Bishop Desmond Tutu once said "a person is a person because he recognises others as persons." The implication of that recognition is an integral part of my definition for what I believe is an important concept: Respect.

For an individual to be treated with respect, they must exhibit respect. There are concepts I believe that a morally guided person must have respect for. The very idea that we are capable of contemplating such concepts is unique to the human species, as we are the only ones capable of rational thought; that is what differentiates us from every other species of organism on this planet. Without the higher level of thought that is the basis for the particularly human system of intellectual organisation, we are no better than or different from slugs or bacteria.

Today, as in many other dark times in human history, there are individuals who for one reason or another have lost sight of the important notion of respect. For the greater good of our species, we must all maintain a level of respect for our fellow man, for the fragile ecosystem that sustains all life on this planet, for the sanctity of human life, for Morality, for the equality of all persons, for the freedom to pursue individual thought, for reason, for true freedom, for human rights, for love, and for knowledge.

An american race car driver by the name of Richard Petty once said "if guys don't respect themselves, they don't respect other people." Perhaps powerful people in our world today have no respect for themselves. Perhaps that's how they are able to justify taking away the freedom and the dignity of their fellow human beings, taking their lives, and doing so without any respect for basic humanity.

Aristotle once said "At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst." There is no justice for those who have been tortured in Nazi-style prison camps. There is no law controlling the actions of perverted individuals operating illegally in an occupied country. This can only bring out the worst in people, at both the giving and receiving end of these policies.

Certain powerful individuals in the world today exhibit a total lack of respect for knowledge. The current prevailing mentality of certain regimes to move towards a military attack as the first option for a course of action is to ignore the lessons history has taught us as to the consequences of such a doctrine. Empires have crumbled under the weight of their own military ambitions. Such a contempt for knowledge, and for learning history's lessons, is contrary to the teachings of one of the most influential writings on military strategy, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. One of the main points of this writing is that knowledge is the most essential element for victory. The attack as a first response doctrine is also contrary to the teachings of the oldest recorded philosophical teachings, the Tao Te Ching. The Tao's book of Leadership and Strategy tells a story of a master thief who was caught stealing from the army of an ancient chinese king. The leader of that army, knowledgeable in the art of successful conflict resolution, decided that he would put the thief to use rather than put him to death for his crime. The theif was sent to the enemy camp where he stole the pillow from the bed of the sleeping enemy leader. The next day that pillow was returned with apologies. The enemy leader, fearing that if it were so easy for the pillow to be stolen from under his head as he slept it must be also possible for him to be killed in the same fashion, offered a truce and withdrew. The end result was the most preferable one: victory without any bloodshed.

This concept is an important one to note. I have mentioned previously my views on the fact that violence only brings more violence, as evidenced by the continuing "resistance" in Iraq, the ongoing bloody conflict between Palestine and Israel, murderous attacks by and against the Marxist rebels in Columbia, and so on. If a doctrine or mentality or virtuous intent is genuinely so strong, there is no need for continuing violence as to do so only sparks more angry resistance. If the virtuous intent of America is to be believed, they must stop their constant resort to violence, as it is the least desirable method towards an attempt at conflict resolution.

For some time now many powers have shown a contemptuous lack of respect for the fragile ecosystem that supports life on this planet. Our species must learn to enact the concepts of respect not only towards each other but towards our environment. Without the environment, there will be no human species for it to support. While the trend of Global Warming is well documented in recent years, startling knowledge has come to light recently that leads many experts to believe that the process of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions is to increase exponentially in speed. This is due to the fact that ice shelfs that have covered a peat bog the size of France and Germany combined (peat produces Methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas) are melting rapidly so as to expose the Greenhouse gas producing substance. This will accellerate the warming process, which has in recent years as a result of industrial pollution. Not only is there a high probablity that such accelerated warming will leave large parts of this planet uninhabitable, but there is also research that suggests that it could lead to . It is important to note that the end of the last ice age came abruptly, with the world temperature shifting from ice to temperate in only 20 years. Such a climate shift today would likely wipe out a large percentage of the worlds population, in addition to much animal and plant life. The continuing lack of respect for the environment in which we live will eventually, if it continues as it is going now, lead to there being no environment left for us to respect, and in turn we won't be around to try to fix the issue. Voluntary reduction of the level of increase of emissions from the worlds most dangerous pollutor are not enough. If changes are not made soon, and those in power realise that respecting the environment is vital to our survival, the consequences could be .

Treat a person like an animal and they will behave like an animal. Treat a person with dignity and they will act with respect. To torture and detain our fellow man, to murder, to destroy: such actions by the worlds most powerful can only bring out the worst in people. I believe that we, as a people, have the capability to be so much better, and when leading with such an example others can be sure to follow. By leading with the example of kill first ask questions later (question 1: where are those WMDs?), we only encourage others to do the same. If we treat our environment with no respect, the environment will be incapable of showing us respect (allowing our continued existance). Changes must be made soon, because by all accounts later might be too late.

I shall leave you today with the inspired words of a U.S. Senator/ Basketball star by the name of Bill Bradley:

"Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it. No destructive lies. No ridiculous fears. No debilitating anger."


The Heretical Jew said...

Respect, is the very foundation of human interaction. However, one should note that the Respect you and I are speaking of is not the same as is reffered to in other usages of the word. Basic Human respect for other life, and property is not something earned as in the respect reffered to in "you need to earn my respect." Yhis is something embued in children at a young age by parents setting an example for them. Unfortunately, we too often give children examples of disrespect. We curse...we are impatient,,,selfish...short tempered.
As you wrote in your post, many of these behaviors stem from a lack of resp[ect for ones self. How can you value another person when you lack a sence of self value.

It is a subject one can delve into to great extent, and the very basic nature of most human conflict can find its origins in a lack of respect.

REB 84 said...

If we have no respect, we have nothing.

Thanks for commenting at QuestionItNow. DTW posted our conversation at ConyersBlog this evening. Check out Newsflash: Key Item in House GOP Values Agenda Goes Down to Defeat (Again). Comment #1

misneach said...

My definition of "respect" and that of the dictionary differ a small bit... the accepted definition is that respect is earned, but I think that the things I discussed in this entry (human life, human rights, the environment) are things that inherently need to be respected.

I like to believe (I know, I'm a dreamer) that people have the ability to be compassionate and not selfish, vengeful, or greedy, but somehow the tides (in recent times especially) have turned very much against me.

REB 84 said...


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