Humanity in the Age of Individuality
By: Angelica Vecchiato
The foreboding of the ominous clouds and the melancholic patter of the dreary afternoon rain decried by the poet’s pathetic fallacy: the woes hidden within the innermost depths of your heart. In an appearance of outwardly fortitude, you wrestle silently and interiorly with the magnitude of a grievance, as you walk sullenly along the crowded streets of the bustling city. Hundreds of people swarm the metropolis. So many lives, so many stories, so many paths surround one another- so closely connected, yet distinctly far apart. Pondering the burden of your bleakness, your shoulder brushes up against someone else’s. You glance upward and you are met by the penetrating stare of another, whose unfamiliar eye evokes an oddly familiar feeling: that of your own despondency and sorrow. Deeply profound emotions of connection and solidarity envelop your person. Two passing strangers on a woeful rainy day- seemingly disconnected in the circadian rhythm of life-but connected by means of a humanity.
Although the world in all of it’s grandiosity may seek to divide humans by vast oceans, diverse countries, copious religions and controversial politics, we are all united through the relatable human experiences of joy, struggle, and daily tribulation which characterize the very essence or “raison d’etre” of human life. News headlines and social media are rife with taunting headlines that seem to portray only a divided, fractured, and broken global society: Blood fills the streets in Afghanistan, Young children, victims of mass shooting, Poverty levels see dramatic increase during pandemic, or COVID cases skyrocket as new Delta variant claims thousands of lives. These bold captions can burden the mind- and the soul- with somber thoughts, so much so, that it could be easy to become disillusioned with people and humanity at large.
Unbeknown to many, these brief glimpses of a mind grueling headline or a cursory glance through a depressing article might begin to cement in your mind feelings of resentment, prejudice, and sadness. Molding you discreetly into a cynical and even misanthropic person, whereby you would avoid society on all accounts premised upon a certain (misplaced) hatred for people and the issues which make up modern- day culture. A recent statistic from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), cited that around 30% of people exposed to negative news go onto develop anxiety issues.
As we have seen play out this year, these headlines have marked a dramatic prevalence in an individualistic ideology. In some ways, we seek to divorce ourselves from the realities of everyday life and draw into our own corners out of despair for what we see befalling before our eyes. However, this is very detrimental and destructive for a successful society as we limit the amount of human contact and begin to see people as burdens rather than as gifts. In drawing into ourselves individualistically, we deny the humanity of others around us, the results of which lead to a very skeptical and uncollaborative society. This directly contradicts the tried and true prose of ancient wisdom, which has proved correct in nearly every instance, “collaboration is the key to success.”
Taking the subway in the modern era, we make sure to avoid and not converse with people. However, you’ve probably heard stories from your grandma telling you that when “she was your age”, people spoke and dared to look each other in the eyes on the bus, even though they could have been perfect strangers to one another. In fact, the idea of being a “stranger” to the person sitting next to you on the bus proves somewhat contrary to the very ideas enshrined within biology as geneticists state that 99.9 % of human beings are identical in their genetic makeup. It’s important to remember that the person sitting beside you isn’t just another set of limbs whose backpack is taking up a perfectly good seat, but rather a person with a soul, an incredible story to tell, and a unique legacy to live out.
If this “individualistic collectivism” is exacerbated, it could initiate harm on a grand scale. Many of the world’s greatest genocides and atrocities occurred due to the fact that certain groups of people were deemed not “human enough”; they were, with unfathomable deliberation, denied the string of humanity which is common to us all. For instance, during the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
We are all humans. We all have problems- many in fact. One humanizing act can have so much power. That one smile at the stranger on the bus platform. That one conversation with a friend without the discombobulating powers of a technological device. That one handwritten note to a friend in a trying time. These deeds can have a chain effect, whereby one small act inspires yet another act of kindness to become avenues to which we can harness human connectedness in the age of disconnectedness.
We need to bring back the humanity which is owing to us all. In the concluding tone, the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s song, Strangers in the Night, ring clear.
“Strangers in the night, two lonely people
We were strangers in the night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello
Little did we know
Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away”