Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dignitarianism: Treat Everybody Well

One of the things that always amazes me when I read American history is that we've never had a major movement to treat everybody well. It's always been way too easy for the Powers That Be to turn one oppressed group against another.

In the 19th century, for example, women's rights and anti-slavery groups were sometimes allied and sometimes opposed. Each tended to think that associating with the other would muddy their issue rather than sharpen it. (When the proposed 15th Amendment gave the vote to black men, but not to women of any race, Susan B. Anthony spoke out against it. On the other side, Fredrick Douglass opposed revising the text to include women, for fear the thing would never get passed.) Veterans of the union organizing movements of the early 20th century often fought against the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century. And today, some civil rights veterans express resentment when their rhetoric is adopted by advocates of gay rights.

Imagine if we'd had a consistent centuries-old movement to treat everybody well, one that built concepts and rhetoric that applied to every oppressed group.

I didn't realize until today that treat-everybody-well has a name: dignitarianism. Its opposite is rankism, the belief that some people inherently deserve more respect than others, or that having an advantage in one social setting (like outranking somebody at work) makes you a superior person overall.

Robert Fuller and Pamela Gerloff have an article in the current UU World promoting dignitarianism. I have to admit that at first glance it seems a little abstract and thin, and that I get an instinctive that-would-be-nice-but reaction. But I'll bet abolitionism and feminism sounded that way at the beginning too.

8 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

I have to say that I was really quite chuffed to see that particular article published in the Winter 2008 edition of the UU World magazine on whose cover I somewhat subversively appear. ;-) I look forward to seeing the UUA and Unitarian Church of Montreal put into practice what "Dignitarianism" preaches for me and every single other victim of any and all forms of U*U clergy misconduct, to say nothing of diverse other *rank* U*U injustices and abuses, many of which arise from various forms of "rankism" such as U*U classicism, U*U elitism, and abuse of the somewhat dubious "power and privilege" of being ordained as U*U clergy. . . That being said, in light of the continued abject failure and apparent obstinate refusal of UUA President Bill Sinkford, UUA Moderator Gini Courter, UUA Trustees, and all other UUA leaders on the Board of Trustees to respond in an even remotely responsible manner to my repeated requests/demands for authentic restorative justice for myself and other victims of the rank "rankism" of U*U clergy misconduct of all kinds I am not holding my breath. OTOH Considering just how offensively rank some U*U "rankism" is I probably should be holding my breath. . .

Interestingly enough the word verification code for this comment is loccinge which looks close enough to lozenge for me.

Robin Edgar said...

Looks like you got some SPAM "less than wonderful" SPAM and it wasn't from me Doug. :-)

Robin Edgar said...

I guess this is as good a place as any to thank you for treating me reasonably well over the years Doug. Your refusal to censor and suppress my critical comments, even when pressured to do so by other U*Us, is genuinely appreciated.

Best Regards,

Robin Edgar

Interestingly enough the WVC for this comment is emate as in virtual online friend perhaps?

Doug Muder said...

Robin,

It's good to be appreciated. I won't promise that I wouldn't ever censor something, but I'm OK with you posting a view of UUism, UU behavior, and UU institutions that is different from mine.

The main rule I have for citizens of F&SRland is that they not abuse each other. Disagreement and argument is fine, and it can even get heated up to a point. But there's some minimal level of respect that every commenter should be able to count on.

Bots posting random advertisements, on the other hand, get no respect. Sometimes I get lazy, but I try to delete that stuff as soon as I see it.

Robin Edgar said...

:It's good to be appreciated.

Indeed it is. I have had a few people express their appreciation of The Emerson Avenger blog recently.

:I won't promise that I wouldn't ever censor something,

I can live with the occasional censorship of a comment that may be a bit *too* hot for someone too handle. It only gets my back up when someone egregiously censors me in order to cover up and hide U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy that I am trying to bring to people's attention.

:but I'm OK with you posting a view of UUism, UU behavior, and UU institutions that is different from mine.

How different is that Doug? I dare say I see a fair bit of overlap in our views of U*Uism, UU behavior, and UU institutions.

:The main rule I have for citizens of F&SRland is that they not abuse each other. Disagreement and argument is fine, and it can even get heated up to a point. But there's some minimal level of respect that every commenter should be able to count on.

That would be F&RSland actually although U*U Farceland is more my territory. ;-) Generally speaking the level of respect that I hold for a commenter or blogger etc. is based on just how respectable their comments are. There is a very recent example of that principle in action here. Paraphrasing Ovid I say - If U*Us want to be respected, be respectable.

:Bots posting random advertisements, on the other hand, get no respect. Sometimes I get lazy, but I try to delete that stuff as soon as I see it.

It probably wasn't a bot. A human being would have been needed to get past the Blogger Word Verification Code.

What are the chances you could research and write an article for the UU World about my view of UUism, UU behavior, and UU institutions some time? Or would that be verbotten?

Robin Edgar said...

More SPAM less than wonderful SPAM for you Doug. . . ;-)

Doug Muder said...

You know, if the spammers would just post once and go away, I probably wouldn't get around to deleting their messages.

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