As a child, one of the things I noticed about the world around me was that people (with the exception perhaps of my parents) looked at me and others, as a means to an end, the means – what use am I (you) for their end(s) whatever that want. “What good are you? What use are you? What good/use is it?” I would hear people ask about people, animals, things. I observed others looking at the worth of everything based on it’s usefulness. If whatever it was was considered by people as useless then, it if seemed that the thing could be ignored, carelessly treated, neglected, acted aggressively toward, attacked, injured, and killed. I sensed that if I was not useful to the culture, to a person, I was worthless to both. This sense felt like a hole in the pit of my stomach, it troubled me deeply. I felt what could be characterized as “objectified” as a thing for use. I troubled me for it felt inherently wrong though not in part a moral sense, but partly that as well. I was always attracted to moral thought like Immanent Kant, treat people as ends in themselves or subjects not objects. It always made sense that morality must be more than mere preference or means to ends. more importantly that the living world is not merely an object for us to use or see its value only in relation to it’s use to us.
What does it mean to be an end in itself? To be valued as a being and nothing more, to be accepted as we are, to be connected deeply, a space beyond the cost benefit analysis, a loving integrated way, a space without barriers or cultural judgments; a fantasy of connectivity that does not exist in this dimensional reality, like the Being mode Erich Fromm talks about, we mainly inhabit a Having mode, everything is thing, an object for having, possessing, using. He says, “In the having mode, there is no alive relationship between me and what I have.” That is what I felt in the world outside my home, nothing alive in the community, but artificialness, deadness.
Much of our upbringing is interventions and training to have us fit the structure and usefulness of society, to do this they must break the will, break the resistance. The system to cut off, cut up, separate, impose identify and label. The gaze of others watching and judging us, always working to break the child’s will and it is ongoing through the entirety of our lives. Fromm says, “To control other living human being we need to to use power to break their resistance.” And we see that all the live long day. Yet, we resist with every fiber of our Being. It is in joy, in loving, and in sharing that shows us ways to create ruptures in this closed system of deadness of means to ends, of exploitation, and domination.