A disease

Below is a chapter from my upcoming book Humanity Is Beautiful: A New Story For A World On Fire. Paying members can follow along and watch the book emerge and evolve as I write it. View the Table of Contents of this “living draft” here.

In the 1999 film The Matrix, Agent Smith tries to break the spirit of a captured Morpheus by convincing him that humanity isn’t worth saving. He describes humanity itself as a virus, destroying everything in its path, unable to live in harmony with the world around it.

“Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure,” he says.

This sentiment appears almost too much for Morpheus to bear. He is in deep anguish. It’s almost as if some part of him acknowledges its truth. He perhaps begins considering whether his whole endeavor is worthwhile, whether he really is the “good guy” as he imagines.

Many of us find this scene deeply disturbing. Just like Morpheus, part of us believes it is true.

In 2019, Jason Mamoa speaking at the United Nations Small Islands Event called humanity “a disease that is infecting our planet.” In 2013, David Attenborough said, “We are a plague on the Earth.” Even Stephen Hawking remarked: “I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.” There have been several iterations of the same basic comic: a Doctor says to planet Earth: “Unfortunately, it looks like you’ve got a bad case of humans. The good news is they are about to run their course.”

It is not just outrage, despair, and hatred of others. It is not just fear. It is self-loathing. We are disgusted by ourselves. We look at the planet, other species, and past generations and we can see honor and goodness. We look at humanity today and we seem to see nothing but vice, evil, and decay.

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