Letters From Now

By Ece Temelkuran

Reports from broken dignity

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Ece Temelkuran
Ece Temelkuran
Reports from broken dignity
Dear,
I am writing to you from Café Paris, Hamburg. Paris is an idea of a café scattered worldwide with rattan chairs and small, round tables. So true, “We’ll always have Paris.” − at least, until no women need to feel Ingrid Bergmann and no man need ‘to Bogart’! And I do need to feel a bit Casablanca today. Because of what happened a few days ago.
In front of the visa agency in Berlin, people were waiting in two separate queues. I was on the shorter one; people from Ukraine were on the other. The polite agency officer was trying to keep people in the appropriate lines. He asked every white person, including me, “Are you coming from Ukraine?”. Ironically, every person of African or Indian origin came from Ukraine, and we, “the whites,” ended up in the other line. We all waited there, with begging faces, anxious hands, and in cold weather. Finally, when I was called inside, it was that very British scene; the official blue of Britain, an excessive number of warnings plastered on the walls, steps to follow with highly simplified childish illustrations, and the determination of the faces not to have an expression. A senior-looking officer − a Brit, I guess −  jokingly said to a Ukrainian single mother, “Well, they speak English where you are going,” when she stammered in her answers. She tried to smile and said, “My English… so-so”. That forced smile of hers is our topic this month − dignity, or rather the pain of the broken dignity and how it binds us together, even globally. 
I argue that there is a war between the two words that sound similar: pride and dignity.
Those who’ve read Together’s related chapter already know I argue that there is a war between the two words that sound similar: pride and dignity. However, Pride is the word the fascists use to organize and mobilize the masses toward choices against their interests. On the other hand, Dignity represents the oneness of people and calls us to fight not against each other but against a system that breaks us all. The promise of nationalist and fascist leaders to the angry masses has been “mending the pride,” which always requires recognition of the superior other. It is no coincidence that they constantly repeat the same sentence, “We will show them!”. Although this narrative is accompanied by heroic valor, mending the pride is much easier than repairing the broken dignity. The latter requires a system change, whereas the former can efficiently operate within an unfair system. It even serves the system quite conveniently, even though it looks as if it is challenging the system. The inhumanity of pride is evident, for it is not shareable; not everybody all at the same time cannot ‘be great again’. On the other hand, Dignity already includes the love of people so much that you can feel the pain of the broken dignity of others. 
How do you repair your dignity?
This month I’d like to do something different, if I may. I want you to think of stories related to this topic − reports of broken dignity worldwide. Would you do that? It doesn’t have to be your story, but I would love you to answer this question on a personal level: How do you repair your dignity? When was the last time you had to mend it? 
Once the visa arrives, I’ll be in London for the paperback edition launch of Together: A Manifesto Against the Heartless World. Let’s see what will happen to me. 
Yours,
Ece
Thank you for being part of this expedition. This month we will be talking about Dignity. If you still haven’t, please become a member to receive letters weekly. Only members can join our extraordinary monthly meetings to become a ‘letter friend’ to many worldwide. The link is here.
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Ece Temelkuran
Ece Temelkuran @LettersFromEce

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