Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 374 - The paranoia of respect part1

In my previous series of posts, I talked about manners and social etiquette and how we shape our children and coerce them into adjusting their behaviour so that they fit the mold that we, as society, have agreed upon and that we enforce regardless of the results that it breeds, namely a human that is out-of-touch with the body, the environment and all the co-habitants.

In this post I want to begin with homing in on the concept of respect as one of the mechanisms that underlies the implementation of manners and social etiquette. It’s one of the paranoias we have created to do the following: to make sure that our relationships with each other, our bodies, society, and the environment do not transform to a more egalitarian, mutually beneficial understanding. There is no other purpose because respect is very narrowly lived in reality, creating all kinds of sharp edges, by contrast, it is a very ambiguously defined term otherwise. The term spans living beings and man-made objects and can be applied to anything, really, as long as it is ensured that the access to impose respect upon the world around us rests with the one who is in a more powerful position.

Respect is at all times externally directed, even when we speak of self-respect, it’s directed towards a situation in which we can “demonstrate” self-respect. If respect was anything other than what I have just stated how come we cannot practice respect for all life, when what we see around us is abuse and struggle?

When children, we are taught to respect our parents, and this is our first encounter with the concept of respect. In the context of the parent-child relationship, it creates the first invisible ‘wall’ with our environment. Our understanding of the world is curtailed by having to learn to respect our elders. Children cannot bring common sense or understanding to an interaction because adults do not establish an equal and one relationship with children. Children, on the other hand, treat all elements of their encounter as equal - well, initially.

Parents are clearly seen in a superior position than children because the value of speech and basic ability to navigate society, the value of survival - is more valued than life itself. Children do not present or have any ‘assets’ per se that are useful in the same context in which adults earn a living, and thus they pay their way through childhood by giving “respect” to their parents. We have decided that this is the exchange children must engage in - in exchange for food, shelter and education. Over the centuries we have justified this mechanism as positive and honorable because it puts parents and adults into the absolute control seat.

The English wikipedia entry on “respect” states:

"Respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem."

Through being taught how to respect their parents, children are required to make their parents feel good and they do so by becoming compliant. In this position, within the parent-child relationship, parents are given a card blanche to interact with their children in any way they deem it appropriate - there are no checks and balances because the child belongs to the parent. Early on children are taught to stop questioning because they are only two types of answers they can get, either a “no” answer which can come in different forms, such as an annoyed or busy parent. The other answer possible is then the one that the adult picks because it is ‘suitable’ for the child’s age. Otherwise, can you imagine an adult answering to another adult in the same way they would answer a child?

I found a page on the BBC website where the kinds of questions that children ask were posted for the public to answer. For example, the BBC asked:


and Alison Blenkinsop, Aldershot, UK answered:

"Most of us like having other people around, and enjoy helping others. But if we feel unhappy, it's hard to do this. People who annoy other people aren't happy, but they need friends. It's good to be brave and show friendship to them, but it doesn't always work."

The adult answering this question confirms that people welcome other people if they make us feel good - and - this what we learn from your parents through the mechanism of respect.

Another question asked: WHAT IS TIME?
and Elizabeth Whyman, Crawley, West Sussex answered:

"It's a big shoelace of beads stretching into the distance and each bead is a little moment where we have done something that we remember - either fun, or bad, or sad."

Is this the answer she would give to one of her peers? Hardly.

I’ll continue in my next post.


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