Human dignity is the absolute and inherent worth of all human beings. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) begins its preamble with the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” The American Convention on Human Rights (1969) protects the “inherent dignity of the Human Being”. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union dedicates its entire first chapter to “Dignity”. And so we can find other references pointing to dignity as the source and basis of fundamental rights. It thereby acquires not only a moral, but also legal and political value. Dignity is not a right that is granted to us, but it’s ours for the simple fact of being human.
Aside from the political sectors and economic thought, situations of social injustice are becoming ever more frequent. While the evolution of mankind has reached very high levels, the prevailing system in much of the world advances without counting the costs, without looking at who it overtakes and without looking back at those who are left behind. Consumerism today is the god that many now worship. It seems the world has surrendered at its feet. The progress of countries is measured in terms of consumption and credit. Economic indices govern us in an almost absolute fashion – emphasizing only the average GDP, the IMACEC (Monthly Indicator of Economic Activity), hikes in the Stock markets such as the IPSA (Selective Stock Price Index) or the IGPA (General Stock Price Index). The reduction in poverty is often summarized so as to report that the number of poor in the country is getting smaller, but little or nothing is said about the 53.5% of Chilean workers who earn less than CLP $300,000 and the 70% who earn less than CLP $426,000 cash. Or that in the regions of La Araucanía, Maule, Bio Bio and Los Rios, 70% of workers earn less than CLP $350,000. Or that almost 700,000 are registered as underemployed, and 50% earn less than CLP $100,000. To this we can add that only 3.6%, about 260,000 people, earn more than CLP $1,500,000. One wonders if this behaviour of some people is creating a sustainable society. Is there dignity in the economic numbers that governments give us?
A few monopolise land, income, privileges and rights; the majority live with just enough or less, are subject to repression and the political system is more concerned with their work than with their rights. According to the French economist Thomas Piketty, in Chile the richest 1% of the population owns about 35% of the national wealth, still the highest in the world.
The aim of capitalist rationale is the accumulation of more and more capital, even if wars have to be started to achieve it. The priority of this system is to gain control of capital resources: land, gold, copper, oil, water. And we don’t even have to look to the Middle East or Africa: throughout Chile environmental conflicts arise largely because the few want to continue with the rationale of endless accumulation that benefits only themselves, without a thought for the dignity of the persons who could be affected by this insatiable appetite to accumulate more and more. We know that this is unsustainable. We know that this has to change.
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