On my way to work this morning, my local radio station played an old favourite song of mine called Dignity by Deacon Blue.  It’s a lovely song but I especially like it because of the sentiment behind the lyrics.   You can read the words here and interpret them any way you think fits but for me they speak of  the self-respect of a hard-working, average man who cleans the streets for a living.  He maintains his dignity while being ridiculed by the kids and proudly holding onto his dreams of bettering himself.

Those words can apply to so many people who make honest livings doing the kind of jobs that many of us would never dream of doing or even be capable of.  Some people may not have super-duper, highly paid, impressive jobs but their work is valuable just the same and they should still hold their heads high in dignity.  I think it’s sad that there is so much professional snobbery – that there are so many shallow people who can only find respect for those in positions of power or wealth and will think nothing of knocking someone’s self-esteem simply because they mop floors or beg for a living.  There is, in fact, dignity and value in all honest work. 

The random circumstances of life are totally indiscriminate and often unfair and will test the dignity of the best of people. The social positions we are born into are at the hands of chance and what’s more, misfortune can hit any one of us at any time.  Often, those fragile circumstances of life can affect our ability to defend our own dignity and so our outer dignity often finds itself having to depend on others.  A dignified society will recognise this.  A dignified society will know that life circumstances are at the hands of the cruel gods of chance and will react fairly and appropriately.   A dignified society will respect and dignify all humans regardless of the crap cards they’ve been dealt with.  A dignified society will teach respect and tolerance and will strive to provide a level playing field and a caring, sharing community.

As I said, sometimes people can find themselves in the unfortunate position of relying on others for their outer dignity.  For instance, people with mental health problems.  And poorly or disabled people – they depend on carers to feed them and tend to their daily hygiene needs and they may sometimes find themselves thinking their dignity has been lost forever along with their health.  But it’s the duty of the carer and the loved ones to make sure their dignity is upheld and respected at all times. 

In short, a person’s dignity should not depend on their health, social status or their position in life. 

It matters not that they are poor, low achieving, lacking in social skills, lonely, scared, angry, bitter, abused, degraded, tired, world-weary, humiliated, addicted  . . . . . . . . . .  

They don’t deserve to be looked down upon by the smug and the self-satisfied.  We have no right to negate their dignity by our own intolerances, preconceptions and prejudices.  Look in their faces.  Look into our own faces.  Whoever we are, whatever life-cards the gods have dealt us, whatever we do for a living, we deserve to do our jobs and uphold our lives with dignity and when in the position to do so, we also have the human obligation to uphold the dignity of others. 

Because if we don’t respect the dignity of others, we have none ourselves. 


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