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Thoughts About Dignity, Degradation, Humanity and Humiliation


I’ve been thinking about dignity ever since I had the experience of being inspired to help a homeless man and his dog awhile back. (You can read my story in a recent article I wrote here.) My desire to help others has always been strong since I have had to struggle to pull myself out of what can only be considered harsh, humiliating circumstances. My heart always goes out to those in need.

I’ve been thinking about dignity as a basic human right.

I decided to do a little research, since I don’t typically think about this unless it is staring me in the face. What I’ve learned is that dignity is a concept that has been used to help move our species forward from a legal and ethical standard.

Human dignity is spoken about in legal, religious and philosophical terms.

Some of the practices that violate human dignity include torture, rape, social exclusion, labor exploitation, bonded labor and slavery.

Poverty is also a violation of human dignity and is a condition that is of particular interest to me. I have learned that poverty can be absolute or relative and involuntary poverty is “unusual among violations of human dignity because it is usually the result of acts of omission rather than acts of commission.”

I have made a vow to myself not to experience poverty.

I work hard and I have all the comforts that anyone could desire. Yet we live in a society where we ignore absolute poverty as though it doesn’t exist and we are literally surrounded by the subtle humiliation of relative poverty.

While absolute poverty is associated with exploitation and is connected to humiliating acts such as being forced to eat food that has been thrown out by others or to stand on street corners with signs begging for food, relative poverty is, as I mentioned above, more subtle. The violation comes as a consequence of feeling diminished self-respect for being unable to afford a quality of clothing, education, entertainment and other things that appear to be enjoyed by a majority of society. This is a form of social rejection and marginalization.

I don’t have a sweeping solution for either condition. However, I do what I can when I can. And I do work to help inspire people to reach for the level of living that inspires them to help others do the same.

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