The Natural Order
The Human Order
The Western Social Order
In the above diagram, top half, is a popular mythology, cultivated by the West and still widely in use (at Syed Akbar Ali for example). It shows the western proclivity for looking at life with linearity — everything goes along and are plotted on a straight line. There is a beginning and there is an end. The same sort of bias is found in the diagram below, showing the historical progress of human civilization.
But, what’s wrong with it?
The answer is found in three words, ‘progress’, ‘human’ and ‘civilization’. Simple, straightforward anthropological evidences are twisted then given a social order from the only viewpoint, a western, Judeo-Christian one, that rules intellectual thought today. And isn’t that order biblical? Therein is a homo sapien, with the so-called name Jesus — a nothing after all, but a hominoid monkey-related specie, if he even exist — is marked in red and takes center stage. Everything is therefore ordered either before or after him. To do that, all that was required was to spin some fairy tales around him, and those tales are collectively called the Bible.
Such a sort of perverse thinking has had profound implications: where Western knowledge — especially in religion — had spread deep and wide, local populations began thinking like white people. They become DAP and Malaiyoo Anglophiles (Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Razak, Shahudin Yahya, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Hannah Yeoh, and countless more).
The West Discovers Humanity
…and still can’t find the human in it.
For much of history, strangers were routinely classified as barbarians and inferiors, seldom as fellow human beings. The notion of a common humanity was counterintuitive and thus had to be invented. Siep Stuurman traces evolving ideas of human equality and difference across continents and civilizations from ancient times to the present. — Book synopsis on the Invention of Humanity.
Counterintuitive? Perhaps to White people, Christians. But never to us.
Dutch historian Siep Stuurman presumes too much. The consequence to which — and these are to be found in his book (cover photo above) — is to further the mythology that there has always been a human quest for a ‘common humanity’ and that this is universal.
(But, of course, only in the West are found the answers. That is, White people today are cleverer than monkeys, more cultured. It used to be that their culture and their make-up are superior to other peoples instead of monkeys.)
Stuurman named two ancients, Herodotus and Sima Qian ((司马迁 135 or 145BC – 86BC), as his authority on the enduring notions of humanity, which he attempts to trace back by 2,000 years or more. But, he was wrong that Sima contributed to shape Chinese ideas of humanity.
Sima had lay the ground for Chinese identity, true, but it was in the daodejing 道德经, from Laozi, perhaps not alone, 400-500 years before Christ, that marshal the prevailing ideas then and germinated a philosophy into what has become known today as Confucian humanity that’s embedded in Chinese culture.
(And for fuck sake, don’t bother asking LKS what is Chinese culture. You might as well ask a pig because then he will answer you to say it has to do with qing ming and Chinese new year. Tian-ah. Like Mahathir, he’s another stupid old man.)
Stuurman’s failure begins in the beginning: he assumes there is a naturally-ordered state known as humanity. Like the Christian voodoo ideas of geocentricity, everything in life will gravitate towards it.
Then, in contradiction to that premise, he argues that inequality, as a condition of humanity, is a pure social construction. If inequality was artificially constructed then it could be deconstructed. More to the point, if inequality is artificial so, too, must equality. If such human conditions are entirely social constructs, why does it matter which way either one goes?
His Judeo-Christian bias get more pronounced. When some societies look upon themselves as superior to ‘Others’, it infers, Stuurman argues, a common standard in humanity in which those ‘Others’ are measured. As evidence, he cites the Greek Herodotus and Sima, both of who in their writings wrote of foreign societies that ‘seem’ remarkably like their own. Sima never meant it in that way. Because either Stuurman doesn’t know Chinese or he is inserting his own prejudices into Chinese thought; he was making it up.
Here is where Stuurman’s Judeo-Christian liberal prejudices show, applying his default, political correct bias of making equality as if it was a god-given state when it is not. People eat, fuck, defecate and die. Those are common and equal, yes.
Chinese classical history mentioned the makings of the Five Barbarians 五胡 wu-hu. In Sima’s shiji 史记, the court scribe noted the savagery of the xiongnu (that is, 匈奴, general term for nomadic tribes north of the Great Wall, one of which is predecessor of Genghis Khan and today’s Mongolians). Although the term hu (胡) is commonly translated as ‘barbarians’, the term used then and by Sima had no such western, moral pejorative. Those people, even by the standards then, were ‘wild, reckless and foolish‘ the three adjectival descriptions contained in the word hu. The xiongnu were barbarians in any objective, sense of human-ness but stripped of Stuurman’s liberal morality.
Clearly, Stuurman is pile-driving into the past, today’s liberal, Christian moral standards to make fit the central thesis in his book, which is, there is a thing called ‘common humanity’ that is also universal in character. That humanity, Stuurman insists, has an international appeal. For the fact it has persisted for millennia is self-evident, he argues, culminating in the Rights of Man declaration in a UN Charter and the US constitution.
From Stuurman’s racism and under his pen has flowed another form of imperialism: humanity is sequestered as another Western march in the linear progression of civilization.
A pivotal part in Stuurman’s failure is, to even begin from the beginning: What’s it to be human, from which the word humanity is derived. What is the minimal definition of human?
The answer, of course, depends: shall we give the biological definition or the anthropological? How about the cultural answer? (In case you are unaware, the Chinese has one.)
Regardless, here, we are on quick-sand territory because the western answer to it is as morally spurious as it is varied. The Chinese answer is straightforward: look around you, look at the world, at nature, then look at ourselves. It is there and it is not; it looks back at you so that, at the minimum, the human requires another human simply to exist, to be, and to know itself.
All that alone says a lot, and we should stop there, excepting to say this: An ape by itself is an ape; but humanity is the sum of one human being and one human being. That’s the principal idea, in which is contained the germ of humanity — that is, to be humane — which written in hanzi is, humans (radical ⺅) + two (二) to make this 仁. No god in between, you see.
When two persons living together — not God — provide the basis for humanity then Eden and biblical fairy tales lose their shine. They fall into disuse, and so the fictitious notion that all men are created equal by God becomes as stupid as stupid does. Stuurman’s book The Invention of Humanity (Harvard University Press) is an attempt to rewrite those fairy tales, one to fit his neo Judeo-Christian prejudices and next to fit the enlarged boundaries of Eden to include Chinese and the conquered, devastated souls of South and North America.
We, the Chinese, reject this sort of thought imperialism. Stuurman discovered nothing, because there was no human mold, no blueprint for the discovery.
Daoists and Confucians knew that all along (the evidence to which, below): humans are cultivated till death; humanity has to be taught, also till death. Those that aren’t cultivated and taught keep their state-of-nature — they remain barbarous.
‘Splendid’ book, did you say, Michael Walzer? Both of you would make great apologists for ISIS barbarians — barbarians even by the standards of the xiongnu Huns, who were, after all, only after silk, land and women. Try talking to barbarians about your ‘common humanity’. Ya, after that, tell the souls of the dead at their gravestones. Aiya…
The daodejing 道德经, above, first published around 500 BC. In the absence of modern paper print, many ancient text had to be copied by hand. Of three earliest daodejing scripts unearthed in China, the one above, found in Mawangdui, was dated about 200 BC. At the time of the Mawangdui publication, the zhuangzi 莊子 was also released.
Those two provide the foundation ideas in Daoism that, in turn, lay the ground for the rise and popularization of Confucianism in East Asia. Still, both schools of thought remain, having changed little since, in contrast to Aristotlean ideas that were subsequently woven into Christian voodoo and in western philosophy. And now woven into this book, The Invention of Humanity.
My dear, dear Motherland…
Be human, get drunk.