In the book, Identity, author Francis Fukuyama tells a story about a policewoman who confiscated the produce from the vegetable cart of a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi because he did not have a permit. He was publicly slapped by the policewoman who confiscated his electronic scales and spat in his face (The police officer being female may have increased his feeling of humiliation especially in a male-dominated culture). Bouazizi went to the appropriate authorities, the governor’s office, to complain and to retrieve his scales but he got snubbed. The Governor refused to see him or hear his story. In complete frustration, Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and sets himself on fire, shouting, “How do you expect me to make a living?!!” This act of self-sacrifice basically sent shock-waves throughout the Arab world triggering what became known as the Arab Spring. Those who heard the story immediately identified what he was feeling and decided it was time to rise up. Libya, Syria, Yemen etc. in a domino effect revolted and to this day are still trying to figure themselves out. Why? Quite simply; lack of basic human dignity.
Fukuyama continues to make his point;
“What made Mohamed Bouazizi’s (Arab spring) experience all too familiar to millions of people in the Arab world was the way that he was treated by the Tunsian state: the goods on which his living depended were arbitrarily confiscated, he was publicly humiliated and when he tried to complain and receive justice, no one would listen. The state was not treating him like a human being; that is, a moral agent worthy of a minimum amount of justification for why his livelihood had been seized, and for millions of people in the Arab world, his self-immolation crystalized the sense of injustice they felt toward the regimes they were living under. What they shared among all these protesters was the resentment that they had been humiliated and disregarded by their governments.
The Arab world subsequently fell into chaos because the Arabs themselves could not agree on what type of regime would replace the old dictatorship. Yet for a moment in 2011 they had a strong consensus on what they didn’t like: authoritarian governments that treated them at best as children, and at worst as subjects to be cheated by corrupt politicians, exploited economically, or used as cannon fodder in wars. Over the past two generations, the world has seen a large number of spontaneous uprising against authoritarian governments, from the protests that brought down Communist regimes in 1989, to South African transition from apartheid, too the “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine in the early 2000s in which recognition of basic human dignity was a central issue.
Euromaiden and the Revolutions of Dignity
Revolution of Dignity – November 2013 Ukraine president Vikktor Yanukouych – The uprising was not about democracy strictly speaking, if by democracy we mean public choice expressed through elections….seen as a choice between Europe or Russia living under a modern government that treated people equally as citizens and living under a modern regime in which democracy was manipulated by self- dealing kleptocrats behind a veneer of democratic practice. Putin’s Russia represented the epitome of this kind of mafia state; closer association with it rather than Europe represented a step into a world in which real powers was held by an unaccountable elite. Hence the belief that the Euromaiden uprising was about securing the basic dignity of ordinary citizen. Moral core of liberal democracy based on twin principles of freedom and equality. Freedom usually seen as freedom from government (negative) freedom typically means human agency, the ability to exercise a share of power through active participation in self-government. [Identity, Francis Fukuyama]
Euromaiden – Yet it is important to understand the underlying motives of the political actors who brought about the Euromaiden and the Revolution of Dignity. The uprising wasn’t about democracy strictly speaking, if by democracy we mean public choice expressed through elections…rather the fight was over corruption and the abuse of power. This was the sense of agency felt by the crowds in the streets of Tunis or Cairo or Hyiv, who for the first time felt that they could change the way that government over was being used. This freedom is institutionalized in the franchise, which gives every citizen a small share of political power. It is also institutionalized in rights to speech and free assembly, which are avenues of political self-expression. Many modern democratic constitutions thus enshrine the principle of equal dignity. They are drawing on the Christian tradition that sees dignity rooted in human and moral agency. But that agency is no longer seen in a religious sense, as the ability to accept God; rather, it is the ability to share in the exercise of power as a member of a democratic political community.
Tiananmen Movement (The Tank Man) – April 15, 1985, the sudden death of reform-minded for Community Party of China (CCP) secretary – General Hu Yaobang sparked the Tiananmen Movement. Chinese citizens across the country took to the streets calling for political reforms. The peaceful movement, highlighted by a college students’ hunger strike on Tiananmen Square, ended on June 4 when the Chinese government deployed more than 200,000 troops, equipped with tanks and machine guns to suppress what the regime called a “counterrevolutionary riot.”….Tiananmen still remains the most sensitive and taboo subject in China. The post-Tiananmen regime has constructed a narrative portraying the Tiananmen Movement as a Western conspiracy to weaken and divide China. Massive efforts were devoted to inscribe this official account into the collective national memory. Denied the right to free express their views, Chinese citizens resort to symbolic acts of commemorative resistance. On a liquor label the Chinese people choose to remember: “Never Forget, Never Give up.” That’s the voice of the Chinese people, who refused to be silenced, to be crushed by tanks and prisons. And that’s the spirit of the China Spring Starting April 15, 1989. And, indeed, that’s the universal voice and spirit of humanity longing to be free.” ~ Globe and Mail, April 2010
France, Church of Notre-Dame and the Yellow Vest Movement– roughly 1 billion Euros ($1.5 billion) has been donated to restore Notre-Dame with most of the money coming from France’s wealthiest families, who own such luxury brands as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Other donations have poured in from Apple Inc., energy giant Total SA and Walt Disney Co., The exorbitant donations have struck a nerve in a country where a fierce debate over inequality has been raging for months and fueling the yellow-vest protests. People such as Manual Domergue find it hard to swallow, He works for a charity called the Abbe-Pierre Foundation, which helps thousands of homeless people across the country and struggles every year to raise the 40 million Euros it needs to survive. ”We have to ask the question; it’s strange to find so much money in just a few days while at the same time French generosity for charities is decreasing…..It’s impossible to compare Notre-Dame with homeless people. But it’s also impossible to give only for a building and nothing for homeless people.” [And others are comparing aide assistance to other disasters such as the Grenfell Tower in London]
Voices on the left and right have risen up as well and chastised the government for encouraging the donations, which they say is just another way of subsidizing the rich because donors get a 66 % tax break on the amount given. “That shows the inequality which we regularly denounce in this country. If they can give Notre-Dame tens of millions to rebuild, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency [in France].” Conservative lawmaker Gilles Carrez said the tax break could cost the treasury more than 500 million Euros which means ordinary people will bear the brunt of the cost. Already the yellow-vest protesters have vowed to take to the streets again…enraged even more by the donations to Notre-Dame. “The yellow vests will show their anger against the billions found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy” one of the group’s organizers Pierre Derrien, wrote on Facebook. ~ Globe and Mail, April 20 2019
The Liberals 2019 -2020 Federal Budget,(Failure to address)
Workers are alienated from other human beings. In a capitalist economy, workers must compete with each other for jobs and raises. But just as competition between businesses brings down the price of commodities, competition between workers brings down wages. And so it is not the proletariat who benefits from this competition, but capitalists. This is not only materially damaging to workers, it estranges them from each other. Humans are free beings and are able to not only transform the world themselves, but to cooperate in order to transform the world in more sophisticated and helpful ways. As such, they should see each other as allies, especially in the face of a capitalist class who seeks to undermine worker solidarity for its own benefit. But under capitalism workers see each other as opposing competition.
Real world liberal democracies never fully live up to their underlying ideals of freedom and equality. Rights are often violated; the law never applies equally to the rich and powerful as it does to the poor and weak; citizens though given the opportunity to participate frequently choose not to do so. Moreover, intrinsic conflicts exists between the goals of freedom and equality greater freedom often entails increased inequality while efforts to equalize outcomes reduce freedom. Successful democracy depends not on optimization of its ideals, but balance, a balance between individual freedom and political equality. Liz Rowley leader of the Communist Party of Canada writes in The People’s Voice of the 2019 Federal Budget:
On the environment and climate change: The budget sticks with the government’s inadequate carbon tax…
What should they have done? Put hard caps on GHG emissions, staged to reduce down to zero with a few years, increase corporate taxes to pay for development of publicly owned renewable energy sector. Massive investment in solar and wind power can replace jobs lost in the carbon industries
On healthcare: The government has not restored any of the funding cuts to provincial transfer payments that are largely responsible for over-crowded hospitals, inadequate services, surgery wait lists, and the doctor shortage in many parts of the country.
What should they have done? Restore and expand healthcare funding to the provinces and enforce the Canada Health Act against privatization. Introduce pharma care, vision care, denticare, and long-term care as necessary and overdue expansions of Medicare and consider nationalizing the pharmaceutical industry (although it would have been a real stretch for this government)
On Childcare: Not a single word in the budget though he liberals have promised since 1993 to create a national public childcare system.
What should they have done? Introduce a universally accessible affordable, quality public childcare system with ECE qualified childcare workers earning fair wages and benefits.
On housing: ineffectual baby-step of assistance to first time buyers trying to get into the overheated private markets.
What should they have done? Build one million units of affordable social housing for sale and rent, which would have created thousands of construction jobs, manufacturing and secondary industry. Develop a national housing policy.
On education: Nothing to help students back-breaking tuition fees and student debt nor to help the teachers.
What should they have done? Make post-secondary education free and publicly funded through increased transfer payments, and increased corporate taxes.
On Indigenous rights and issues: $4.7 Billion over 5 years committed to eliminate the boil water advisories on all reserves, increase funding for Indigenous children’s services, to establish a National Council for Reconciliation and fund the protection of Indigenous languages.
What they actually did: pipelines imposed on behalf of the oil and gas industry despite promises of a new nation to nation relationship with the federal government; problem-plagued federal Inquiry into MMIWG; legal battle against Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society continues with the government continues.
What they should have done? Cancel the pipelines, guarantee equitable funding for indigenous children’s healthcare, education and welfare as a minimum; massive investments in indigenous housing, water and sewage systems, job creation, health, education, recreation, and youth mental health services; address the health crisis at Grassy Narrows.
On the deficit and taxation: chose to continue on the road of corporate tax breaks and high taxes and deficits on working people and unemployed.
What they should have done? Restored capital tax, raised the capital gains to 100%, doubled corporate tax rate and collected unpaid and deferred corporate taxes, introduce a wealth and inheritance taxes on estates over $1.5 million, prosecuted tax evaders to the full extent of the law. Reversed the sections in last year’s budget that legalized Deferred Prosecution Agreements and provided TNC’s like SNC Lavalin with a get out of jail free cards. Reduce deficit and increased social spending by increasing corporate taxes, restoring progressivity in the tax system.
On Agriculture and farming: the budget sets aside $3.9 billion to protect farm incomes in the poultry, egg and dairy sectors negatively affected by NAFTA 2.0.
What they should have done? Pull out of NAFTA 2.0 to protect farm incomes and Canada’s food security and supply management system. Pulling out would have also benefit other sectors of the economy, protect jobs, wages, social programs and public services, Canada’s sovereignty and independence on foreign policy, military vs civilian spending, energy and social policy, Medicare;
On jobs and retraining: boasted low unemployment with no mention of low wages, no benefits and precarious work or aged out, pitiful skills training program that puts the entire onus on workers to earn one week of EI credits per year.
What they should have done? Invest in apprenticeships and job creation through publicly-funded and delivered infrastructure construction and renewal to include municipal, provincial and federal projects. Build affordable housing and retrofits, expand development of renewable energy. Introduce universal social programs …Lay out a full employment policy by legislating a 32 hour work week with 40 hours pay.
On transportation: the budget provides tax write offs for business purchasing electric cars and a $5000 incentive for consumers to do the same.
What they should have done? Introduced a plant clothe CM closure in Oshawa with plant closure legislation. …This would guarantee sustainable auto production and thousands of manufacturing jobs ending the blackmail of Canadian autoworkers by US governments and the Big Three US automakers.
On wages, EI and pensions: The budget offers nothing to minimum wage earners or workers seeking long overdue pay equity, or access to EI benefits, continues to support Canada Post in denying equal pay to women, EI benefits are still beyond reach of 50% of unemployed and part time worker… but it expand CPP to include the self-employed, increase the amount of earning exemption for seniors collecting GIS, a means-tested opt up for the poorest seniors…a proposal to make the courts protect pensions in the event of corporate bankruptcy or insolvency….
What they should have done? CPP substantially increased and the age dropped to 60 with full benefits, increase EI to 90% of previous earnings…raise minimum wage to $20; full employment policy, real job creating ….Bankruptcy legislation;
On military spending: government continues to project a 73% increase in military spending over the next 8 years despite widespread public opposition to Canada’s involvement in US and NATO wars and aggression. These expenditures will mean deeper cuts to healthcare, education, social spending, increasing poverty and insecurity and a culture of increasing intolerance and aggression.
What they should have done? Slash military spending by 75% and invest in civilian spending, jobs, rising living standards, youth and a foreign policy of peace and disarmament. Get out of NATO and NORAD, cancel the Saudi arms deal, and end Canada’s involvement in US regime change operations in Latin America and elsewhere.
“Overall this is a budget for Big Business and the military….” says Ms. Rowley and her list goes on.
Mentioning just a fraction of civil unrest happening in various parts of the globe, one clearly gets the sense that there is a general dissatisfaction, frustration, anger simmering in the lives of common folk which makes me wonder which incident will spark a revolution within the western world as what we have seen with Arab Spring. “The desire for the state to recognize one’s basic dignity has been at the core of democratic movements since the French Revolution. A state guarantying equal political rights was the only rational way to resolve the contradictions that Hegel saw in the relationship between master and slave, where only the master was recognized. This is what drove Americans to stand up against apartheid, Mohammed Bouazizi to immolate himself and other protests to risk their lives in Yangon, Burma or in the Maiden or Tahir Square, or in countless other confrontation over the century.”
“That demand for dignity should somehow disappear is neither possible nor desirable. It was the spark that ignited countless popular protests, from the French Revolution to that of the disrespected street vendor in Tunisa. Liberal democracy is built around the rights given to individuals who are equal in their freedom that is, who have an equal degree of choice and agency in determining their collective political lives.” As such, an area to keep an eye on would be the France and the reconstruction of Notre-Dame because it brings in the element of religion for which many are disenchanted (on both sides). We are currently seeing this demonstrated in Quebec with their Charter of Values and religious symbols. There are three pillars that make up society;
- government/politics and
- commerce [money]
When citizens are disenchanted with all aspects of a society that promotes themselves as a democratic society, a revolution can easily develop from the discontent, despair and disappointment from citizens.
On Human Dignity and the Return of Bildung
The view that human dignity means, a person’s free will to develop his body and spirit as he/she desires by using his/her own autonomy of free will, is consistent them in our Courts. Human dignity is the dignity of a person within the society in which he/she lives. A person’s dignity is promoted where his full place in society in which he lives is recognized; human dignity is protected where he is allowed to participate fully in his society as an equal and take responsibility for what is happening in society. Fulfillment of human dignity requires that a person’s vote in elections not be unduly debased or diluted and that he be granted the right to vote.
“Human dignity is limited; if when accused is extradited to a country where he may face the death penalty, if the right it participate in elections is limited, if a prisoner is denied the right to vote, if a person is required to incriminate himself; if the possibility of ending his life is taken from him; if he is subjected to sexual relations against his will; if he is discriminated against due to stereotyping and social prejudice in appointments or in another way that harms his self-respect; and if he is degraded and dehumanized. Human dignity requires protection of a person’s reputation, his privacy, and full participation in society as an equal member and his freedom of expression. Thus, a woman’s dignity is limited if she is prohibited from having an abortion; the human dignity of a defendant is limited if he is found criminally liable and sentenced to prison without or negligence; A person’s dignity is limited when he is seen as an object and not a human being, his own identity and will are irrelevant, and he is controlled by the will of another. [Human Dignity in Canadian Constitutional Law, p. 220-1]
In giving dignity and meaning in a man’s life, he has to develop his abilities comprehensibly and harmoniously and in line with the common good – because man’s true purpose is, in von Humboldt’s words, ‘the maximum formation of abilities and skill into a harmonic whole (von Humboldt, 1981, vo1, p.94). In developing self-respect and dignity man must unify his multiple abilities in a harmonious fashion in order to share is talent with the human race and it’s through this action he can express his freedom and independence. Man cannot do this alone you need to be in the world and interact with the world in doing so. I’m not sure how long it took to develop his crafts and abilities but when Mohammed Bouazizi’s equipment and tools were confiscated from him, he was left with nothing to interact with the world to earn his living. Not only were they confiscated but he was also disrespected and humiliation by the (female) officer who slapped him and spat in his face, that set him off,as his flesh burns in his self inflicted flames shouting ‘“How do you expect me to make a living?!!”
Human dignity is the dignity of a person within the society in which he/she lives. A person’s dignity is promoted where his full place in society in which he lives is recognized. When the rest of the Arab world heard about what happened to Bouazizi, many identified with his experience – the personal became the political’ and people took to the streets. We seem the same themes with Revolutions of Dignity and Euromaiden, the closing of Oshawa General Motors plant, indigenous communities and in fact the lives of every person that is touched by what the Liberal budget did not address. Keep disrespecting people’s utility sooner or later there will be a revolt. When a man’s life achieves inner value, he expresses it through the political organization adopted in the state in which he lives.
In placing Neo-humanist Bildung –theories in relation to philanthropism, the child of Enlightenment, utility or ‘usefulness’ and ‘happiness’ are basic educational principles. Man puts himself at the disposal of society and its needs, which are predominantly defined on the basis of economic usefulness. We are currently seeing this demonstrated with all the help that’s pouring in with France’s Notre-Dame church where people are using the money gained employment (their usefulness) to donate or their actual ‘usefulness’, ‘utility’ and skills to help with the renovations and rebuild project. We see this with medical professionals and Doctor’s Without Borders, or tradesmen and building homes for Habitat for Humanity and so on. It’s about citizenry and there are countless of ways we can use our ‘utilities’ for the betterment of our communities. “In philanthropism, the objective of upbringing is the development at the intellect as a tool. Thus philanthropism relates solely to the demands of the world.” Freedom of expression promotes human dignity because it allows a person to express himself and persuade others of hope for positive change. Human dignity forms the basis of human rights charters beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948):
“All human beings are born in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Budget cuts insults the human dignity of the teachers, EAs, students, parents, librarians and caregivers. You’re asking them to do more with less. And when we take into account the experience of Mohammed Abouazizi again you can here an echo of him crying out “How do you expect me to make a living?!” as he doused himself with fire. The teachers and administrative staff I bet are asking the very same thing. And it’s not just the teachers, there’s the workers affected by the General Motors closure in Oshawa and all the people that are affected by the latest federal budget in which their particular situation was never addressed; indigenous population, job retraining, E.I. top-ups, etc. This is very concerning for a society that lives by the principles of neoliberalism and having the short-sightedness of cutting cost to pay down immediate debt, to them, outweighs the quality of workers in the field or being trained to enter the employment market. What it’s actually doing is endangering the collapse of the middle class warfare as we witness the bank accounts of the top 1% is fattening by the day.
Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, who has been writing about inequality since the 1960s notes much of America’s inequality is the result of the market distortion with incentives directed not at creating new wealth but at taking it from others. “Rest assured while the top 1% have the best houses, the best education, the best doctors and the best lifestyles, there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought; an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top one percent eventually do learn. Too late.”
If we are to go through with these drastic cost cutting measures, I’d like for this to be our absolute last with the view of ‘putting the needle back on the record’, a clearing or cleaning of the slate, that we may focus on what ails this world and how to fix it. For it will take a vast amount of energy and resources to slow down what’s coming upon us and it will require equipping the next generations with the proper tools to handle what we have created. It requires a new way of thinking, a new way of being, a new way of living and, of course a new of educating.
“All these goals should be based on “a sense of unity in the human species,” a new view of biological evolution” leading to “new kinds of cooperative ventures” reflecting a “new unity” of the human races.” calling for a need to define modern humanism professor Jose Delgado writes in the Humanist in Canada magazine “Human beings are not born free but are products of their genes an modifiable by their culture. Humankind’s liberation from and domination of many natural elements and the existence of our mental activities are changing the world’s ecology and influencing the needs, purpose, and general organization of human life. When some authorities attempted to replace classical studies with “modern humanities,” based on exact sciences and technology, human values were de-emphasized and people ceased to be the principal concern of humankind. ” This pedagogic malaise underlies the present crisis of civilization. He quotes the Encyclopedia Britiannica (1943-1973) “In order to bring together tradition and modernity and to merge classical and universal culture, the time has come now for a new updating of the study of man.” to do that we need to;
1) counteract stagnation in the evolution of human ethics, which is not developing at the rate of science and technology;
(2) to define modern humanism;
3) to develop strategies to prevent a global catastrophe; and
4) to organize an international society dedicated to the survival of man.
A new postmodern neohumanism will be as follows;
1) continuation and support of science to integrate present knowledge and define methods of inquiry;
2) emphasis on ethical values, including freedom of thought, rights to privacy, and the establishment of objective ethical standards;
3) significance of social theory supporting democracy and the open society with tolerance and respect for cultural differences;
4) consideration of the purpose of human life; and
5) realistic optimism about human potential and a re-enchantment with the ideals of humanism .”
And with all of this, you can bet human dignity will be center, integral and central to all of this just as it is in our various Charters of Rights around the world. This is very important work as there is a much larger picture involving all of humanity to a prevent global catastrophe – well all have got to get along to do this, and how we can do so will be further discussed in Part II of “Human Dignity – Modern Humanism”.
Fukuyama, Francis, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018, p.42-50
Barak, Aharon, Human Dignity: The Constitutional Value and the Constitutional, Cambridge, Camebridge University Press, p. 220-1
Scott, Wallach, Joan, Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom, New York, Columbia University Press, p. 15-39
Lovlie, Lars, Mortensen, Peter Klaus, Nordenbo, Erik Sven, Educating Humanity: Bildung in Post Modernity, Edited Material, Berlin, Melbourne, Victoria, Oxford, Malden, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2003, p. 31-39; First published as vol. 36, Issue 3 of The Journal of Philosophy of Education, 2002, The Journal of Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, 2003
Delgado, Jose, “Neurological Bases of Modern Humanism”, Humanist in Canada, Spring 1996, Issue No. 116, p. 16-19
Kilpatrick, Bill, “The Price of Education”, Communist Party of Canada, The People’s Voice, Vol. 27, Issue #7, April 16-30, 2019, p. 4
Waldie, “Paul, Notre-Dame’s power to unify showing cracks over rebuild plan”, Globe and Mail, p. A3, April 20,2019
He Xiaoquing, Rowena, Message in a Bottle, Globe and Mail, p. O9, April 20, 2019
Rowley, Liz, Failure to Launch: the Liberals’ federal budget, Communist Party of Canada, The People’s Voice, Vol. 27, Issue #7, p. 6