Sunday, 23 November 2014
IPReg’s Code of Conduct requires patent attorneys not to do anything to compromise the dignity and good standing of the IP professions. OK, so what is “dignity”?
It may surprise you to learn that I have a dictionary at home. One of the old-fashioned ones, with front and back covers and some sheets of paper in between. It says that dignity is the quality of being worthy of respect. And to some, that appears to mean not stooping below a certain level.
But perhaps dignity actually means not having to stoop at all. Perhaps dignity involves recognising that we are all at the same level anyway, regardless of background or job title, age, gender, race, wealth, religion, sexuality or anything else. No-one should ever have to stoop to engage with another human being.
If you see dignity as something aloof and ceremonious, then there are relatively few human activities that would count as dignified. Childbirth is not dignified, believe me, and nor are the things that come before or after it. Scraping a screaming toddler off a supermarket floor is not dignified, especially if there is a half-melted ice cream involved. There is little dignity in falling in love (or at least, not the way I do it), or falling over your shoelaces when you’ve had too much to drink with your friends (ditto). And where is the dignity in fear, and in failure? In illness, pain, grief, death?
But in reality, of course, these are exactly the things which do impart dignity. Because they make us human. So why would you want to “rise above” them? Surely being dignified means accepting your essential human-ness, and being prepared to share it? Admitting you don't always know what you're doing. Confessing to a mistake or two. Letting your hair down; laughing when you shouldn't; weeping when you're supposed to be strong. Dignity is a human quality; it forgives and accommodates; it is not rigid and rule-based and pompous.
In my view, dignity does not put its wearer on a pedestal. It sees them continually humbled by their fellow men and women, and constantly out there engaging and learning. Dignity requires us to recognise and value the things that draw us together, not the things that set us apart.
Dignity is also an anagram of “gin tidy”. Now there’s something for my Christmas list: the gin cupboard is sheer chaos at the moment.