Dignity is a term that’s used to signify that all human beings have a right to respect and ethical treatment irrespective of their economic, political or cultural background. It is related to both self-respect and the respect we give to others. It’s something every human being deserves whether they are our friend, neighbor, parent or president. It’s also something that we deprive each other of so often, mostly giving respect only to those we deem better, be it cultural, economical or political.
A recent article on the huffingtonpost (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-galey/flight-et409-exposes-leba_b_438196.html) discussing the racist behavior of some Lebanese individuals towards some Ethiopians was what made me ponder about this idea of dignity and why millions of individuals are depreived of it. When i first read this article, i couldn’t help but be angry – the outrageousness of the situation! Death is one of the few things all human being have in common, it is a reminder of how fragile we are, it’s one of the few times when we should feel true humility, at least that’s what i thought. But, even at such a tragic time, some grievances were seen to be more worthy than others, some heartaches comanded higher priority.
This realization was heartbreaking for me, putting it lightly. It was heartbreaking because i realized the harshness of the reality we currently live in – the huge gap between what ought to be and what is.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 states in Article 1 : “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in spirit of brotherhood.”
You can’t help be baffled both by the sweetness and bullshitness of it all.
Yes, we should respect other people, regardless of how different they are. Yes, we should respect that poor women who helps clean the house. Yes, we should respect the lunatic who thinks he’s better than everyone… yes even him, he does, sadly, fall into the group of category of human beings. But how many of us really do?
The racism shown by some Lebanese towards the grieving Ethiopian families who lost their loved ones on flight ET409, while infuriating, should make us aware of, not only the racism we face as individuals or as a people, but also the countless biases that is within each and every one of us. If you’re Ethiopian and have lived in Ethiopia, i’m willing to bet you’ve seen a woman working as a house-maid being abused within an Ethiopian home. This is a reality that many of us may not feel comfortable admitting, but it is a reality that exist on a daily bases. Most of us might actually even be immune to it, view it as a norm. Haven’t you had that aunt who yells from the top of her lungs at the help because wetu chew becha selehone or betun abuara selemolaw? Yes, it happens, and you know it quite well. It may not be physical abuse, but the mental abuse – the lack of respect – exists.
The problem of dignity or the lack of, of course is no way a Lebanese or an Ethiopian problem, it’s a problem we as human beings face. Mere humanness does not seem to suffice for us to render one another as worthy of respect, we attach so many other factors in the equation – money, status, even appearances, that the pure concept of dignity itself is lost. This is something we all have to take into account on a daily bases and do our best to over come. We’re not being asked to love a people, or even to like them, but to simply respect them for what they are – human beings. Of course, if you can show the love, even better – It is, after all, what ought to be.