"Panic of 1869" Charles Kroll (1869) Colby College Museum of Art Waterville, Maine
By Richard Girard
"Human Dignity has gleamed only now and then and here and there, in lonely splendor, throughout the ages, a hope of the better men, never an achievement of the majority."
James Thurber (1894--1961), U.S. humorist, illustrator. Collecting Himself, "Thinking Ourselves Into Trouble," part 3 (1989; first published 1939).
Dignity lies at the root of all individual worth.
Dignity declares there is a difference between being truly humble and being humbled, and resists the latter with all of its strength; it allows one true humility, but never permits unresisted humiliation; it defines the difference between making a place for ourselves in the world, and accepting one's "place" in the world.
Dignity is the basis for all self-expression; conscious doubt; privacy in our persons, our thoughts, and our homes; our private beliefs; our public dissent. It is the cornerstone of freedom, and the foundation of liberty. Freedom and dignity are inseparable components of one another. To deny another human being their dignity is to surrender any claim you might have to it yourself. And with that forfeiture, all claim to any freedom of your own.
Dignity, or dignitas, was one of the three pillars on which the Roman patrician stood, together with auctoritas (authority or more properly political clout), and gravitas (respect, standing). However, insult any but a former slave's dignitas, and you had made an enemy for life.