A Guide in Humane Awareness
Kenneth Hemmerick is an interdisciplinary fine artist who is based in Montreal, Canada.
Most parents, with the arrival of a new baby, hope that their child will develop into a fully-realized human being, able to add positively to the family, community and society at large. They envision their child becoming an integrated humane individual who not only has respect for himself or herself, but also has a deep appreciation for life in general, the environment, ecology, animals and all humans and their various enterprises.
They, perhaps, can see their child making a positive contribution to society, whether in the arts, politics, business, science and technology, medicine, social development or in any of the fields of endeavor that demonstrate humans as being a remarkable species.
We are now in the 21st century –a new age. An age where many feel that the potential of human existence can be reached and perhaps surpassed. In many ways humans, all over the planet, have made significant progress in providing tools for social, economic and political development, when one considers what the world was like in the 20th, 19th and 18th centuries and before.
Some diseases have been eradicated through a growth in knowledge in the sciences. Technology has advanced to the state where much of the menial labour once performed by humans is now done by machines, hopefully freeing hands and minds for the task of providing solutions to the world's problems. But there is still work to do.
What can be done? A lot. A review of the global issues on the United Nations agenda tells much: Africa, Ageing, Agriculture, AIDS, Atomic Energy, Children, Climate Change, Culture, Decolonization, Demining, Development Cooperation, Persons With Disabilities, Disarmament, Drugs and Crime, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Family, Food, Governance, Health, Human Rights, Human Settlements, Humanitarian Affairs, Indigenous Peoples. Information Communications Technology, Intellectual Property, International Finance, Iraq, Labour, International Law, Law of the Sea and Antartica, Least Developed Countries, Question of Palestine, Peace and Security, Population, Refugees, Science and Technology, Social Development, Outer Space, Sustainable Development, Terrorism, Trade and Development, Water, Women and Youth.
A thorough review of the specific items on the agenda is somewhat depressing. It shows that for all the talk, planning and other meetings, resolutions and commitments, the World appears to be in a precarious state, where the rich are getting richer and the poor are being further demarginalized as the middle classes are becoming increasingly poorer.
All of this may seem to be abstract in the sense that a particular item such as Indigenous People or Human Settlements may not affect "me" personally. However in a true sense, any of these items affect each human in a personal way. We may not be a refugee, but reading about refugees in the newspaper or seeing a news clip of a refugee camp does touch us in a unique way. To some, the issue is miles away, but we are aware of its reality and that reality is embedded in our consciousness whether we are aware of its presence or not.
In a way, to protect ourselves, we have had to desensitize ourselves in order to cope with the constant barrage of negative and pessimistic news that comes from the various media.
Our consumer society is materialistic, and it is just this materialism that detracts from our humane instincts. So we feel less, and as a result of feeling less, sadly become less caring, less humane.
Humans are members of a global community. The air I breathe in my hometown of Montreal has circled the globe for thousands and thousands of years. The air I breathe has once been Asian, African, European, North and South American and Oceanic air. The air I breathe may be the same air that filled the lungs of Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Gandhi or some small child dying of starvation in the Sudan.
In 1998, I developed a suicide prevention help site on the Web, offering an alternative to suicidal thoughts, feelings and impulses. Readers are invited to write and to share experiences. I would respond by offering a few kind words and links to other resources available on the Web. Please see:
One of the most common complaints I heard was how family members treated each other. In many cases, their worst enemies treated them with more respect. With an enemy, one at least knows boundaries and how to break these limitations in order to cause grief, unhappiness and genuine sadness. There is the sense that because one is a family member, no rules apply to what can be said or done to another family member. Sadly, there are too many reports of family suicide-homicides, incest, and general depravity in the cradle of human life. Yes, the home is a cradle —one that can be of nurturing and growth. All too often, down comes baby, cradle, and all with the breakdown of the family.
The family structure has changed significantly to the point where grandparents are more often than not no longer a part of the "nuclear" family. Gone are the stories, legacies and myths that can be left from one generation to another. Gone is the sense of historical continuity and the role the family member plays in this tradition.
Branching out from the family, there are the students who have become school bullies or the bullied, leading to a tragedy where a young person is either beaten severely or at times to death, or perhaps left alone to suffer in excruciating silence –a type of murder of the soul. Unfortunately, from time to time, we hear about how a student goes to school with the explicit intention of killing or seriously harming a fellow pupil or teacher.
In the workplace, where the dollar is the bottom line, the new economy has meant parents are forced to work longer and longer hours to ensure the prosperity of the company, and to ensure the family has sufficient income. With corporate mergers, downsizing, organizational re-alignments and the rest, job security no longer exists. Also gone is the sense that the individual has a true and lasting role in the business or organization and that he or she is making a difference to the company or community as a whole.
Our religious communities are suffering from a lack of participation because religion seems less and less relevant in the technology-based structures that have either evolved or have been set up. Once, when an individual could find a degree of solace in a spiritual life, he or she now finds this comfort in vicariously witnessing extreme acts of kindness or outpourings of grief.
In this Age of the Extreme, as I call it, our senses have been so muted or dulled that only the most extreme or outrageous events cause a reaction or outpouring of community and individual sympathy. Extreme makeovers and so called Reality TV, based on the superficialities of life, are where we are finding the powerful psychic energy that provides meaning in our lives.
We now live in the post 9/11 era, where there is genuine fear of terrorist attacks. This reality has become a low-frequency background noise that we do not hear but sense deep down as we go about our daily lives.
Although we can see huge outpourings of goodness as in the case of the recent Asian tsunami disaster, the true value of humane civilizing manifests on a daily basis. It can be as simple as opening a door for someone, offering a seat on the bus, letting the aggressive driver have his room, or letting a person behind you at a check out counter, who has only one item, ahead of you with your full shopping cart of groceries.
All too often we are so occupied in our busy daily lives that it is easy to forget that we have the amazing capacity to be humane in our interactions with others.
A Guide in Humane Awareness is a creative project that helps the participant to learn about, or to become re-acquainted with, her or his humane quality of being, and empowers the individual to not only be kind, but humane as well.
Copyright © Kenneth Hemmerick 2005