A DREAM OF DIGNITARIANISM
If ours were to become a truly Dignitarian Society, what practices, what customs, what attitudes standard today must then fade away?
A Dignitarian Society would be not only one in which the rights of individuals are articulated, codified and guaranteed, as in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but also one in which the essential worthiness of every person (that quality which validates our very claim to possessing human rights) is honored universally. The kind of honor that was once so lavishly bestowed upon royalty and aristocrats would, in a Dignitarian culture, be commonplace. Each person, even every child, would be treated with utmost respect and courtesy and, though not literally addressed as “Your Honor” or “Her Highness,” such dignified respect would be implicit in all dealings among people.
Courteous customs of such reverence and regard have long been common in the manners of some Asian cultures, at least in their outward forms of polite respect for one another. Often, however, displays of gentle manners have been used to cloak nefarious attitudes. Not so, though, among true Dignitarians, whose unvarnished sincerity is manifest.
What underlies this new attitude is not the noblesse oblige of Superior People treating their inferiors with kindly condescension, but rather a radical egalitarianism that distinguishes no implicit rank among human beings, but only the single dignified status of Human Being, to which we are all equally entitled by birth.
That our society does recognize functional ranks and hierarchies of authority within organizations as an effective means of operation in no way detracts from the singular dignity of individuals, which requires unfailing respect in all interpersonal relationships. Individuals may rise to one or another rank of operational functionality according to their aptitudes, training and experience, but this does not imply that anyone is essentially greater or lesser than another and therefore deserving of more or less status, deference or privilege.
The most radical change in the Dignitarian Society from societies prevalent today is that of its reward system. Previously, rank and reward went hand in hand to provide the incentive for ambitious striving in individuals who aimed to “better themselves” and rise above their neighbors, or even leave behind their old neighborhoods and move to more affluent and elite communities. “Keeping up with the Joneses” and preferably surpassing them in status was a fundamental motivator in society, an engine of ingenuity, effort, and productivity rewarded fundamentally by one’s enhanced sense of eminence—of being or becoming a Somebody. Yet if everyone in a Dignitarian Society is presumed to be “eminently worthy,” then who will be deemed “outstanding” except, negatively, those egregious individuals who fail to accept the equal worthiness of each person?
“But,” it will be objected, “it’s only human nature (our animal nature essentially) to strive to be top dog and to elevate one’s place in the pack or the pecking order of any society. That’s how order is maintained most effectively, and the greatest degree of cooperation with the least possible violence is thereby achieved. Though it may be somewhat bloody, still the hardiest will prevail, and the weakest will be culled from the ranks—pure Darwin”: so argue the opponents of Dignitarianism, who find this upstart philosophy “unnatural” from the perspective of Darwinian Natural Selection and by the ancient principle of the “Survival of the Fittest.”
“But has not the time now come to distinguish the essential differences of our Human species from those we have descended—or ascended— from?” reply the proponents of Dignitarianism. “All human beings are absolutely precious, with no degrees of differentiation except, perhaps, as they voluntarily elevate another above themselves.”
What follows from all this? Simply that with respect to all essential enhancements of human wellbeing, insofar as these can be made available within society, they should be delivered to all who can benefit from them without regard to presumed rank and privilege, qualities no longer deemed meaningful. Since all people are worthy of the essential enhancements of safety and protection, of healthcare and therapies, and of intellectual education and training for useful employments—then everyone should share equally in these services and opportunities to the degree they are needed and can be provided. Their adequate provision is therefore taken as the principal goal of society, toward which as many people will contribute as can do so, because it is their first duty. All people are assumed to be providers of Goods and Services for as much of their lives as they are able to do so, and they are deeply inculcated to understand the logic of their prime responsibility of helping others to enhance the quality of their lives. The logic is simple, ancient and venerable: As you wish others to regard and treat you, then regard and treat them in like manner—according to the Golden Rule.
What distinguishes the economy of the Dignitarian Society from the Capitalist economy is that all its Goods are good and all its Services are serviceable. Nothing is deemed worthy of producing or providing that demeans human dignity or undermines the health and wellbeing of people, to the extent that such judgments can be determined by the widest and wisest processes of decision-making—not by puritanical overseers, but by the informed and deliberated consensus of the populace.
Will there then be no silliness, no frivolity, no indiscretion, no foolishness; not to mention no egotism, emulousness, antagonism, rebelliousness, and insubordination? “Some there will surely be, but much less than is common today”—is the likely answer because of the fundamental fairness of the Dignitarian philosophy, one not based on the rank-ist presumptions of “Somebodies vs. Nobodies.” When everyone is born Somebody, inherently possessed of precious worth and universally esteemed, then disgruntlement has no foundation, lack is lacking, and envy can’t get traction.