New Year’s Day 2022, 6 AM
Another new January 1st:; another new year to look forward to; another old year to look back on. A fleeting moment of reflection, resolution and recalibrating. A flash of a lifetime to ponder what is working and what is not, what makes us happy and what does not, what is important and what simply is not.
It is easy to declare that personal health is the most important thing in life, for without that we are without our power. It is easy to surmise that family is the most important thing, as our loved ones help us feel grounded and connected and loved. Financial stability, education, professional success and societal status are all things that may top your list of ‘most important’, and to each his own. Conversely, perhaps the most important thing is one that we usually don’t even consider: being human.
What sets us apart form the other creatures of Earth is that we are self-aware; capable of introspection, imagination, reasoning, and morality. These higher-level skills separate us from the beasts and form the basis of our global culture as a species. So, what’s going on? Because more and more we seem to be a nation and a people of non-thinking, non-reasoning, non-rational creatures.
To be sure, part of the problem is the ever-increasing self-isolation enabled by burgeoning technology that provides news, entertainment, and information on countless topics within the privacy of one’s own tiny world of phone and earbuds. Conversations with other humans devolve into online ‘chats’ with people of the same mindset, all but eliminating rational debate, open exchanges of ideas or points of view, and thoughtfully developed ideas or opinions. Increasingly, it seems, our citizens seem to glom on to a suggestion, an opinion, a lie – no matter how silly or illogical – and grasp it firmly against all reason.
Another part of the problem has to do with our education system, which is and has been for many years, failing us. This is not an indictment of teachers. Teachers should be paid more money and even more significantly, paid greater respect. One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching has always been and continues to be the Buttinskies; the endless streams of parents, legislators and groups like the “Societyfor Family Stability Foundation” that believe that since they once long ago attended school, they are now qualified to tell others how to teach school. The Buttinskies are rarely educators and often have no education past high school themselves. They are a huge problem that gets worse each semester and could reasonably be cited as the biggest cause of the ongoing decline of our educational system.
Even still, are we to believe that our schools stopped teaching about Jonas Salk or Albert Calmette and Jean-Marie Camille Guerin or Maurice Hilleman and the countless lives they each saved? If not, why don’t our legislators, health workers and quarterbacks have an understanding of vaccines and how they work instead of fantastic reasons why they are fine with having received vaccines for measles, mumps, chicken pox and polio but refuse one for covid?
Is it true that our schools stopped teaching the ability to read charts or graphs? Otherwise, why doesn’t the simple and undeniable fact that the average temperature in these United States has steadily raised to between five and six degrees higher over the past one hundred years preclude supposedly college-educated people from even thinking about saying something as stupid as, “there is no climate change” or “humans (or cow farts) do not contribute to climate change”?
There is nothing more important than being human. And nothing more shameful than purposely discarding the brainpower of one’s own humanity.
Can it be that our schools no longer work to educate students about the forming and foundation of our nation? That it was founded with the clear and deliberately stated separation of church and state? Why else do legislators waste so much time trying to spread Christianity via our schools, workplaces and even football games for crap’s sake?!
Is it so, that our schools have given up worrying about little things like the Constitution and Bill of Rights? How else can you explain us now being required to endure a racist, ignorant, abhorrent, evil congresswoman from Georgia and an ex-president that still has no more clue about the contents of any document that doesn’t have his face on the cover than the man in the moon? Or how anyone in their even-close-to-right mind can find an OK for civilians to own assault weapons in the Second Amendment?
No. Our schools are made up of real people with the very best of intentions and efforts, working as teachers, aides and administrators who strive constantly to educate our kids. That doesn’t mean that they always succeed. They are often handcuffed by the Buttinskies as well as a lack of funds and personnel. Just ask a random person under the age to twenty to add 57 and 65 in their head and you’ll see that there is a problem somewhere. But educators have not pushed aside reading graphs or history or science or even arithmetic.
The only other possible answer then, is the conscious and willing abandonment of the brainpower of humanity.
Once you give up the one thing that makes you human, what’s left?
If you tell your wife one thing, and then stand up in Congress and spout nonsense; ideas that completely contradict your education and what you believe, what are you really? Human? Barely.
If you actually succeed in convincing yourself of something that you know contradicts your education or just common sense, for personal or political gain or advantage, what are you then? Still human? No. Once you give up the one thing that makes you human, you’re just a pile of cells wasting our time.
To purposely negate being self-aware or capable of introspection, imagination and reasoning, or to refute one’s own morality and support corrupt and vile politicians, or to promote policies that deny and actually change the truth you know of our history, or to knowingly bastardize the Bill of Rights in order get slipped a few thousand from a lobbyist, are not acts of humans. This is how jackals act – tearing things apart and doing what they feel they must do to get what they want, regardless of the effect to the group or community.
There is nothing more important than being human. And nothing more shameful than purposely discarding the brainpower of one’s own humanity. Let’s remember that as elections happening over the next few years dictate the course of our most wonderful USA.
Stefán Neary lives with his family in New England,
where he works as an IT consultant and part-time chef.