Introduction to Neohumanism
Since the dawn of civilization, we have been at war with ourselves. It’s often heard that human nature is such that we are naturally destructive. However, human destructiveness is not inherently part of our instincts or nature. We are not born aggressive, destructive, cruel, and merciless. Instead, we become such through life experiences, as well as through the conditions imposed on us by the civilized world around us. The misconception that we’ve distanced ourselves from barbarism through civilization has been debunked through the research of Erich Fromm. In “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” Fromm provides concrete evidence that it is precisely private property, the hierarchization of the social world, and the curbing of freedoms that are connected to a malignant form of aggressiveness – destructiveness. Pre-civilization communities were to a lesser extent barbaric than we are today. Despite the ideals of Enlightenment and modernity, progress has also brought about development in the realm of destructiveness. As we become technologically advanced, we become more creative in terms of expressions of cruelty. Civilization, especially the modern one, has dressed barbarism in an elegant suit. However, this hasn’t reduced the degree of behavioral barbarism. Therefore, it’s no wonder that we look with question marks above our heads at everything that has happened in recent years. In the illusion of civility, we turned away from the real problems . In the face of hedonism and egocentrism we forgot the flaws we had – we forgot it through the implementation of individualism, utilitarianism, the market, and domination into the framework of our basic ethical standards. Barbarism in gloves.
Thus, the conflicts of today can be seen as a continuation of the authoritarian ethics of the past, but mixed with the fundamental ideals of consumerism – radical hedonism and egocentrism (Fromm, 1976). However, there is something that sets us apart from the rest of the history of civilized barbarism. What is new in modernity is that we have created mechanisms of illusion, that is, we have created a kind of blasé attitude towards the barbaric character of nature. This indifference manifests in the realms of social networks, narcissistic authenticity, a radical orientation towards pleasure, and paradoxical happiness.
However, this indifference isn’t indifference in the usual sense of the word; it doesn’t dull in the standard way of inaction but rather the opposite. The indifference of the modern age is realized precisely on the basis of doing, but not understanding. Everyday interactions are permeated by (collective) actions of fragmented individuals with clear goals and motives, yet these goals are impossible to achieve with the means and habits the contemporary actor possesses. However, realization isn’t as important as the very practice of doing – actions that are directed at ideals presented as good within the framework of a new authoritarian ethic. The real accounting of time spent on activities and their outcomes for the improvement of human existence is irrelevant, as it’s always in deficit. The point of such ideals isn’t change but the spending of accumulated time without remorse. Erich Fromm already pointed out that we desperately try to preserve a certain portion of time just to spend it aimlessly (Fromm, 1985). But aimless spending takes a toll on one’s conscience. Therefore, to keep our consciences clear, we spend our time on things we haven’t thought through enough but seem correct. These are battles for various rights with a right-click of a mouse (share, like, condemn), ecological awareness practiced within radical hedonism, imposing conservative lifestyles due to accumulated perversions, and searching for spirituality without any abandonment of the previous. The world of fighting for various goals has become very dynamic but devoid of meaning, as those who practice the fight believe in it just to achieve their own selfish self-realization interests. However, delusion and indifference offer us collective camouflage from this egocentrism. Even within the realms of egocentrism, we need some collective sense, a feeling that social networks are truly social, that authenticity is original and visible, and that pleasures have some depth. Of course, what is realized is depth without real depth, authenticity without true authenticity, a copy that is deluded to think it’s original – Baudrillard’s society of hyperreality, in which the virtual becomes more real than real, has found its full meaning. This is the world of civilized barbarism, where mechanisms are offered so that the individual doesn’t feel like part of the problem. Yet, from a distance, the same individual legitimizes and practices the same barbarism. We elevate ourselves, moralize, and affirm through ideals like human rights, protection of tradition, and nature, but overlook the fact that we do nothing. This also explains why there are very aggressive stances from promoters of any of the ideals of the contemporary world. Exclusivity is a defense mechanism against realizing the banality of the battle with the tools we possess. Whether it’s exclusivity in the form of woke culture or the polarity of new conservative movements, we’re hyper-reflexive to others’ mistakes but blind to the (im)possibility of genuine change from civilized barbarism to humanism, from authoritarian ethics to a humanistic one.
However, humanism is increasingly eluding us. In attempts to overcome the fabricated destructive nature of man, society has rather surrendered than truly dealt with this issue. This surrender took place in the form of renouncing anthropocentrism and orienting towards transhumanism. The human kind is no longer the measure of all things. Humans are no longer the center of the universe of their own mind. The intelligence so specific to human kind turns away from humans and directs towards parts of reality mediated to us. Nature becomes more important than us, but it is meaningless because, at the very end, we stand in the center of it. The world becomes transhuman in the sense that it distance person from a person and directs him/her/they towards things external to us. Things we once used now use us. The fetishization of commodities mentioned by Karl Marx and many others after him is now reaching its peak. Indeed, commodities are no longer the only things that matter more than us. Everything becomes more important in attempts to distance from the flaws of humanity. This kind of transhumanism is precisely the indifference to humanity we talked about. Such indifference experiences shocks with the appearance of disasters like the wars we are currently witnessing. But the spectacular nature of accelerated sociability efficiently distracts us from the emotional response to such insufficient humanity – from ourselves, after all – because in a post-human society, we are no longer humans – not in the sense that we would identify with the evil that was done by us alone. No matter if it is some other human being that did that, we are all part of the same kind. By focusing on the external problems, we seemingly stopped dealing with our own problems. After all, this evil has been made in the very logic that we form our moral standards – by the consumerist, egocentric, hedonistic culture of living. We are part of this evil, and the denial of our humanity and escape through different trans ideals (including conservative ones, for they are also trans-modern, not pre-modern) does not diminish this fact but hides it from us.
The logic of transhumanism, in its splendor and desire for change, remains impotent for real change, whether it concerns issues of equality, the protection of tradition, ecology, etc. Thus, if, for example, we insist on ecocentric ideals and devote ourselves to nature for nature’s sake, we neglect working on ourselves, on anthropocentrism that would consider nature as something to be preserved, not for the sake of nature, but for our own survival. Ultimately, nature will outlive humanity, regardless of human actions. Therefore, ecocentrism is counterproductive as it reduces the possibilities of recognizing mistakes that brought anthropocentrism to its current state. Self-reflection is no longer possible if we distance ourselves from the foundations of contemporary humanity, be they positive or negative. As a starting point, one should not take nature, but another person. In this sense, anthropocentrism would signify both self-reflection and reflection on the other in a certain environment– ultimately, understanding the other to understand oneself. Philosophy is widely spread, even in the works of Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Habermas, etc. If we approach the world in this way, we no longer speak of the alienation of transhumanism but of neo-humanism, that is, a renewed interest in the human condition, whether it is positive or negative. No matter how ultimately destructive human behavior may be, it must be addressed from the perspective of humanity – evaluated within the framework of dialectical thinking. There’s no doubt that it is a painful and uncomfortable process. To use the words of Simone De Beauvoir, self-realization is not a guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness (1947). Neo-humanism, therefore, does not promise happiness, but it does provide conditions for disalienation. It addresses the painful hangover from our ego-trip that has driven us for decades. “The true essence of neo-humanism, however, remains distant. A prerequisite for its realization is the ability for critical thinking—a dialectic materialized in our individual actions that, in turn, mirror the broader actions of society. Yet, to think critically, we must first possess knowledge about the world. Blindly accepting the premises of contemporary culture without truly grasping them undermines the very change we aim to achieve. A neo-humanistic perspective demands internalization, a deep-seated understanding, and the creation of meaning. It pushes for the ability to critique and communicate. This is a virtue we seem to have forgotten, but it remains crucial for our future. Communicative action, as Jurgen Habermas would define it, is at the heart of neo-humanism. However, this practice should be oriented towards people, not abstractions in which we seek to evade responsibility. To invent a better future, we must ask ourselves: Are we shaping this future for humankind or for something external to us?
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