I was listening to a certain speaker one morning as he was talking about a subject near and dear to all of us. He pointed out some examples of the way people have treated each other in the past, present, and unfortunately, future.
This treatment of others is one of the core issues, if not the core issue and basis of morality, that I want to convey with my Lupine series. I made a world of diverse species, humanoids, and anthropoids not simply because it makes it all a fun world to write (it is, I like it), but because it provides a very strong point of making each individual in the stories distinct from all the rest in a way that humanity today is not.
The characters may all have similar backgrounds, but they are distinctly different. Some look like animals, some look like humans with animalistic traits (that’s actually an important part of the non-revealed backstory, but that’s an answer for another time), and they all have different looks, behaviors, sensitivities, and even ways of thinking.
I want to make it clear that their ways of thinking aren’t simply due to their upbringing, but that there are real differences in each characters’ brain/physiology that make them think differently.
And thus, one of the moral points of the story is: they can get along together. Even through all their very real, very strong differences, the important characters all hold the very same beliefs. The belief that all other characters of all the other species are people. The idea that people are people.
Does that sound like a self-answering idea? It sure sounds like it. But here’s the problem: human history has shown that in the past, present, and future, a good portion of people (and I’m not talking 1% here) don’t view all other human beings as “people.”
The most obvious recent example is what happened to the Jewish community in 1930s-1940s Germany. They were not “people,” they were “Jews,” – relabeled in an accurate but de-personizing way.
But it goes back much farther, for all of history.
Note I’m going to list a lot of things here that may seem opinionated or divisive. They aren’t. It’s just to make a point. Think about the following. Everything below is a person. But think about the thought attached to something. Are they really thought of as a “person,” or are they the title that has been assigned to them? Even if mostly benign, think about how adding a simple label, even accurate, changes the perception of them not just for you, but for the people that believe in those labels.
They were not persons, the Kings and Emperors were divine. (Anglo Kings and Chinese/Japanese Emperors were supposedly appointed by God for the former, and the latter were/(are) supposedly of the divine.)
They were not men, they were slaves. (A person has been, at some times in history, not defined by their belonging to the human species, but by the amount of melanin in their skin.)
They were not persons, they were extremists. (Now were looking at it not from simply a downtrodden perspective, but a renaming of those who did hurtful things.)
They were not people, they were Nazis. (We’re still re-defining person-hood here in order to make sense of why such terrible things could happen. We see that some people were so terrible in thinking other people were not actually people that thinking of the atrocious actions means we cannot view the perpetrators as people themselves.)
They were not people, they were Politicians.
They were not people, they were CEO’s.
They were not people, they were Rich Folk.
They were not people, they were Animals.
They were not people, they were Poor Folk.
They were not people, they were Soldiers.
They were not people, they were Terrorists.
They were not people, they were just a percentage, a statistic, an unfortunate accident.
They were not people. They are You and I.
This is one of those things that gets harder and harder to think of when all the terrible things that happen, happen. They get muddled by layers upon layers of belief that claim one idea but act on another.
It made me appreciate the view that all people are people. That belief should be the core of how you view others. The first and foremost one. After that you can add on that certain people have other attributes, such as wealth or status or beliefs or skin color, but that you never forget first and foremost that other people are people, and that treatment of them first demands you treat them as a person first and foremost, never as a title they may end up having.
And you should never try to reassign your belief that other people are somehow, in some way or another, for good or bad, not people. Because it’s people who do good, and it’s people who do bad. But it’s when you forget that people are still just people that you allow yourself to get lost.
And that’s why I write about characters that are entirely different in every conceivable way, in ways that humankind has never been. Because they believe that other intelligent species are just the same as them, people.
Wouldn’t it be great if every person held onto that belief?