Being ‘human’ means being in deep contact with oneself and with others. For this it is necessary to recover our capacity for pleasure, integrate ethical values in our conscience and transform competitiveness in collaboration.
We are living a period of fading value of human life: competitiveness, productivity, the acceleration of daily life, the emptying of social relationships, the omnipresent technification and isolation in an overpopulated world makes many of us feel every more and more empty, lonely and more frustrated.
The history of humanity has seen moments of heyday of humanistic thought and moments of eclipse. Thus, there has been talk of an ancient humanism developed by Greek and Roman philosophy and literature. Closer to our days, we find Renaissance humanism, which opposes, to the vision of medieval man, a man who recovers creativity, his ability to transform the world and his desire to build his own destiny with effort.
It is necessary that we return to the pulse of life and put the human being at the center of social processes. But how can we regain our humanity? I think there are three key factors that can enable us to do so.
1. Recover our capacity for pleasure
We understand pleasure in a broad sense: enjoying every moment of our life, relationships with our partner, at work, with our children, on a walk in the mountains, with a sunset or during a conversation with the friends. This expansive attitude is, according to the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, the basic manifestation of life, but the weight of culture prevents its expression and transforms it into contraction and, therefore, into destructiveness and social sadism.
To recover our humanity, it is necessary to connect with our body, with our rhythm, with our needs; understand them and put the means to your satisfaction. As parents and educators, we must facilitate the expression of the real needs of the youngest so that they connect with themselves, affirming themselves in their being. But to live what we do with pleasure, we need love.
Only with love can we face every moment of our life with dedication and abandonment. Love is such a powerful force that it favors the growth and development of living beings, facilitates happiness by healing wounds and allows joy by driving away sadness. We must reinvent our world, our institutions and our relationships based on love. Only then can we regain the pleasure of living.
2. Reflect on our ethical values
It would be necessary to recover a series of ethical values that allow us to structure social life and find meaning in it. However, the values that allow human life to take root should not arise in us by imposition of anyone, nor should they be mentally assumed for fear of divine or human punishment. For values to really make sense, they must arise from our own nature or as something lived throughout our development.
According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ethics must be based on human nature, and specifically on two basic feelings: “self-love” and “piety.” The “love of oneself” would be comparable to the instinct of conservation that seeks to satisfy our needs to survive and adapt. But Rousseau differentiates “self-love” from “self-love” or egoism, which arises in society and is the cause of the degeneration of the human being.
Self-love induces us to compare ourselves with others and seek to be taken into account by others, multiplying our needs to the point of slavery. The “piety”, for its part, would be the natural reluctance to see another sensitive being perish or suffer and fundamentally our fellow men. Rousseau considers “piety” the basis of morality and maintains that without it we would be like monsters. From these two natural feelings, both morality as a form of human relationship would develop, as well as natural law as a normative system to regulate our social organization.
Related to Rousseau’s concept of “piety” is the modern concept of “empathy”, understood as the ability to understand and even feel the emotions and affections of the other. At present, empathy is considered as a natural, innate disposition that is put into operation in human beings through two procedures: the observation of a conflict in which the observer tends to take sides with one of the parties and the narration of stories through which the observer seeks to see and understand the world through the eyes of the other.
Both procedures begin to occur with the first childhood experiences of socialization. However, for this empathic capacity to be properly integrated, we need to feel accompanied and respected, as well as protected.
A respectful relationship with the growth rate of our children, with the satisfaction of their needs and with the expression of their feelings, allow an incorporation into the consciousness of their body image and their real self. Otherwise, there is a progressive loss of contact with our body and, to compensate for this loss, an idealized image of oneself is created and an inability to connect with our feelings.
3.Transform our competitiveness into cooperation
As industrial society has developed, we have fallen into individualism and competition. Social life has become a struggle for survival in which we have been led to believe that the one who triumphs is the strongest, the most gifted. At work, in classrooms, on sports teams, in too many areas of social life, our peers have become our competitors, transforming openness and acceptance into distrust and envy.
Human jobs and activities, in general, have been filled with mechanical routines and rigid rules that prevent us from seeing the other in their singularity. The massive incorporation of technology into society has contributed to isolating us and turning our relationship with the other into something mechanical and cold. We are not competitive, selfish and bloodthirsty animals, but social animals: we seek relationship, communication and cooperation. Some ethologists have concluded that we are “talkative” animals that seek contact for the pleasure of talking and being among our peers.
When we feel bad or restless, we love to be heard, that relaxes us and softens the discomfort. We also like to teach what we know, share knowledge and feel accompanied in our way of seeing the world. Young children, and most people throughout life, seek to conform to the group to feel comfortable. Anthropology has shown that the most important feats of our species are the product of cooperative companies or human groups that interact to achieve a specific purpose: such as hunting, the social division of labor or family organization. For something, the Greeks defined the human being as a social being by nature. Or as modern anthropologists say: homo sapiens is adapted to act and think cooperatively. Psychobiologist Michael Tomasello has shown that young children tend to be cooperative and helpful in many situations. This inclination does not arise because the parents reinforce certain cooperative behaviors.
In his experiments, he has shown that children tend to understand the situation of someone who is in difficulties and that is why they help him. As they gain independence, they become selective and offer their cooperation to people who don’t take advantage of them and tend to return the favor.
In human beings, what is most effective as a society is not the rigidity of social functions, but cooperation and the ability to carry out projects together that generate mutual expectations. Reinventing ourselves does not go through creating a human being half man and half machine, but to correct the drifts that prevent us from connecting with our human nature and living our lives individually and collectively in a more pleasant and complete way. It also goes through recovering the meaning of our existence by recovering properly human values, the capacity for pleasure, cooperation and communication with our fellow men.