Lately, because of the business I’m in, I’ve been experiencing bureaucracy to the fullest. I’m in situation where my entire business may be shut down because first I applied for something two days too early and second because the city of Boulder sent the rejection notice to the wrong address (despite the fact that the right address was written in at least three places on the application). There have been over 100 calls made and not returned to all sorts of city employees, and countless visits have resulted in nothing. At one point, my lawyer and I were standing outside the office of the woman responsible for making this mistake, when my lawyer’s phone rang. It was the woman (who was completely unapologetic for making an obvious mistake that could possibly cost me everything I have worked for) and, despite the fact that we were standing right outside of her office and she obviously had some free time, she refused to see us. All I wanted to do (with her and with other characters in this Kafkaesque experience) was have her look me in the eyes and tell me that she doesn’t care if I lose everything. These experiences (and many others over the past couple months) have me thinking about humanism again. If any of these people at the city were able to see me as a human being and my situation as unique, I am almost positive they would feel a responsibility (being civil servants) to do anything in their power to help. However, they are taught (in school, by their parents, by the media, and I’m sure by their experiences at their city jobs) to treat us all as numbers or lump us together as “marijuana dispensary owners” or “real estate developers” or one of a million other labels that are not “human being”.
The fact that USians go through decades of learning to shut off what is human leaves little wonderment as to why the super majority of our population allows the US extend its hegemony. When we wake up in the morning and see a headline like this, and either overt our eyes or have no problem pushing it into the back of our heads. What if we looked at Pakistanis as human beings; not only in flesh and body form, but as human beings who are equal to USers or people of England. What would happen then?
These people are dying en masse, in a foreign country. These are people who have different color skin than us, eat different foods, and have different religious and social beliefs for the most part. I don’t have any actual numbers, but I’d be willing to bet that less than 0.1% of our population has visited Pakistan and spent time with these people. Therefore, it is simple to write them off as collateral damage in a war of necessity. What about the people in the United States who are dying every day because of the actions of our government? 123 people per day – every single goddamned day – die because they can’t afford healthcare. When hospital workers or doctors or insurance companies see these people, they cannot see human beings. When someone at a hospital is forced to kick out a 65 year old treatable cancer patient because she doesn’t have insurance, they obviously do not see a human being in front of them. When an insurance worker informs the parents of a 10 year old with Leukemia that – despite treatment options – their son is going to die because the company doesn’t think it’s profitable to pay for his chemo, where do they think the voices on the other end of the phone are coming from?
It is a hard thing to see each and every person as a human being, but it becomes easier when done on a smaller scale. If we get cut off in traffic on the way to work and try to imagine what the person in the car in front of us (who obviously has an overinflated sense of self) is going through; why did they cut us off? Why do they think they are more important than me? What is going to be accomplished if I run them off of the road? I’m losing my train of thought, but my point is simple- we are all human beings. It doesn’t matter what color our skin is, what we have done in the past, or where we are from. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you are talking to (or yelling with or thinking bad thoughts about) another person, just try to see them as the same. Next time you see an article about a rain on an Afghan village killing 12 children, try to pretend that they are your children. See how fast your view changes and see how much easier it becomes the next time.