All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies and the Politics of Dignity

Date

July 20, 2006

Speaker

Robert Fuller

Affiliation

Breaking Ranks

Overview

An undiagnosed disorder is at large in the world. It afflicts individuals, groups, and nations. It distorts our personal relationships, erodes our will to learn, taxes our economic productivity, stokes ethnic hatred, and incites nations to war. It is the cause of dysfunctionality, and sometimes even violence, in families, schools, and the workplace.

Over the course of history, the most common abuses of power have acquired special names: child abuse, sexual harassment, racism, corporate corruption and homophobia.

Each of these practices is an abuse of the weak by the strong. Each of these familiar named offenses is an instance of bullying, of pulling rank. By analogy with abuses based on race and gender, abuse based on rank is given the name rankism. Allowing rankism into our culture takes a toll on our productivity, personal relationships, learning, leadership and spirit. Robert Fuller will discuss his work and research in this area, ending with suggestions on what individuals can do to fight against rankism.

Fuller lays the groundwork for a dignitarian society by delineating the scope and impact of rankism and then shows how a dignitarian movement can defeat it by addressing issues such as What would workplaces, schools, health-care organizations, politics, religion, and international relations look like if they were to embody dignitarian values? What policies could we develop to defend dignity in our various social institutions? How can we embody these principles in our lives and create a culture of universal dignity?

Speakers

Robert Fuller

www.breakingranks.netAfter earning his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1961, Robert Fuller taught at Columbia University and co-authored the book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. The mounting social unrest of the 1960s drew his attention to educational reform, and in 1970 he was appointed president of his alma mater Oberlin College at the age of 33.In 1974 Fuller traveled to India (as a consultant to Indira Gandhi) and there witnessed firsthand the famine resulting from the war with Pakistan over what became Bangladesh. With the election of Jimmy Carter, Fuller began a campaign to persuade the new president to end world hunger. His meeting with Carter in the Oval Office in June 1977 led to the establishment of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.During the 1980s, Fuller traveled frequently to the USSR, working as a citizen-scientist to improve the Cold War relationship. This work led to the creation of the non-profit global corporation Internews, which promotes democracy via free and independent media, and for many years Fuller served as its chairman.With the collapse of the USSR, Fuller’s work as a citizen diplomat came to a close and he began reflecting on his career and came to understand that he had, at various times, been a somebody and a nobody and the cycle was continuing. His periodic sojourns in “Nobodyland” led him to identify and investigate rankism – defined as abuse of the power inherent in rank – and ultimately to write Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank. He has just completed a sequel that focuses on building a dignitarian society titled All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity.