Humans Before Humanity; Individuals Before Abstract Groupings

Valuing abstract measures of the welfare of a group distinctly and separately from the welfare of the individuals making up that group is a particularly pernicious conceptual invention. Its most recognizable modern incarnations are nationalism and patriotism, but it has been serving as cover for inhumanity and disregard for considerably longer than that. It also serves as a way for people to argue against treating aging as a medical condition: the group is just fine, thank you, and thus it doesn't matter that all of the individuals in that group are doomed to suffer, diminish, and die. So why do anything about it? A healthier view of the world is that only individuals and their interactions with one another matter, but making that the default mode of thought is something of a challenge in an era of strong centralized governance and wall to wall propaganda for the nation state concept as an entity more important than its citizens.

One of the innumerable romanticizations of death that we're often presented with is that, as one generation dies out, it's just passing on the responsibilities of life to the next. Someone else will take on the task of perpetuating the species, and in general, it doesn't really matter who it is. Never mind that we all die; as long as there's someone to pass the torch to, somebody who will continue to play for team humanity, that's all it matters.

Humanity is not a football club, and neither are other, smaller groups of humans. The family of my great-grandfather, intended as himself, his wife, and their children, is dead. Their genes are still around, and other families have descended from them, in some case even bearing the same family name (another abstraction), but the specific individuals making up my great-grandfather's family are gone, and so is that specific family. You might argue that they're still alive in their descendants' memories and genes or that their name is being passed down, keeping alive the family, but these are all mental gymnastics to present the fact that they're dead in a less unappealing fashion. They're dead, and whether someone still remembers anything about them, or carries a few of their genes or their name, doesn't make them any less dead.

On the subject of future generations, one often hears that their well-being depends on our actions today, and thus we should work to leave them with a better world than we had; this is a commendable intention, and, in fact, it is one of the reasons why we should develop rejuvenation - to spare future human beings the plague of age-related diseases. However, future generations are not here yet; we are, and it's rather mystifying how everyone frets about the currently nonexistent needs of people yet to come but not so much about the very real needs of people who already exist. Today, people suffer from, and die of, age-related diseases; it's a concrete problem, with tangible effects on the world at large in the present; yet many people seem to worry more about the potential problems they imagine that rejuvenation might cause to future.

So, who's more important? Individuals or humanity? It should be clear by now that we'd better think in terms of individuals. The good of humanity shouldn't be about maintaining our presence in the universe just for the sake of being here; it should be about the well-being and life quality of the individuals that make up humanity - and when they're dead, or about to die, individuals aren't generally doing very well. Being concerned about future generations is both understandable and commendable, but it should not lead us to neglect who's already here. As long as we exist, and our good is taken care of, the preservation and the good of humanity will be ensured as well; future humans are welcome to join.



think how many lives could have been saved if individuals thought about themselves first and not the group. they would not have been offer for nazism, etc. if they thought about their own survival first. individualism isn't neccessarily negative.

Posted by: Norse at June 26th, 2018 7:42 AM

Excellent piece of writing. I detest any talk of 'legacy' or thinking of the next generation. Yes, care about the next generation but care about the current generation too! And as for legacy, who cares if you are dead for eternity that part of you 'lives on'.

Posted by: Steven B at June 26th, 2018 8:19 AM

Perspective of article is severely truncated and malformed...

Statistical inference is the fictitious group over the actual individual...

Universalisms--such as '(each, every, and all) individual(s) over the (oppositely conveived) group'--are the truly pernicious anti-individual ideational tendency...

Particularism--the proper understanding of, for example, patriotism and nationalism, is inseperable from individualism and the individual per se, as well as more-than-amenable to the fulfillment thereof...

Posted by: Gulliver at June 26th, 2018 10:41 AM

Dear editor. Good man. The world is taking sides on this issue and you chose well.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at June 26th, 2018 11:39 AM

The author is a little myopic in looking at his personal ancestry. He refers to his great grandfather and their offspring, with not much connection with him or the future. He actually had 4 great grandfather's, and if each of them had 6 children, he would have about 70 relatives out of those now. I have 52 first cousins, and about 60 older relatives, though many of them have passed on in recent years.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at June 26th, 2018 2:12 PM

PS: And remember your related younger generation from all those cousins and from your brothers and sisters. I probably have 200 of those younger relatives already.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at June 26th, 2018 2:18 PM

"I probably have 200 of those younger relatives already."

Unless you are from Nigeria or a few other countries like it, most probably you have much less.

Posted by: Antonio at June 27th, 2018 2:57 PM

@Antonio: I have 7 brothers and sisters, they all married and had children, and some of them have had children already, so that is a total of 35. Now lets say my 40 of my 52 first cousins married and had an average of 2 children for a total of 80. Lets say 60 of those have grown up, married and had an average of 2 children for a total of 120. Adding all these relatives up, you get 35, plus 80, plus 120 for a grand total of 235. So you see 200 is a conservative estimate. I am 77 so all this has already occurred. I have done my ancestry/genealogy so I have records of all this.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at June 28th, 2018 5:42 AM

@Biotechy: How do you go from 7 to 35? And then to 52? You don't explain that. And why 2 children per relative instead of per woman? (Fertility rate is children per woman, not children per person.)

Posted by: Antonio at June 28th, 2018 9:01 AM

My seven brothers and sisters had a total of 18 children, among those 18 children some have married and have had a total of 10 children. Add them up, 7 plus 18 plus 10 equals 35 and counting. My 52 first cousins (about contemporaneous age with me) have had a total of about 80 children which I count among the younger generation. About 60 of those have married and had an average of 2 children (in their marriages). Most married couples probably average between 2 and 3 children 9(some have 5). I use 2 children per family irrespective of sex to get my conservative number estimate of 200. I use offspring per relative because only 1 of a married couple is genealogically related. I'm thinking personal genetics, who is in my specific gene pool, get it?

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at June 28th, 2018 10:03 AM

Thanks for the details. Now I see your calculations.

Anyway, returning to your initial point:

"The author is a little myopic in looking at his personal ancestry. He refers to his great grandfather and their offspring, with not much connection with him or the future."

The author is not really talking about the number of his great-grandfather descendants, but about he fact that having descendants doesn't change the fact that he and the family he lived with are dead.

Also (and this is mine), even if your descendants grow exponentially generation after generation, the evolution of the population as a whole is a different matter. Most of the western world have been below replacement rate for decades, and the whole world is almost below it now.

Posted by: Antonio at June 28th, 2018 12:24 PM

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