Do you really care about the human race ? I do, and probably I do more than you do. Well, not more than you, maybe -I do not know you personally!-; but I know where you come from: the class of human beings presently alive. And I think that most of the people on this planet just believe they care about mankind, but they actually care just about themselves.

Of course, one can look around and worry about mankind only if one is lucky enough to have secured his or her own personal well-being, and that of his or her relatives; one must be wealthy enough to not have to struggle with one's scarcity of means; healthy enough to not being hampered by pain or sickness; and happy enough to be able to distract one's mind from day-to-day problems. If you are in such a favourable situation, however, you may still be more concerned with yourself than with the rest of the world and its inhabitants, or with the progress of mankind as a whole.

A few signs that such is the case (and I am sure to upset quite a few of you now -but it is not done on purpose!): being religious; thinking that you are okay because you donate money to charities, and caring for tax cuts more than you care for social security; approving pre-emptive wars; avoiding the active search of and exposition to information about the condition of third-world countries, with the excuse that you cannot stand seeing the suffering of people and children there. I try to justify this list below.

1) Your being religious betrays your anxiety about your mortality. We all hate the thought, but you find it intolerable, and seek refuge in the belief that you, as a believer, will be resurrected after your death, to enjoy the light of your creator and be reunited with your beloved ones, or to lay with seventy-two virgins (on this one count, I believe I would rather be a muslim if I ever had to choose).

Now, the above by itself is a pretty egotistic choice, but it is compounded by the fact that the religion you believe in then brings you to lose concern on the suffering of human beings, whom you are brought to liken to Jesus Christ, and who will one day find salvation anyway; when not specifically not giving a damn about those who are not members of your own sept (specific of Islamism on this one count).  One example ? The Pope's fret on the use of condoms, when it is well-known that it saves lives. If this were coming from a unrepresentative, deranged individual we might even forgive him, but being the head of an organization with over one billion adepts, who eagerly listen to every word he utters, the Pope's active opposition to condoms equates to murder.

Ratzinger, along with his predecessors, is responsible for tens of thousands deaths by AIDS in Africa every year. Was Saddam Hussein a mass murderer ? Yes, despite he probably never killed anybody directly. Is the Pope one ? Of course he is: where is the difference? More to the point, if you are a catholic, you have better think of what you are supporting. If you care for the well-being and progress of mankind as a whole, and not just for what your neighbors think about you, you should consider this very carefully.

2) Many of us do appear to care about third-world countries and the living conditions there, and they devote considerable amounts of money to charities. A commendable act, but not one that should be done with the main purpose of feeling better about oneself. In particular, I find it suspicious that the same individuals who donate money are oftentimes those who advocate a "light government" and support tax cuts, when they all too well know that those moneys are made unavailable to improvements of the quality of public schools, health organizations, and other social causes. One prime example: Bill Gates. His charity organization is Wonderful, with a capital W. But he is deducting the money from his taxes... I have no interest in computing whether he is better off in the end or not, but you get the point.

3) If you live in the western world, you are most likely concerned with the insurgency of islamic fundamentalism and the consequent threats of terrorist acts in your neighborhood. That by itself is not a sign that you care most about your own well-being and very little about mankind as a whole; but it becomes one when you justify "pre-emptive wars" and approve the attempts to eradicate with the force of weapons the threat you feel. Because what really moves you is not the belief that those bombs you sign off will create a better world for everybody -which would be very tough to prove- but the thought that they will make the world temporarily more secure for you.

4) The final sign I mentioned above suggesting that, in my opinion, you might not be really caring as much for the human race as you trick yourself into believing, is your screening yourself from direct exposure to news and stories about the life conditions in third-world countries, or in places plagued by never-ending wars, such as Palestine, a few African countries, Afghanistan. Maybe we set the bar too low for defining what a war crime is, because I can see no war in modern times which was not riddled with war criminals. And if we lose concern with present-day wars and the crimes that are daily committed behind the benign term "military operations", we are basically giving our moral placet to them, and a wild card to the perpetrators of those crimes.

So, since I more or less pass the test above, not belonging to any of the above four classes, I have the right of believing I care more about mankind than most of you do. My main concern is that we face extremely tough challenges in the XXIst century: climate change, overpopulation, famine, viruses, wars and guerrilla (which I equate to terrorism), energy resources, economical stability, a sustainable development. All these challenges demand a coherent action, which is much harder to put together than one would think, given the large concentration of power in the hands of few world leaders. But before we try to put together such a coherent action, I believe we first of all need to put together, as individuals, the willpower to act for the benefit of humanity as a whole. I think this is a real challenge for each of us.