BY SIDQI SHEVKET
'Not the strong are better, but the honest ones.
Honour and dignity are the strongest'
Dignity has never been a widespread quality. Moreover, few understood the essence of this concept and its significance. The sense of dignity has always been a lot of a few chosen ones. However, the overall dignity of a people, a nation, and sometimes of the whole humanity depended on these chosen few, who at the right time said their weighty word. Dignity of a people, of all mankind, is formed from the dignity of each individual. Failure to understand this phenomenon does not mean the lack of dignity as such. In a dignified country - a dignified citizen. And very often this national dignity can be defend by only a small group of people, or even one person, with the help of a word spoken in time, a timely expression of one's principled position.
Let us remember only one but very bright example. On 25 August 25, in Moscow there was the so-called 'Demonstration of the Seven' on Red Square. A group of seven Soviet dissidents, Larisa Bogoraz, Konstantin Babitsky, Vadim Delaunay, Vladimir Dremliuga, Pavel Litvinov, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Viktor Fainberg, expressed their protest against the invasion by Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw Pact of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring. It became one of the most significant actions of Soviet dissidents. And, perhaps most important in this desperate for its time action was the protection of the dignity of the then Soviet people. 'For the citizens of Czechoslovakia, these people have become the conscience of the Soviet Union,' wrote legendary Vaclav Havel. A Prague newspaper 'Literární listy' wrote: 'Seven people on Red Square are at least seven reasons why we can never hate the Russians.' The action under the slogan 'For your freedom and ours!' has become a kind of indulgence for the Soviet people, not for the state, which at that time was deeply despised around the world, sometimes even by ideological allies. Seven people with a sense of dignity were able to defend the dignity of the whole nation.
Havel did not just call them 'the conscience of the Soviet Union.' Such people have always been conscience of their nations. And if conscience determines feelings and awareness of a person's responsibility for his/her behaviour, his/her actions before oneself, a highest authority, a people, a society, then dignity is a high sense and awareness of a person's own self-esteem. And self-esteem may only be the result of a moral behaviour and awareness of one's responsibility, that is, the presence of conscience. A dignified person is always a person with a sense of conscience. The presence of conscience manifests itself through awareness of sense of freedom of deeds and actions. It is only through conscious choice that a person can be truly honest and dignified. Any compulsion denies the existence of conscience and dignity. But a personal example, especially if it is a heroic deed, is able to make the masses think and voluntarily approach the desired ideal.
Such an example, a timely word, has a special role in times of moral disorder, which each nation experiences in its history, and not just once. Today, moral disorder, even a moral crisis is being experienced by all of humanity. The core values that are the cornerstone of human existence, has become blurred and lost their priority in a collision with a fierce and sometimes illogical reality. Concepts such as honour, dignity, decency, nobility are being gradually devalued and turned into a kind of primaeval superstition, and sometimes even a big drawback. Especially noticeable is this degradation process in the sphere of politics, which in itself is extremely dangerous. After all, politics devoid of an elementary moral compass turns into an immoral one, and immoral politics always and everywhere leads to immorality of society, to permissiveness, limited only by greed.
The United States is now going through such a period, where in the last presidential elections rather unexpectedly won Donald Trump, a man who throughout his essence subverts the foundations of American political correctness. The latter, though passing on the verge of hypocrisy, still enabled politicians and other public figures, and just media personalities, to maintain a sense of dignity. Today it is still too early to talk about the moral decline of the American society itself. For now there is only a confusion of the society, which has come in contact with a serious challenge to the national feeling of dignity of the American nation.
And in this difficult moment there appeared a person, who proved that all is not lost, that Americans continue to be a dignified nation, a person expressing in a few words the anxiety of many people, who were not indifferent to the concepts of honour, dignity, nobility.
I am talking about Meryl Streep, the brightest contemporary American actress, who challenged the approaching reaction. Speaking at Golden Globes awards ceremony, where she was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding achievements in film industry, Meryl Streep harshly criticised US President-elect Donald Trump for ridiculing a disabled reporter.
Not calling Trump by name, the actress said in particular: 'There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good, there was nothing good about it, but it was effective and it did its job... It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back... It kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie, it was real life...'
The most important thing about Streep's words was not just the protection of a disabled journalist, whom Trump insulted by his behaviour. Especially since that journalist was Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter of the authoritative New York Times Serge Kovaleski, who may well himself adequately respond to the offender using his own talent. For Meryl Streep Kovaleski's case was just the most prominent example of the pernicious trend, whose start was given by Trump.
It is no accident that by following words she generalised this particular example: 'This instinct to humiliate when it's modelled by someone in the public... by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same... When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.'
Truly great words, and the most important thing is that they have been said at the right time. And these words are relevant today for all of humanity, for the world, in which the concepts of morality and ethics are being deleted from the everyday vocabulary. And sometimes they are even perceived as an atavism.
Meryl Streep also appealed to the media: 'We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we're going to need them going forward. And they'll need us to safeguard the truth.'
It is noteworthy that on the basis of numerous polls Trump's insult of Serge Kovaleski was considered one of his worst misdeeds, which could have cost him victory in the presidential election. But that did not happen. As the Forbes magazine wrote, it was 'one of those moments, actions and statements, which in the last year seriously eroded the foundations of the dignity and goodness of our nation.'
Americans understand where the things are going, and the consequences of the growing cynicism of power. And that is why, more than ever, they, and we all, need people like Meryl Streep, who with their words can stir up hidden thoughts of simple men and women in the street, make them think about their own destiny, the destiny of their own country, become aware of their responsibility and, very likely, even become terrified at their thoughtless choice. Fortunately for America, this country has a very high safety margin and genuinely operating mechanisms of checks and balances, both legal and social.
We have always assumed that the concept of intelligentsia is something inherent only in our part of the world, that in the West they only have intellectuals. But this is not the case. It is true that in the West, in the very same America, they do not talk about intelligentsia as a separate social class. But that does not mean its absence. After all, a representative of intelligentsia is a person with a certain set of inherent qualities, with one's own system of coordinates, one's own scale of moral values, an inner spiritual core, where the concepts of honour, dignity and civicism occupy the principal place. As Meryl Streep has demonstrated by her magnificent and fascinating for its emotionality and sincerity speech, all of these qualities are inherent to her. Both she and all those who supported her are the true representatives of what we can call, using the old terminology, American intelligentsia.
To be objective, I would like to note also the following. Although Donald Trump cannot be counted among the intelligentsia, and even among the intellectuals, at this stage it would be incorrect to say that his rule will lead America to the moral decline. Trump is the most unpredictable politician of our time, and it is difficult to say what actions will he undertake upon taking office. Moreover, the words of politicians very often have nothing to do with their actions. Of course, sometimes words cause no lesser damage than action. Inadvertently spoken word, a phrase, a remark can deeply injure, and sometimes destroy psychological integrity of a society. Trump has been doing it all this time, whether intentionally or due to the inherent looseness. One way or another, but he will have a serious test of sound judgement, a real understanding of where he is now, and his responsibility. All other tests he has already failed.
Fortunately, the American government is not only the president but also the Congress, the courts, state governors and legislatures, etc. The power of a government is above all in its authority, respect of its dignity. If the government is not dignified, it is unable to ensure the dignity of the people and every citizen. And if the US government was only represented by Trump, then we really could talk about the possible end of all things. But this is not the case. And while the president has very strong counterbalances within the government and influential elites, and a powerful self-righteous public opposition, whose desire has been so accurately expressed by Meryl Streep in her now historic speech, not everything is lost for America. This country, without a doubt, is able to overcome all the problems faced by her, and once again become a reference point for all those people, for whom honour, conscience and dignity are paramount. And our dear and so close to our hearts Meryl Streep has now become the conscience of the American nation, its true moral beacon.