Society is unclear as to what defines dignity, and indignity. We simply can’t agree on such things – in life, work, or even the meanings of the terms themselves – there are simply too many interpretations.
Each of us belongs to a regional culture – one with customs, traditions, and beliefs – and each of us belongs to something else, too. Something far more unique. We belong to our own thoughts, in all aspects, not simply dignity, but enveloping in everything we can experience, which only serves to further complicate the distinctions.
Dignity and indignity can also be found in the process, that which is done well or poorly, both in the presence and absence of meaning. Such conflicts often find themselves in acts of toil and service – acts of greater outcome than what is necessary to achieve it.
Take for instance common roles believed to be indignant by those who lack an understanding of context: cleaners, labourers, servers, trash collectors, dishwashers… These roles do not often bring dignity to mind in those who perform them (there are always exceptions), but they bring dignity to the individuals they serve.
For dignity is not a matter of role, it is a matter of outcome.
By doing the undignified, these individuals bring dignity to themselves and all those who will directly benefit from their efforts.
Clean dishes mean dignified service for workers who can serve a meal on a clean plate to their customers.
Pushing a wheelbarrow uphill on a hot day for several hours may seem undignified until we consider the care center the labourer is helping to build.
Collecting trash is dirty, thankless, and leaves one with a pungent odour that is all but impossible to wash away. But yet again, what appears indignant is rendered dignified by the outcome – clean air and clean streets.
As a society, we often fail to notice the dignified indignant. We walk past them, hardly noticing what it is they enable – the dignity of us all.
Should you cross a Dignified Indignant, think of what could be were they not, then remind them what they do matters – they matter. Even if they don’t value the act of what they do at the moment, it enables the basic dignity that we all have come to take for granted.