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11 RELIGION IN A DIGNITARIAN WORLD

Fuller, Robert W. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

IF THERE IS NO GOD, NOT EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED TO MAN.

HE IS STILL HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER AND HE IS NOT PERMITTED TO SADDEN HIS BROTHER, BY SAYING THAT THERE IS NO GOD.

—CZESLAW MILOSZ, POLISH NOBEL LAUREATE IN LITERATURE

THIS CENTURY WILL BE DEFINED BY A DEBATE THAT WILL RUN THROUGH THE REMAINDER OF ITS DECADES: RELIGION VERSUS SCIENCE. RELIGION WILL LOSE.

—JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST

THE EYE WITH WHICH I SEE GOD IS THE SAME EYE WITH WHICH GOD SEES ME.

—MEISTER ECKHART, THIRTEENTH-CENTURY GERMAN MYSTIC

RELIGION IS AT ONCE humanity’s consolation and its divider. As individuals, we turn to religion for solace. The concept of the soul invests our existence with a kind of transcendence and helps us cope with the harsh reality that, as Thomas Hobbes famously wrote, life is often “nasty, brutish, and short.” The idea of God not only serves as a repository for all we do not yet understand—and there will always be plenty of that—but also provides us with a certain dignity. For that reason alone, religion cannot be omitted in discussing a dignitarian world. 158

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10 GLOBALIZING DIGNITY

Fuller, Robert W. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

IT IS EXCELLENT TO HAVE A GIANT’S STRENGTH; BUT IT IS TYRANNOUS TO USE IT LIKE A GIANT.

—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, MEASURE FOR MEASURE

WAR’S A GAME, WHICH, WERE THEIR SUBJECTS WISE, KINGS WOULD NOT PLAY AT.

—WILLIAM COWPER

I KNOW NOT WITH WHAT WEAPONS WORLD WAR III WILL BE FOUGHT, BUT WORLD WAR IV WILL BE FOUGHT WITH STICKS AND STONES.

—ALBERT EINSTEIN

EVERYONE HAS KNOWN the blues: you lose your job or your health, your partner leaves you or your dog dies. Sorrow is an inescapable part of the human condition. You don’t need the wisdom of the Buddha to know that life is suffering.

The evolutionary blues consist of sterner stuff, affecting not just an individual but our species as a whole.1 These are the growing pains that accompany the political, cultural, environmental, and existential crises that have beset humankind throughout its bloody history. They stem from man’s inhumanity to man and are carved deeply into the human soul. This book argues that building a dignitarian world can mitigate the evolutionary blues. By confronting rankism in its fiercest guises we have a chance to unsaddle at least some of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and put their fearsome steeds to pasture. 144

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Chapter Eleven: Preventing Rankism

Fuller, Robert W. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

To create a dignitarian world, we need to counteract rankism when it occurs, but we also need to prevent it. This requires a proactive, rather than a reactive, stance and usually involves initiating new processes and procedures, and sometimes training, to help foster a culture of dignity. Below are some overarching principles that can serve as guidelines for thought and behavior when deliberately creating a culture of dignity, followed by some practical ways to begin building a dignitarian world.

Dignity is a basic need. It is necessary for healthy growth and development. Therefore, dignity is not optional. We must accord dignity to all.

Rankism begets rankism. The human tendency is to respond to rankism with rankism. We can stop that cycle by not responding to rankism with more rankism, and by proactively creating a climate of dignity.

Dignity works. Not only is treating others with dignity advisable on moral and humanitarian grounds, but it is practical. Businesses, organizations, and community groups that foster dignity are more productive, peaceful, and resilient than those that allow rankist behavior.

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Chapter Two: Naming the Problem

Fuller, Robert W. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

“At the core of every humiliation and indignity is a mental error, not just a habit… Nothing can be done until it is noticed, until it is named. Naming creates distinctions, distinctions create the capacity to change. Naming rankism transforms everything.”

—Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism

Humans have been violating others’ dignity for millennia. We have raped and pillaged, trafficked in slavery, and otherwise abused our fellow creatures. Colonialism; segregation; apartheid; torture; ethnic cleansing; corporate corruption; monopolistic pricing; sexual harassment; discrimination based on race, gender, age, appearance… The list of ways we have violated the dignity of members of our own and other species goes on and on.

So why would we think we can stop it now?

The reasons are simple:

In 1963, Betty Friedan characterized the plight of women as “the problem that has no name.” Within a few years, the problem had acquired one: sexism. Only after naming the source of gender inequality did the movement to disallow gender-based discrimination grab hold of the collective consciousness. Once named, the problem was identifiable, visible, discussable—and actionable. And, ultimately, it became preventable.

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5 DIGNITY IN EDUCATION

Fuller, Robert W. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I’M AFRAID OF DYING BEFORE I PROVE THAT I’M SOMEBODY.

—TYONDRA NEWTON, A TEENAGER RAISED IN FOSTER HOMES

ONE OF THE clearest indications that we are—at least in some areas— already moving toward the dignitarian ideal is the remarkable evolution of child-rearing practices that has occurred since the 1960s. Well into the twentieth century, “Because I say so” was considered reason enough for forcing a child to submit to almost anything. But over the last several generations we have moved from children being “seen but not heard” toward an increasing parity between the young and their elders—not in knowledge or experience, of course, but in their status as persons.

“Kids are people, too” is the slogan guiding this transformation. The generation that came of age in the 1960s—known to the world as the baby boomers—will someday be recognized not merely for its size and appetites, but for adopting a new model for bringing up children. It will be known as the first generation to grant youngsters equal dignity with adults, and in so doing initiate what is arguably one of the most significant emancipations in human history. 76

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