Recognizably Human

Well-being is not just a question of the wealth or pleasure that a person has; it is a question of how people manage to live their lives and the ability they have to do certain things that are important to them. -Professor Amartya Sen, 1979.

Human worth or dignity has implications for all types of relationships, including political ones. At the same time recognising and respecting this fundamental equality of worth or dignity means arranging social relationships in a way that recognises and respects the differences inherent to human beings.
The social arrangements that may best provide the conditions for recognising and respecting that equality should involve the provision of equal basic capabilities, which allows each person to stand as equal in her society. [This should take into] account both freedom and well-being, [but also take into account social] processes that can impact the idea of justice.
Recognising fundamental human worth and the need to create social relationships that respect this is accompanied by the demand that society work actively to remove existing socially derived inequalities.
p. 73 Justice as Equality: Michael Manley's Caribbean Vision of Justice by Anna Kasafi Perkins

Human beings are of fundamental worth simply by being human. Human society should be arranged to recognise and respond to this underlying equality.
--p. 73 Justice as Equality: Michael Manley's Caribbean Vision of Justice by Anna Kasafi Perkins

Agree or disagree?


So, what constitutes a human being? Is a slave a human being? Is a debtor a human being? Is a woman a human being? How about someone who isn't Chinese?

How do you know if someone is being treated like a human being? What kind of social behaviour indicates that someone is a human being? What indicates a second-class status?

What constitutes a human being in terms of our cultural, social and political systems today?

Some concepts to consider in the discussion:


Intent vs. Impact
“it’s not OK for people to tell [a woman] that she should just change how she feels because she’s being too sensitive or reading too much into things. Guess what? If you say something and you make someone feel seriously uncomfortable, it’s now on you to give serious consideration to why that person might feel that way. That’s how empathy and being a nice human being works.”

it is inherently privileged to redirect the focus of a conversation to the perpetrator’s (presumably harmless) intentions, rather than focusing on the feelings and experiences of the person who has been harmed. So, the point is that we really need to focus on impact, not intent. Was someone hurt by something? Was there a negative outcome? Did someone suffer? If so, that is what’s important. Whether or not the perpetrator meant to cause harm is not.

Why is intent seen to be so important? Well, when it comes to our attributions of guilt, blame, suffering, (im)morality, benevolence, pain, or any number of other outcomes, our perceptions of intent are – and have always been – a critically important factor in our perceptions of impact. When participants are told that the actions of one individual have harmed another, the perceived intent behind that action drives whether those participants want the offender to simply apologize and compensate the harmed person (careless/accidental harm) or if they want to seek retribution and punish the offender (intentional harm). Intentional acts are even seen (and experienced) as objectively more harmful than unintentional acts – even when the end results are actually identical. When participants in one study received equally strong electric shocks, those who thought the shocks were administered intentionally actually experienced them as being more painful than those who thought they were administered by accident.


'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity'
Of the three revolutionary aspirations, liberty has come to dominate our contemporary world, particularly in its form of negative liberty – freedom from oppression and from regulations that limit personal choice, especially economic choice. The desire for individual liberty is often opposed to the desire for equality, which usually advocates some constraints on liberty. Social justice has commonly been identified with the desire for equality. So when someone raises issues of social justice their hearers fear that their individual freedom will soon be crimped in the name of state control or of the redistribution of wealth. They naturally become uncomfortable.

Missing in this tension between equality and liberty is any serious consideration of fraternity. It is usually reduced to sentiment, a generous feeling that softens the hard edge of the pursuit of equality or liberty. But fraternity lies at the heart of social justice. It counteracts a one-sided attention to equality or liberty, and is expressed in the ordering of society.

Liberty, equality and fraternity all name values that are must be respected if human beings are to flourish.  Liberty protects the human desire to take responsibility for one’s life and to develop personal gifts. Equality recognises that each human being is of unique value and that no one is of more value than others. Both these values should be recognised and promoted in the regulations, practices and symbols that form the ordering of society. 

Fraternity names the inescapable interdependence of human beings. No one is self-sufficient. We depend on one another at each point of our lives for shelter, for what we eat, whether we are educated, the peace and security we enjoy, for our mobility and for a market in which we can buy and sell. Fraternity dictates that each person must attend to how their own actions affect the welfare of others, and that society must encourage the development and welfare of each human being in a way that enables the growth of all. 
The test of fraternity is the care that a society has for the most disadvantaged. As with the values of liberty and equality, fraternity needs also to be built into the practices, regulations and symbols that shape society. It cannot be left to sentiment. That is particularly important in a culture like ours that makes individual liberty central. Without strong traditions and institutions that embody fraternity, it will inevitably breed unfairness.

It is easy to think of our society as selfish, competitive and preoccupied with individual economic gain. Those values are constantly commended in treatments of the economy that leave no room for fraternity. But most people see an unrestricted emphasis on economic freedom and on gain as psychopathic. They place a high value on fraternity, both in giving a high priority to their connections with other people and to decency in the treatment of the disadvantaged. They react strongly to what they perceive as institutionalised unfairness. 

The way to a better society does not lie simply in defending either liberty or equality, still less in the victory of one of these values over the other. It lies in bringing together a passion both for liberty and for equality and holding them together with a personal and institutional commitment to fraternity.  
When social justice is associated with fraternity it brings challenge and encouragement for all of us and not simply for activists. 


Personhood
Personhood is the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law, and is closely tied to legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.[1]
Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate, and has been questioned during the abolition of slavery and the fight for women's rights, in debates about abortion, fetal rights and reproductive rights, in animal rights activism, as well as in debates about corporate personhood.[2]
Processes through which personhood is recognized vary cross-culturally, demonstrating that notions of personhood are not universal. Anthropologist Beth Conklin has shown how personhood is tied to social relations among the Wari' people of Rondônia, Brazil.[3] Bruce Knauft's studies of the Gebusi people of Papua New Guinea depict a context in which individuals become persons incrementally, again through social relations.[4]


Privelege:
Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.

Social and Political Recognition

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