruelty, apathy or injustice. No. That selection is not natural. Humanity is natural. The reef is natural. Not fear. Not greed. Not rage. These are tools, ticks and tremors that detract from our humanity — not develop it. Pathological individualism is not the path to evolution, but a magnetic pole apart from it.

And thus, when we strip others of others of their humanity, we strip ourselves of the same. We fight over scraps. We starve, implode, and cease to be. The dehumanization of others, dehumanizes ourselves. So, if the coral is on its way out — how long before we’re left to grapple with the uncomfortable reality that we cannot be that far behind?

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Written by

Essayist and storyteller on life, liberty and the battle for happiness. Several million served. Words at Human Parts, Forge and PS I Love You. IG: heygorman

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