Considering Humanisation, we can observe the key words to define the realisation of Humanitas, and against those to define dehumanisation:
Acquisition of meaning
Sense of the place
Loss of sense
Loss of the journey
If we consider the pillars on which dehumanization is based, we notice the reification of the person, the putting him or her in a condition of not being able to say or do anything, the standardization, the isolation, the management of the mere body and the dislocation of one’s habits. On the meaning, acquired or lost, we will reason later.
Clearly, we face a paradox: talking about the humanization of care in the days of COVID-19, with one third of the world’s population in isolation, is mentally exhausting, because it requires considerable creativity. We have extraordinary technologies at our disposal, but to us, in smart or remote working since February 22, to say that the network is the panacea for human contacts seems a huge gamble, as well as a great falsity: we continue to see ourselves on social media as projections of ourselves, where the voice must make up for the contact of the body. The body language disappears, the proxemics of communication disappears: the voice remains to fill a huge distance, even if we live two hundred meters away. Many aphonies in this period (not yet sufficiently recorded) – the typical disease of people who work in call centers, those who use only the voice.
Reification and bodies: we see, unfortunately, how the bodies of the sick and the dead are reduced to numbers, to beds in intensive and sub-intensive care. Obsessed with homogenization, we try to build classifications that go to the detriment of the uniqueness of each individual person: those who died had a name and a surname, a life, thoughts, values, a legacy that they left to their loved ones and to us in a brusque way. We, like Sherlock Holmes, will go backwards to understand the lives of those who no longer exist: not only the lives of the doctors who sacrificed themselves, but also those simple biographies, those ordinary, familiar lives, of a microcosm far from the spotlight. This will be our first test of humanity, of search for meaning; and not only towards ourselves, imprisoned and happily obedient, aware that we are saving lives (Imperial College data say that to date we have potentially saved at least 35,000 lives, but it is estimated that in Italy they could have been even 100,000).
We recover the meaning, even if uprooted from everyday habits, precisely in the objective of “together” that one third of the world population of the earth is focusing: it is a “cosmic” whole, never seen before; people who, in order to save others, and not only themselves, lock themselves in their homes, do their shopping in a conscious way. Those who have bought flour have been mocked: those who make bread at home know that it lasts longer than the “commodity” bought daily in the bakery; it lasts longer, so there is no valid excuse to go out. The acquired sense of the collective good is cosmic, compared to our little egos, which have little to do with our uniqueness. Being selfish means going out, as it happened, as positive, without scarf or mask: and I use the word selfish as an understatement. Being unique, instead, means knowing how to create a rituality at home to take care of ourselves, sewing – even if we won’t use them afterwards – our masks, waiting for the pharmacies to refuel; writing and talking with friends and people we used to dismiss with the phrase “Sorry, I don’t have time”. The journey is inside: how much have we changed since February 22nd? How much have our life priorities changed? How much has passed our anger at the sacrifice of our unmade journeys, undrunk coffee? If it hasn’t changed at all, then it means that we are really stubborn, and Yuval Harari is right when he says that we are Homo Sapiens, but also Homo Tontus – my invention – because we are not able to face change. Can we try to be unique and find meaning again by going back to being hunters and gatherers, when our brain was more developed than being farmers and shepherds? Hunters, for fun, at home: what will happen today? What will I see that I had never noticed before? Collectors: how will I use messages, shopping, ideas, thoughts? Let’s become active agents, and not wait for lunch to be served. Let’s prepare the lesson, and let’s forget about Zoom, without waiting for the help of the deity, the computer scientist who solved our problems.
I have read posts – which, personally, I think are absurd – of people who are bored at home: it is possible not to get bored, if we can also find room to move around a bit. And to those who insist that we are under house arrest, I recommend Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, a film about Nelson Mandela’s life. During his 27 years of imprisonment, Mandela read many texts, poems, lyrical poems, books in Afrikaner and English – a language he learned perfectly, knowing grammar and speaking the common jargon.
He was given this poem, composed by William Ernest Henley, in his Book of Verses:
Out of the night that covers me,Black as the pit from pole to pole,I thank whatever gods may beFor my unconquerable soul.In the fell clutch of circumstanceI have not winced nor cried aloud.Under the bludgeonings of chanceMy head is bloody, but unbowed.Beyond this place of wrath and tearsLooms but the Horror of the shade,And yet the menace of the yearsFinds and shall find me unafraid.It matters not how strait the gate,How charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul.