In Search of Better Stories

Living While Human

     Living While Human is a short autobiography and a long argument about what’s wrong with the human race and the radical steps we need to take to fix ourselves before we destroy our planet. I loved the autobiography, agreed with some of Kaur’s arguments, while disagreeing with others.

Autobiography

     When someone moves from India to Canada to England back to India, and then finally Canada; with a dad who is the Sikh version of the pope and whose mom is a music loving rebel to the traditional ways. You know you’re going to have some good stories to tell. Kaur does not disappoint.

Arguments, Agreements and Disagreements

 

1) Decrease the surface population of humans on Earth

      According to Kaur, the fundamental problem with humans is there are too many of us. All the problems we face, from pollution to global warming, from child abuse to famine and war, from the extinction of other animal species to the spread of disease, are connected to the fact that there are too many humans on the globe. No less than 50 times does she circle back to this point. We absolutely must find a way for there to be less of us. At a minimum, responsible humans will stop having babies.

     She doesn’t suggest eugenics, forced sterilizations, or snuffing out the elderly and the infirm, but based on the urgency and repetitiveness of her appeals, you could easily draw these conclusions. Kaur wears her singleness as a badge of honour. By remaining childless, she’s doing her part to save the world.

  •    I disagree. Greed is the problem not too many diapers in the landfill. Too many humans are not the problem. We’ve advanced technologies in food production, housing, and conservation. The earth could be home to a lot more of us, but the problem is greed. Selfish consumerist tendencies and power-hungry ideologies cause all our problems. Kaur hits on this, and I agree with her.

It can’t be all about “me” my wants, my selfies, my 15 minutes of fame. And if I don’t have what I want, then I take it by force… we don’t need most manufactured material things to survive. It is not a basic need. Kill someone for their money or car or whatever to feed an addiction or hoarding. We just continue to lower the bar, accept immoral, unethical or criminal behavior… we need to start spending less time obsessing about ourselves, and our own wants (186-187)

  •     What do the numbers say? Are we really having too many babies? Canada‘s birth rate is 1.46, the United States’s 1.66, and Europe’s is even less than that at 1.08 in places. China and India hover below 2, and South Korea rings in at a measly 0.81. We need 2.1 for a sustainable population. Even Africa, which is the world’s babymaking factory, is on a sharp decline. So what is Kaur going on about? It seems to me that the facts don’t align with her concerns. She rightly criticizes our selfish culture, but selfishness is a benefit for those who wish to shrink the world’s population. Self-focused people don’t tend to have babies; it requires way too much work and sacrifice, which brings us back to the root cause of the world’s problems. As Kaur says, “It can’t be all about me and my wants.” Jesus summarizes the dramatic counterbalance needed to end wars, famine, child abuse and pollution when he says love thy neighbour. Imploring people to love each other will benefit the human race far more than urging women to leave their birth canals unused.

 

2) She has a romanticized, illusionary view of nature combined with an unhelpful, almost anti-human perspective.

     Kaur believes that nature is fair, equitable, empathetic, benevolent, just and loving. Meanwhile, humans are the “mutant culture” on Earth that destroy everything.

     I love to watch nature shows. My kids and I just viewed Living with Leopards on Netflix the other day. The phrase “It’s a jungle out there” exists for good reason. Nature is a kill-or-be-killed reality. There is no empathy or justice. There is no care for the weak. Other than limited maternal instincts temporarily kicking in, this is true across the board in nature. Using human terms, nature is full of rape, child abuse, deception, unfair power dynamics, and murder. But the cubs are really cute, so there is that. Humans have wrecked a lot of things; I agree with Kaur’s frustration about the damage we’ve caused. I wish the water at the end of False Creek wasn’t polluted. I’d love to swim there every morning, but I can’t. In our rush to become rich and powerful beyond our wildest dreams, we turned this beautiful sliver of ocean into a cesspool. We shouldn’t have done that. But for the love of God, don’t point me back to nature as an example of how to right the ship! If I decide to behave like a Leopard or a Chimpanzee people are going to die!

     Are we really a “mutant culture”? Freaks that don’t belong in this world? That’s not how I see it. The world is our home. We belong here. This book makes me feel guilty for being human. But I don’t; I’m happy I’m a human. I’m grateful to be alive. I love that I can use all of my senses to enjoy the world around me. I don’t see us as equal to other animals, either. Kaur wishes it were illegal for humans to own or profit from any other living species. (184-185) Owning a fish in a tank carries the same evil weight as owning another human and keeping them in a cage. Selling chickens at the market is the same as the 19th-century slave trade. What about plants, those are living too? This is preposterous. She makes the call for animals to be designated the same rights as humans (248). This is absurd. Animals would then have to be tried in court if they infringed on the rights of other animals. What do we do with incarcerated zebras? This is nonsense.

     Having said this, I understand Arwinder’s frustration. Humans have been cruel to the earth, to themselves, and to all creatures who live here. Cruelty is no virtue, and the less of it we have, the better. Having said that, I do believe that the earth is our home, and while we share it with other creatures, we do not share it as equals. We humans are the ones in charge, and we are to steward the resources, both living and non-living, with wisdom and compassion. If we can do that, we will be all right.

Practical Suggestions.

      Kaur dedicates over 50 pages of her book to practical suggestions for improvement. She mentions everything from renting sheep instead of buying lawnmowers to getting rid of all cemeteries to restore nature. Additionally, she offers many proverbs and wise sayings, all aimed at shifting us away from greed, selfishness, and the me-first mentality. 

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2 Responses

  1. My book is better 😉— this one is definitely edgy though. especially when it comes to the conversations around overpopulation.

  2. Sounds edgy, I need to find your book and finish reading do I can read this one

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