A comment on human dignity as it is observed in his native Cuba was recently posted on Facebook by Father Alberto Reyes, a priest of the Camagüey Archdiocese in Cuba.
He pointed out that “dignity” is one of the most often used terms in our country’s public discourse. When asked, “What does dignity mean?,” people have no concept, he noted, despite the fact that we repeatedly say, “We are a dignified people.”
The Cuban priest encouraged his countrymen to “develop in the sense of one’s own dignity” and to protect it because he stressed that dignity is a gift given by God and not something that is obtained from a political power.
Although “dignity is never lost,” Reyes said in the post from November 30 that “the consciousness of dignity, the understanding of one’s own worth, may be lost, or twisted.”
The priest said that this is a false and deceptive belief since “our worth rests in our being as humans,” and that sometimes “a person’s dignity is related to what he owns, to his social standing.”
The same thing, according to Reyes, occurs when dignity is connected to “political discourse, which sends the message that the individual has value if he joins a political or ideological program, if he defends a specific line of thinking, or if he engages socially in favor of a partisan purpose.”
This message from the government, according to the priest, makes it clear that anyone who disagrees with its political discourse is treated as a “second-class citizen” and belongs to “the opposition” and runs the risk of “being denied the right to express himself” freely or of remaining in his own country.
According to Reyes, this makes many people anxious about “‘not losing value’ before the evaluating and inquisitorial gaze of (those in) power,” so they try to appear as though “they are behaving well” by taking part in all campaigns, protests, and meetings of the government, as well as “all elections, even if they’re a farce.”
The priest said that these individuals are so terrified of one another that “even when their opinion is sought via a personal and confidential ballot, they don’t dare to give voice to what they genuinely believe, since… ‘you never know,’” he wrote.
He said that as their kids become older and express a desire to not be slaves, their parents would do whatever to get them out of the nation rather than face a government that has established itself as the source of value for people.
The Cuban priest explained that it is possible to live in this manner, without encountering systemic issues, “but at the cost of not existing, of giving up your freedom of expression,” and submitting “your value to a political system to which that person doesn’t matter, because he’s seen simply as a necessary piece to maintain a power structure.”
Although one is born with a sense of dignity, one must develop this consciousness through time. To do this, one must learn to not only appreciate their own worth but also to defend it, keep it safe, and absorb the cost of their decision to live.