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e_moon60

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Respect. Or Not. [Aug. 12th, 2011|10:45 am]
e_moon60
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Like many others, I've been following the news about the riots in the UK through Twitter posts in addition to regular news media...following links from one tweet to another, at times.  This led me to someone whose tweets are entirely negative--not only about the riots themselves, but about things reported to have been said by some of those involved.   One of the things tweeted resonated particularly because it seems to me this is a) typical of the privileged and b) also typical of the tangles humans get themselves into in social conflict.

The comment was in answer to someone who said the riots were (at least in part) the result of the participants not having gotten any respect from authorities, and the comment was "Respect must be earned."

When I was in high school, in a particularly annoying class with a particularly annoying and less than stellar teacher, I got in trouble for answering honestly a question the teacher asked, and was scolded by the counselor (to whom she reported me) for not respecting the teacher.  And my answer then was exactly the above: "Respect must be earned."    It's a handy answer for those who feel themselves superior to the person they don't respect.  In truth, that teacher was a lousy teacher, ignorant of material she should have known to teach that class and pretending to knowledge she didn't have.  I knew a lot of stuff she didn't know; I was trying to prepare myself for a first-class university and she clearly resented that...she didn't respect me, or for that matter higher learning, and I didn't respect her.  

And yet, in hindsight, while I still consider her a lousy and unqualified teacher far more interested in being respected than in being worthy of respect...I see my teenage self as far less able than I then thought, and certainly unwise (though not necessarily wrong) to say what I said--both in answer to her question in class, and to the counselor.   And in present sight, when a privileged person (which the person whose tweet I was reading clearly is--educated, financially secure, quite used to being respected in the field in which the person works)  uses that "Respect must be earned" to put down and ignore any reason why a rioter might have rioted other than bad character...I'm not comfortable with the answer.

I come at this now from another fifty years of life and education from my angry high school self.   I know more about human biology and what we inherited down the gene lines.  I know more about how many different kinds of people function in society: what choices they have and what choices they make and some (never all) of why.  I know more about politics and economics.  As a fiction writer, I've spent some serious time learning these and other things...and I've been in society, not apart from it, in various roles and in various groups.   (And that's why the title of this is Respect: Part 1.   What I want to share is too long for a single post.)  

First, a definition to be used here (in full awareness that other definitions are in play elsewhere.)   Respect is recognition that the other person is real: that they are worthy of being a partner in reciprocal interaction.   To respect a person is to listen, to see, to attempt to understand (even if, at the end, you don't.)   It is not agreement...I know people whom I respect (and listen to, and attempt to understand) while--on at least some issues--I cannot agree with them.   A respectful relationship is not one-sided: both parties listen, both parties share, both parties treat each other as worthy of the time.  Thus it is reciprocal.

Respect and fear are often confused.   The belligerent parent or teacher or police officer who says "You better respect me!  I'll teach you to respect me!"  wants obedience (or attention, or most commonly both), not respect.  Such persons are quite happy to have someone fear them--be too afraid to disobey or disagree.  Respect  is not fear.   Fear can exist without respect--and commonly does.   Fear breeds resentment, anger, a desire to transgress, to get even.

Admiration and respect are often confused.   The person who has achieved something we find good is often said to be "respected" for that achievement (even when the person is otherwise an A-one blot on humanity.)   But what we actually feel is admiration, sometimes rising to awe.   Honor and esteem arise from admiration and are not necessarily reciprocal.  If respect is mixed in, it's because the admirer has already built in a respect for individuals.  I admire a lot of people for their skill, their artistry, their intellect, their wit, their creativity, their craftsmanship, etc.  But many of these I do now know as individuals--I do not know whether I respect them as individuals.  And just having outstanding skills does not always engender respect--as achievement is perceived as a form of power, it can also engender resentment, anger, envy, etc.  

If respect does not arise from being intimidated by someone's overwhelming power (the parent/teacher/law officer/other) or from awareness of another's achievement, then where does it arise?   What is the spring of real respect?

Respect is part of the fundamental reciprocity of human social interaction from birth.   It is a relationship between individuals, in which each sees the other as fully real, and it is learned in the way of other relationships--by experience and example.  If you want a respectful child, respect the child.   Humans are mimics.   Even autistic children (as I have reason to know) are mimics to the degree possible.   So children learn to be respectful by experiencing respect from those--especially those in power--around them.   Not only respectful treatment of them, but respectful treatment of others by their models.  

Respecting a child does not mean indulging the child, or spoiling the child, or allowing the child to be a tyrant to the family.   It does mean acknowledging the child's reality as real to the child: that the scared child is scared, that the angry child is angry, that disappointment is real.   It is amazing, when you pay attention, how often children's reality is denied without thought by adults:  "You're not really tired."  "You're not that hungry."   "No, it's not too hot--now sit still."  "That doesn't really hurt."  "It's not that bad."  Children whose reality is dismissed as nonexistent or unimportant most or all of the time learn that they are not respected--they are not heard--and by extension, that when they are older, they will not have to listen to or respect others realities.

If they are privileged children, they grow up to dismiss the realities of the poor and fabricate reasons why they don't have to listen.  If they are poor, they grow up to find that their adult realities are dismissed by the privileged and their concerns are still not heard.  They are right when they say they are not respected, even if their experienced definitions are wrong.

In the UK, as in the US, gender and racial and class distinctions have the practical result that some people are treated as nonentities.   Their opinions are ignored or abruptly dismissed as worthless.   They are not seen, or heard, as individuals of value...and what they learn from that, and from the way they are treated, is that power allows others to ignore them...so if they get power (by whatever means) they can then treat the others as they themselves were treated.   When I was in grad school, a new program brought talented high school students from predominantly low-income Hispanic neighborhoods out to the university for a special program.  Immediately a few faculty expressed the concern that "that kind of person" wouldn't really learn much, wouldn't stay in the program, wouldn't benefit from it, and would damage the lab equipment they used.  I had heard this in high school in South Texas as well...that it was a waste of time and energy to help "those kids" because they would all just drop out.

How much respect--in any definition--did "those kids" get?   Automatically shunted away from the better academic classes to the lowest, automatically seen as potential dropouts, their contribution to their family's welfare ignored or scorned as proof they were not committed to academics...who ever actually saw them, or listened to them?   In those days, high school faculty paid little attention to students as real people anyway. 

Whether or not those students did anything wrong, they were judged unworthy of respect by those in power.   How could they "earn" respect, even in the faulty definitions of the day?  What could they do?   The school respected wealth, power in the community, "prominence," a particular set of other social virtues.   The school (like most people) "respected" (admired or feared or both) a wealthy white businessman even if in secret (or not so secret) he was a wife-beater, a bully to his children and his employees.  The school did not respect those who lacked these attributes or who had a particular set of socially disapproved conditions.    A kid from a poor family cannot become rich, powerful,  or change his/her skin color.  I knew from my own experience in high school that studying hard and making good grades did not get respect from most of the teachers, let alone the staff--they regarded "grinds" as suspicious (especially if they were girls.)   The only students who got real respect were the children of parents the school knew had power.  I was a "child of divorce"--socially "at risk" (and in some circles already condemned.)   Nothing I did, nothing within my control--not good behavior, not good grades--could compensate for those things I could not control: we had a low income, we lived in a small house (lucky to have a house!), my mother was a single parent and worked full time. 

That's mild compared to what the kids in the barrio faced, and what kids in ghettoized neighborhoods face.  The police weren't always stopping me to see if I'd committed a crime.   I wasn't in constant danger from drive-by shootings.  I knew--from the other not-respected kids--what additional burdens they faced that I escaped.  And I experienced just enough of that--just that little bit that landed on my head and back--to know what it does to have that kind of unearned contempt.   The kids whose parents were respected did no better than I did--they weren't more mannerly, they didn't make better grades, they didn't study harder--but they got respect.  Teachers did not question their right to have dreams and ambitions--did not try to shunt them into "appropriate" classes for their presumed lifetime of servitude.  And no, they did not "earn" it.

Though I don't agree with the position that "Respect must be earned"...I think rather than attack that statement head on it's worthwhile to ask "Then do the people you consider lesser have a way to earn it?  What would it take for you (and others) to respect the people in one of "those" neighborhoods?   The ones you think you're superior to?   Are your demands to "earn" respect connected to reality at all?    If there are no jobs--if there is no housing--and your demands depend on holding employment that pays enough for what you call "decent" housing...then how, exactly, are these people going to earn your respect?   If there are no good schools--if the libraries have closed--just exactly how is that child supposed to "earn" an education?   If you have allowed a neighborhood to exist with no access to beauty--no parks--and no access to learning--and no quiet and no peace--and everyone in it laboring under the suspicion of the police because they're "that kind of people", the kind you think deserve no respect...how the HELL are they supposed to earn it?  They're presumed guilty for existing.  

And you think you've earned the respect you get?   You think it's all due to your hard work and your good character?  How many times in childhood were YOU stopped by police when you had done nothing wrong?  How many times did teachers assume you were the one who stole something because of where you came from?  How many times were you eyed with suspicion by shopkeepers, yelled at, scolded, for things you had never done?   Or conversely, when your respectable and respected parents took you out, how many times were you treated courteously and respectfully because they were respected, and they were respected because they were clearly "our type"--they dressed well because they could afford to; they spoke well because they'd had the education and opportunity to learn;they had money to spend; they had a house or a nice apartment and you had access to parks, libraries, museums, schools where your right to that access was assumed.

Money "earns" that kind of respect.  Unearned money "earns" it as easily as money for which you worked 16 hours a day in a sweatshop.  Power earns that kind of respect.  It has not one damn thing to do with good character, or actual hard work...it has to do with whether you've got the money and the power money confers.  Money to clothe your child in the right clothes, to have their teeth straightened, to live in the right neighborhood, to furnish your house with the right things, to be sure your child goes to the right school...that's how that kind of  respect is "earned."  And there are those who cannot ever "earn" that kind of respect, the way things are set against them.  They have no respect because there is no way for them to earn it: no way to become powerful, wealthy, and just like you.   

The other kind--what I call respect rather than "deference" or "admiration" or "fear"  is "earned"--if that word must be used--one by one, one person at a time, by treating individuals as real and their reality as--whether you see things the same way or not--real-for-them.   

Ritual disclaimer:  as others have said, diagnosing is not the same as excusing.   But here's the thing: if you goad people far enough, they will behave badly.   It's still bad behavior but who started it?   What the excuse of those who behaved badly when they had power? 




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: filkertom
2011-08-12 03:58 pm (UTC)
There was a quote from a TV interview the other day -- I'm paraphrasing here, but the interview asked one of the people in the street, "Do you really think rioting is the way to get attention?" And he answered, "Yeah -- if we weren't rioting, you wouldn't be talking to me now, would you?"
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[User Picture]From: keristor
2011-08-12 04:50 pm (UTC)
I saw that interview. He also pointed out that a few days before several thousand people had gathered peacefully to protest and had been totally ignored by the media (as well, of course, by the politicians). Heck, the million or so who protested about the Iraq war were ignored apart from the few who were arrested.

And I'll put it here because it ties in:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100100708/the-moral-decay-of-our-society-is-as-bad-at-the-top-as-the-bottom/

Note that this is the paper popularly called the "Daily Torygraph", usually supporting the Tories (the Conservative party currently in power with the LibDems). And that paper has twice in the same week been critical of the standards and morals and behaviour of the politicians. Cheating on their expenses, paying as little tax as they can get away with, breaking every election promise they made (yes, I know the old saw about "how do you tell when a politician is lying", it isn't funny any more just true).

Respect probably shouldn't have to be 'earned'. I would rather start off with a default state of respect until the person proves that they can't be trusted. But the politicians have passed that latter mark many times over, they get no respect from me nor from those others to whom they have lied and cheated and robbed.

With examples like those, how do they expect people to behave? An MP puts 8 laptops on 'expenses', why shouldn't we all get a laptop free as well? MPs get their nice clothes paid for on 'expenses', OK, we'll all just grab anything we want, because that's what those who consider themselves our 'betters' show us (show, not tell) is the way to behave.

Disclaimer: If it isn't obvious, I'm British. No, I don't live in London, and I'm not poor (although my family certainly was when I was growing up). But I too am getting to the point where I'd be willing to throw a Molotov Cocktail, although I'd do it at the people who are actually at fault, the politicians. The rioters are idiots because they targetted the wrong area of the city...
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[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2011-08-12 05:02 pm (UTC)
I was thinking of that interview, too. The person interviewed made a very good point.
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[User Picture]From: sorceror
2011-08-12 08:40 pm (UTC)

This behaviour may get attention. However, I don't think it's the kind of attention that person wants, and I doubt it will lead to positive changes.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 01:26 am (UTC)
I agree that bad behavior (at any age, any time) usually gets a bad response.

However, in the history of political action, bad behavior has led to positive changes: revolutions start with bad behavior and some revolutions have led to improvement for much of those formerly oppressed. The difficulty is stopping at "enough." That was usually the problem with the oppressors, too.
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[User Picture]From: sorceror
2011-08-15 03:46 pm (UTC)

It's true that 'bad' behaviour can sometimes lead to positive change, but obviously it isn't always the outcome. I think it depends on the specific circumstances, including (but not limited to) the behaviour itself, whether there is a unified message behind it and what that message is, what kind of action can remedy the situation, and the character of the audience to whom the message is addressed.

In this particular case, I think that many of these are either unclear, or simply not something that will get sympathy. While the initial demonstration had a point (the police shooting of a black man), from what I've seen, that was only a small part. The escalation that happened afterwards seems a lot more like the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver two months ago.

Anyway, I'm sure the analysis of this event will continue for a long time. And I do hope that something good will come of it in the long run.
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[User Picture]From: shockwave77598
2011-08-12 04:21 pm (UTC)
Well, respect DOES have to be earned. But that's a double edged sword -- both the cop AND the citizen have to be worthy of it from the other. And normal civility would have some modicum of respect be present by default unless the other earned lower.

But that's not how the modern society has developed. For all that the cops are dismissive of the lower classes, the lower classes give disrespect right back. So the vicious circle goes round and round and round, and unfortunately has no end, even if you give all the kids get out of jail free cards.

I heard a wonderful one sentence summation of the riots -- Rioting is people's removal of their consent to be ruled by the existing system any further. We look at the Arab Spring and their revolts with admiration while we immediately dismiss the same thing happening in our own midst with contempt? Why is that? The exact same thing going on; over there is good but over here is bad. I'm not defending the rioters, no. But when nothing else has worked, when the society that pigeonholed you into squalor from schoolage on doesn't care what befalls you, then it's the right of the downtrodden to rebel. We in this country rebelled against the very same government, and for similar reasons. Perhaps, just perhaps, the rioters have a genuine beef with their rulers just as the US once had.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-08-12 04:30 pm (UTC)
I live in Brixton, where some of the worst looting took place, which 30 years ago was the scene of very bad rioting and civil unrest. What has just happened bears very little resemblance to that of 30 years ago, other than the fact that shops were trashed and one was burnt out. Sadly, what happened on Sunday night was pure vandalism and criminal behaviour from people, many of whom were far from poor and disenfranchised. People charged with offences include a graphic designer, college students, a youth worker, a university graduate and a man signed up to join the army. Not everybody even lived in London!

Thirty years ago was terrifying. The police felt like the enemy, out to terrorise the community. It was then a community of poverty, deprivation and crime. It was an area without hope.

Those of us who have lived there for 30 years and more, and have worked in the community, have seen it gradually transform into a very different place to live. The area has a reputation now, not for crime and drugs, but for great food and fabulous nightlife.

We are angry now, angry at what was done to our community, angry at those who came in from outside to steal and rob and try to drop us back 30 years. They won't succeed. Almost all the shops have re-opened and are trading as usual. Life goes on, and we will continue to have the hope that, thirty years ago, didn't exist.

My daughter lives near that part of north London where the trouble began - we missed being eye-witnesses to it all by mere minutes - but even there, the family's protest started out as peaceful, and as a demand for information from the police. I don't know the ins and outs of what then happened, but I do gather that those who gathered outside the police station on Saturday afternoon are as shocked and horrified as anybody!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:35 am (UTC)
Thank you for your very detailed input--though I subscribe to quite a few news feeds and also follow people in England on Twitter, I know that this is only peeking through cracks in the fence.

But I also know from events in my country how these things can work (the police force in a nearby city has a bad reputation--I think deservedly--for its treatment of minorities, visitors, and musicians) and how hard it is for some who have been treated badly to be heard. There hasn't been a riot yet there...and maybe there won't be...but where I know more about riots in this country, the root of each has been a perceived inability to be heard...and then others join in who may not be involved in the grievance at all.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-08-13 01:22 pm (UTC)
Thirty years ago, our police were racist and proud of it; a dear friend was, at the time, working for the Ministry of Defence in some capacity or another (I never knew what!), and he said it was disgusting. When he got stopped - when, not if (he is my age, so was in his late 20s at the time) - he was not allowed to give details other than his name and address, and then a telephone number his employers provided that the police were to be asked to call. And he said their attitude instantly changed to "Sorry to have bothered you Sir!" which he said was utterly nauseating. As did another (white) friend who was the wife of the then chair of the Police Liaison Committee - she went in to the police station to report a minor theft or something similar and was given very short shrift until they discovered who her husband was!

I didn't realise how much of the local attitude I'd absorbed until we moved away temporarily while my husband was on secondment for a year, and we went to a church where people were speaking about how wonderful our police were. I found myself thinking, "You WHAT?!"

And this time round, everyone's attitude is that the police have been marvellous, badly treated, and deserve cups of tea and home-made sandwiches, especially as it transpires that police canteens are a thing of the past and they have to go to McDonald's or Starbucks in their breaks!
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-08-12 04:31 pm (UTC)

You might want to look at this blog link...

http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/08/barbara_ehrenreich_on_the_crim.php

It's on Barbara Ehrenreich's CounterPunch article on the criminalization of poverty. She's looking at the US post her exceptional book "Nickled and Dimed."
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:47 am (UTC)

Re: You might want to look at this blog link...

I strongly prefer non-Anonymous posts. Most, when a post of mine is political, are aggressive, rude, and illogical.

This one is not. I had read a review of Ehrenreich's book but haven't yet read the book.

If you must make an anonymous comment, including a link to a book that's relevant to the main post is the right way to do it. However...I still prefer some kind of ID, and some sense of how the writer is connected to the issue under discussion.

As this one is
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[User Picture]From: jimkeller
2011-08-12 04:58 pm (UTC)
I hate to make trouble for you, but does this also apply to immigrants? To practitioners of a foreign religion who have chosen not to to assimilate into the dominant culture, where they were forced to move for economic reasons? Should respect be the default position we Americans take when someone, say, wants to build a mosque near the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history?
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-08-12 06:50 pm (UTC)
Do you, then, consider every Muslim to be a terrorist? What of those who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks, as happened in London on 07/07/05?
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2011-08-12 07:55 pm (UTC)
It wasn't a mosque. It was a community center. And there was already a mosque just as close, that'd been there for decades.

That whole bit was *not* about a mosque, it was about fear-mongering in the public. Trying (and succeeding, alas) to make people who share as much with the 9/11 attackers as you do with Timothy McVeigh or that guy in Norway (I assume you are at least nominally Christian) look like they are the *same* as those attackers.

Being Muslim isn't not illegal or immoral any more than being Christian is. And claiming that not wanting to change their religion is "refusal to assimilate" is utter hogwash. Among other things, we've had Muslims here since *before* this was a country.


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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:29 am (UTC)
No assumptions, please. Unless someone states his/her religion, you have no right to assume what it is, whether you agree or disagree with their position. No assuming someone's national identity: if they want it known, they can state it. Or you can ask--politely. And no mis-stating what someone's point was. Which you have done severally in this comment.

Nobody here has claimed that "not wanting to change their religion" is "refusal to assimilate." That may have been claimed elsewhere but not here.

Nobody here is claiming that being Muslim is "illegal or immoral" in comparison with being Christian. That has been claimed elsewhere, but not here.

There is enough to ponder in what I actually said in this post, without bringing up arguments not made...in fact, that's called a "straw man" attack and it's a logical fallacy.




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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 01:49 am (UTC)
Poppycock...of COURSE you want to make trouble for me, or you wouldn't have started this up again. Don't try to play that game here; it won't work.

You seem to have missed the bit where "respect" does not mean "agree with everything someone does or wants to do." I respect some people I disagree with, and whose policies I see as an oncoming train wreck. Because I do respect them, I have also taken the trouble to consider how their policies would work in reverse. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

As a practical matter, choosing to differentiate yourself from the dominant culture--any dominant culture--means that you will be seen as different. You may be sure that your different is better--that your views should prevail--but you've chosen to stand out. Since it was your decision to stand out, it's unreasonable to complain that people now look at you differently...and will do so whether they respect you or not.

If I were to go to Saudi Arabia dressed as I am at the moment, I would not be accepted. I wear jeans. I do not cover my head except for reasons of weather. I drive a car. I travel without my husband. I have my own passport and travel internationally alone. Those are not acceptable for women in Saudi Arabia and I would expect to be stared at, muttered about, disapproved of, and possibly arrested. In Afghanistan, I would likely be killed. (It's a moot point, because I will not travel to any country where women are not accorded equal rights to hold property, travel, get an education, and dress as they please.) There are other nations (including next-door Mexico, which I grew up next to) where my life would be in danger because of my nationality, my race, and sometimes my religion as well. In my travels I have been stared at, muttered at, and directly confronted and scolded because I'm an American (and that despite dressing conservatively for the place I'm visiting and doing my best to be a mannerly, non-trouble-causing tourist.)

So in saying that if you want to fit in, you need to assimilate as much as you can, I am not claiming special worth for my own national culture...I'm stating a fact. If you don't want to assimilate, fine: but then understand that you will be looked at, talked about, and not all your thoughts, desires, and actions will be approved. Your neighbors may actually respect you--may come to like you, which is beyond respect--but they still won't agree with you. They will still think you'd be better off if you didn't insist on being different.

Where people have no choice in being different (physical properties like gender, skin color, hair color, disabilities)the situation is different: their difference is not a choice, and on those lines, in particular, I push hard for attitudes to change.

As someone perceived as being different most of my life, and taking flak for it, I know personally both the costs and the rewards of it. And I know what is reasonable to expect from people who consider me different and what isn't.

















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[User Picture]From: jimkeller
2011-08-13 02:33 am (UTC)
Poppycock...of COURSE you want to make trouble for me, or you wouldn't have started this up again. Don't try to play that game here; it won't work.

Well, it's more accurate to say that I saw this as an opportunity to let you clarify, retract, justify, etc. the earlier mess in the hopes that the lingering badness could be cleared away. (Because, really, I respect you and your work and would like the mess to go away.) Ultimately, I still disagree with you on this point and think there's an assumption of cultural superiority (and hence a lack of respect) by any person or group that looks askance at the "other." Therefore we should all strive to not look askance the "other" (even when that means tolerating what we don't like and defending things the other guy should have known would be provocative). But I can at least take heart that you are supporting your position in terms of respect for the other instead of coming from a position of blatant cognitive dissonance. :)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 03:08 am (UTC)
And yet you continue to act from YOUR perceived superior position...you decided to "give me an opportunity" to satisfy your desire to have me be what you want..how very kind of you. Not your job description, sunshine.

What I see is _your_ assumption of cultural and moral superiority and possibly individual superiority: you are willing to lay down the law for everybody far more strictly than I ever have or would. (That's assuming you're fair-minded enough to apply the same standards of dealing with the "other" to all cultures, not just one. Note that I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.)

I don't frankly care whether you now "take heart" in finally understanding my position or not. I don't care whether you agree with me or not. It's clear to me that if I should take "one step to the right or one step to the left" (that's a Solzhenitsyn quote, in case you don't recognize it) from the perfect path you think I should be on, you'll whack me with your ethical rifle and feel self-righteously smug for doing so.









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[User Picture]From: jordan179
2011-08-12 05:27 pm (UTC)
How much respect were the rioters showing for their victims, who were, after all, pretty much just ordinary Brits rather than imaginary bloated plutocrats?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:18 am (UTC)
They're not showing respect. Remember the ritual disclaimer: analysis, diagnosis, is not the same thing as approval or excusing.

But in order to learn how to respect, a person must experience being respected. I have known "disrespectful" individuals who had never been respected. They didn't have a clue. Ethics and morality have a basis in human neurology but it's like many other things that our neurology makes possible: they are socially learned skills...and socially learned skills are learned by experience, not precept alone.

How many of the rioters had experienced respect as children? As young adults? Respect from those "pretty much just ordinary Brits" when they went about their daily lives. I can't agree that "bloated plutocrats" are imaginary (at least, they're not in the States--I've met some) but I will say that where most people experience disrespect is at a trickle-down level: from local police, from store managers, from bus drivers, from social service agencies, from, in fact, a wide range of "just ordinary" people they meet every day, hear talking about them on the radio or TV, see written about them in newspapers. A culture of disrespect breeds more disrespect.
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[User Picture]From: harvey_rrit
2011-08-12 08:11 pm (UTC)
My own take:

A lot of people I have heard demanding respect are, in fact, getting a 100% return on investment.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:08 am (UTC)
That's particularly true of those in power, in my experience.

And that's my experience as a parent, talking too. If you respect your kids (not coddle them, spoil them, give in to them all the time, but respect them as individuals) they will respect you as a parent. It takes longer and it's harder work than just blowing off everything they try to tell you about their realities...but it does work. it takes time to listen, to understand, and then to respond (whether with yes or no or maybe or a long explanation) with respect. Parents whose kids disrespect them haven't respected their kids.

When people have not ever experienced respect, they will not give respect.

Bosses whose employees don't respect them haven't respected their employees.

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From: (Anonymous)
2011-08-12 08:58 pm (UTC)

Respect for all

Very nice, thoughtful comments, with excellent examples and learning points. Thank you, Elizabeth.

My take on the whole respect thing is that it is earned or bestowed based upon an individual's choices - but also that there is a certain underlying level of respect according to which all living people should be treated. This is challenging to practice, but worthwhile. Therein lies the respect for children (one's own and others), and respect for one's fellow man or woman, regardless of fiscal position, education, family structure, or the rest.

Giving someone else respect as a fellow being is something that I feel one should start with, adjusting according to that other being's actions and behaviors. If he or she proves unworthy, or if he or she demonstrates themselves to be worthy of additional respect, fine. Treat them so. It's very, very easy to pigeonhole people into this or that group, and base the respect level upon what a visible group member has done. It's much harder (and in my view, more worthwhile) to separate the individual when determining respect.

The world has many scattered examples of people fighting the odds and emerging as amazing, respect-worthy, even great people.

What if they didn't have to fight so hard? :)

~Gretchen in Minneapolis
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:03 am (UTC)

Re: Respect for all

Gretchen, I agree with you on the "should"--but how we get that into the power structure is always a problem.

I was shocked, some years back, when an SF con overlapped a law-enforcement convention in the same hotel, to hear a group of law-enforcement people (some in uniform, some not) agree among themselves (with some serious yuck-yuck and elbowing ribs going on) that of course EVERYbody was a criminal REALLY, and they just hadn't been caught yet, so all this crap (the word used) about innocent until proven guilty was so much hogwash. Of course they were guilty. You just had to find out what they were guilty of. These supposed sheepdogs clearly considered the sheep the way wolves do--prey to be harvested at their convenience.

I've heard politicians--including those presently in Congress--use terminology about groups of citizens (by party affiliation, by race, by religion) that horrify me. You hear it on talk radio and Fox News all the time...total lack of respect for anyone who doesn't agree 200% with the speaker.

Yes, there should be a base level of respect for everyone. But what do we do about the people in power who do not have such respect for anyone but their campaign contributors, or the members of their country club, or those with incomes high enough that they shouldn't pay taxes? They exist; we can't pretend they don't exist. And--practically speaking--we cannot force them to that basic level of respect. We have a political system (and Britain's is different in form but not in effect) that allows the wealthy and powerful to disrespect those 'below'...for profit. So that it's damn near impossible to keep a big corporation from polluting the air, water and (if it's in the food business) our food supply. So that big corporations and banks are worth bailing out, but the Speaker of the House can say, in the face of those whose jobs have been lost or about to be cut..."So be it."

If those in power respected every person at the most basic level...these battles for recognition and respect--whether violent or nonviolent--would not have to occur. A lot more human energy could go into making things better instead of trying to convert the power structure.

And again, not because you aren't getting this but because many don't, this is not about agreeing with everything everyone says, or giving everyone everything they want. Disagreement leads to new knowledge, new ways of doing things, and it's not bad.
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[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2011-08-12 10:10 pm (UTC)
I agree that people are much too quick to assume the worst about people "different from them." Or maybe I should say "different from us" because I might be doing it too.

I like to think I meet someone with a default level of "medium respect." More respect than that must be earned (and demands for extra respect are likely to have the opposite effect)--less respect must be, ah, "earned" also. My youthful phrase was "respect is for those who deserve respect, but always give a stranger the benefit of the doubt."

I will note, regarding riots and looting, that IIRC about 10% of people won't do something "against the rules" no matter what, about 10% of people will do whatever they can get away with, and the other 80% of people do what they see other people doing. So if the few bad apples realize they can get away with looting, and the 80% see them doing it, the 80% are likely to join in after a while. I expect this goes double if the 80% see someone going by with their arms full of new sneakers, and think to themselves "gosh, I haven't been able to afford a new pair of sneakers in three years...."
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 05:32 am (UTC)
You're right that the monkeys do what the monkeys see (in the 80%)...I remember our son, who's autistic and was nonverbal at the time, noticing his father leaning on a doorframe with one foot hooked over the other ankle, and very carefully arranging his own body...first shoulders back against the door frame and then (looking back and forth) arranging his legs to match his father's. We're social animals and of a particularly imitative line. (Though actually...I know of a couple of bull calves who learned their fighting technique from a billy-goat and became such a menace at the bull-testing facility later that they had to be withdrawn from the test...so if even calves can imitate to that degree...maybe we aren't any more imitative than bovines.)

Anyway, as imitative as humans are, especially in groups, it seems reasonable to attempt to make the group ethos something that--when imitated--doesn't lead to chaos and destruction. Unfortunately, since humans are both imitative and hierarchal, real success here would require some changes at the top as well. Leadership, not management. Another thing learned from our autistic son in his young years--trying to "push" or "shove" him into good behavior was like trying to push cooked spaghetti strands through a maze...but catch hold of the other end, and "lead" him into good behavior and it worked.
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[User Picture]From: bookmobiler
2011-08-13 01:30 am (UTC)

Respect

I believe that the phrase "Respect has to be earned" is true.

What people who say it usually don't understand is that it is always a double edged sword. They assume that they have earned respect.

We all remember that famous definition of assume. Don't we?
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2011-08-13 01:47 am (UTC)
I like that you put in a definition of respect.

Respect is one of those words that encompass a lot of meanings. When I was young I was taught to "respect my elders". This meant being polite to any one older than me whether they were polite or not in return.

I have serious issues with the phrase "Respect must be earned". I feel the correct phrase should be "Respect is earned". Everyone should be treated with courtesy. Period. That courtesy is considered part of respect is a common assumption. I have no problem with that. However, to me, respect means having proved by your words and actions that you are worth my admiration for your accomplishments.

I look forward to reading Part 2.
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[User Picture]From: drewkitty
2011-08-13 06:00 am (UTC)
Respect is an essential to non violent communication. I do not have to like a person, or agree with them, or have a positive judgment of either their character or their life choices, in order to show them respect.

It should be a minimum requirement of appropriate behavior for peace officers to treat the persons they speak to, detain, and/or arrest with respect. Peace officers who are consistently unable to do this should be invited to find another profession.

I often find that giving a little respect, even or especially in situations where I might feel that respect is not "deserved" or "earned" by the other, is essential to getting along.

I am using definition #4 in the link here.

"deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment"

[as] "... respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly."

The respect I am speaking of is the respect that all human beings deserve. Another way to put it is that everyone should acknowledge the human rights of others. Courtesy is one way of showing or evoking this kind of respect, but not the only kind.

I wish to add with great emphasis that this is NOT the respect associated with "worth or excellence" of a person. I may have great esteem for a person who has earned particular merit -- such as the author of some excellent books, in whose LJ I am commenting -- but this is not the same as respect.

Respect is saying, "Watch your head, sir" as you seat the suspect in the back of the squad -- and meaning it.
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2011-08-13 11:31 am (UTC)
*nods* Thanks for the link. As I said, respect is one of those words with multiple definitions, in this case eight basic ones and several variations on those eight.

The respect that I see as being earned is obviously definition #5, esteem. The common usage of respect is, as you said, definition #4, courtesy.

We are both saying the same thing, just in different ways. Unfortunately, a lot of people who use the term respect seem to think that courtesy is only deserved if esteem is involved. In this case the common usage does not match the common understanding of the word's definition.

To paraphrase, esteem is earned, courtesy applies to everyone, deserved or not.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 05:24 am (UTC)
Yup. But (as I said below somewhere) I go pedantic on occasion to untangle the meanings that interfere with clear discussion. Esteem or admiration are definitely earned by performance.

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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2011-08-16 06:05 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* I tend to be pedantic most of the time. Since I have dealt with people of various educational levels for most of my life, I usually paraphrase conversations to make certain that I understand the other person and that they understand me.

Which would explain why I go nuts when people misuse words. To quote Fenric from The Princess Bride "I do not think that word means what you think it does."
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-13 02:41 am (UTC)
Since it's obviously necessary: Anonymous posters that do not introduce themselves with a recognizable name will find their comments missing.

If it turns into a flamewar, comments will be deleted, starting with the first flamers and moving on as necessary. Those hovering on the edge of flaming may get a warning first. The intent is not to quash discussion, but to keep it factual and courteous.

Trolls and hornet swarms--deleted at once. Don't even bother.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-08-13 09:35 pm (UTC)
Elizabeth I very much liked your post on respect and greatly enjoy your books. I'm posting anonymously not because I'm a troll but because I don't have or want an LJ account.
My substantive comment is that I'm not sure assimiliation is always that easy. I know that I might go to a beach in Europe and find most women there would sunbathe topless but I would nevertheless find it uncomfortable for me to join in, even as I accept that others may do so, and even if urged by my family. If one is a Muslim woman who believes that hair, like breasts, should be covered in public, one may not be comfortable or willing to sacrifice one's concept of identity to the prevailing mores. Elizabeth you said that you would not travel to a country such as Afghanistan where women were seriously oppressed -- does that relate in part to your sense of how your own identity would have to be infringed to be able to live/travel/operate in that culture?
I've lived in eight countries and am headed off to ninth country soon. Jeanine currently in VA
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 05:21 am (UTC)
No, assimilation isn't always easy. Remember, I grew up in a very complex group of cultures on the Border, and that even away from the Border Texas harbored many cultures, including some that resisted assimilation for a long time (we had the last Czech language newspaper in the United States, I was told.) Assimilation (difficult or easy) has always been an issue, not only in this country. Observing the effects of assimilation (partial or complete) and nonassimilation (usually very intentional) at both the cultural and individual level (the "differentness" of the individuals who could not fit in due to disability, for instance) led to some reality-based conclusions...there is no easy, comfortable answer either way.

Choosing not to visit countries where women are seriously oppressed is a complex decision, with several roots, and I do not claim that my reasoning is valid for other women: it's based on my own feelings and thoughts and capacities. When I travel abroad, I add to the economy of the places I visit--tourist income, if you will. That validates the place I visit, economically, in every choice I make of where to stay, how to travel, what to buy, etc. The more oppressive it is, the more likely that those who benefit most from the money I bring in would be the oppressors. If I attempted to conform to local custom, that would be taken as agreement. If I did not, I would become a "bad example" the oppressors could use to tighten their tyranny, creating a risk for any women I came in contact with. While I could stand the restrictions for a short period, what would I be there for? To satisfy my curiosity? How is that helping the oppressed women and children? I'm not trained or skilled in any way that would allow direct aid not likely to cause repercussions to them and I'm not at all skilled in concealing my feelings about the oppression or the oppressors.

So for me, the best thing to do is stay away and support those who have a better chance (I think) of actually accomplishing something.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-08-13 06:45 am (UTC)

I hope you don't mind being quoted

My name is Karen (I don't do any of the other websites that makes it easy to be other than anonymous).

I also can't speak to what is happening on the other side of the pond except to notice that there is an amazing link between the timing of the revelations of the connections between a certain international news corporation, bribes to police, coziness with politicians, and a simultaneous budget stalemate here in the U.S. led by a handful of politicians with similar ties to the same international news corporation, who would have forced us to Gehenna to prove their righteousness -- and may yet do so as like-minded politicians and bankers plunge us deeper and deeper into fiscal crisis.

But those are my own political views -- so I won't try to attribute any part of them to this deeply profound post. You've touched something that goes much deeper, in my mind.

You see, I was raised as a devout Christian (still am, and won't apologize, no matter who wants to try to make me because I still believe in the Golden Rule, the story of the Good Samaritan, and all those other "liberal" ideals).

I was also raised to love my country and the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. I have become increasingly bemused as everything I believe through the prism of my faith has been forced into conflict with people who proclaim both my faith and my love of country.

But your explanation of how "respect" is really more about demanding power than it is about being deserving of word, the way I have always used it, explains everything.

I've never been so naive as to believe that everyone who calls themselves Christian really was one (I seem to remember learning a text about wolves in sheep's clothing as a child), and I have known many people who proclaimed themselves to be atheists (or members of assorted religious groups) who, in conversation, agreed to an admiration of the values I care about, and who seemed to live lives that (all apologies to those who don't want to be called Christian because they have devout reasons to call themselves something else) fit Christ's statement, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." [Luke 13:34-35].

So here I have been all these years, watching the flames of discord spread throughout the world I know, watching people who should acknowledge and respect (my old definition) peoples' differences grow more and more strident. I deeply hope my still stumbling understanding of the ways people have perverted all that I believe is beautiful, right, and true will not further inflame the fires, but I thank you for a profound new understanding: When someone demands or says they give respect, the opposite it very likely true, even when they think they are speaking truth.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 04:59 am (UTC)

Re: I hope you don't mind being quoted

It's taken me awhile to get back to this and unscreen comments--sorry.

One reason I go all pedantic now and then and insist on defining terms is because the careless use of terms makes real discussion impossible...ensures confusion and makes argument more likely. Though it does slow things down and take longer to work through to meaning, insisting on one meaning for one word in the discussion at hand enables understanding. (That the other meanings may be used elsewhere isn't in doubt--but for the purposes of a here-and-now discussion, sticking to one meaning really does help.)

Lots of people label themselves (as a religion or culture or political position) and assume that the specific values/qualities they themselves assign to those labels are assigned by everyone else. That all Christians believe [A, B, C...] or all Democrats think [a', b', c'...] when in fact there's a huge range in those and other labels. So it's impossible to discuss anything by large labels without defining which included values/qualities you're assigning to the large labels. I think we all have individual value-clusters that we personally assign to the label...but we need to know that those clusters are not universal.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-08-13 02:43 pm (UTC)

I hope you don't mind being quoted by someone who is still processing

My name is still Karen, and I still don't quite trust the businesses that help transform me from anonymous to easily identifiable as much as I trust governments to work on the behalf of the the people, by the people, etc. but....

Oh, and I'm still processing....

I don't know how this reflects my socio-economic status (I knew my family was never rich (though a Mormon Aunt gave me ample records to have reason to sneer at the DAR (like everyone who qualifies was somehow gentrified), but I also knew we weren't poor -- although my paternal grandparents worked civil-service jobs by day and farmed by lamplight, which I thought was once normal, and my grandmother's decision, when my Mom lost her father in 1944 as a child of 3, to try to work the farm so that she could stay with her children, aged 18, 15, 6 and 3, meant she struggled mightily in the days long before welfare, leading to reports of her kids going without many of the things we call "essentials" -- and who might have gone hungry without their vegetable garden and anonymous help their church never identified or even acknowledged, which I also thought was once normal....)

In other words, aside from geneology and bank balances I was taught were none of my business, I grew up with three levels of "minimal" good behavior:

1) "Good manners" included: using a fork and knife to get food to my mouth and not on my clothes (not my forte); wiping my nose on a tissue and not my hand or sleeve; saying "excuse me" if I burped, or emitted other bodily noises; and a panoply of automatic behaviors like using words such as "please" and "thank you.

2) "Courtesy" meant holding doors open for others, noticing when they had a difficulty with which you could assist (i.e., changing the subject when they seemed distressed, without asking any questions that might make matters worse; picking up coins that strangers had dropped and returning them; standing up for someone I believed, according to what I had been taught, was being treated unfairly; and various and sundry "rules" that were meant to form bonds between strangers and ease tensions between friends, and

3) "Respect", which, I was taught, encompassed the true essence of my own humanity. There was no greater sin than to be "disrespectful" (unless I somewhow implicated God in my own sin.") Usually, this term was most likely to be used when an adult was involved, but it was just as cutting when I was accused of disrespect for a friend or for my brother (no matter what he had done to provoke me).

It's strange to look back at how easily I discarded expectations that the world would run on "good manners" and "courtesy," let alone how long I have persisted in the belief that "simple human respect" was the foundation of civilization. I won't pretend to like it, but I cannot deny that what, to me, was the great sin, has so far left our normal level of discourse that I have to redefine the term completely. As painful as it is, the truth is always better than living a lie.

For this, I thank you (although I'm not planning to give up 1-3 willy-nilly -- that's the conundrum; how do you do what you believe is right in a world that ignores your beliefs?) In my case, I hope, I will simply carry on but with a better understanding of how I am perceived and of how those perceptions are used to use and control me
and to quote you (at length) on how the word "respect" no longer means the value I was taught (or that Aretha sings about) in the hope that I can start a dialogue with people about what "respect" should mean again.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 04:48 am (UTC)

Re: I hope you don't mind being quoted by someone who is still processing

I still think good manners and courtesy are important. Over the warnings of those who insisted (when our autistic kid was little) that he should not be burdened with "meaningless" things like Please and Thank you and You're Welcome...we taught them. (But it was habitual to use them with one another, which certainly helped.) M- is now considered unusually polite for an autistic man, though he is also strict in some ways (If he says "Thank you," you had better come back with "You're welcome" or he will keep saying "Thank you" until you do!)

Though the whole world doesn't recognize the same things as good manners (something I learned very early on the Border, since different cultures have different details--Anglo kids were expected to look adults straight in the eyes when spoken to or speaking, while Hispanic kids were taught that staring into an adult's face was rude), an attempt to go with the manners of the place you're in and be thoughtful and helpful does smooth out a lot of potential difficulties.

But never all, and new situations (such as online venues) reveal ever new cultural differences. (Some people automatically map host/guest behaviors to online encounters, and some very definitely do not--or had very different host/guest standards than I was brought up with.)
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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2011-08-14 04:58 pm (UTC)
First, a definition to be used here (in full awareness that other definitions are in play elsewhere.) Respect is recognition that the other person is real: that they are worthy of being a partner in reciprocal interaction. To respect a person is to listen, to see, to attempt to understand (even if, at the end, you don't.)

If this is your definition of respect, then I agree that it doesn't have to be earned.

I don't think that's necessarily the definition that people who say that respect has to be earned are using though. I think that there are different levels of respect. What you are talking about is the basic level that everyone ought to get by default just for being a human being. While I think that everyone should start out being given that level of respect, I think that bad behavior can cause people to lose some of it. While I think everyone is entitled to be treated as if they are real, sometimes people's actions show that they are not worthy of being a partner in a reciprocal interaction. I also think there are levels of respect above that basic level that should be earned, not just given. The kind of respect you give to a good teacher with decades worth of learning would be an example of that. I don't think that money entitles anyone to more than the basic level of respect. I think that some positions are entitled to more respect by default as long as the people in them continue to hold up their end of things. There are greater responsibilities that go with the greater respect. One problem is that a lot of them don't hold up their end of things. When the police stop people over the color of their skin, or because they live in the "wrong" neighborhood, they're failing in one of their duties which causes them to lose respect as far as I'm concerned. When our so-called leaders continue to make laws that let the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, they aren't living up to their responsibilities and thus the right to higher levels of respect.

Where the rioting in the UK is concerned, its appears to me that there were three parts to what went on - the original peaceful demonstration, the violence that followed it which was about a cause, and then the continued looting and burning of things. The looting and burning part of it seems to have involved a lot of opportunistic crime not necessarily connected with any protest or cause. I think any discussion about the cause of the riots needs to take into account that people had different reasons for participating. Respect probably enters into the reasons in multiple different ways.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-08-16 04:37 am (UTC)
I was trying--maybe not successfully--to untangle the several meanings that "respect" has in common usage and replace some of them with words that more accurately reflect those meanings.

Obedience, deference, esteem, admiration, approval, and of course fear.

There are people with whom one cannot have a reciprocal relationship because they are interested only in an asymmetric relationship--their power, your lack of power. It's not that they aren't "worthy" of the reciprocal respect...but they don't participate in it.

What you're calling levels of respect (as for a knowledgeable teacher) are what I would call by other names that (to me, anyway) more accurately convey what I would be feeling. And often, it's not a symmetrical or reciprocal relationships: esteem, admiration, deference, are more often asymmetrical.

But I agree that riots are complicated, with different participants having different reasons for being involved.
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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2011-08-17 09:20 pm (UTC)
I agree that some of those other words would sometimes be closer to what people really mean when they say "respect".

I read an interesting article about possible causes of the UK riots at the BBC's website. It might interest you. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14483149
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