Human or not

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What is a human? Over hundreds of years, many ideas have developed a possible answer for this ongoing debate of fine lines and characteristic differentiation among species. However, this question remains incompletely answered, leaving behind only a select range of general concepts of humanness. Two particular studies of the human species can contribute important factors to the timeless question of who is human, painting a fairly accurate image of the human being. Psychology, the study of the human mind, seeks to explain thought, emotion, and behaviour, creating a refined decomposition of human mental traits. Sociology, in contrast, encompasses the study of human societies and the interactions that occur within them, leading to comparisons of social structure, roles, and values. Using these disciplines, figures can be determined as either human or non-human. In today's pop culture, many have called Lady Gaga, a revolutionary young artist, an alien because of her strange appearance, deranged ideas, and countless differences from the society to which we have grown accustomed. Following the radical views of many individuals, it is indeed possible to prove Lady Gaga as a non-human, using the various traits that convey human character. However, human traits can also be identified in this apparently non-human individual, so the proof of an individual as a human or non-human cannot accurately be carried out using solely the traits that have been derived from the disciplines of psychology and sociology. Though they may provide a strong foundation for the human image, they cannot precisely determine the level of humanness present in an individual. Lady Gaga, one of the most controversial figures of the twenty-first century will be examined, critiqued, and proven as a human or non-human based on her education, norms, roles in society, religion, and personal experiences.

Humans possess a unique characteristic that allows them to embrace knowledge to extents far greater than any other species on the planet. This power to retain, process, and develop information allows us to grow mentally as a species. Lady Gaga demonstrates a human potential for education through her years of schooling. By the age of four, she managed to learn to play the piano by ear (DeValle), and she has evolved into a very successful and talented musician today. This ability to develop musical skill, build upon pre-existing knowledge, and grow as an individual gives a human quality to Lady Gaga. At the age of seventeen, she was also one of twenty students in the world to receive early admission to Tisch School of the Arts in New York City (DeValle), showing her mastery of artistic talent. There, she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers on topics such as art, religion, and socio-political order (Kerr). Some might even say she is better than most humans, being more capable and skilled in terms of academic and personal advancement. The progression from a little girl singing gibberish into a plastic microphone (DeValle), to present day's worldwide chart-topping pop star is what signifies a self-expansion and mental evolution, characteristic of human beings according to psychologists.

Societal norms are the lines dividing accepted individuals and rebel deviants. These behavioural and even physical expectations within a group act as social controls and become the rules that define appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. A particular norm of Lady Gaga does not comply with the generally accepted ones of society however. In one of her essays, she expresses her discord with society's views of the naked human body. As an artist, Lady Gaga is fascinated by the metamorphosis of the human body as a form of art (Germanotta), whereas society sees the image of the naked human body almost entirely as a symbol of sex. Lady Gaga feels that nudity should be embraced, but this contrary image to our custom clothed bodies is greeted with fear and insecurity, being labelled as monstrous (Germanotta). This perspective of an artist is a radical contradiction to Western society's views of nakedness, and this difference in opinion condemns Lady Gaga as a deviant. Society's intolerance of variety, anything out of its norms, has become a primary decider in the human versus non-human debate. Since Lady Gaga's norms differ vastly from those of society, she is therefore non-human according to this aspect.

Leading multiple roles in society helps to differentiate humans from other species according to the principles of sociology. Roles can include being part of a family, occupation, and even placement in the hierarchy of society. Lady Gaga, for 23 years now, has been the youngest child of an Italian-American family, being both a sister and a daughter (Kerr). She works for Interscope Records, making music, fashion, and art as a living. She is a friend to many, a saviour to others, and a role model to many more. Lady Gaga's widespread roles, integrated into the worldwide society, have helped to define her as a human being. However, she plays more roles than the average member of society, leading to question whether she is more human than others. Despite the level of humanness derived through comparison, individuals can be determined as human or non-human based on their multiple roles in society.

Sociology explains human nature through the formation and following of religion and other groups of common beliefs. Not necessarily pertaining to a specific belief of a particular deity, religion and beliefs can include any common thoughts or values. Lady Gaga is a Roman Catholic, having attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart high school as a teenager. However, this belief in God and her supposed religious followings can be seen as false because of a powerful contradiction in her beliefs. She has ended her award-winning speeches numerous times with, "Bless God and bless the gays," (Dryden), contradicting the principles of Roman Catholic beliefs that God did not intend to create homosexuality. However, Lady Gaga believes that all humans are equal in the eyes of God, thus contradicting her own religion (Dryden). This support of the gay community, seeming like an act of human kindness, is the very thing that proves she is a non-human. This lie of a religion she leads, contradicting its very principles, serves to demonstrate that she is, in fact, not a human. Religion and other systems of human thought including a set of beliefs help to give meaning to human existence, and the feeling of belonging in a group aids in the differentiation of a human from a non-human.

Personal experiences are the building blocks of human character, each experience adding a new piece to the mosaic puzzle of mankind. The events of a lifetime help to make and define human characters, affecting their future thoughts and actions like the "butterfly effect". Apart from the many musical influences on her life, Lady Gaga's childhood traumas and life experiences all build up to make her who she is today. When she went to high school, she was constantly teased for her quirky, eccentric style by her classmates (Dryden). This seemingly insignificant event during her adolescence ended up leading her to ultimate fame and success. Her strong will to not give in to the norms of society combined with her dedication to her work finally led to her recognition as a professional artist in 2006 (DeValle). Because she was teased for her appearance, fashion sense, and bizarre ideas, she now uses her fame and prominence as a global figure to support and encourage individuality, constantly reminding teens to stand up for their beliefs. Another important experience that has shaped Lady Gaga was the murder of a gay college student named Matthew Shepard in 1998 (Ani). This horrible tragedy incited Lady Gaga to stand up against the unfair treatment of homosexuals in society. Today, she is also a global icon standing up for and supporting the gay community. Such events, although they may seem insignificant, shape the personality and character of a human individual constantly over a lifetime. This aspect under psychology has helped to define Lady Gaga as a human being.

Lady Gaga has been proved to be a human based on her roles in society, personal experiences, and ability to learn and improve. However, she has also been proven to be a non-human according to her 'fake' religion and norms that conflict with those of society. To date, psychologists and sociologists still have no foolproof method of identifying a human or non-human, or what it means to be characteristically human, but they have found a great number of factors that help to determine the humanness of an individual. Therefore, we cannot truly classify Lady Gaga as either human or non-human but we can categorize her actions, and evaluate particular aspects of her, giving us a general image of a being with both human and non-human characteristics. Even in this perspective that allows us to diversely view the concept of humanness, there is still an unavoidable clause that needs further exploration and analysis. The definition of a human may be too precise for use in classification, and that leads one to question what will become of those who are judged to be non-human. For now, society can only follow these clues to pave itself a path to a quasi-pure-human image, all in an effort to find common ground, undergo further evolution as both an individual and species, and be recognized as the greatest, most powerful, and most intelligent species that ever treaded this Earth.