A probe to the common core of human conflict.
Before anything, I would like to ask you to read the statement quoted below at least 2 times, and then, if possible… reflect a few seconds about the implications that it would have on reality, and on every human process, if we were to apply this principle to each aspect of human society.
“ I want the first law of our republic to be the cult of the full dignity of mankind”
With these words José Martí (1853–1895), a truly brilliant poet, philosopher, essayist, journalist, translator, professor, publisher, diplomat and Cuban national hero formulated a single heuristic that could redefine the quality of every person-to-person (P2P) and institution-to-person (I2P) interaction.
I decided running the risk of triggering the reader’s automatic-semantic-panic-responses by using the word “Cult” that in Spanish language shares both, a verb and noun function, and has a mostly benign and positive connotation. I promise I will make my case on why we need to disassociate this wonderful term from the derogatory meaning that have been attached to it. But first, I would like to direct our awareness towards one of the most monumental concepts that in current times we can spend our intellectual and spiritual energy on:
Let’s take a look at the most immediate definition of this word:
“ Dignity is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. ”
Before moving forward, take a moment to reflect on the vastness of the implication of “the right to be valued and respected and to be treated ethically”, and what would demand from our current social contracts to comply and respect such precept. I will dive into that later, but it would help us “get there” if you project your own simulation in your head first, and analyze the numerous positive ramifications of this philosophic-centered interpretation of the pentagram of society.
Now, exploring the implications of prioritizing the respect of the “Inherent Dignity of each Human” as an inviolable principle that governs interactions in the collective is easier by pulling directly from Maslow’s hierarchies of human needs.
We will commence our exploration at the bottom level, but we’ll continually move up, and with each successful transition we will realize that the next stage becomes increasingly facilitated, easier to conquer, and the results… substantially better. It won’t be long until the realization that this is a positive spiral that could take us anywhere:
Alpha-centauri, the end of hunger, poverty and discrimination, cures for death and disease, cold fusion, faster-than-light travel… you name it, if physics allow it, with enough morale, peace and R & D, it can be done.
The protocol for this mental exercise is simple, just add the conditioning phrase “Dignified access” to the elements in each strata of Maslow’s pyramid and the world has no choice but to rearrange itself to a radically better configuration… let’s begin.
Level 1- Dignified access to: Air, Water, Food, Shelter, Rest, Clothing and Reproduction.
Think profoundly, securing and dignifying access to these elements would guarantee not only the physical well being of the homo sapiens specie, but also of the earth and the whole ecosystem. This category solves pollution, as we require clean air and water, and global warming reduction would be a direct consequence of not polluting our environment. Every day-to-day need of man as a biological entity is also dealt with here, the resolutions included in this stage of the dignification of our existence comprise fixing hunger and homelessness, and securing a sustainable perpetuation of the human kind in a stable planet. The advancements in this base level, would intermediately percolate upwards, horizontal access to food would inevitably increase collective health, which would in turn augment security via reduced crime, which would have and impact in self-worth. The positive loops are numerous, but let’s continue to the next stage.
Level 2 - Dignified access to: Personal Security, Employment, Resources, Health and Property.
As I write these lines, some cities in the USA are experiencing demands from different groups to defund the police, this pressure comes after weeks of continued protests for the death of George Floyd while being detained, which almost immediately turned manifestations into riots and looting that have resulted in several deaths, dozens of injured, million of dollars in property damage and civil unrest. It is absolutely unacceptable for a technologically advanced society that such a significant percentage of the population feels necessary the appeal to violence and entropy generation as a vehicle to communicate discontent, that the citizenry does not posses a more direct access to influence collective decision-making.
If we look at any of the conditions that gave place to these problems, a lack of dignity is at the center of the causes. Had the arrest of George taken place in a context of maximal respect to his dignity, he would have not died; he would probably not have committed any crime in first place if dignity was a foundational corner stone of every social institution, specially those of education and economic activity. If the readers are interested in new re-conceptions of educational philosophies and mechanisms, I would point them to a couple of profound conversations about the subject, one between Jim Rutt and Zak Stein, and the other between Jordan Hall and John Verbaeke, but yes… a transformative renaissance is needed in the educational sector.
Regarding the other elements in this second category of Maslow’s, there is no need to make emphasis on how divorced wages are from the levels of income required to maintain a basic standard of living, or to analyze the increase in recurrent costs that individuals have to face in order to keep themselves competitive in an ever-more technologically demanding society, from cellphones to cars, to digital content, it all becomes an avalanche of accumulating costs, specially if those items are designed for obsolescence and volatility. For too many people, the workplace is not a source of education, personal growth and self improvement, and even when those “more ambitious human aspirations” belong to a higher place in the hierarchy of needs, is obvious that the workplace and the definition of “work” itself must also be transformed in order to fulfill the demands on, and of, the individuals. Most of the transformations in the cusp of the stack happen closer to the base, and this is one of the most important examples because the achievements propagate through the whole structure of human socio-psychology.
Now, let’s approach a subject that is literally vital. The implications of maximal access to dignified health are so vast and profound, that deploying them demands an actual revolution in how the medical systems work, those in themselves require their own dedicated separate analysis. But making a supreme effort for ample generalization… Let’s just say that there is no dignity in limiting the quality of medical attention that individuals can access due to limited health insurance coverage, or the prohibitive cost of advanced procedures. If it was not clear before, COVID-19 has proven that health is a collective problem, and that complete societies (and the whole world) can come to a stop when public health is not being attended to properly.
Level 3 - Dignified access to: Friendship, Intimacy, Family and sense of connection.
The dignification of the third level of Maslow’s grouping is one where we can notice that our current institutions have directed very little effort to; there are almost no laws or protocols that take these needs into account. Left to the discretion of the very individuals and their social groups, religious institutions and non-profit organizations are these constitutional elements of individual and groupal dignity. One could easily argue that the workplace and it’s ethics are actually conceived around a rivalistic relation towards these elements, a culture of perfect professionalism is a pursuit of a “no drama” working environment, which inevitably devolves into lack of connection and mutual support, these denaturalized relations fracture the social and emotional continuous of the individuals, eroding social cohesion to a point where people do not relate nearly enough to the peers they spent a great amount of time with or even the customers they serve.
Too few, if any at all… are the legal systems that reward families and parents with an increase in available time, financial energy and resources to be the main protagonists in the education of their descendants (did we already said that education needs a renaissance ?). In lower-class families, parents have to dedicate most of their time and physical and psychological energies to the generation of the material resources required for a mere physical survival of their households, let alone sufficient leisure and education time, travel opportunities, and selective forms of self-cultivation, skills and value development.
Another crisis that resonate throughout the whole social cathedral is that of lack of sense of belonging, I already wrote another piece dedicated to the need for a new understanding of belonging that is linked in this sentence. Disconnection from our shared reality and our communities is what give rise to the use of violence as a form of political influence, and it is specially worrying when the majority of the disconnect is happening to the youth.
If we look back at the analysis we have done up to this point, is not hard to derive a substantial increase in quality of life and collective well-being if we were to apply these new, more dignified approaches to our problem-solving; we can’t also deny the “overwhelming” amount of effort in the redesign and restructuration required for the implementation of these upgrades, yet we are not talking idealism and romance any more, this is an enterprise to ensure the survival of democracy, and probably, even the modern conception of nations in themselves.
Level 4 — Dignified access to: Respect, Recognition, Self-Esteem, Status and Freedom
Previously, in level 3, an apparent tension between “professionalism” and “inter-human connection” became evident, humans are drama and the aspiration of overcoming our own limitations have been part of our motivational forces since the very beginning of human experience, tools, language, culture, arts… these are all manifestations of our determination to improve our environment, to multiply our biological, cognitive and communicational capacities through the use of technology and, or, creativity.
The history of the homo-sapiens and its predecessors is one of gradual dignification of the individuals and the group through sharing, empathy and understanding. Is not mostly competition… but collaboration, what has brought us here, to the informational, computational and space age.
If we don’t put all of our attention into the dignificatory use of our fantastic technological capacities, we will inevitably proceed in the derogatory direction of history, there is no neutrality possible in the moral charge of our scientific, economic and political enterprise; this is a system’s state where if you are not doing every possible good, you are very well doing all the conceivable harm, it is just that the externalities and consequences are not manifesting for you yet.
So here, in the 4th categorical agglutination of Maslow’s we found that the actuation on these needs is more subjective, and appear more as an emergent consequence of the improvement that can be achieved in the first 3 categories of problematics that we already reviewed. This is the stage were the individual and its immediate social surroundings start to experience a positive collapse towards the improvement of their fellows and their peers, and the structure of civilization begins to experiment a compounding positive effect from the energies and efforts invested lower in the societal organism, and real growth manifest. Human beings always find a necessity to orient their energies towards the needs of the 5th level, which can be separated into their own special category of Superior Aspirations, because their satisfaction is directly characterized by an improvement in the life of others; in these 2 last stages is where the person’s interest start convoluting into the interests of the commons. It’s in the 5th and final gradation where the positive feedback loops of the individual with its environment is complete and where the promise of a radically better society can be realized, and cult of Dignity… be consummated.
If we were able to start putting most of our emphasis in the Cultivation of Dignity… we would soon find ourselves, in no problem at all.
Saludos y Gracias.