Homo sapiens. In Latin, meaning ‘person of knowledge’ / ‘wise person’.
Do we live up to our name?
We are a unique species for many reasons, but one characteristic that separates us from other animals is our ability to act, with intention, for good or for evil.
We are the only species that can, with purposeful pursuit, design and inflict terrible suffering on others. We are able to plot atrocities and strategize actions to cause long-term horror and terror, abandoning moral codes and social wellbeing. We are the only animal species with full understanding of how certain modern behaviours are killing our planet, and yet continue to do so for whatever illusion we can justify those actions with – mainly economic – and the power and privilege we assign to uphold such delusions. We can poison rivers and lands, we can torture and exterminate any species, including our own, for no social gain or self benefit, but just because we feel like it.
We can act with pure evil.
We are also special because we are a species capable of true altruism. We can give care and compassion, protection and our very life, to look after another, even those we have never met. We are capable of understanding the complexity and intricacy and intimacy of ecosystem interrelations, and with intention set about re-sewing the strands of the web of life. We can stabilise the climate, we can regenerate biodiversity, we can create social justice. Homo sapiens can use their knowledge and wisdom to act in a coordinated and collaborative manner to restore beauty from ugliness, lightness after the dark.
We are capable of choosing good.
Despite the evils that we know of and experience, we are a species capable of holding onto optimism. The belief in goodness, and that goodness can prevail. That the long moral arc bends towards justice and compassion. To be optimistic is to believe in humanity’s intrinsic ability to choose to live by our better natures. That we can create a better world.