My late granny used to tell stories about life of adversity in poverty stricken Romania. “I was too poor to lift up my head” she once said “and too proud to bow it down.” I thought of granny when I stumbled upon Robert W. Fuller’s concept of Rankism, defined as “Abuse, discrimination, or exploitation based on rank.”
Googling the term further, I have found “Rankism — The Mother of All Isms” an article written by Fuller for Common Dreams, a progressive not for profit citizens’ organization. Fuller says: “… a school principal insults a teacher, a teacher humiliates a student, students ostracize other students… In each of these examples, what triggers unequal treatment is rank — rank as measured on the somebody-nobody scale. “Somebodies” are sought after, given preference, lionized. “Nobodies” get insulted, dissed, exploited, ignored.
Low rank, even when the ranking is clearly meretricious, functions exactly like race and gender — as an unjustifiable impediment to advancement. All forms of abuse, prejudice, and discrimination are actually predicated upon differences in rank.”
Observing Barack Obama’s race for Presidential Candidacy, Fuller comments that “[t]he cause of indignity is not rank itself, any more than the cause of racism is color, or the cause of sexism is gender. Color and gender are merely excuses for putting people down, to our own advantage. Just as it is impractical to combat racism or sexism by eliminating color or gender differences, so too we cannot eliminate rankism by abolishing rank.”
My granny figured out that racism is only an excuse for putting people down in 1941, in the Romanian capital Bucharest, when Jews, Roma (“Gypsies”), homosexuals and other so-called ‘undesirables’ were deported to a geographic enclave known as Transnistria. (PDF, and also here and here.)
In a recently published book “Dignity for All: How to Create a World without Rankism“, co-authors Robert Fuller and Pamela Gerloff “offer advice on the best ways to forcefully but compassionately bring rankist behaviour to light… [helping] creating a society in which every human being feels truly valued and respected.”
Fuller and Gerloff share website called “Breaking Ranks” whose declared mission is to “help spread the dignity meme.” They spearhead an international campaign “[f]rom the United States to India to China, to Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand-on every continent-people are embracing the idea of dignity… Dignity is an idea whose time has come.”
Granny knew her place, but refused to let it define her position, thus defying Rankism. She called it ‘pride’, but for me it’s more of an issue of dignity. Dignity is a natural – although not necessarily easy – way of fighting Rankism.
Somewhere, in the part of cyberspace where decent people dwell, there is an international forum known as Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS). According to their website, HumanDHS is “a global and transdisciplinary network and fellowship of concerned academics and practitioners” who are “committed to reducing – and ultimately help eliminating – destructive disrespect and humiliating practices all over the world.” Their work is “inspired by universal values such as humility, mutual respect, caring and compassion, and a sense of shared planetary rights and responsibilities.”
Special HumanDHS projects include a Moratorium on Humiliation, World Law for Equal Dignity, Relations with Young and Old for Equal Dignity, Children and Equal Dignity, The Concept of Humiliation and Equal Dignity, and Creativity Through Equal Dignity. Special needs sections address performing arts, World Clothes, design, music, theatre, furniture and language. (There are many-many more.)
The movement for dignity and the prevention of humiliation is a worldwide movement with access to people who hate being humiliated, detest acts of humiliation perpetrated by their own government, and strive for the elimination of humiliation and ranking.
Today, Romania is filled with people who are still battling with poverty, even after the fall of Communism. According to a report published by the Romanian National Plan to Fight Poverty and Encourage the Promotion of Social Inclusion (CASPIS) “[t]ransition generated a veritable explosion of poverty… in 1994, poverty affected between 22% .. and 39.3% … poverty has since continued to increase. [In the year 2000] 44.0% of the population were poor.” (PDF.)
And so, 67 years after the Transnistria deportations, almost 30 years after granny’s death and 21 years after they gained what they hoped is freedom , Romanians are still too poor to raise their heads and too proud to bow down.