Inhumanity Above the Clouds

As I write this, 34,000 feet above ground, somewhere in the North Pacific, 2000 miles east of Tokyo, 700 miles northwest of the Midway Islands, in Seat 49A on Philippine Airlines en route to Manila for vacation, I consider that time is unknown. I wonder whether my phone is giving the time back in Vancouver, British Columbia when I was last on land. 1130am it says. Perhaps. And then perhaps not.

Regardless, having been sitting here, catching up on a mere 2-3 dozen articles saved on my phone (2-3 dozen out of 3,873 total- no, I will never actually “catch up”), I ask myself as I have the 4 previous times I find myself several miles above ground and thousands of miles away from land (“civilization”) what is so civilized about those moving specks on the ground that I can’t even see from my current vantage point. It’s the closest I ever get to being “above” the cares of the world. Literally though, I am above the cares of the world. And I realize that this this current state is a unnatural break from being a human, what is known as humanity. For this “above the cares of the world “, being above and removed from the pains and the struggles and tears and stresses and doldrums and monotony and cacophony of life within the world is a clear removal from what being a human and humanity is. Not even what they “are about” but, simply and viscerally, what they “are”. As God simply said to Moses, “I Am”. I Am and They Are. For humanity is not some theoretical and philosophical debate. One cannot be human and be above humanity. To be within humanity is to be human. To be above humanity – whether physically as I currently am in an airplane or socially as some are on the terrestrial Earth – is to not be human.

I just opened the shade next to my window seat. There is no humanity. Just clouds. Clouds that obscure reality. That obscure humanity. Humans. Above the Earth, above its cares and needs and suffering. Above the economic oppression of the workers. Clouded. Unseen. And humanity gone. For all it is worth, I am not human. I am a speck above the reality of humanity. A cipher that has no right to speak for those below the clouds. Those clouds that cloud my humanity, that prevent me from being within humanity. That prevent me from being human.

Humanity is nothing if it is not being on the same plane as humanity, with one’s fellow humans. Not our choice of humans – that lazy and simple cofraternity of our own comfort zone – but with the “others” as well. The outcasts and those who we cannot “relate to”. Those who we are “above”. Our humanity – if extant – is not present when we are above others and not on the same plane as them. When we pass our brother or sister in need and we are above them. Indeed, do we even have a humanity which can be lost when we pass them, as we are above them? No, our humanity is already dead or, at best, in its death throes. There is nothing, or little, left to lose.

230 miles closer now to Tokyo. 1766 miles east of Tokyo. Japan. And yes, the bombers who dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was above humanity. Not a human. A being who served the ends of a system which was not based in humanity. A social system which turns humans into monsters. The system created by humans who had lost their humanity. Who had placed themselves as humans above humanity. Who led a system that clouded and asphyxiated humans and humanity. A system which demanded these bombs be dropped on Japan. On humans. Real humans who were dehumanized by “humans”. Bombed from above. Bombed from above to send a warning from one system to another system. A system of capitalism bombing humans in Japan to send a warning to humans in the Soviet Union that nuclear bombs are real and will be dropped. Bombs dropped from above by “humans” who were above humanity. We will bomb you too. We will bomb your humans so your system will not spread. We will bomb your humans so that other humans will not see your system. So that our “humans” living above humanity can perpetuate their system so that humans can be exploited. So that a system can continue that we will call “freedom”.

A freedom not free but a freedom in name only. A freedom for those “above”. A freedom to exploit humans. A freedom in name only. A freedom that can only be “freedom” when the clouds are created and placed. Clouds that hide humanity. Clouds that are intentionally and perpetually placed to make us think we too can be above. That we too can be great. That we too can have this “freedom”. This freedom to exploit, to ignore. To not be human. The irony when we think we can be “above”. When we think we actually are “above”. That these clouds are our clouds. That we are above everyone. Or someone at least. That we are human. Then, that we imagine that we are not actually “above”. No, for that is not human. We aren’t “above”, we don’t have hubris. No, the “others” are just below. Subhuman. The clouds created by the system that told us that we were above do not actually exist. We have not been clouded and perverted to think we are above. No. We are humans. It is not that we are “above”. They are below. They are sub humans. And thus our hubris, our inhumanity- the inhumanity of being “above” humanity, above “others”- does not exist for we are human. They are subhuman. There are no clouds. We are not clouded by the propaganda of a system which has exploited us. No, we are humans. Those others are subhuman who we were destined to exploit. The clouds have made us think we are somehow masters, humans with a divine right to exploit subhumans.

But remember, there are no clouds. Right? We aren’t really being lied to by those who exploit us so that we will exploit others. No, that couldn’t be. Right? We are humans.

190 miles closer now to Tokyo. 1579 miles away. Yes, we dropped bombs on Japan. But we had to. For we are humans. And they were not. Yes, children died. And women. And men. And the elderly. And disabled. But we had to. Yes, and we had to put them in our concentration camps. Internment camps. Because we are humans and it was for freedom. So said the clouds. But no, there are not really clouds because we arr not really above. They are just below.

But were Hiroshima and Nagasaki a surprise? Is it really that surprising that the United States would do that in the name of humanity. Unclouded, the answer is no. It was no surprise for a system that began much earlier killing and raping and plundering. A system above humanity. A system that is not human. An inhumane system run by “humans” infested with inhumanity to their very core. Colonialism and imperialism – the stages of capitalism.

Japan could not be a surprise or a break from their “humanity”. For it is the same occurrence in varying degrees and shades that defines capitalism. Exploitation. Of workers. Of nature. Of humans. Bombing. Of Japan. Of The Philippines. Of Vietnam. Of Cambodia. Of Iraq. Assassination and coups. Of Lumumba. Of Sankara. Of Allende. Of Aristide. Of Dilma. Of Maduro (almost).

Humanity is not being on another plane from others. It is being one with “others”. With the “throwaway” humans that Pope Francis exhorts us to be one with. The outcasts. The poor. The children. The elderly. The immigrant. The workers. Our brothers and sisters.

Humanity is not passing by our brothers and sisters in need. It is not being above them even as we walk past them. For we are them and they are us. We are not above them. We must not be above them. Whether they are in front of us or across the world. Whether an exploited worker who gives us change when we pay at the checkout lane or a child in Yemen dying of cholera as we support our allies who bomb the child’s village. In our name. For their – our common exploiter’s- profit. We are relatively above as those who profit put the clouds around us to think we are above. That we aren’t the brother or sister of those that we exploit in our own petty ways.

The ultimate exploiter – capitalism – clouds our mind to think we are human and those we exploit are subhuman. In our own petty – in relative terms -exploitation of our fellow brothers and sisters we justify the overarching exploitation and dehumanization of us all by the capitalist system. We internalize the subhuman state that capitalism puts us in and export it to those who we deign to place ourselves above. We, the petty exploiters. And so is born the double dehumanization of our beings. The initial dehumanization by the system against us both socially and economically and then its replication (and tacit or vocal legitimization) in our own petty everyday lives against those “others” and “undesirables” that we dehumanize.

Is this just? Is this humanity?

But we don’t see it. Through the clouds. When we are above. Above humanity.

Are the children whose skin was ripped off their flesh by Agent Orange humans? Or are they mere collateral damage – that sanitized phrase for “they are subhuman”.

Is the socially ostracized drug user passed out on the sidewalk next to us a human?

Are the workers whose security of tenure and fair wage denied to them human?

The immigrants we don’t truly care about after their oppression is no longer cynically mentioned in the news…

Are they human?

Better yet…

Are we human?


Andrew Kahn is Editor of the Voice of America Blog.