On humanity and good-naturedness

Humanity, at least the adjective form of it, is most often defined as compassion and kindness, demonstrated by humans toward other beings (to include other humans). It is used as a measure of our intention to cause the least amount of injury in situations involving ourselves and others. This word, like any other word in the human language, is subject to interpretation; and the meaning of the word is often simply a matter of perspective. This is easily exemplified in cases involving human – wildlife interaction, such as the ongoing case of grizzly bear management in the United States: where one side sees humanity as necessarily elevating the questionable needs of human hunters to kill elk in the wilderness for sport, strictly on the basis of human involvement and priority; while the other side tries to look at the needs of the other beings involved on a more level field.

I would argue that compassion and kindness toward other beings is not a behavior demonstrated only by humans. I would further argue that it is not a behavior demonstrated by all humans. As such, I find the word somewhat misleading in that it romanticizes us a little too much; and completely ignores acts of compassion and kindness demonstrated by other animals. A documented case of this, and a famous one at that, is of the human child who is saved from an attacking dog by his own cat. Was the cat being humane in its actions? It risked its own life, setting its own needs aside, to face injury and even death in the protection of another being. Is it better, then, to say that the cat was being feline? Or was the cat acting upon something more universal?

I bring this up because the word, ‘humanity,’ has been getting tossed around a lot lately in some of the circles I travel in. I favor, for general purposes, the term, ‘good-naturedness.’ My spell-checker tells me that this word doesn’t exist; but I’d be an idiot to allow a computer to dictate something like this to me. If my good-naturedness were to be human-centric, and reserved for humans alone, I would see no problem referring to it as humanity; but it isn’t. While I view myself as a human, and have little difficulty understanding human needs and being sympathetic to them; I also view myself as a child of Nature, connected to all beings, and I try to foster a strong sense of compassion and sympathy for these beings within my own sense of being. That, in my opinion, is what being good-natured is about. This isn’t something exclusive to human beings – rather than being something that singles us out from other beings, good-naturedness connects us to so much more than just our own genetics. Some might think the difference is purely one of semantics; but I think this is a convenient way to ignore a much greater possibility, one that reveals us and defines us in ways mere semantics can’t.

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