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  The Doctrine of Ahimsa

Humanity

Here's a thought from Distress that's stayed with me ever since I read it. I think Egan is exactly right, we will be seeing more of this question in the near future.

Rourke said, “You know, I envy you your job. With VA, I'm forced to concentrate on a narrow area of change. But you'll have a bird's eye view of everything.”

“Of what? You mean advances in biotechnology?”

“Biotech, imaging, AI … the lot. The whole battle for the H-words.”

“The H-words?”

He smiled cryptically. “The little one and the big one. That's what this century is going to be remembered for. A battle for two words. Two definitions.”

:

“So what's the other H-word? The big one?”

:

“You say that your opponent lacks humanity.”

:

Rourke said, “It's the oldest semantic weapon there is. Think of all the categories of people who've been classified as non-human, in various cultures, at various times. People from other tribes. People with other skin colors. Slaves. Women. The mentally ill. The deaf. Homosexuals. Jews. Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Armenians, Kurds—”

I said defensively, “Don't you think there's a slight difference between putting someone in a gas chamber, and using the phrase rhetorically?”

“Of course. But suppose you accuse me of ‘lacking humanity.’ What does that actually mean? What am I likely to have done? Murdered someone in cold blood? Drowned a puppy? Eaten meat? Failed to be moved by Beethoven's Fifth? Or just failed to have—or to seek—an emotional life identical to your own in every respect? Failed to share all your values and aspirations?”

 

  See Also

  Conclusion (Not Enough Time)

@ December (2001)