A few days back, I stumbled upon a very interesting post. The protagonist in the 2-minute long viral video was a young Elephant who saved the life of a man, who was pretending to drown. Since elephants are not generally spotted saving humans, the post was outbursting with comments for the obvious reasons. But what was more interesting in the comment section was one word, “HUMANITY”. Almost every human who came across this video was attracted by the humanity the elephant had shown.
But can an animal be something whose root seems to be coming from “Human”? Going by dictionaries, humanity has several definitions, Cambridge dictionary defines it as people in general, understanding and kindness towards other people and the condition of being human. Oxford dictionary defines humanity as the state of being a person rather than a god, an animal, or a machine. Collins dictionary defines the uncountable noun, humanity as a state of being a human being, rather than an animal or an object. Paradoxically, Humans commenting on the video chose to ignore the fact that humanity is an intrinsic characteristic of humans and possibilities are high that the elephant was not trying to be a Human.
You might have heard, primates like monkeys, chimpanzees, and apes are similar to humans. Indeed, monkeys do live very social lives, similar in many ways to human beings. The chameleon effect is not however exclusive to monkeys. Not only Monkeys are similar to Humans but also Humans are similar to monkeys. We imitate others without even realizing it.
Elephants have an amazing strength to lift almost 300 kilograms with their trunk. Dung beetles can pull over 1,000 times their body weight. Humans imitated that with cranes and other high weight lifting machines. Lizards can regrow their lost tails, whereas salamanders and Starfish can regrow whole limbs. Humans developed prosthetic limbs and other body parts. Swifts have been known to fly nonstop for nearly 200 days. Humans innovated airplanes, helicopters, and spaceships. Dogs have special olfactory senses. Humans created detectors and sensors. Turritopsis jellyfish can make themselves young again and can be termed quite immortal, and Science and medicine are trying too hard to stop aging and fight death. Humans have developed methods, to run as fast as Cheetah using motorcars, and can emit ultrasounds like Dolphins using SONAR. The list is quite inexhaustible.
Monkeys are known to imitate each other to show that “we are alike” and humans imitate others to prove that they are “Superior”. There is a Russian idiom, to define somebody with uneasy conscious, which is translated in English as “The thief with a burning hat”. It supposedly comes from an old story where a crime is committed and the detective says “The thief’s hat is on fire”, hearing which, the actual thief reaches up to the top of his head to check it. Humans are the living example of the idiom, wherein they think animals are trying to behave like them when in reality they are the ones trying to copy the characteristics of animals neither realizing nor accrediting it.
So, when humans witness elephants affected by an emotional bond, they quickly type, “How humane is the elephant !” when in reality the elephant was merely empathetic to the drowning man or might have developed an emotional relationship with the man, who could have been his caretaker. These set of emotions and consciousness is not something peculiar to humans but is present in major chunks of living organisms. Now once when we have imitated others without quite letting us and others know, We are trying to brand other animals like us. Is this branding of “humanity” self conciliation, or an effort to save humans from the embarrassment of being like animals.
By early 18c. the words, human and humane had differentiated in spelling and accent, and humane took the “kind” sense. This was also the time when humans had started their voyage to prove the worth of their minds and excel in almost everything with industrialization at peak. Since then, Humans have gone on to prove themselves to be the most deserving candidate alive. This has made the lives of humans more precious than that of animals, plants or ecology. The humans are the new king of the planet who gave meaning to everything and outcast the presence of God or magic with reason and science. And this all has been ingrained in our minds so deeply that we don’t even care to think, that we are just one amongst the many living on the planet.