Humanity is everyone but one’s self (From Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky)

“Europe has destroyed the whole world,” said Port.

“Should I be thankful to it and sorry for it? I hope the whole place gets wiped off the map.” He wanted to cut short the discussion, to get Kit aside and talk with her privately. Their long, rambling, supremely personal conversations always made him feel better. But she hoped particularly to avoid just such a tete-a-tete.

“Why don’t you extend your good wishes to all humanity, while you’re at it?” she demanded.

“Humanity?” cried Port. “What’s that? Who is humanity? I’ll tell you. Humanity is everyone but one’s self. So of what interest can it possibly be to anybody?”

Tunner said slowly: “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I’d like to take issue with you on that. I’d say humanity is you, and that’s just what makes it interesting.

“Good, Tunner!” cried Kit.

Port was annoyed. “What rot!” he snapped, ‘You’re never humanity; you’re only your own poor hopelessly isolated self.” Kit tried to interrupt. He raised his voice and went on.

“I don’t have to justify my existence by any such primitive means. The fact that I breathe is my Justification. If humanity doesn’t consider that a justification, it can do what it likes to me. I’m not going to carry a passport to existence around with me, to prove I have the right to be here! I’m here! I’m in the world! But my world’s not humanity’s world. It’s the world as I see it.”

“Don’t yell,” said Kit evenly. “If that’s the way you feel, it’s all right with me. But you ought to be bright enough to understand that not everybody feels the same way.”

From Paul Bowles’s 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky.

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