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The Assault on Human Dignity

November 13, 2018

Human dignity is the most fundamental thing at stake, in our current crisis, and probably throughout humanities history as a self aware species. Humans combine physical and biological needs and instincts that can bring out both very good and very bad things in us, with an awareness of them, and conceptual and instrumental and technological capabilities that make us almost like a perfect storm scenario.

A lot can go right with humans when we combine things and values with a clear eye on maintaining human dignity. Equally, a lot can go wrong when we lose sight of basic values of human dignity. Right now this dignity is under assault from multiple directions and it is not clear if humanity is going to come through this struggle, go out with a whimper, or go out with a bang.

Those seem to be the three options and our best hope for getting through the struggle is to face the assault on human dignity head on, and defend it to the bitter end. This will require what I can only call deep faith and deep patience. Secular, materially motivated values are simply not going to be enough to get us through this crisis. The reliance on natural facts about us, combined with shallow material motivations to act is not an ethos with a long lifespan. What is needed is something that transcends our impulses, not by stoically refusing those impulses, not by dualistically despising and hating those impulses, which ultimately leads to self hatred, and not by blindly following conventions or submitting to collectivist attempts to shame us.  We must instead see something real that transcends our impulses and keep our gaze on it steady and strong.

The focus on human dignity is one way to achieve this. But what is human dignity and in what ways is it currently under assault?

Human dignity is an appreciation of the reality of the struggle we all go through and the refusal to reduce us either to ideological attachments or to material substratums. We have more to offer than this. The assault comes from a misunderstanding of the domain of science when it crystallises into inflexible ideologies. It also comes from the runaway effects of technological and other economic races to control us by the powerful people in society. A combination of experts and techno elites press on our own human critical reason and dignity from both sides.

They start to think and value for us, and so we become less self aware. We become dependent on medications for health, news outlets for what to think and scientists for what to believe. None of this dependence is conducive to human dignity. It is a failure of human dignity that is leading us to a situation of either going out with a bang or with a whimper. The end result is the same, the end of self awareness and human dignity. Either it is taken from us, or we take it from ourselves. This human tragedy plays out on the big scale and the small. If we realise we are not isolated and alone in our struggles, then maybe there is still some hope. If we can recognise others struggles, rather than shun them, then maybe we can get through this crisis.

We need to walk that line of recognising human realities and human ideals, without submitting to either, neither becoming a slave to an external reality indifferent to you or a slave to an internal ideologue infestation that possesses you.

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