March 17, 2017 by dicletasman
Question: “Do we have to love people?”
“Have to”… I don’t like this verb. Things that require obligations, necessities, restrictions… I don’t -“have to”- be anything or do anything (well, at least I don’t want to). I love when I want to. I hate if I want to. I am free. But also, I don’t “have to” be free. Can I choose to be free or not be free? According to Sartre, people are condemned to be free. How can I be completely free if I am condemned to? Although I want to be free, I know I am not free.
I love my family. Do I love them with my own free will (if I have one) or is it because what evolutionary theorists say? I don’t like to think that it is because of genes or else. But I came to the conclusion that they are right. The mother nature dictates the rules which I cannot resist against. I have to love my family… I don’t have just my family around me, there are others. I start to think about people beyond relatives. I love my friends… But then, there come group processes. I don’t want to be in need of any group. Then, I start to think about people that I have never met. I love them even they are dead. Some of them are even fictional characters of a fictional world! I try to comfort myself by telling that “Do I need them too!”. Then again there come explanations. I know they represent my taste in music, my likes, and dislikes, my beliefs, my ideas…I need to belong something and I hate this.
I admit that I need to be loved. I love them, they love me in return. Not always, but mostly. I remember the good feeling when they love me. It is amazing! Long live dopamine! I feel happy, connected and I love people. But then I remember the times when they don’t… Pain… Solitude… Exclusion…Sadness… It hurts. They hurt me. I hate them…
The cruelest animals in the world! They kill each other. Just read the news and see their ugliness. They make me sick… Disgusting… I feel like throwing up. But I won’t… The world would be better without us. I want to go into the wild, live without them. I imagine how wonderful would life be if I born in a world without people. No people, no pain… What a utopian world!… But then…
But then how would I know that I am human? First of all, there wouldn’t be a word “human”. Probably there wouldn’t be any word at all. I wouldn’t know the language like I do now. But I could find a way to communicate with other animals anyway. We somehow get along with our pets, right?… But how would I feel when I see that group of animals are alike and I don’t look like any of them? Absolute loneliness… The pain of loneliness… Maybe, they would let me in. Why am I still trying to be with someone! I don’t need anybody. I will be better with myself. I am independent. Now, I am lying to myself. Whenever I try to get myself away from people, I feel irresistible urge to connect with them. I miss something…
While talking about people, I think it is worth to mention about humanism. Sartre explains in his one of works, “Existentialism and Humanism”, that the word “humanism” has two distinct meanings. Humanism can be understood as a theory which upholds people as the end-in-itself and as the supreme value. He gives an example from Cocteau’s story Round the World in 80 Hours, in which one of the characters declares that “Man is magnificent!”. Sartre finds that kind of humanism as absurd. Because people aren’t in a position to pronounce a general judgment upon man and declare that he is magnificent. Maybe a dog or a horse would make such a judgment (Sartre, 1973). In that sense, when I say “I love people”, it seems nonsense now. I am people.
The other meaning of humanism, “existential humanism”, explained by Sartre as:
The relation of transcendence as constitutive of man (not in the sense that God is transcendent, but in the sense of self-surpassing) with subjectivity (in such a sense that man is not shut up in himself but forever present in a human universe) (Sartre, 1973, p. 55).
This makes sense. I should be present in a human universe. Even though “Hell is other people”, other people is also me. I cannot expect to find an answer to the question of “Who am I?” without people. I haven’t found the answer yet. But I mean it would be even harder without them. I desperately need them no matter how much I love or hate. I need them to find my place in this world. I need people to know that I am me and I exist.
They see me, therefore I am me.
Sartre, J. P. (1948/1973). Existentialism and Humanism (P. Mairet, Trans.). London: Methuen.
Author Info: Dicle Rojda Tasman, MA Cand., Experimental Social Psychology Program (Baskent Un., Ankara) | email: dicletasman [AT] hotmail[.]com