Obviously, I teach my children libertarian principles. I teach respect for personal property, and the idea that it is wrong to use force or the threat of violence to get your own way. This isn't a radical concept at all and is probably taught in nearly every home. We're now taking our swing at the learning opportunity proposed by the concept of dignity.
It's hard to put your finger on what dignity is. It's like an old hat I used to wear. I wore it so often that most of the time I never knew it was on. I could only feel anything when the hat was gone. With dignity, sometimes I have it and I don't know it, but I know what it feels like the minute it's taken away.
The need to talk about dignity came when my 6 year old made fun of his little brother for taking a dump in his diaper and making the predictable stink. The toddler was mocked for the indignity of not yet having been toilet trained. The older brother mastered toilet training completely by age 3 and now cannot remember a time when he didn't use the toilet like a well-trained chimp.
I explained, to the best of my ability, about dignity but I wasn't really sure if I got the concept across. I went beyond the "stop it, that's not nice" BS because my kid isn't stupid. He knew it wasn't nice...that is why he was doing it. I mean, kids are experts at taking dignity away without really knowing what they've done. Obviously any respect for dignity has to be modeled by me first if it's going to be meaningful in any way. That's a whole other blog post.
While out shopping we ran across a man selling copies of Real Change. Real Change is a homelessness issues newspaper often sold by the homeless themselves. My first exposure to this type of newspaper was in Chicago. When offered a copy of Chicago's Streetwise I declined any interest in the newspaper. The paper's vendor informed me that it was about homelessness and then he asked me "Don't you care about the homeless?" Outside of the normal "it's a shame" attitude I can tell you that I really didn't.
This time, I took my son over to the gentleman, introduced myself and bought a copy. I gave him a little extra and we talked for awhile after introducing my boy to the man. They shook hands. He may have been homeless but we looked at each other in the eye and talked, like people. He felt no shame in what he was doing and he got no "it's a shame" attitude from me. I know nothing about him and never once did I care if he spent the money on booze or cigarettes or worse.
It's amazing how much less we care about what people do when they're earning what they have. I know people who advocate drug testing for people who receive welfare checks, because after all...freeloading is the equivalent of being reprobate. It's too bad what is missing from almost all non-voluntary assistance is dignity. That's where the shame is.
At home, we talked a lot about dignity last week. We will probably need to keep at it awhile.