Allow us the Burden of our Humanity.

I wrote this about five years ago, and I think it is even more relevant today than it was then.

{Picture: Summer Flowers – Bryan Ingham 1967}

I believe that we are in danger of losing our humanity. Not because of telly, swine flu or body piercing, nor indeed of any of the material trappings and preoccupations of modern life. It is because of our own good (if purblind) intent, as given expression over the last couple of hundred years, in the miles of shelves of government legislation and regulation. The phenomenon has reached critical mass in the collective mindset that has developed as, year by year, the length of those shelves increases.

It’s a trend, having reached critical mass, that now has a quasi-intelligence or anti-culture of its own and is fiercely defended by the organisations which benefit most from its perpetuation.

The result is that in going about our daily lives we all too frequently don’t have to worry about using our own judgment any more; regulations tell us what we can and cannot do or expect. Over time this has acted like spiritual fast-food on our society. From where we park to whether we will tolerate the behaviour or words of others, from the trivial to the profound, we are no longer required to take full responsibility for our own actions. The effect on us has been so great that we will often assume there is a regulation where even now there is none!

And as the anti-culture of regulation tightens its grip, controls over its exercise weaken, and we proceed in zombie-like acquiescence to accept the many small and increasingly often large, abuses which occur, from traffic regulation enforcement, local authority spying, “elf and safety” and the like, to removal of coroners’ powers and misuse of terrorism laws.  Anyone reading this will be able to think of recent examples in their own experience. There are few areas of human activity which are not subject to regulation even in our most intimate moments.

Thus we are diminished. Firstly, our capacities for individual consciousness, – for thinking to the bone with our heart and guts as well as our heads, is threatened by the reduction in the apparent need for independent thought and judgment. Secondly the liberty to have such independent thought and judgement is slowly but inexorably being usurped by the anti-culture of regulation. The combined effect is to suppress the spiritual core of our humanity, the awakening of awareness, to produce a reduction of conscious behaviour in most areas of social interaction.  This is not the result, I think,  that most of those who created our super-regulated environment intended. We are cosseted into believing the realities of life, death, illness and other unpleasantness, – the challenges of living generally, – can be avoided or minimised in return for our acceptance of the anti-culture of regulation. Such conditioning reduces our capability to cope with challenges by sapping our personal energy and inviting us to believe that we are protected, although in fact it reduces our ability to confront reality when it breaks in.

The mental shift from “Should I do this” to “Can I get away with this” sums up the trap. Attempts to impose individual virtue by regulation might seem to be the regulators’ answer, but experience is hardly encouraging! Virtue and good citizenship come from within each individual and can only be taught by example. And as we know the example presented by the personal behaviour of our legislators is not often a reliable model for our own actions.

The solution if humanity is to survive as such must, sooner or later, be a demise of the anti-culture and a return to the personal responsibility that is the necessary burden and joy of each human.. Let it be sooner.

Blue Tara by Joss Wynne Evans