In contrast to the familiar movements of identity politics, the dignity movement is all-inclusive. It demands dignity for everyone who has ever been, or may someday be, demeaned or exploited as a “nobody.” In the same sense that the civil rights movement unites against racism, the women’s movement targets sexism, and the gay movement works to dispel homophobia, so the dignity movement combats rankism. We are all present or future targets of rankism; and most of us have, at some point, been perpetrators of it. The dignity movement targets behaviors that would put others down even in the absence of one of the usual pretexts for doing so such as color, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
We wanted to believe that eliminating these traits as pretexts for discriminatory behavior would yield a fair and just society, but it’s now clear that there is yet another loophole in the Constitutional promise of liberty and justice for all. Rankism is the principal human cause of indignity, and it’s widely unchecked and condoned.
Rankism involves dominating and exploiting others, and, as such, the familiar isms are expressions of it. Taking on racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. is like cutting heads off the Hydra. As Studs Terkel wrote in his cover blurb to Somebodies and Nobodies “Rankism must be our prime target from now on in.”