Dignity for All 9781576757895

How to Create a World Without Rankism

Dignity for All
DIGNITY FOR ALLCHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) In his books Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise, Robert Fuller exposed rankism—abuse of the power inherent in rank to exploit or humiliate someone of lower rank. In Dignity for All, Fuller and

DIGNITY FOR ALL

In his books Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise, Robert Fuller exposed rankism—abuse of the power inherent in rank to exploit or humiliate someone of lower rank. In Dignity for All, Fuller and Pamela Gerloff offer a concise, action-oriented guide to the concrete steps we can take to eradicate it. They focus on us as individuals—how we can recognize rankism in our own experiences, even in ourselves, and how, on a day-to-day basis, we can help others to see its insidious influence and work with them to create a better world.

Fuller and Gerloff offer advice on the best ways to forcefully but compassionately bring rankist behavior to light. They include examples of rankism in action as well as the often surprisingly simple things people have done to counteract it. Perhaps most importantly, they show how we can prevent rankism from taking root in the first place. Dignity for All will help you map out your own personal strategy for creating a society in which every human being feels truly valued and respected.

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DIGNITY FOR ALLCHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) In his books Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise, Robert Fuller exposed rankism—abuse of the power inherent in rank to exploit or humiliate someone of lower rank. In Dignity for All, Fuller and

DIGNITY FOR ALL

In his books Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise, Robert Fuller exposed rankism—abuse of the power inherent in rank to exploit or humiliate someone of lower rank. In Dignity for All, Fuller and Pamela Gerloff offer a concise, action-oriented guide to the concrete steps we can take to eradicate it. They focus on us as individuals—how we can recognize rankism in our own experiences, even in ourselves, and how, on a day-to-day basis, we can help others to see its insidious influence and work with them to create a better world.

Fuller and Gerloff offer advice on the best ways to forcefully but compassionately bring rankist behavior to light. They include examples of rankism in action as well as the often surprisingly simple things people have done to counteract it. Perhaps most importantly, they show how we can prevent rankism from taking root in the first place. Dignity for All will help you map out your own personal strategy for creating a society in which every human being feels truly valued and respected.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Robert Fuller


Robert W. Fuller earned his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University and taught at Columbia, where he coauthored the classic text Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. . The mounting social unrest of the 1960s drew his attention to educational reform, and at the age of thirty-three he was appointed president of Oberlin College, his alma mater.

In 1971 Fuller traveled to India as a consultant to Indira Gandhi, and there witnessed firsthand the famine resulting from the war with Pakistan over what became Bangladesh. With the election of Jimmy Carter, Fuller began a campaign to persuade the new president to end world hunger. His meeting with Carter in the Oval Office in June 1977 contributed to the establishment of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.

During the 1980s Fuller traveled frequently to the USSR, working as a citizen-scientist to improve the cold war relationship. His work, together with that of others, led to the creation of the nonprofit global corporation Internews, which promotes democracy via free and independent media. For many years Fuller served as its chairman.

When the USSR collapsed, Fuller's work as a citizen-diplomat came to a close and he looked back reflectively on his career. He came to see that he had been, at different junctures in his life, both a somebody and a nobody. Contemplating his periodic sojourns into "Nobodyland" led him to identify and probe rankism', defined by him as abuse of the power inherent in rank and ultimately to write Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank (New Society Publishers, 2003). Growing popular interest in this subject led him to write the present sequel.

Visit Robert Fuller at

Visit Author Page - Pamela Gerloff


Pamela Gerloff is a writer, educator, and consultant specializing in transformational change. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from Harvard University, where, in graduate school, she began to explore two fundamental questions: Why doesn’t change last? and Why does it seem so hard? This led her to an intense effort to discover and understand the true underlying mechanisms of change. Her guiding question became: How do we create lasting change, gently, compassionately, and joyfully—as individuals, organizations, and societies? Her findings led her to found Compelling Vision, her own consulting business, to help others more easily make the deep-level changes they desired for themselves and their organizations. Clients of her visionary work have included organizations such as Procter & Gamble, the University of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Army, as well as small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. Formerly the editor of More Than Money magazine and an associate editor with Highlights for Children, Dr. Gerloff’s current work includes writing and speaking about dignity and rankism for a diverse audience. She also provides training and consulting for individuals and organizations seeking to create dignitarian environments.

Visit Pamela Gerloff at www.dignityforall.org.

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Acknowledgments

chapter one Dignity: What Everybody Really Wants

chapter two Naming the Problem

chapter three Naming the Solution

chapter four Rankism 101

chapter five
Groundbreakers and Trailblazers: That’s You!

chapter six
Talking About Rankism

chapter seven Identifying and Targeting Rankism

chapter eight Detecting Warning Signs of Rankism

chapter nine
Standing Up to Rankism

chapter ten Recovering from Rankism

chapter eleven Preventing Rankism

chapter twelve
Building a Dignitarian World

resources
Resource a: Creating Your Own Plan for Change

Resource b: Ten Ways to Foster Dignitarian
Governance

Resource c: Stories of Dignity Regained

Resource d: How to Create a Culture of Dignity

About the Authors

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 Dignity for All

chapter one
Dignity: What Everybody Really Wants

Dignity. Isn’t that what everybody really wants? You, me, your parents, your children, your friends, your colleagues at work: All of us want to be treated with dignity.

The homeless person in the park; the elderly in nursing homes; students, teachers, principals; Christians, Jews, Muslims; taxi drivers, store clerks, waiters, police officers; prisoners and guards; immigrants; doctors, patients, nurses; the poor, the wealthy, the middle class; big nations, small nations, people without a homeland.

Dignity. Everybody wants it, craves it, seeks it. People’s whole lives change when they’re treated with dignity—and when they’re not.

Evan Ramsey, now serving a 210-year prison sentence for shooting and killing his high school principal and another student in Bethel, Alaska, told criminologist Susan Magestro:

“I was picked on seven hours a day every day and the teachers didn’t do anything to help me…I told [my foster mother] and [my principal] more than a dozen times about all the bullying I was subjected to. They never did anything to help me.…If I can prevent someone from having the experience I went through, I want to do that. I killed people…. Don’t respond with violence even if you’re provoked. There’s no hope for me now but there is hope for you.”

—From “The Realities and Issues Facing Juveniles and Their Families, The Warning Signs: Evan Ramsey—Bethel, Alaska,” by Susan Magestro, www.susanmagestro.com

Fundamentally, dignity is about respect and value. It means treating yourself and others with respect just because you’re alive on the planet. It’s recognizing that you and everyone else have a right to be here, and that you belong. It means valuing your own and others’ presence and special qualities. It means honoring who you are and what you have to offer. It means creating a culture in which it is safe for everyone to contribute their own gifts and talents.

Dignity. It’s a need so strong that people will give up their freedom to have it met; an inner drive so insistent that it can move people to shocking acts of revenge when the attempt to achieve it is thwarted; a human value so critical to happiness and well-being that people sometimes value it more than life itself.

A Human Need Ignored

Yet this craving for dignity is so commonly overlooked that most of us accept undignified treatment as “just the way it is.” As victims, we may wince inwardly, but we bite our tongues (“Who am I to protest?” ”What good will it do?”). As perpetrators, we excuse our behavior (“I’m the boss, aren’t I?” “He deserved it.” “I’m just evening the score.”). Or we ignore our nagging conscience, failing to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we are violating another’s dignity.

Every day, we witness dignity scorned in our personal relationships, families, businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, religious institutions, and governmental bodies. Routinely, we fail to accord dignity to those we perceive to be the weaker among us. They may be the old, the young, the poor, the unknown, the infirm, the female, the darker colored, the jobless, the less skilled, or the less attractive.

Yet experiencing indignity at the hands of others is not limited to those at the bottom of the hierarchy—as the wealthy, the famous, and the beautiful will attest. Anywhere and everywhere dignity is transgressed by others, with surprising regularity: A supervisor harasses an employee. A child taunts a classmate. A sports team hazes new members. A customer speaks rudely to a waitress. A teacher gives preferential treatment to a friend’s child. An adult verbally abuses a child. An administrator fires a whistle-blower. A government official secretly circumvents the law. A prison guard torments an inmate. A dictator steals from the national treasury. A superpower pressures a smaller nation to commit to a loan that will damage its economy.

From intimate relationships to global relations, indignity is commonplace. Think of your own experiences: when have you not been treated with dignity? When have you failed to treat others with dignity?

So Why Are We Surprised?

If, every day, so many of us are not treated with the health-giving, life-affirming dignity we crave, then why are we so shocked when an employee “goes postal,” a teenager goes on a violent rampage, a mildmannered woman explodes in anger at a seemingly small provocation, or global tensions escalate into international crises? Why do we habitually fail to recognize, beneath the violent outbursts, the powerful impulse to lash out when a fundamental birthright has been denied: the right to be treated with dignity?

“The sense that you are nothing or nobody can drive you to violence and unreason. Through all human history it has been the hidden motive— that unbearable desire to prove oneself somebody—behind countless insanities and acts of violence.”

—John Fowles, author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman

A Price to Pay

Of course, acts of revenge are never justified. But we ignore at great cost to ourselves and society the fundamental urge to be treated with dignity.

The consequences of violating others’ dignity are evident: in widespread social problems such as high rates of school dropout, prison incarceration, violent crime, depression, suicide, divorce, and despair; in the business world in reduced creativity, lower productivity, or disloyalty to the organization. Even health and longevity are affected.

Dignity Not Yet Won

In 1775, American patriot Patrick Henry boldly declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Americans won their freedom, but more than two centuries later have not yet secured their dignity; nor has the rest of the world.

But that may be changing.

Today, the age-old cry for liberty appears to be morphing into a heartfelt cry for dignity. Worldwide, we see dignity-denying dictatorships transforming into democracies. In democratic elections, we see growing voter enthusiasm for candidates who offer a vision of dignity for all. If we look carefully, we can see in terrorist assaults the craving to be treated with dignity; and the spate of school shootings in recent years has led adults to counteract the devastating effects of bullying among children through school-sponsored anti-bullying programs. As overwhelming as the problem of indignity may seem, historically, humans have grown more tolerant and respectful as a species than we once were. Equal rights protections for people of different genders, skin colors, physical abilities, and sexual orientations are just some examples of progress toward greater dignity for all.

The time is ripe for dignity.

We Can Lead the Way

Each of us plays many different roles in life: we are parents, relatives, friends; we are employers and employees; we are participants in religious, school, or municipal governing bodies; we are citizens of the world in a community of nations. In each of these roles, we yearn to be treated with dignity, and in each of these roles, we have the opportunity to show what it looks and feels like to give dignified treatment to others.

We can begin to create a “dignitarian” world by simply asking ourselves: How can I help create a culture of dignity wherever I am?

  • If we hope to ever live in peace with one another;
  • if we wish to live in a world where people of differing opinions and beliefs, differing experiences and cultures, differing languages, lifestyles, expectations, and aspirations can co-exist in harmony;
  • if we aspire to realize the potential of our young people, our senior citizens, our work force, our political leadership;
  • if we aim to harness the resources of talent, purpose, creativity, and joy lying right at our fingertips;
  • if we dream of finding creative, life-affirming solutions to age-old problems,

then together, let us take the first step. Let us begin to acknowledge and respect the innate human yearning for dignity.

Let each of us lead the way.

Dignity as a Universal Right

This book is a beginning: it is a primer, a handbook, a manifesto. It aims to outline a pathway into a bold new world—a world where dignity is the norm, the natural and expected way of being; a world where violations of dignity are regarded as unacceptable; a world where, in the words of Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, “Dignity is not negotiable.” Since dignity is a basic human need, dignity in a “dignitarian society” will be treated as both a human right and a responsibility. Dignified treatment will be just the way it is.

“Dignity is not negotiable.”

—Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York

A Dignitarian World Emerging

What would such a world look like? What would home and family, school, work, religious, medical, social, political, environmental, and governmental life look like, sound like, feel like? How can we create such a vision? What steps can we take to get there?

Dignity for All provides a roadmap for a dignitarian world emerging. It is an invitation to journey to a new and tantalizing land, where a society that truly lives the value of dignity for all no longer asks the question “Could such a world be possible?” The question asked instead is “How soon can we make it happen?”

KEY POINTS

  • Dignity is a basic human need. Therefore everyone has a right to be treated with dignity.
  • People routinely violate others’ dignity, in large and small ways, throughout the world.
  • When people’s dignity is not respected, negative feelings and unhealthy consequences result, for individuals and society.
  • If we want to achieve our potential, we must make dignity a primary value.
  • Each of us can help build a dignitarian world.

Small Acts: The Power of “I’m Sorry”

“I was waiting in line. A young guy about 20 was at the counter buying stamps. Suddenly some ratty, crazed-looking man who was ahead of me in line started screaming obscenities at the young guy. Young Guy turned around and said, ‘What? What did I do?’ to the livid man, who screamed back, ‘You KNOW what you’re doing!’ like he was sensing evil rays coming out of Young Guy’s forehead or something.

Young Guy kept saying ‘What?’ and then he just stood there. Everyone in the room froze up. It was extremely tense. Then Young Guy, in an apparent moment of inspiration, said simply to the crazed man, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disrespect you.’

That comment was like a pin deflating the man’s anger. He completely calmed down and backed off, because he felt he had his dignity back.”

Claire S.

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Endorsements

“Rankism is far more encompassing than racism, sexism, or ageism and it
must be our prime target from now on.”
—Studs Terkel, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Working

Dignity for All gives us the essential tools to stop abuses of rank and to build high-performing institutions and organizations based on respect.”
—Wes Boyd, co-founder, MoveOn.org

“This handbook brings an exciting new voice to social science and to the
public as well. I believe that these ideas are destined to play an important
role in our century.”
—Thomas J. Scheff, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of California Santa Barbara

“A clear mandate for transforming our society into a true democracy.”
—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes

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