14 February 2021

The Redefinition of Respect

These days, it seems that there are demands for respect all around us. It seems like everyone, no matter what they do, are suddenly worthy of respect from everyone around them. This is confusing for me, perhaps because I am of a different generation and culture than most others around me.

I grew up with a very influential grandfather. Actually, he was my great uncle by marriage, but he later married my divorced grandmother and was the only grandfather that I knew on my mother's side of the family. He was hard-working, both kind and demanding, put others before himself, and served God with diligence. I remember most when he was often disappointed with me and wanted me to be more present in my surroundings. I ultimately respected his opinions and learned that when I disagreed with him, I tended to be wrong and he tended to be right. Even after his death, his advice to do technical work, which I rejected early on, turned out to be the right way to go and very lucative for me. When I think about "respect" these days, I think about him.

When social warriors insist that I show respect for infants, sexual or cultural perverts, or other unproven people, I get a sour taste in my mouth. I like infants - I was a preschool teacher for some years and enjoyed the experience very much. I don't think much of those who engage in various perversions, but I also don't wish them any ill and know that they have benefitted from my charitable contributions as I may have benefitted from theirs.  I hope they grow out of their brand of foolishness and that I do the same with mine. I want the best for others, but that is not "respect" to my mind.

I realize that I may offend the demands of others when I withhold my "respect" from swathes of people. I see a great difference in a neighborly attitude of "live and let live" and the individual honor that we may choose to bestow of respectability. 

As a religious volunteer at a prison, there was discussion of the idea of respect once, which had far more to do with fear and deference than what I felt for my grandfather. I was sometimes frightened and deferential to men grown monsterous through endless body-building incarceration, but I didn't respect them by following their examples or hanging onto each word of their felonous stories with a sense of longing. 

It makes me think of the "doublespeak" of Orwell's 1984 fame - the reduction of vocabulary to the point that no one can think of concepts outside of the will of the Party. It seems that more and more people want that world, one in which everyone is accorded respectability as if they are accomplished or of renown through just making a demand for such. It smacks of "participation awards" where people are cheered for simple existence and presence, except that now we are socially bludgeoned if we don't cheer loudly enough. The definition of respect is changed and rendered nearly the same meaning as base acknowledgement. "I am therefore I must be respected."

The troubling part is that the ancient accolades attached to respectability are expected to accrue to everyone now. We treat every babe and child as if they wrote a literary masterpiece or labored for decades to support a family while gaining valuable wisdom along the way. One no longer needs to do much of anything to be respected by others; others will respect you or else, harkening back to the fear of the muscled prison bruiser who will clobber you if you don't comply.

Our society has become quite threatening, reminiscent of the prison experiences I have had. I don't have much respect for society generally, much less for sycophantic governments that codify the worst elements of cultural degradation. The redefinition of "respect" is a thinly-veiled threat that we must vaunt the disrespectable and honor that which our ancestors found repugnant. It has less to do with a grandfather of high standards and more to do with a demanding and frightening thug. Which one wins?