Elizabeth Vair Event Commentary: Being Human

Professor Quillen’s lecture on the concept of being human primarily focused on the limitations of liberal mechanisms often used to examine humanity. This analysis surprised me as we frame liberalist language as being the rhetoric that includes all and promotes diversity. However, Professor Quillen brought to light the limitations of this rhetoric: the concept of universality. Universal language cannot be used to describe humanity as a whole because, in its attempts to broadly understand a group, it creates boundaries that, if a group or individual does not neatly fit into, allows them to be excluded. I believe this is important to note as, in our quest to unite everyone, we have devised methods to separate. People have the unique desire to put things in defined ‘boxes,’ whether identity or the concept of humanity as a whole. Our need to categorize has become a hindrance to society as we are no longer able to see the value in the interconnectedness between our differences. This precarious need has harmed our ability to look at the past as we look at it through our perspectives, excluding others, and therefore, only focusing on one narrative when there can be multiple. If we supposedly learn intellectual humility through the realization that our narratives are either biased or incomplete, then how can humanity be expected to begin the process of understanding if individuals and groups only want to believe their narrative? How – if when – does the change start where we begin to seek out different narratives, and if we never seek them out, will we ever be able to live as a coherent society?

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