Human Dignity and the Need for a Humanist Revival

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Written by Tristan Dineen

In the world today, we witness a disturbing trend. Human beings by all indications increasingly view their own human nature as a weakness, a failure, not something to be proud of at all.

It has been a trend throughout history for human beings to hide their own humanity behind as many facades as they can, as many "alternate identities" as they can. Always trying to play down the fact that they are simply human beings by emphasizing nationality, religion, culture, language etc. as if it made them something more than human. Upholding the values promoted by such sources over and above their own sense of humanity.

It is as though human beings are afraid of the human condition itself and are in a constant state of denial and self-deception. Is it any wonder therefore that human beings constantly abuse themselves and others while turning to ever more extreme creeds and practices in order to give meaning to their lives? If these people have no faith in their dignity as human beings, are such consequences not to be expected?

While there may be lip-service paid to human rights and dignity of sorts in this world, reality makes such words absolutely meaningless. Is the consumerism of our culture emphasizing human dignity or is it emphasizing the all consuming power of the dollar and that "to be cool" you have to spend and buy into all the latest trends and fashions?...and that your very existence somehow depends on it and the brand image you present. Does organized religion somehow emphasize human dignity with all its rhetoric concerning human weakness and general filthiness while urging people to give themselves over totally to a higher power that will save them from this condition? Do our stars and celebrities emphasize human dignity while they indulge themselves in all the pointless trappings of high society while ingesting record amounts of drugs, sex and alcohol to cope with the stress of fame? All these images (and others) just tear apart any credibility that such speeches by our so-called "leaders" may have. Humanity is degrading.

If the problems of this world are to be confronted and overcome, then our sense of pride in our humanity - our sense of human dignity - must be restored. Furthermore it must be clearly emphasized throughout the world as a fundamental of world culture.

This is something that can be attained only through a unified world order that is able to make the world one based on this premise. Human dignity is central to the Universalist ideology and is a means to overcome the degradations we have witnessed at present and in the past. It is a means to forge a new dawn for us all. Humanity, all our strengths and all our weaknesses, all our reason and all our superstition, all our truth...it is who we are and it is what we must embrace and constantly strive to advance. We must accept, understand and overcome our weaknesses while advancing our strengths, our knowledge and our potential.

Dignity shall triumph over the malaise that now grips humanity. It is up to we as the new elite now preparing to graduate and enter mainstream society to lead by example to this end. No more shall the human race be permitted to cannibalize itself as it has done for so long, for we will be there to lead and to protect and defend our species. The diseased sickness of materialism the mindlessness of fundamentalism must be contained and ultimately swept from the earth. Only then will humanity know justice and the dignity that such justice entails. As humans we are united in our diversity and we must not forget that.

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  1. Posted by: kyle lambert on Nov 15, 2005 @ 3:29pm

    Where would such a revival stem from?

    I empathize greatly with your distaste of materialism, but I don't know that "humanism" is the correct term.

    Keep in mind that two of the most prominent "humanist" scholars in the world today, Michael Ignatieff and Christopher Hitchens, were both firm supporters of Iraq part 2.

  2. Posted by: Andrew Rozalowsky on Nov 16, 2005 @ 8:53am

    I think you made a fantastic comment at the end, "united in our diversity". This is certainly key to leaving in peace with eachother. So many cultures, peoples, all so beautiful.

    But how does humanism aid this? What is the standard? What man? What woman? Why value human dignity over anything else? If this world is nothing more than a random collocation of atoms, nothing but mere chance, why should we value human dignity over say, the dignity of a right to kill, or anything else? I myself am not supporting that view, but I want to understand how with no objective foundation you can choose human dignity as valuable. It becomes arbitrary.

    This is why I think you have the wrong idea of religion, at least of theism perhaps. If God exists, then there is purpose and human dignity can exist. If there is no God, meaning, or even language as Nietzsche admits, needs to leave. Meaning in a chance universe really 'means' nothing.

    While some of your points are very accurate in your assessment of today's culture, I don't think you've logically addressed the problem in order to solve it. Out of your article I dont understand how humanism solves the problem of unity in diversity.

    Look forward to hearing your comments.

  3. Posted by: on Nov 16, 2005 @ 10:05pm

    " It is up to we as the new elite now preparing to graduate and enter mainstream society to lead by example to this end. No more shall the human race be permitted to cannibalize itself as it has done for so long, for we will be there to lead and to protect and defend our species."

    After five years here, it is my opinion that university is a graduate factory aimed at producing compliant specialized replacement parts for the modern industrial economy. I find most undergrads and grads to be docile, defeated, bitter, and unenthusiastic about both the future and their role in it.

    Also, many have drinking problems.

    Are you sure you want _students_ as your Philosopher-Kings?

  4. Posted by: Tristan Dineen on Nov 17, 2005 @ 11:46pm

    With regard to Luke's comments I would reply that we must work with what we have. If everyone is so docile it will only make it more easier for those of us who do care to achieve our goals. Someone has to take responsibility and if the majority will not than the dedicated minority will.

  5. Posted by: Tristan Dineen on Nov 19, 2005 @ 3:39am

    In response to Andrew's comments I must clarify something. Unfortunately I omitted this from the piece itself. This is the need for regulation and a higher authority in society to mediate its workings and enforce law and policy. I do not reject religion as I am myself religious and a strong moral framework is essential for any individual and for any successful society and most certainly for the success of humanity.
    However, purpose does not necessarily need religion. In the natural environment species have a clear purpose in nature, a niche, and therefore humans must have one too as a species. There are ways we are supposed to behave and given the extent of our powers I can only come to the conclusion that we are the world's guardians. God or no God we are the most powerful species and with that power comes responsibility to act for the common good. We have the power of life and death over the world and that in itself demands morality lest we all end up dead and life is extinguished from the world.

  6. Posted by: Christien on Nov 21, 2005 @ 10:06pm

    'This is the need for regulation and a higher authority in society to mediate its workings and enforce law and policy' Rather perturbed by this bit. My view on our society today, is that we have been over-regulated. With so much of what we do regulated, we have lost touch with the need to regulate ourselves, it is a vicicious circle. Too many people seem to leave it to 'others' to fix their problems, and do not take responsibility for their own actions.
    Obviously there must be some regulations, like 'Thou shalt not kill', but these should be limited to the basics.
    "A higher authority" I believe that that is what Adolf Hitler thought! What we need is not regulation, but better education. We need to teach in school about responsibility for ourselves, and our actions, and stop looking to everyone else for help, or to shoulder the blame, call it 'Being Civilised 101'. Because one thing for sure is that many people are not being taught about the responsibilities inherent in being 'human'and 'civilised'at home.

  7. Posted by: Tristan Dineen on Nov 22, 2005 @ 11:44pm

    Point taken. But I would seriously disagree. Remember that you are talking to a man who believes that duty and fulfillment are what lead to freedom. You clearly believe that freedom is your god-given right which you have from birth and this results in a rather idealistic view of the world.
    Would you rather I advocate a downsizing of government so that special interest groups can run amok and political anarchy becomes the norm? We already have enough trouble getting things done in this country and it is no surprise considering our politicians lack any formal training in politics whatsoever for the most part. Adolf Hitler was a fool who had a seriously misguided and evil view of the world. Thomas Hobbes believed in a higher authority and he inspired the American founding fathers, a group of people I assume you respect immensely. Winston Churchill who defeated Hitler was of a similar mind to Hobbes on this issue.
    Balance is what I am seeking and balance can rarely be attained in society unless it is imposed by a responsible government of professionals. Stability, justice, dignity, and order don't come out of thin air.

  8. Posted by: Christien on Nov 23, 2005 @ 11:53pm

    Sorry if I did not make myself clear. While we do need good leadership, regulating our lives completely will not achieve this.
    For example, you tell someone they cannot do something, either makes them want to do it all the more, either covertly or brazenly right in front of you. Where as if you try to lead by example, explain why something should not be done, what the consequences could be of doing the 'wrong' thing, you will have a much greater success rate.
    If we are taught at an early age by our parents etc, and then later at school, what our responsibilities to ourselves and the people around us are. That we should think first before we say or do anything, to take into account the effect of what we say and do will have for not just ourselves but the people around us. Then perhaps we would have, for lack of a better word, a civilized society.
    Sadly history has shown that what can start as 'good intentions' often leads to repression of freedom.

  9. Posted by: Tristan Dineen on Nov 24, 2005 @ 9:55pm

    That I can agree with. I believe I overemphasized regulation. Leading by example is something I believe in quite firmly and education has a critical role to play. I should have included those in the first place. Regulation, leading by example, and education are all very important for a strong society.

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