by James Strauss
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” is one of the most beautiful and meaningful sentences that any American ever reads. And it is completely, utterly and inarguably a lie. Equality, the word, no matter how it is stretched, morphed or interpreted simply cannot meld together such things as geographical placement, racial extraction, monetary worth, intellect or even the ability to understand one’s position inside the human condition. Equality, then, has to be a word that is so filled with possibility that totally diverse belief systems can accommodate the wonder of a concept wherein men and women born on this planet are somehow equal in any way. In the same way that the word equality is used transcendently in the Declaration of Independence, the word inalienable is used to describe the rights of man in the areas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone living in America knows that none of those things describe states of existence that are in any way guaranteed or unable to be taken away. The ways that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be taken away in the culture of the United States number in the thousands.
Why is it, when reading the Declaration of Independence again, that most American citizens, and even most citizens of the world who are not American, feel uplifted? Is it hope that provides the adrenal rush of comfort and joy brought about by what those words generate inside the human soul? Or is it understanding that we are all different as human beings, not only from human to human, but within the very heart of each person’s soul?
The incremental detail of human development, added atop the genetic formation of human minds, determines that every individual is going to be entirely different from every other individual on the planet. There is absolutely no way to bring all humans together in almost any regard on almost any subject or project. Billions of humans believe in Christ, while billions of others believe in Allah. Those billions are “believers,” but they do not believe in the exact same god. And no believer sees or thinks of Christ or Allah in the same way in their individual minds. It’s simply not possible. Differences exist between individuals’ beliefs, opinions and even actions. These differences can be geographic in origin, or they can be culturally instilled. Entire neighborhoods of human beings live clumped right next to one another in close proximity, but have belief systems so distinct they might as well be living in different countries. Israel and Ireland serve as perfect examples of this, as do the small culturally distinct neighborhoods surrounding big cities like New York and Chicago.
It’s all in the mix. The great blender of life does not exist. Humans cannot be blended together in thought, except on very rare occasions, and only then as a result of very rare events. A disaster, like what happened in New York on September eleventh, can bring a huge number of people together in single-mindedness, but that clump of shared belief and supposed experience quickly begins to fall apart after only a short period of time, or with the increase of any distance. The mix is inside the individual. Which large and small experiences will become additive to the whole of human memory on an individual basis? The disciplines of psychology and psychiatry are littered with works about the seeming impossibility therapists face in attempting to generalize from individual behaviors and thoughts to humanity in general, in order to develop overriding conclusions.
The book that has come to be known as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is hundreds of pages long, yet it still cannot contain within its bulk the full range of human thought, focusing on distinguishing deviant thought from normal thought. In fact, normal thought has remained impossible to define, with agreement only being found in designating deviance and measuring that against the assumption of normal.
You are unique. Your pieces are not someone else’s pieces. No two people are alike in any nearly appreciable way. How are these rolling collections of tiny trace elements composing human thought to be assembled to act together? It has taken three and half million years, if not more, for mankind to come together enough to build communities, states, and nations, and to act together toward any goal other than hard-bitten survival. There should be little wonder about why human cooperation is so difficult. Surviving together is all about group behavior, but surviving together does not seem to be written into the multitude of assembled different bits of life experience everyone is made up of. While the great portion of neo-cortex, the part of the human mind dedicated to intelligent thought, is yelling “cooperate, join together and share almost everything,” the greater emotional center of the human brain (the cerebellum) is screaming “forget everyone else, take everything you can get for yourself, and lie about thinking that.”
What will become of this mixed bag of lonely humans huddling together against a vast ominous and ever-resisting universe? The results are in on that, but those results face the same filter cooperation does. The truth about just how successful cooperation is for the very future of mankind is a staggeringly positive one. But the lies told by almost everyone living with the results of this successful cooperation are unending when it comes to individuals carving out great chunks of it for themselves and their spawn.
Until the American culture, and all the world’s cultures, reach a point where they not only state, but believe, that “giving is actually receiving” the harsh restrictions on growing civilization will remain in place. It takes faith to give today in the belief that you will receive tomorrow. Religions around the world beat that same drum about life today being a function of life in some hereafter. It can never be known by the living whether religions are right about the hereafter, but religions can certainly be viewed as correct about the perspective of what can and must be done to enrich the survival, comfort and lives of those humans living today and on into tomorrow.
~ James Strauss