The Violence in Our Humanism

Hassan Munhamanna
3 min readAug 12, 2018

Our need to categorize reality as it's experienced exceeds our need to experience reality as it really is. In his book "The Doors of Perception", Aldous Huxley considers the human nervous system as not an outward reaching apparatus that embraces reality, but as a filtration mechanism that numbs the immense force of reality into tolerable packets. We're built into docility.

Yet, rather than recognizing our fragile condition, we believe ourselves mighty. The high and mighty human race, conquerors of planet Earth. We know how to build hospitals and emergency earthquake shelters, but then kill ourselves in the pursuit of the perfect system, the absolute paradigm that will take care of all our misery, ignoring completely our foundational disconnect with reality. What a travesty, a species of world beaters pitted against each other in mythical warfare.

Our totalitarian tendencies are really just a manifestation of our anxiety with the future. The way to go: acknowledging uncertainty as a part of our condition, and then living life as devoted skeptics. Of course, this doesn't mean there's no place for totalities. One can surely pursue it, but with a healthy dose of awareness that it may not be discoverable, or even existing at all.

One such totality we seek is that of ethics. All human discourse collapses into nothingness without the existence of a universal ethical ground. Our ethical conversations are thus either structuralist or based on myths, “such is right and such is wrong”. Of course, as is the problem with myths, not everyone subscribes to the same myth, and so our arguments devolve into warfare.

But at the core of our faith is one myth that all agree with: the preservation of the human life. This one myth forms the foundation of all our ethical discourses. Our constitutions and charters are formed around it, our tribal chieftains look into each other’s eyes and realize a camaraderie borne out of belonging to the same category of species. For a few moments at the beginning of each epoch these glances renew our hopes for an eternal peace - so how do we fall back into our murderous ways again and again?

We do so because at the core of humanist ethics there’s a disregard for the sanctity of life. This sanctitude is, of course, a personal feeling, but one that I believe I share with many. This sacredness that I profess of life is not so much derived from any proof of life’s divinity, but from my utter bewilderment of what it is. I do not understand life, neither human nor animal nor insect. This ignorance I crown upon life: I shall not take what I cannot comprehend.

Humanism, despite its status as the ultimate ideology of peace, defies this grossly. It is speciesist, unapologetically "racist" to non-humans. It only seeks to sustain the human category, even if at the expense of all other categories. To the humanist, the human need comes first. She shoots harambe instead of the child, even though it was the child who invaded the former's space, even though this space is not the poor gorilla's space at all, but its hostage home.

A few millennia of animal blood has convinced us of our position atop the chain of existence. It is not false, but only when we see all living being as food, or as units of violence divided hierarchically. Whether there may be more to existence, whether a crow or an ant may be better at existing than us will forever elude the human mind bent to bask in its violent glory.

I believe I’m an anti-humanist. Everywhere I look into human society, I find vanity. Humanist culture is the culture of overlooking life itself for the sake of glorifying only human life. The self-righteous human advocating for geopolitical peace is really just a tyrant advocating only human peace, the chicken and the pigs be damned. Behind the mask of every human whole lies a million such violences that fragment, shatter its ethical totalities into their own contradictions. Drenched in ecological tear the human machine marches on. It is perhaps no wonder that time and again the humanist culture falls back to square one, cruelty and brutality reigns supreme. Is selective righteousness righteousness at all?