This morning whilst we were in the Park I found some excellent items scattered beside the rubbish bin. As a Moral Dog, fully aware of the necessity for recycling (because there is no Planet B) I rush forward to Do My Bit.
I start on the pizza box. It is an awkward task and I tackle it from a multitude of angles. Just as I have worked out how to retrieve the cheese from its deepest depths the Owner appears with the lead. I offer to share but, as usual, she says she prefers to buy new food rather than recycle what is already available. Come on, Hergest, she says. Leave the rubbish alone. Show some dignity.
I say dignity is a relative concept, since one man’s rubbish is another man’s opportunity.
She says that may be so, but it’s still undignified to ferret in the rubbish.
I suggest this is not obvious. I remind her that even though dignity is mentioned in the very first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it nearly wasn’t put in there at all because the representative from South Africa pointed out to all the other Representatives that they couldn’t talk about dignity because they didn’t know what it was. Then they all argued about what dignity was for hours without finding the answer.
Yes, says the Owner, but they put it in there anyway, didn’t they?
Yes, I say, but they still didn’t know what it was.
That’s because dignity is subjective, she says. That’s why when Jeremy Bentham asked his friend Thomas Southwood Smith to pickle him and put him on display in University College London his friends thought it was dignified to do it, for him. That’s why he’s still there to this day.
Exactly, I say. Being pickled in a glass case is dignified if the pickled person thinks it is. Recycling pizza is dignified because the Moral Dog thinks it is.
She says it’s not the recycling that’s undignified, its more the fact that I have the pizza box stuck on my head.
I don’t think it’s that funny.
Jeremy Bentham wouldn’t have laughed.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.