A quick tangent: I have a fun game/exercise that I play with my rhetoric classes. I pick a seemingly innocuous phrase that is (over-)used in mass media, then I ask the class to explain what it means. No matter what they say, I either pretend not to understand, or ask “no, but what does it mean?” The students think it’s frustrating, then funny, then, frustrating again. A favorite phrase for this game is “senseless violence.”
The point of the exercise is to examine some of the contradictions or confusion we use in everyday language. I feel this way about the phrase “faith in humanity,” and especially “restore [my/your/anyone’s] faith in humanity.” What is humanity, what does it mean to have faith in it, and why does the faith need to be restored? I assume that humanity means something close to “the goodness of human nature,” and not “the essential or unifying nature of personhood,” but I’m really not sure. At the very least the repeated recycling of this phrase should serve as a reminder of the Sisyphean task of restoring faith in humanity, whatever it may mean. Humanity is always already in doubt; our faith must endlessly be restored.
We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.
— Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (via stxxz)