The first article of the German Constitution. Actually the wording in German (“ist unantastbar”, tranlslated: is untouchable) could be read in two different ways, one being “it cannot be touched”, the other “it shall not be touched”. Last week, in my legal class, I started a discussion with my students about whether human dignity can actually be denied or be broken (by the state, an authority, a group etc.), or whether there might be what could maybe be called a core of human dignity that remains untouched no matter which forces are used against it and under which circumstances a person is forced to live. No wrong answers, a strong discussion ensued.
It is a strange reality that humans are bound to such an abstract idea, dignity, something that is expressed in and through circumstances of their lives but also seems to reside deep within them, that they are bound to this in a way that life will seem desirable no longer once “it” – dignity – is effectively denied and that they, we, are incredibly inventive to defend at least a display of individual dignity in the face of even overwhelming adversity.
This illustration seems to lean towards the interpretation of human dignity actually being the unchangeable core of an idea, located in the brain but held by our hands (actions). I do know it can be denied like but I believe that it can’t be broken. The naive quality of the drawing insists on the relevance of the question in the face of a reality that is unforgiving and not as much in need of such contemplative studies and pretty pictures but of real change.