Human Dignity and the Millennial Culture of Trends


History has it that the human being is a being natured and nurtured in a complex system of different cultures. From birth, the human person is inducted into centuries-old habits, values, and sometimes vices. All together these acts of human behavior ultimately evolve into traditions.  But what is culture? This word can be traced back to the Medieval Latin world “culturare” which translates to mean to cultivate and grow. Relevant to this discussion, Merriam- Webster dictionary defines it as, “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations or the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.”

For millennials, culture seems to evolve at an unprecedented pace and more so under the influence of trends. Each social trend is a form of art that millennials try to identify with so as to gain an illusion of identity or a sense of “belonging”.  But as these changes happen, the intrinsic value of the person, glue to the human race, that is human dignity, has neither evolved nor should it so as to suit specific generations and thus denying its objective meaning. Therefore, the speedy changes of cultures influenced by trends and the objective value of human dignity bids the discussion of how the millennial generation and those generations that shall come after can attach human dignity to the ever-growing culture of trends. In my opinion, the two principles discussed here are quite essential to this cause.

The first principle is being able to develop an acute sense of responsibility. Human beings have distinct elements that differentiate them from other living organisms. One of these elements is decision making based on acquired knowledge and experiences combined with the conscious thought process that evaluates the cause and outcome of our actions. This process makes us responsible beings. The word responsible can be dissected into the ability to respond. Being able to respond means choosing when, how, and the type of response. From the concept of creation in the Biblical context the first existence of man began with the role of responsibility being given unto him. When there was failure in their responsibility, there were negative consequences that followed. One of the key measures of being responsible, in my view, is having a sense of self-control which in turn is derived from the fact that we have freedom. Freedom to act, say, or think as indicated when dealing with the ability to choose how to respond.

With all the technological and social advancements made, we have the freedom to choose whatever form of trending culture to participate in. Guided by the context of freedom by St. Thomas Aquinas, choosing freedom for excellence should be the path followed towards attaching human dignity to the millennial culture of trends. The axis for our actions, thoughts and words should be based on freedom for excellence hence development of wholesome individual and collective responsibility. With this in mind, I believe, the millennial generation shall promote trends that not only positively impact us and give us joy but also promote human dignity.

Secondly, Love of self and thy neighbor (the golden rule). Growing up as a young fellow, I was introduced to passionately loving sports. I am an avid National Basketball Association (NBA) and soccer fan. I remember getting my first pair of basketball shoes and the sense of pride that came from being on the basketball court in them. I remember how I treasured them since, at the moment, they were on “trend” and whenever wore them to a game or practice session, I felt that I played better, ran faster and jumped higher than before, or that I was even taller than my normal height. Soon enough, to my disappointment, wear and tear caught up with them. I started feeling slower and shorter than usual. Sadly the shoes could not reciprocate the love and they ‘left me’ or rather ‘I left them’ for the next trending basketball shoes that were affordable to me at the time. I eventually realized that the trick to win a game or play better wasn’t because of the shoes but because of the love and enthusiasm my teammates and I, put into the game. For me, having these shoes meant that “I belonged” on the court while the feeling of me being slower was a sense of me being disillusioned.

This is the same thing that happens to trends between human interactions, they come and soon enough they won’t be as enticing as before and new trends will emerge. Whenever we cooperate in love and enthusiasm, as human beings, we not only get beyond the I, as a person but develop an I-Thou relationship that supersedes all trends. The development of the golden rule not only allows us to view each other as mere participants in any trend, but grants the environment for human dignity to flourish in any cultural trend.

Now that we are confined into our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so many trends have emerged and many will keep on emerging as information is easily being transmitted from one part of the world to another in a matter of seconds. It is our duty as millennials to commit ourselves to be responsible with the trends that we engage in or promote, not just because we love ourselves but because we love our neighbors equally.  Each one of us has the responsibility to uphold human dignity with as much love and enthusiasm as we engage in trending –‘tik – tok’ dances or challenges or picking out trending outfit or in any other capacity of the trending culture.

We should not give power to the trends as a means of belonging to humanity; otherwise we shall create a false and ever-changing outlook of dignity. I believe that by being responsible for our actions and carrying forward that responsibility to our neighbors because of the golden rule we can remember human dignity despite the millennial culture of trends.

Published: July 15, 2020
Written by Andrew Mwangi,  a WYA Africa National Committee member and Certified CTP trainer.

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