Neurogenesis, v. 1, no. 2 (1996)
Unism and Humanism
Pavel B. Ivanov
Written: 3 November 1996
Humanist ideas have a long history, and their origin might
be traced up to the earliest epochs of human spirituality.
However, the birth of humanism as a distinct ideological trend
can be attributed to the dawn of capitalism, the dominant
socioeconomic system of today. The periods of active
development of humanism generally coincided with the periods
of revolutionary transformations in the economy or social
structure in some region of the "civilized" world.
The technological revolution of the last decades of the XX
century has also lead to vast social changes in most countries,
accompanied with the tide of the humanist movement. This
modern branch of humanism may, for instance, be represented
by the American Humanist Association, and its basic principles
have been clearly summarized by Frederick Edwords, the
executive director of AHA, in his
speech at the Harvard Science Center, on February 14, 1993.
This text will often be meant in the following analysis of
humanism from the Unist point of view.
There are many features in humanism, which attract people to it.
The attention to the personality, the claim for freedom,
happiness and the unfolding of the abilities of each person
cannot fail to be appreciated by the intellectuals, while the
call for equality, justice and human rights appeals to the
poorer layers of society. The desire to help people and to
make life better right now, in very practical and down-to-earth
ways, seems to be quite sincere and good-intended, and perfectly
matching with the aims of practical psychology and psychotherapy.
Humanism promises people diverse and joyful life, without guilt
and fears, without doubts and strife. No wonder that people are
moved to such philosophy, which seems to give everything without
almost any demands. Just forget your past, and deny your
responsibility for the future—just live for yourself,
here and now.
However, a closer investigation reveals fundamental problems.
Thus, the plentiful life promised by humanism, is much resembling
the life of cattle, chewing their forage and never thinking of
anything global. Living here and now means severe deprivation
of the world, inability to feel its infinity in space and time
— and consequently, inability to feel infinity and eternity
in oneself. The narrower is the person's "today",
the less of the personality proper is left. "Time is
the space of human development," Karl Marx said.
A person has to penetrate deep into the past, and to foresee
the distant future—otherwise one cannot remain a
human being and retain subjectivity. In this light,
humanism appears to suggest people freedom from their human
essence, freedom from themselves.
The other side of it is that if somebody refuses to think about
the purpose of one's life, somebody else will do it for that person.
The cattle becomes live-stock, skillfully directed by the shepherd.
The masters are interested in peaceful obedience—and
they will keep the cattle too busy living their happiness,
to prevent any unexpected turn, or, maybe, revolution.
If something goes wrong, people are taught to reconsider their
attitudes, rather than their environment—and the only
change allowed is the change in one's self. Humanism is most
advantageous for the ruling class, and this may be one of the
reasons why most humanists have been paid enough to imagine
themselves free from the necessities of life.
Since the humanist view of the people identifies them with the
animals, it is quite natural that the personality is tied
to the individual in humanism, without any mentioning the
social nature of any subjectivity. People are encouraged to
act, to behave—but completely for their individual
goals. This may be not merely physical pleasures that
attract a humanist: there are also the pleasures of making
new discoveries, solving problems, and creating; there is the
enjoyment of art, music, dance, and drama; there is the
joy of helping others and the challenge of working to make
the world a better and more peaceful place. But all this
is only for individual entertainment—and it does not
matter what to do if one finds fun in it. From this point
of view, a sadist tormenting his victims acts in a quite humanistic way,
since he does it for his own pleasure,
never regarding the feelings of the others.
The natural consequence of identifying people with animals
is that, since the humanity was closer to the animal
state in the past, it should have felt better then, from
the humanist point of view. The typical feature of
humanism is the idealization and embellishment of the
past, with its "simple pleasures", its
"wholeness and the integration of life", or
"seeing much of life as play". Humanists do
not see that the simplicity of a troglodyte was just
dullness caused by the too hard and dangerous life,
the spiritual achievements of the Ancient Greece
were based on the severe oppression of numerous slaves,
and the ceremonial playfulness of the ancient Chinese
was cultivated by the ruling classes only, having
nothing to do with the miserable life of the silent
millions who paid with their lives for those plays.
This is one of the reasons why the ruling classes feel
so much relieved when humanism forgives them their
past and teaches to forget the fear of the future, when
the oppressed masses would stop this unjust well-being.
The therapeutic efficiency of the humanist philosophy
cannot be denied. Accepting the viewpoint of humanism,
people do feel better—for a while. However,
life cannot be changed by self-suggestion, and the
effect of humanist therapy cannot last for long without
ever new exercises in the world denial. Thus the rejection
of rituals becomes a ritual itself. The final goal of
this "path to perfection" is the complete
decay of personality, a kind of nirvana, when one may
move and act feeling no need for that, no desire or
pain, no memory or intention—a ghost of the
person. Many religions are quite humanistic in that.
There is another attitude to the problem of human
happiness, suggested by
which treats the personality in a different way, relating
it to the universal activity. This approach retains all
the positive content of humanism, purifying it of the
primitive individualism and social inadequacy. Unism
says that an action may only be human if it
represents the objective line of development, leading
to more integrity in the world. Such actions reveal the
eternal and infinite in the mortal and finite people,
making them feel the deepest satisfaction and the sublime
pleasure. Any real behavior manifests both universal and
situational aspects—the former showing the
human side of it, while the latter linking the subject
to the animal origin.
In the understanding of unism, a person may only be
called so with respect to the creative side of
activity, and the humanist "zest for living"
(read: consumption) is replaced with the "zest
for creation" (which assumes production first
and foremost). While the only humanist goal is
happiness, unism states that the goals should be
taken from the real life—and happiness will
come just as an indication of the right choice.
Of course, such happiness may be much more difficult
than the dull happiness of humanism. Under specific
social conditions, it may lead to more suffering than
pleasure. The scope of happiness is enormously
extended—covering the tragic forms, yes—but giving a person more possibilities to be happy.
Unism does not promise quick solutions for human
problems, it just says that people should solve them
in a universal way, aiming to the elimination of the
problem's cause, rather than a temporary relief for an
individual. Yes, it cannot give fast therapeutic
results, when an individual case is concerned. More
of that, the way to a better situation may require
struggle accompanied with more pain than that the
lasting disease would deliver. However, a therapist following unism
is more honest with those who need help,
while the humanist therapy is like trying to cure all
the maladies with sedative pills.
The universality of the activity means sociality as an
indispensable component. "Occupied by oneself,
one most rarely, and hardly ever with the benefit for
oneself and the others, satisfies one's aspiration
for happiness", F. Engels said. No problem can
be solved on the individual basis, since every person
can manifest its personality in the relations with
the other people only. So, there is no individual
happiness—one cannot be happy for the expense
of the other. True happiness is a result of an
action which is of universal importance, giving more
happiness to the humanity as a whole. Any other
happiness is bound to be mixed with guilt.
Humanists describe happiness as "wellness", so
that its prerequisite is an absence of disease. However,
a conscious person cannot be always "well".
To be disturbed by the pains of the humanity is one of
the most human features. There cannot be
"well-balanced" life in the world that is
not well-balanced. To be not ill in the ill
society means the crudest distortion of the human essence.
From the unism viewpoint, each person acts as a
representative of all the people, and the feelings may
only be called human if they represent the universal
content of people's feelings, on the current level of
social development. This does not mean that one should
always seek for the approval of others—social
approval or disapproval are just the indications of
the urgency of the task. One should not live for others,
or for oneself,—one should lives for eternity.
Another practical consequence of the unism approach
is the dependence of the people's abilities of action
(and therefore their access to the different kinds of
happiness) on the social conditions in which people
live. The poorer layers of society have much less
possibilities than those who control the major part
of the public wealth. "Life should be experienced
deeply, lived fully, with sensitive awareness and
appreciation of that which is around us", humanists
say. But life just cannot be lived fully, if there is
no way to do it. The middle-class ideologists of
humanism cannot imagine the conditions in which any germ
of consciousness is strongly suppressed by the severe
struggle for physical survival, for shelter and food.
Many people whose personality has formed in such
unfavorable conditions cannot dispose of the fears
caused by the uncertainty of the future during all
their life, even if they manage to get rich.
Anxiety over the future spoils the present, and so
does guilt over the past. But it's no use to just
refuse to be anxious if there are the objective
grounds for that—this would mean driving the
problem into the unconscious. The human way is to
clearly realize the situation and to seek for the
most human ways of action available. Such actions
leave no guilt behind, and there will be no need
for a ritual of expiation.
From the unism point of view, unhappiness cannot be
attributed to the mistaken views of the world,
irrational ideas or wrong habits of life. If the
world is bad, it should be felt as such by a person
living in it. Otherwise, there can be no productive
action. Of course, one can be mistaken about something,
which is normally repaired by more open-minded,
unprejudiced interaction with the world. But one
cannot annihilate the objective circumstances by
imagining that they do not exist. Mere desire is
not enough, and it even cannot be a prerequisite,
since no desire can grow on an empty place, being
called forth by the specific circumstances.
Accordingly, perception and motivation are socially
dependent. One could paint a graphic and beautiful
picture of the good life, and the good society (as
one sees it)—but this picture will not
necessarily look as attractive to others and become
a strongly desired goal for them. There should be
the objective grounds for such social acceptance,
meaning that the change is in progress already.
Emotions and motives indicate the start of the
process, the existence of the corresponding force
— but they cannot be the true cause for that.
Revolutions cannot be provoked by manipulating
the public opinion, by whipping up a fury of desire
or fanning the flames of discontent. Revolutions
occurs when the development cannot proceed further
in a smooth way, when the old order has lost its
progressive resource, its universal content.
While humanism says: "Act now!"—unism adds: "Act the right way!" While
humanism says: "Don't wait for happiness, create
it"—unism objects: "Don't seek for
happiness, just do what you should do—and
happiness will come". Life cannot be short for
those who feel the eternity in every one's action,
no matter how ordinary it may be. There is no need
in any life after death, since all one creates now
is forever. One does not need to think of the
meaning of life—this meaning grows from the
universal nature of activity driven by the objective
course of development, and the eternity is its only
Unism reject the abstract understanding of the human
nature and human rights, which is characteristic of
humanism. There is no other human nature than that
reveals itself in productive creativity and social
relations. There are no human rights other than
determined by the economical position of a social
layer. There is a universal criterion of human nature
applicable to every single action—universality.
The humanity has not got too far away from the animal
state so far—but it is ever developing, and
every universal act of every person makes the whole
humanity more human.