Within the course of any one week — heck, any one day — there's just so much to talk about: one of the better definitions of what it means to punch up, not down (punching down is easy; punching up is hard); Oliver Sacks's farewell letter to the world in the New York Times (not a dry eye in the house); and a dissection of the Italian film Human Capital (just because something is set in another country doesn't mean it'll supply you with a diverse point of view).
But somehow, all three of those things constituted part of a whole — with the defining and central premise being the irreplaceability of the human being.
1. The things worth punching up at are generally the monoliths, the deniers of diversity, the things that make everything into copies of themselves even if they're not trying to. When individuals are punched down on, nobody except the individual feels it. A monolith is built to take a beating, and sometimes that's the only way to bring something that big back into line.
2. There will never be another Oliver Sacks, and in a way I sincerely hope there never will be. Everything he had that was his, deserves to remain original. The fact that he will soon be gone ought to spur us on to rise to his example. You can't ever be anyone but yourself, and so the main reason to look to others isn't to imitate them but to find out how to be all the more completely what you are. Dr. Sacks's curiosity and enthusiasm for life is a model for anyone, I think, not just fellow scientists.
3. About the term "human capital" — Paul Krugman took a few lines to treat the idea that people are essentially commodities with all the respectful insolence it deserves. But as for the movie itself, the review of it reminded me of something mentioned in the translator's foreword to No Longer Human: "... as the result of our repeated and forcible intrusions in the past, Western tastes are coming to dominate letters everywhere. The most we have reason to expect in the future are world variants of a single literature, of the kind which already exist nationally in Europe." The same, it seems, goes for cinema, much to our overall loss. [Addendum: I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't comment on whether or not it tracks with what the review says, but the thought inspired by the discussion was my main reason for citing it.]