Menschheit (Humanity)

(fn) Many weeks ago we had a Wirtschaftswoche at Stage. One of our topics was to define „Menschheit.“ Since English is my first language, they wanted to know how I would define „Menschheit,“ what it meant to me and if I could present it to the whole class.

Now Lisa and I am here to present ourselves to you about this topic in an interesting collaborative way through music. There is a distinct link with Mankind and music. Human beings created music to convey a message or a feeling that doesn't necessarily have to be told through words. Music is one of the oldest form of communication between people. Nonetheless, instruments were devised to extend our capabilities. From weapons to musical instruments. The flute is the oldest instrument found after all. The first flute made was recorded to be more than 35,000 years old. Hand made from the bones of a vulture.


What is „Menschheit?“ To tackle this question I decided to first translate the word „Menschheit.“ Is it „Mankind?“ What is mankind? Mankind means the human race; human beings considered collectively. Perhaps It's Humanity? The word „Humanity“ was interesting to me so I formulated the title „What it is to be human.“ So what makes Humanity? What makes us different to plants, animals, other mammals or other living organisms? Is it the fact that we're on top of the food chain that makes us unique? The question arouses ambiguity however it's a terminology that we've grown to think we're the ultimate species.


So first off, what makes us different to animals? We are in fact not as different as we think. We have the same biological instinctual responses. For example we need to eat, we have to sleep, we mate, and we defend our young and our loved ones. These natural responses are the reason species have become successful at surviving. But are we really just like animals? Religion is a divinity that we've worshiped from the beginning of our existence. Many humans believe that we are being watched over a deity. Our faith is a strong bond that keeps us structured to a path we believe is right to follow. Another example of our individuality is our expression through art. Art, just like music, is a form of expression to convey a message or a feeling that doesn't necessarily have to be told through words.


Humanity in society is also ambiguous. It's hard to draw a line from where it begins and ends. For example, in the society we live in now we differentiate humans with race. Although, biologically we all belong to the scientific name „Homo Sapien,“ we stereotype our species through our physical appearance. An example of this is: „All blacks are good at sports.“ I find this an interesting phenomenon because it groups the race together to indicate that everyone of that race is a good athlete no matter what physique you have.


Thirdly, I'd like to talk about our empathy. Humans not only share empathy with each other, but to plants and animals as well. Of course, Animals aren't any different when it comes to these emotional responses. Recently, I saw this documentary of the Gorilla Koko who was taught by her owner sign language. She and her owner make conversations through human-taught gestures. Body gestures that Koko learnt to express her feelings in a way that humans can understand. The documentary shows how we are able to create bridges and communicate with other species that are less intellectually advanced than us. The bond Koko and her owner created helped people understand that humans aren't that much different to animals. Koko may have a lower intellectually advanced brain, but the way she understands things and reacted towards a melancholy television film touched peoples hearts. Koko described her affection with hope and was able to express her feelings in a thirds person perspective. Just like us humans, she was able to put herself in other peoples shoes and feel their pain. Much like Koko, however how advanced her cognitive process may be, us humans have an advanced brain which helps us tap into our consciousness. The frontal lobe of our brain (also known as the cerebrum, which is the largest part of our brain) is a control panel for our emotions, our memory, language, sexual behavior and allows us to put ourselves in third person perspective. We are conscious of ourselves and others around us. Just like gesture, music is also universally understood. As emotional human beings, we comprehend non-verbal speech through music and gestures just like how animals would react.


Biology aside, One big criteria of our humanity is our ability to share stories from generation to generation. We learn from our doings and mistakes. These experiences are passed along to our peers, to their peers and also the younger generation where they become exciting stories that make us feel a particular emotion.


Another fact about us humans as well as dolphins and apes is that we, unlike most animals have sex for fun. Humans are just not biologically monogamous. It is incredibly unlikely that we stick with one partner our entire lives. We are polygamous beings which means we could/are tempted to have more than one mate at the same time. Humans don't only mate to reproduce the young, but have the desire for lust. In the baroque period, people would yearn to express themselves through written music. There were a lot of disagreements on how people should express certain feelings, and often these composers were hidden and would frequently exhibit their eroticism in form of their music.


As technology advances, we stumble along problems in our humanity. For example, we live in a society that is very dependent on the internet. Us humans define and separate our nations with citizenship. This means you need not just a human body and a human spirit but also an ID card attesting to a particular citizenship. We also exist online. Our reputations and our lives can also be found and manipulated over the internet. The internet is a great way for us humans to communicate. But it is also a way for strangers to quickly tap into the lives of another person, quickly learn about their details and exploit them without him or her knowing.


Lastly, another problem is, we humans divide our worth through wealth, race and class. No matter how friendly or generous someone can be, there will always be rumors about these people that you should stay away from and neglect those who are “less worth than you.” The big message is that we don't realize that we are caught in a dilemma. After giving this presentation a lot of thought, I've realized that I don't think of most of these things I've talked about in my usual daily life routine. However, I've learnt to appreciate that we are lucky to be humans and that we are lucky to be alive and that we take all of this for granted.