By Richard Girard
"The Gleaners" Jean-Francois Millet Musee de Ouray Paris
" Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." Immanuel Kant, Second Categorical Imperative; Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, sec. 429; (translated by James W. Ellington, p, 36).
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." President John F. Kennedy (1917--63), American politician. March 13, 1962, the White House.
I've been watching the progress of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement with a mixture of joy, hope, and some concern.
Joy and hope, because the "99%' ers " (or OWS's if you prefer) are showing America the way to recover our rights and expectations of a better future for the vast majority of people in this country. Concern, because you can already see in the hostility of the white-shirted command officers of the NYPD where this may be leading once the oligarchs actually feel threatened by this movement.
It is not helping the cause of the middle and working classes in this country that the liberal media--many of whom have bought into the oligarchs' agenda of a purely goal based, quarterly report society--are constantly harping on a single point: What is the ultimate goal of this movement?
So let this middle-aged fat guy propose a very simple sounding, yet vital purpose for this movement.
The purpose of this movement shall be the restoration of dignity for the members of the middle and working classes in the United States of America, its States, Commonwealths, unincorporated and trust territories; together with the establishment of that self-same dignity for the poor, dispossessed and underprivileged persons within those self-same territories.
In my September 14, 2011 OpEdNews Article "Dignitas," I made the following statement:
"The idea of a system which reduces the wages and benefits of its workers, and then maintains such a depleted economic base until the worker is forced by necessity to accept the lower standard or starve, while at the same time maintaining or expanding the existing scale of compensation for a corporation's owners, directors, and managers, is morally abhorrent and ethically incompatible with a free society. Just because that is the way that it has always been done, does not anoint it with an aura of legitimacy.
Dignity for workers is not only about money. It is also about their working conditions, their ability to raise a family, educate their children, buy a home, and live in a country where equal protection under the law for all citizens means something, and justice--both political and social--is not dependent upon the size of their bank account."
The oligarchs have operated the same way for millennium : they steal the means of making a living, and then they steal the dignity of the common man. Then the oligarchs force the common man into a subservient state of mind simply to survive. The character in the movie The Gangs of New York-who observes that he can always pay half the poor to kill the other half-is simply stating a fact that has held true through most of the history of Western Civilization. Edmund Burke stated this fact in his 1756 monograph A Vindication of Natural Society , "The whole business of the poor is to administer to the idleness of the rich." Even the illustrious Burke was merely echoing the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero in ancient Rome ("Leisure with dignity," Pro Publio Sestio , XLV:98). And when you are denied any dignity of your own, you will try to acquire a reflection of dignity from the position of your "master."
America was presented with a unique opportunity in history: it was physically far enough from Europe and its traditions of master and servant, for that tradition to fail to take a firm hold in the English colonies. Unfortunately, it was not far enough to eliminate the traditions of master and slave at the same time, mostly because of the obvious distinction which could be made between African slave and European master. But the world was changing: forty years after America declared its independence, the German philosopher, Georg W. F, Hegel wrote (in his Philosophy of History, p.p. 116-7):
"The doctrine which we deduce from this condition of slavery among the Negroes, and which constitutes the only side of the question that has an interest for our inquiry, is that which we deduce from the Idea: viz., that the "Natural condition" itself is one of absolute and thorough injustice--contravention of the Right and Just. Every intermediate grade between this and the realization of a rational State retains--as might be expected--elements and aspects of injustice; therefore we find slavery even in the Greek and Roman States, as we do serfdom down to the latest times. But thus existing in a State, slavery is itself a phase of advance from the merely isolated sensual existence--a phase of education--a mode of becoming participant in a higher morality and the culture connected with it. Slavery is in and for itself injustice, for the essence of humanity is Freedom; but for this man must be matured. The gradual abolition of slavery is therefore wiser and more equitable than its sudden removal."
Unfortunately, Herr Professor Hegel did not have the experience the U.S. Supreme Court learned when it ordered the integration of public schools with "all deliberate speed" in its landmark decision of Brown v. The Board of Education in 1954. Almost a century after the end of the Civil War, the freeing of the slaves, and the passage of the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth Amendments; the school systems involved dragged their feet until the Court had to hand down a second ruling in 1958 that "all deliberate speed" was NOW! It has been my experience that such fundamental changes are not done by half measures: like a band-aid being pulled off, it is best done quickly, to minimize the pain for one and all.
Donna Hicks in her 2011 book Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict, points out that Herr Professor Immanuel Kant considered dignity a fundamental human right (Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, -434-440; translated by James W. Ellington, p.p.40-44). She also sets forth the ten essential elements of human dignity in her book. They are (in slightly abbreviated form):