At one time, this would have been considered a strange question – because we were people. But the question now makes sense, because, in a strange way – we are no longer people. Being a person is now a distinct disadvantage – a state of being we do not want to be in.
We are willing to consider other people people – but not ourselves. We are better than them. The oldest distinction in history – but one that has acquired new meanings in our time.
We are talking about categories here, distinctions we have to make because of our use of human language. We have to be able to say “This is a tree,” in order to convey information. And any species knows instinctively which kind it is. We did not have to say “We are people.”
But with Industrialization, we began to feel we were something else – and better than human. We became extended (to use McLuhan’s phrase) into our ships, railroads, and factories. We become part of them. And part of an Industrial Economy.
This was a subtle change at first, in the 18th Century, but became a huge change in the 19th Century. Eventually, this resulted in a breakdown of society – WWI, the Depression, and WWII – in the 20th Century.
Then we were hit by TV and the Computer – that made us so different we were not like we used to be at all. The Developed World became so different (so Computerized) it could easily overlook the rest of the world.