Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I recieved a copy of Robert W. Fuller's Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank from the Dignitarian Dialogues through their offer of a free copy on BookCrossing. This fascinating book argues that sexism, racism, ageism, and most other types of discrimination are subcategories of the main type of discrimination, "rankism," where people of higher rank, be that social, occupational, or financial, treat people they perceive as being lower-rank as nobodies, people undeserving of dignity. "The problem isn't that rank counts. When it signifies excellence, rank should count and it does. The trouble is that rank counts twice. No sooner is rank assigned than holders of higher rank can use their newfound power to aggrandize themselves at the expense of those of lower ranks." Whether this is the famous person who expects to get perks or the supervisor at work who orders everyone around, or even the lawyers or doctors who look down on the person at the party who teaches school, a lot of rankism exists and isn't usually thought of as discrimination. Fuller's book, though it gets a little repetitive toward the end, is a fascinating look at rank even in democratic societies such as the U.S., where the founders' intent was to avoid the aristocracies of older countries. One can hope that awareness of such discrimination will help people to avoid continuing to do it, but alas, the people who are willing to read such a book are probably not the worst offenders.