What is Dignity?

Dignity is said to be the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically with inherent nobility and worth.

Said another way, then, is dignity the quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect?

I share this with you because, today, I think it is important to be mindful of dignity. We see lack if it all around us, both online and offline. And we lack dignity mainly when we are not treating each other as such.

We can blame this, if we want, on social media, politicians, other people in our personal lives or work environment. But the buck stops with us, I think. We have the sole power to hold and give dignity.

Confidence, success, respect, and integrity are some of the benefits of dignity. And when we treat others with dignity is the best way to see others treat us the same way.

Likewise, just as a good friend is found by first being a friend, and happiness is never found by the person shopping for it … rather, genuine happiness is the byproduct of making someone else happy.

So, no matter what your interpretation of dignity is, the best way to describe it to others is to live it.

3 replies on “What is Dignity?”

  1. Amen to this, Frank. It is kinda unbelievable that the more educated, informed and connected we get, some of these values (like respect, dignity, listening, etc) seem more challenged than ever.

  2. I partially agree that we can’t blame “social media” as a phenomenon for the loss of dignity we see around us, because ultimately, we are “social media”. It’s a platform and we are the humans that use it. That said, I believe it largely brings out the worst in us, which therefore makes it partially to blame.

    We have a choice in how we interact with each other, both online and offline. I can choose to act civilly and with dignity towards a stranger on the other side of a computer screen (and I strive to always do so). Unfortunately, most people are not as aware of others (or themselves).

    It is less personal when one communicates via a computer. The entity on the other end of our communication doesn’t necessarily register in our brains as another human being with real feelings, hopes and dreams. We’re talking to a machine. It’s not a person. The connection via the screen generates a disconnection in our brains and we are unable to empathise.

    Now factor in the algorithms that companies use to manipulate their users into clicking on things and seeing adverts or sponsored posts. It’s well-known that eliciting an emotional response is more likely to persuade someone to click on or look at something more quickly, with less thought. It’s also known that emotions such as outrage seem to be more effective at generating engagement than “aww, that’s nice” sort of emotions, which perhaps prompt a fleeting “like” as you pass by to something else. This is why most of the posts you see will often have emotionally-loaded “click-bait” titles, even if the content of the article is mundane.

    This therefore generates a sort of positive feedback-loop (perhaps I should say, “negative” feedback loop). The algorithms generate click-bait to get you to engage. If you do so, they recognise click-bait, polarisation, outrage and anger as things that you seem to “like” or engage with, and so you’re fed even more of this stuff on your news-feed. It doesn’t take a genius to predict how your social media newsfeed and search-engine results will soon spiral downward into an endless stream of outrage, anger and demonisation.

    Naturally, when people are bombarded with this sort of information every day, they become angry, upset and depressed. They treat others as they see everyone arguing online. Or they become so polarised in their echo-chamber views that anyone with another point-of-view is now demonised, “the enemy”, sub-human, and so on. It’s suddenly morally-justifiable to be obnoxious to someone because, after all, they’re the bogeyman, the one who’s in the wrong.

    Of course, we are partially responsible for this. We can choose not to click on these unpleasant links. We can choose to only engage with the posts, articles and news-items that make our world that little-bit brighter. But at the same time, many people don’t realise that they are being manipulated to suit the individuals paying for the adverts, or the sponsored-posts, or the articles. Someone who is being manipulated is not completely acting of their own free will.

    I think echo-chambers and polarisation are why, in the UK, the Labour party was infiltrated by antisemitics and extremists; why, in the US, there is such an incredible amount of anger and hatred surrounding Trump (both for and against); and why movements such as BLM and Antifa have become the very fascists and bigots they claim to stand against.

    I’m aware people might indignantly shout “Nazi” at me for daring to point out the horrifying direction BLM and Antifa have taken, so I would encourage those people to consider the following quotes from Buddha, and then take a second look at what their beloved organisations of so-called “tolerance” and “equality” are doing: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.” (Dhammapada verse 5) and “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.” (Dhammapada verse 223). I’m not a Buddhist so can’t claim to know whether I’m even using these in the right context, but as stand-alone pieces of logic, I feel they are relevant and accurate. Especially relevant to the BLM movement is the choice that Nelson Mandela faced when he was released from jail and became president of South Africa. He had participated in violent activism prior to arrest, and then received unimaginable, inhumane treatment during his subsequent incarceration, yet did he choose to seek revenge, tear-down, destroy, demonise… or build, inspire, reach-out and unify? I wonder if he would have achieved as much if he had continued with the path of violence, anger and resentment?

    So what can we do? I could end my comment here, having simply blamed social media, but to quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see”. Social media shoulders a lot of the blame, but ultimately I still own myself and therefore I need to take ownership of my behaviour. We still have the power to control what we see and do online. Therefore we should exercise that power. We need to take ownership and make a conscious decision to be nice to each other, and recognise those “click-bait” triggers for what they are, so that we break loose from the power they hold over us. We can’t control what is posted, or what other people say, but maybe we can choose what we view – and encourage others to be civil by being shining examples.

    I remember someone once telling me on a bulletin-board years ago that his number one golden rule was that he never ever said anything to anyone on there that he wouldn’t say face-to-face. I’ve never forgotten that. It’s easy to be overconfident when you’re safe behind a computer screen, so I often re-think it as, “would I say it to Chuck Norris in a bar?” I’m no perfect saint and fall short on my ideals like anyone else would, but having a personal filter like that definitely avoids lots of stress and anger.

    1. You might want to re-examine your “facts” about Antifa and BLM. Your criticism of the whole group based on what **may** be the actions of a few reeks of “Faux News” spin. In fact, at least some of the violence attributed to both groups was actually done by members of right-wing hate groups. I saw that *fact* in two different police reports that were published after the fact (too long after the fact to gain much publicity apparently).

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