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?"
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...
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.
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!
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.
2011-08-12 04:31 pm (UTC)
You might want to look at this blog link...
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."
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
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?
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?
How much respect were the rioters showing for their victims, who were, after all, pretty much just ordinary Brits rather than imaginary bloated plutocrats?
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.
My own take:
A lot of people I have heard demanding respect are, in fact, getting a 100% return on investment.
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.
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
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.
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...."
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.