New York News
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) marching against racism at Stellenbosch University earlier this year after an alleged racist incident that saw a white student urinating on the personal property of a black student. (Photo by Gallo Images/ER Lombard)
Bouwer van Niekerk reflects on two incidences of students urinating on another’s belongings at Stellenbosh University, writing that it is easy to take swift action against those who tarnish an institution’s name but it is more difficult to change a culture that allows for such shame to occur.
Dignity is a person’s right to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. In English, it derives from the Latin word dignitas – literally worthiness.
The right to dignity is not only a right enshrined and protected in our Constitution, it is also a universal human right. It is, at least in my mind, the most fundamental of human rights, as it provides every one of us with the comfort that we should not only be acknowledged and treated as humans, and therefore in a dignified manner, but that we are also empowered to act dignified.
The entitlement of dignity is twofold – it is something that we can both expect from our fellow human beings, and it is a manner that can define the way in which we can live our lives in such a way that differentiates us from all other species. We are human because we can expect to be treated as such, and we can treat all other things, be they humans or animals any other living thing, in a dignified, worthy, and ethical manner. However, our legitimate expectation notwithstanding, history teaches us that this has historically been far from the case.
Avoidance of war
In his 2018 book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, the Canadian cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker demonstrates how since the dawn of the modern era, the great powers of the world were pretty much always at war. He continues to show that (as he terms it) “the Long Peace” – a period during which the superpowers of the last century have not been at war – has only commenced in the 1960’s. Other armed conflicts between nations have also drastically declined.
Although it unfortunately still sticks out its ugly neck (the current war between Russia and Ukraine being