"The dignity of man is inviolable." So it stands word for word in the Basic Law and also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the term stands immediately in the first article. Human dignity does not have to be earned or worked for. Everyone possesses it from birth – and yet it is far too often trampled on.
Human dignity is not a quality like cleverness, beauty or generosity. The concept of human dignity is based on the idea that every human being is valuable simply by existing. Nevertheless, the concept of human dignity is difficult to grasp and is used in very different contexts. In the debate about euthanasia, there is talk of dying with dignity; research on embryonic stem cells is, depending on one’s point of view, a violation of or a requirement for human dignity. A news agency reported that a court has ruled that a Berlin prison violates human dignity because several prisoners are housed in a cell without physically separate sanitary facilities. And then everyone probably knows the saying "This is beneath my dignity".
A concept with ancient roots
Dignity was already spoken of in antiquity. Here, however, in two different contexts, both of which can still be felt today. On the one hand, there was dignity as a marker of a social position. People had different amounts of these, and those at the top of society were called dignitaries. They are recognized by their clothes and symbols of power. Examples of this today are the mayor’s chain or the cardinal’s robe. On the other hand, dignity was already in antiquity that which was equally due to all human beings and distinguished them from animals. Reason and, in the Christian and Jewish tradition, the divine image of man were cited as the reasons for this.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant derived human dignity above all from the autonomy of the human being. Man has a choice – he can decide how to act, and the decision depends on his moral values, which have been developed by man himself over the millennia. In the middle of the 19. In the middle of the 19th century, the term became a political slogan of the labor movement, which demanded humane working and living conditions. Under the impression of the degrading events during the National Socialist rule in Germany, human dignity became the center of the German value system after 1945 and has also gained a central place in other national and international constitutions and declarations.
Human dignity and human rights
Human dignity is not just a philosophical concept, but implies an obligation. From it the other human rights can be derived. This applies to the prohibition of discrimination, the rights of freedom (such as freedom of expression) and the rights of protection (such as the prohibition of torture or the guarantee of a fair trial), as well as to social human rights. The latter set out the foundations for a life worthy of a human being. These include the right to leisure and education as well as the right to health care, housing, and work.
But is work that pays so poorly that a decent life is not possible without additional state support compatible with human dignity?? Does a state respect human dignity when the old and the sick are housed in homes where the staff is so short that there is hardly any time left for attention and occupation with the people?? How asylum seekers are accommodated and cared for in our country?
Terrorism and human dignity
The worldwide terror endangers the observance of human dignity and human rights. Democratic states always offer a target for terror because of the individual’s rights to freedom. In the course of the fight against terrorism, civil liberties have already been considerably curtailed. One example is the relaxation of data protection regulations, such as the storage of digital data for a certain period of time or the ability to spy on other people’s computers.
When terrorists are caught, it is often difficult to treat them with human dignity. For their part, they themselves act in a misanthropic manner and will put up with anything for the sake of their goals. Nevertheless, they are entitled to human dignity – it is inviolable.