Recreating humanity.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_a_baby_standing_in_front_of_a_mirror.jpgOk, here’s what occurred to me the other day: We’re a generation engaged in building an entirely new kind of human society. Possibly an entirely new kind of human.

Consider just a few 21st century facts, and then try to project them back 50 years: Openly gay and transgender people serving in our government and legislative branch as we fight for marriage equality. America’s last two Secretaries of State? Women, one of them black, one of them a serious contender for the White House. Black man in the current White House. Well-known and well-respected women publicly and often angrily expressing women’s right to bodily autonomy; well-known and well-respected men supporting them, publicly, and often angrily.

I know I frequently say some version of “Hey, look, things are so much better than they used to be,” but I’m not saying that here. I’m not comparing today to the day I was born. I’m comparing today to every single moment of human history. And we’re recreating ourselves.

Because every single one of the items mentioned above was effectively unimaginable once, and not at all long ago either. If we consider the entire expanse of human history, and then look at the changes wrought in Western society in the last four decades alone, it’s actually quite startling.

Each of the examples I’ve provided (and many, many others that are not reducible to a single sentence or sentence fragment) represents in turn the hopes and dreams and literal blood and tears of uncounted, uncountable people. People who died dreaming only of the vote. Or of a life lived without violence. Or of the freedom to make decisions based on internal truths, rather than external pressures. People who died never, ever imagining the world as it looks today.

What we’re doing today has never been done before. Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy. The kind of radical, universal equality that so many of us have begun to see as the default of human existence has literally never existed in human history.

And so my point is: That’s why it’s hard.

That’s why it all moves in fits and starts and we have fights about words and about who gets to say what about whom and every two steps forward serve as but a precursor to one step right the hell back. Because we have never, ever done this before. We are creating something New, and we don’t even, really, know how to imagine it yet.

I’m not saying that the battles have be won. They haven’t. They’ll never be won. Every time that something Gets Better, we’ll uncover something else we didn’t realize we had to do. There are questions that my grandchildren will face that I cannot even imagine in 2012.

And having said that: Wow. Think about it. Think about the fact that gay men and lesbians got married before God and family in Washington state this weekend, and then think about the entire rest of human history.

Holy cow.

Update: Speaking of which…. Just look at these pictures from Seattle’s City Hall.

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7 Comments

  1. I don’t think of it as creating something “new,” per se, but renovating what we have. There have always been the bones of an all-inclusive structure in human societies around the world, and in been brief periods, those societies showed the glimmers of future potential (Hey, Cleopatra ruled an empire in a time when a lot of empires [Rome] were completely male-dominated).

    So, I think we’re finally starting to see major progress in the direction of tearing down dividing interior walls, poking holes in places to let the light in, and generally speaking, remaking our habitation more encompassing. Are there parts that are still run down, dingy, and dangerous? No doubt. But as we fill humanity with light and color and texture, those parts do not seem so harsh, nor does renovating them seem insurmountable as a task. Like any renovation, however, the rebuilding is slow, back-breaking work, and we must keep it up.

  2. Those pictures make me believe in marriage.
    Tears.

    • 100% agree with Kylie, those pictures speak a thousand words about what marriage means.

  3. Let me play here devil’s advocate. In order to eliminate women wage gap do we need to elect more women in congress or have more women applying for managerial positions? In order to have marriage equality do we need to have more gay representatives on a public arena? I believe it is more about having healthy dialog, getting to know your opponent and not letting opinions undermine human dignity. I’ve always believed people would more likely change their opinion if for one day they would walk in their opponents shoes, the one that is oppressed and voiceless. It always comes down to empathy.

  4. I was just reading your blog and could not think I was just talking about my great state of Washington yesterday. It is alittle on the comical side, but thought I would share with you. I do appreciate your thoughtful insight in writing this blogpost. thank you, Alesia

    http://alesiablogs.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/a-sons-musings/

  5. ktayls

     /  December 12, 2012

    Just curious which particular empires you are referring to here:

    Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy.

    I ask because it can be misleading to apply modern (that is, since 1500 or so) standards of race, racism, discrimination, and prejudice to empires that existed prior to or began prior to our era.

    Just curious. Otherwise, great points! ;)

    • In the first case I was referring to the various Islamic empires, which I have studied closely, and in the latter, having never studied Asia east of (or later than) the Mongols, I was being purposely vague because the idea was the point, and the idea of the entire post is precisely as you say: What we’re doing now is different.

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