Until The World Remembers Not To Forget

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By Ekenedirichukwu Anselm Alita

“When we wish to give a comprehensive name to mans being, a name expressing his entire reality in a precise unequivocal way, we say that he is a person. This is a term we never use for plants or animals, but only for man”.
Going through the annals of history, we would notice that a word that expressed the concept of a person did not exist neither in the Greek or Latin cultures till the advent of Christianity. This is because these cultures did not recognize the absolute value of the individual as such, and made their absolute value depend essentially on class, rank wealth and race.
“The ancient man is absorbed by the city and the family, subjected to a blind destiny which is without name, superior to the gods. The institution of slavery does not offend the highest spirit of the era” thus in this period slave trade thrived and all sorts of dehumanization that didn’t exclude the reduction of the human person to a mere thing, to be used at the whims and caprices of those whom the society had placed on a high pedestal.
At this point in history man was reduced to a mere thing, and given validity only by the society, that does not value the absolute value of a person, rather regards more or places high premium on the garb which the society clothes the person with. These explain why at those times women and sometimes men are taken as spoils of war and they end up serving as objects of pleasure for the victors. It was the overflow of this very conception of man that has given wings to the virulent racism that has swept through the walls of humanity; even colonization and slave trade are all offshoots of this gross misconception of the nature of man.
It is with the advent of Christianity that the singularity of a person as a unique and irreplaceable or unrepeatable individual evolved. This marks the point of demarcation between the Christian and the pagan culture. The substantial equality in dignity of every member of the human species is a truth carried, affirmed, and diffused by Christianity. It was this definition of the person that opened another aperture from which an individual is viewed, whereby man is seen as a unique and unrepeatable being, has a life of his own and an absolute value which is not absorbed by the society.
However, in the modern world today this concept of the person is being thwarted, as the modern man tries to wash away the tenets of personhood and reduce the concept the person to a mere sociological meaning. In so doing the modern world tries to erase the uniqueness, unrepeatability, absolute value, and sacredness of the individual, thus that the only value he has, is that bestowed on him by the society.
When man becomes depersonalized he is reduced to mere object, to a mere existent, that can easily be replaced, who answers whatever the society labels it, so whatever value the society places on him that he answers. This is the danger of reducing the concept of the person to a mere sociological meaning.
That we talk about racism today is because the more privileged society sometimes see themselves as the standard for the measurement of other races. Thus they see themselves as those who have to place value on other races. This is part of the reasons great evils were meted out to Africa and blacks in general, because the white did not consider them as humans and never respected their values as persons. Since they were not viewed as humans they were reduced to beasts of burdens, things to be used, slaves etc. thus they became dehumanized because of the sociological calibration of man by the whites.
Thus when we hang the meaning of a person on the neck of a mere sociological definition, we denigrate, depersonalize and dehumanize, for here we erase the uniqueness, unrepeatability and the absolute value of man. Thus we reduce him to a mere thing to be used.
Even in Africa the issue of slave trade and the Osu caste system in the Igbo land which has led to great inhumane discrimination, is as a result of the sociological definition of person. When man is reduced to a thing, we see that the rapport between man and his fellow man changes. It becomes an ICH-ES (I-IT) relationship instead of an ICH-DU (I –THOU) RELATIONSHIP). This relationship was clearly defined and explained by the humanist “Martin Buber” in his work –Das problem des Menschen (On the problem of man). Here he gave a dialogical concept of the person.
Buber saw man as a co-existent being. He explains to rapport or relationships man has with his environment. The first he calls the ICH-ES=I-IT, which is the rapport man has with things; the second one is the ICH-DU=I-THOU, which the rapport or the relationship man has with other beings like himself.’
In the first relationship man possesses, owns and monopolizes. The main traits that run through this relationship is experimentation, objectivity, utilization and freewill. Here man uses things, he experiments with things, he uses them to his own advantage, according to his own freewill. In this relationship man is solely in charge, so he can easily manipulate things in his environment, monopolize them, all to his own advantage. Thus we have things like lab rats for experimentation, robots etc. these things are made for mans use. Here according to Battista Mondin- man lives on the shoulder of things, alters them,uses them, possesses them and governs them.
In the second relationship, the ICH-DU. Here man does not own, possess or manipulate, objectify or utilize to his own advantage. No. here man is in dialogue with another man. Thus this relationship has essentially the character of dialogue. The major traits in this rapport are, encounter, presence, love, freedom and being.
If man is to follow this relationships dutifully as it should, then there would be no problem at all, man would still maintain his personhood and dignity as man. The problem in the world today is that this relationships are now swapped, in the sense that persons are now used and things are engaged in a dialogue. In the world today one notices that the great evils that have evolved are as a result of a distortion in the rapports postulated by Buber, where persons are now objectified, manipulated, possessed, utilized, monopolized and governed.
Thereby closing any room for true human dialogue, encounter, presence freedom and love. In the world today man uses a fellow man to his own advantage, manipulates him to suits his own purposes, with no regard of the absolute value and the uniqueness of the individual.
The different cases of suicide bombings, rapes, fraud and many other evils are but the many cases where the dignity of the human person was ripped off to serve vicious intents. In the world today man is no longer seen as ends in himself and having intrinsic value, as that unique and unrepeatable individual with absolute value, he is used as mere means to an end.
We have cases of bosses who work their employees to their bones with no remuneration whatsoever; we have pimps that sell young boys and girls, as sex objects in foreign lands, we have cases of governments that employ their youths as thugs during elections to cudgel dissenting voices; we have cases where persons are reduced to laboratory rats to serve God knows what purpose; we have cases were dogs are valued more than human beings and cases where men in robes and behind the pulpits, rob ignorant masses off to their last kobo all in the name of God etc.
Many examples abound. But a critical look at the modern world and how dysfunctional it has become clearly shows that the modern world has neglected the fulcrum that could hold it in place, and that is the recognition of the singularity of a person as a unique, unrepeatable and irreplaceable being with absolute value.
The moment the world heals from the selective amnesia, which tend to reduce the concept of a person to a mere sociological meaning, only then can the world be healed, only then can the world find peace. For man remains the point of arrival and departure of all inquiries, everything revolves round him.

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