Dignity is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. It is of significance in morality, ethics, law and politics as an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights.
I’m 50 years old in a few weeks time and when I would have hoped that I had kinda grown into myself by now and found that little bit of contentment that we hope comes with age I find that I am becoming more angry and frustrated as the day goes long. The anger that I feel is for the things that I see around me, the things I read and hear, and living in a country that I am starting to not recognise any more.
The reason for this blog is that the other day I was sitting in my chair just grabbing 10 minutes of quiet, it had been yet another long week at work pushing against the tide and I was pretty much knackered but the house was empty and it was a chance to sit in the quiet. Outside it was cold and bucketing down with rain and there was a knock at the door. Oh well, I got five minutes. I answered the door and here is an older lady doing a survey for the Scottish Government on behalf of a research firm. She needed one more person to meet her quota for the day, she was cold, wet and looked tired, so what do you do. I brought her in and took part in the survey. The survey took a little while but while talking to her I learned that she had retired and this was just a little job to make some extra money, I learned that she only got paid if she met her quota and that basically she was on a zero hours contract paying minimum wage. She informed me that more often than not people just blanked her, some were very rude and some did the survey, a thankless task.
This got me thinking, I know that’s a dangerous thing, and anyone who reads this blog knows that is definitely true, but saying that many of you who comment keep me honest, point out when I’m wrong and challenge me to think in different ways, given I’m a Community Educator that is something that I believe in. But anyway the encounter got me thinking about dignity, and more the total lack of it that is afforded many people in our communities today. And it’s not just government policy it’s how we treat each other also.
We all know that there is little dignity in relying on food banks and universal credit. There is little dignity in zero hour contracts and the minimum wage. There is zero dignity in our poverty social security system as a whole and our poverty pensions, some of the lowest in the western world in the 6th richest country in the world. Where is the dignity in being fed none stop Windsor, or love island like some kind of fantasy world that young people want to aspire to. Where is the dignity in talking to young people who are not looking forward to the Christmas holidays for a multitude of reasons such as the pressure of the season and on their parents, of knowing that they may well be going without and that the big day is the day they dread the most.
When I look around me and pay attention to people I see angry people, scared people, lonely people. I see images that remind of the photos of the old Soviet Union in the 80’s when you would see film from there and people walked with their head held low, looked tired, looked cold, looked hungry. They looked lost and they looked like they had been robbed of their dignity, they looked like a lot of the people I see around me today. Then we have people like Murdo Fraser, David Mundell and Annie Wells from the Tories, Richard Leonard from Labour and Rennie from the Liberal Democrats. People, potentially not human though, who have zero self awareness whose very being are to bring people down in my opinion. Constantly telling us how shit our country is, how shit the SNP are. They had their chance, and in the Tories case, are in government and what do they do. They support policies that rob people of their dignity, of their hope, they lie and they cheat, they kiss the arse of the Windsor’s and the Mike Ashley’s of the world and they rob us of our dignity and self respect.
All of this just gets me really angry and it depresses me, but it also reminds me that my yes vote is about dignity. The dignity of being able to make our own decisions, to elect politicians that promote the policies that we want and throwing them out when they don’t. To make choices that lift people up not tear them down, to work towards valuing our older people and making sure their older years are years of respect and dignity not working until they drop hungry and cold. I know that not everyone is in that place, some are very comfortable indeed, but too many are in a bad place today. That older lady yesterday should not have been out in the cold and rain for minimum wage, I’m generalising but maybe she should have been having a cup of tea with her mates talking about what is in the latest issue of the Peopl’e Friend.
I’m sorry this blog is a bit all over the place but I really do believe that if we allow our so called betters to rob of us of our dignity then we have lost, if we continue to allow our politicians rob us of our futures and those to come after us we have lost, if we continue to put up with zero social protection as time goes on we have lost. Some times having our dignity taken from us makes us angry and more determined than ever to bring about change, but for many taking their dignity makes them smaller, more afraid, weaker and beaten. Whatever happens in the future in this country maybe our decisions in how we vote, how we engage with each other, what we are willing to put with have to be based on dignity. Do we lift people up or tear them down, I know that right now too many in this country are determined to tear people down, we cannot and should not allow that to happen.
Again sorry this blog is a bit all over the place today but it’s how I feel.