Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 5th, 2010

Misguided sense of Dignity? Dignity has roots….

Customs and traditions are based on sets of rules and rituals that a community tacitly acknowledges and agrees upon.  Dignity is implicitly to abide by these customs.

There is individual pride, but dignity is a collective criteria and you have two choices:

Either you disagree and remain in the community as a pariah 

Or You move on to another community with compatible dignity and be considered a foreign member until your descendants might be included as full members.

History did not record any influential individual, a monarch or a prophet, who managed to change the dignity criteria in his community during his life time:  Slight rules evolved after his death, due to his determination and political acumen.

Dignity developed from “rituals of sexual relationship”.

Dignity evolved to trade rituals, to religious rituals, to organization rituals (castes and classes) to set of rights and responsibilities (Constitutions for citizenship), but the climax of dignity has its roots in basic relationship rituals .  A few examples might set the proper framework for further development on dignity.

In around 510 BC, Rome was ruled by a monarch, King Tarquin.

The king’s son Sextus got jealous of a citizen boasting to him how happy he was with the beauty and chastity of his wife Lucrece. Sextus barged in the house of Lucrece and blackmailed her and raped her.  Lucrece gathered the extended members of her family and told them the story and then, she committed suicide in front of the assembly.  The peasants got angry for their trampled dignity, revolted, and chased out of the city all the members and cousins of the monarch’s family.  The consequence was a new system of government:  Two consuls are to be elected for one year and thus insuring two levels of check and balance.  This form of governance was successful for 5 centuries until the reign of the Caesars dominated.

Jesus tried to modify the Jewish daily rules and rituals (the 265 positive commandments relative to the number of bones in the human body and 365 negative commands to improve one negative tendency every day).  Jesus failed in his lifetime.  After his death, most of the disciples reverted to the same Jewish criteria of dignity.

St. Paul took on the task of transforming the criteria to be compatible to the spirit of Jesus’ message.  Soon, St Paul had to compromise as the disciples in Jerusalem visited each Christian community that Paul established in order to setting their comprehension of dignity “right”.  Most of the compromises were related to abridging women status, responsibilities, and rights in the communities.

In the western medieval period, the Roman Catholic Church instituted its customs and rituals and subjugated the other Christian schismatic sects to abiding by the same understanding of “Christian dignity“.  Consequently, the successive crusading campaigns, although financed by the merchants in order to conquering Egypt and opening up the shorter maritime route for the trade of spices and perfume, were launched by arousing the ignorant population for their “trampled” dignity in the pilgrimage locations such as Jerusalem.

Prophet Mohammad failed in his lifetime to transform the meaning of dignity in the nomadic customs.  Mohammad had to compromise and revisit prior verses in order not to lose everything.

Again, the newer versions were related to women status, rights, and inheritance.

Nothing changed in the customs and traditions of the tribes.  After Muhammad death, many people started collecting hadith, of what the Prophet said or did, in order to emulate this proper conducts  Aisha, the most learned and beloved wife of Muhammad, spent her life confronting and correcting extravagant hadiths.

Later, every monarch hired faqihs (religious scholars and judges) to inventing or interpreting hadith out of context to suit his interests.

As the Omayyad dynasty selected Damascus for Capital of the Islamic Arabic Empire, the Moslems were confronted with urban customs and a different meaning for dignity.  The elite Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula were merchants and were familiar with the Syrian urban and mostly Christian traditions; thus, the administration relied on the converted Christians and for the translation of manuscripts of other civilization.

In the 11th century, most of the Central Asian and Caucasus people were Moslems:  They favored and enjoyed stories on Muhammad’s sayings and deeds (the hadith) and cared less for the Coran’s message. Thus, they declared that the Coran is not to be interpreted or commented.  If there are contradictions in verses then, tough luck; read and move on.  The Coran was no longer the main source for what is dignity and honor to Moslems, but the stories told on Muhammad.

Modern western European “democracies” and republicanism established political structures compatible with a revised meaning of dignity, following higher levels of freedom of expression and dissemination of knowledge and education.

State social programs were promulgated and they became acquired rights for the citizens such as retirement, health care, education…

The problem was that the democratic system was transformed into giving far more privileges and responsibilities to the elite classes (and their appointed unethical and immoral technocrats) to govern and rule in the name of the citizens once the votes are in.

The trend was exacerbated as the elite governing oligarchy realized that people are willing to trade the dignity of sharing in policy making with greed and amusement (the apolitical citizen).  Consequently, credit cards with limits surpassing 50 times the yearly earning were invented for the citizens to indulge in consumer products and be amused.

The latest financial crash is turning the situation around:  There is no more free money to distribute.  The citizens are mainly angry with their cowardice and irresponsible behaviors by trading the dignity of responsibility in the political process to greed and amusement.  The new motto is:  “Amusement is a bonus after a job well done.”

The citizens were no fouls, but they had not the courage and determination to getting involved in studying and analyzing political and social programs before a dime is spent.

The citizens were accustomed to a form of lower level of dignity and now they are struggling to getting back to the streets.  How many scapegoats are to be sacrificed before the citizen is willing to return to shouldering his duties and responsibilities?

The poorer nations can no longer afford to support misplaced sense of western dignity.  The poorer classes in these capitalist systems can no longer suffer misplaced sense of dignity of the higher classes.

Note:  This article was published more than 15 months before the current Arab mass uprising in almost every Arabic State.  The upheaval take its roots to the want of regaining lost dignity:  Indignity or zul is the driving force behind this determined upheavals against absolute monarchs, dictators, and oligarchic infamous behaviors toward the common citizens.

The Syrian uprising has added the most basic of dimensions saying:  “We are not hungry.  We are not demonstrating for lack of food.  We want to fight the indignity (zil) and infamy we have been subjugated to for 40 years.”

No ruler can withstand the wrath of a people who is brandishing “dignity”as its motto. The Egyptian people are back to Tahrir Square:  It is about time that the army general staff relinquish power to civilian mechanisms.

Personally, I will consider that the Arab mass uprising have reached a qualitative level once the civic demand for equality between genders is the cornerstone for political transformation.  It would mean that religion is no longer the hidden power driving the people, but equal and equitable basic human rights.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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