What about dignity?

08 Oct 2019 / 20:21 H.

DIGNITY is an important virtue that has somehow lost its lustre. As the world chases after fame, name and money – dignity gets trampled along the way. Along with it, respect for life, intellect, property, progeny and even beliefs. Dignity like many other virtues is not measureable and is often left unattended.

Yet, the overarching targets of sustainable development goals (SDGs) include “dignity” and “justice” before they are lumped together under the term peace; apart from the other 4Ps of people, planet, prosperity and partnership. The prime minister referred to this as “The 2020-2030 Vision” at the SDG‎ Summit - Leaders Dialogue 6 in New York recently. Namely, balancing people’s need and sustainability.

In other words, there can be no peace if there is no “dignity” and “justice”, since one sans the other will make it impossible to express their true deeper meaning. To talk about “dignity” in terms of (shared) prosperity alone is inadequate, otherwise absurd without due consideration for the other Ps.

Planet, for example, could be ruined which then could impact the livelihood of people, much like what happens with slash and burn practices that lead to the haze every August. It could also mean that insufficient partnerships are being forged to come out with a comprehensive solution(s), putting peace out of reach.

In the urgency to strive for global peace as is the case today, it demands that “dignity” must be understood across the globe, namely, embracing the entire humanity. It makes little sense to speak about “dignity” in a divisive way confining it to nationalities or tribes for instance. As argued, “dignity” and “justice” must counter balance each other before they can be properly understood, if not lived. Indeed, making them even more sustainable which is the final objective contributing to global peace.

For this to happen, the virtue of “humility” is a must, without which “dignity” at every level will be superficial. Or worse, it will border on hypocrisy and miss the target of creating peace through partnership. Instead it is redirected to gunning for power.

Consequently, the outcome is dehumanising. And this is what many are observing and even experiencing across the world when leaders are reportedly incompetent, greedy and frivolous. At the expense of the taxed, managed and governed (that is being dehumanised).

Being dehumanised is being in the state of being undignified and unjust at the same time.

But this does not end here when it comes to humans mingling in the world of hi-tech particularly artificial intelligence (AI).

Humans when pitted against robotics are said to be more vulnerable to being dehumanised, particularly moving past the point of singularity, when AI fast supersedes human intelligence.

This is the time when human dependency on machines increases multifold to the extent that they can be rendered helpless without such facilities. A good example is the life support system where human life is virtually dependent on “lifeless” machines. It may sound oxymoronic but that is where it begins to be dehumanising. Perhaps this may still be acceptable because it is a matter of life and death where the former takes priority, medically speaking.

What about a healthy person who is hooked on devices he or she is unable to dispense with as a matter of choice. The example is not too far off if one considers the hand-held devices that billions cling on to. And the numerous studies demonstrating how the gadgets are shaping behaviours to the point of being addicted across all age groups. If the vulnerability to addictive behaviours (like that of drugs and alcohol) is not considered “undignifying” and “dehumanising”, then what is?

When humans lose control of themselves and are overtaken by “soulless” gadgets and begin to slavishly follow their algorithmic dictates, then it is no less dehumanising, bordering on modern day slavery. Here it cuts across all forms of artificial barriers created by human imagination because we are back to the issue of humanity.

In essence, “dignity”, now more than ever is important not only to unify people worldwide in a sustainable way, but more so to be human again.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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