The underlying principle of Human Rights legislation is to:
How do you feel about that as a principle for life?
I ask this question often in workshops and seminars and generally the initial response for most people is positive. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect so we all initially will feel that this is the right. This is after all in harmony with the Golden Rule or Ethic of Reciprocity that appears in every major religion as far back was records exist although I like the version promoted by the Dignity andRespect Campaign - “Treat others the way they want to be treated”.
The challenge comes when I ask people if they understand that this does mean everyone – that includes murders, paedophiles, sex offenders, rapists, terrorists... When we say everyone, that’s what it means. The moment you say everyone except... then who decides on the exceptions.
Who is going to have the power to decide whether you are entitled to dignity and respect and do you have the right to challenge them... can you see where this goes.
Treating everyone with dignity and respect does not mean condoning unacceptable behaviour or failing to punish people for transgressing our laws – but it does mean that we treat such people with dignity and respect in the way we punish them.
I was once the victim of a month long hate campaign by a group of children and young people aged from about 10 to 15. Every night my house was targeted with stones, mud and abuse. By the end of the month I had abandoned the human rights principles and I was ready to attack these kids with anything I could lay my hands on.
When I confronted them they backed off and began asking questions. I put down the iron bar I was holding and started answering their questions. By the time we finished I had more than 20 young people engaged in an impromptu seminar on the grass outside my house. The left better informed about transgender issues and there was never another incident.
If I had resorted to violence all I would have done was to have gotten myself into trouble and aggravated an already difficult situation.
Most discrimination and harassment arises out of ignorance – We are afraid of difference and react to information we have gained about those “other” people. That information is largely based on stereotypes promoted by the media and misinformation suggesting that certain people do not deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Researching this article I came across Dignity and Respect Campaign. It’s a campaign I knew nothing about – largely because it has started in the USA in Pittsburgh, but I really like whey they are doing and have decided to see what we can do to promote the campaign her in the UK.
Watch this slide show featuring 30 Tips to highlight how you can incorporate acts of dignity and respect in everything you do created by the Center for Inclusion at UPMC.