Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dignity -- Building A Better Future

DIGNITY has been the first call by just about every rebellion in the last many years.

It is the absence of Dignity that has been the proximate or precipitating cause of practically every recent rebellion,  including the Arab Spring actions and OWS and its many precursor rebellions in Europe.

In the absence of Dignity, one is bereft of means -- and often motivation -- to care for oneself and for one another, which has far-reaching negative consequences, not solely for the individual but for the whole of Creation.

In our own country, Dignity has been the call of so many for so long, including those who fought so valiantly for civil rights for all Americans, not merely for those born privileged.

As I think about building a better future, I think first of the necessity for Dignity, for basic human dignity, for all, without exception or reservation. This is a completely radical thought in our current social and political environment, as only those with money, clout, and power are afforded Dignity by right. Everyone else has none.

As bad, if not worse, is the lack of attribution of Dignity for the natural world.

This is how we get into the kinds of crises we face today, with a deteriorating natural environment being exploited to the max for the benefit of the few, with millions and millions of Americans being forced into poverty every year -- for the benefit of the few, with an increasingly authoritarian and oppressive police/surveillance state serving as the de facto government over the seething masses, with fewer and fewer opportunities for education and advancement, with starvation and disease stalking the land, with wars and rumors of wars becoming routine once again, with climate deteriorating at an alarming rate, and on and on.

All these things and many more are the direct and indirect consequences of the absence of Dignity for the Earth and its population.

Correcting any of them requires establishing the Dignity of all Creation at the outset.

I think this is why St. Francis of Assisi is such an appealing character to me, why Native American society and culture is so appealing as well. They start with the principle of Dignity -- one's own and one another's, and that of all Creation.

Simply BEING establishes a state of Dignity.

That's a concept most modern societies have completely abandoned, as "worth" is parceled out according to status, which is often the consequence of diminishing the "worth" and dignity of someone or something else.

Dignity means that everyone has intrinsic "worth"  that cannot be measured in cash or treasure. One's existence is one's "worth." Everyone, therefore, is equally worthy of respect and consideration. But the concept of Dignity must go farther than respect and consideration for individuals if we are truly to build a better future; it must encompass all of humanity and ultimately all of the world in which we live. No living thing can lack the Dignity which is inherent in existence, and the environment which ultimately provides for all living things must itself be respected and treated with utmost consideration.

If we start with the presumption of Dignity as an inherent attribute of all, and we learn to treasure it, many of the conflicts we encounter and endure in our personal lives, as well as those which suffuse societies and nations, will have much less of a hold on our interests and much less influence on our behavior.

Dignity is the key to unlocking a better future. It will be, most likely, the most difficult aspect to establish and maintain.

[To be continued...]

No comments:

Post a Comment