Humanity’s Minute, Humanity’s Day

We often envisage human history as a slowly rolling stream of unspectacular events which is disturbed now and then, at lengthy intervals, by wars, failed harvests and epidemics. But a very different picture emerges if one considers microscopically thin samples of human history – samples of a duration of no more than a minute – and asks, with  Stanislav Lem, just what is befalling a given number of human beings in the space of one such minute. If one does this one recognizes that each such minute is so laden with suffering that one would wish, ideally, to halt the course of the world altogether:

 

Lem (Doubts About the Nihil inhumani a me alienum puto)

“The image of what people do to other people to torment them, to humiliate them, to exterminate them, to exploit them regardless of their being ill or healthy state, in their age, their childhood, their infirmity, in fact uninterruptedly, in every single minute – this image can take away the breath of even the most hardened enemy of mankind, who believed that no human infamy was alien to him.” (S. Lem, One human minute)

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