First dignity, then status

Does every human being deserve dignity and respect?

Historically, most human beings enjoyed neither dignity nor respect. Throughout civilization, a small group of humans were always regarded as better than others. To elevate their status, other human beings were stripped of all dignity.

Status is something that every human being craves for. However, status is a zero-sum game. If one person has high status, it is necessary that several others have low status.

There are broadly two paths to gain status. The path we have chosen historically is to provide status to a few elites by pushing down the status of the masses. That is how we went from a society of egalitarian hunter-gatherers to monarchies built on slave labour.

In modern times, we have discovered another path. We can satisfy the human need for status not by pushing the masses down, but by elevating the elites. We now strive to guarantee basic human rights for every person, while elevating a few with power, rewards and recognition.

Status is a zero-sum game, but dignity and respect are not. Before we elevate somebody’s status, we must ensure that it does not come at the cost of somebody else’s dignity.

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