- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Something is just not right these days. It's like we're out of alignment with our core values and have lost respect for ... respect.
Through a detailed exploration of what respect means, how we experience it (and how we process its absence), author Eve Linn invites readers to consider the holistic impact of this societal paradigm shift. Has respect for family members, friends, and strangers-not to mention the self-become an endangered quality in humanity? In addition, is the ...
Something is just not right these days. It's like we're out of alignment with our core values and have lost respect for ... respect.
Through a detailed exploration of what respect means, how we experience it (and how we process its absence), author Eve Linn invites readers to consider the holistic impact of this societal paradigm shift. Has respect for family members, friends, and strangers-not to mention the self-become an endangered quality in humanity? In addition, is the lack of respect for the property and dignity of others a symptom of a deeper, more insidious disease afflicting humanity?
Linn suggests that the recent worldwide protests against corporate greed may in fact be a conscious or subconscious contemporary response to this apparent loss of respect. She investigates this theory as she reviews the development of post-World War II pluralistic economic societies and other significant developments of the area of industrialization.
By exploring these ideas, Linn, a psychotherapist, has come to the conclusion that we have lost respect in general during our past journey from preindustrial times to pluralistic economic societies. She also questions the fact of more aggressive behaviors in our societies in light of the recent, increasingly disastrous behaviors of Mother Nature, considering this coincidence from a metaphysical level of understanding us as a human species in the world in which we live.
If you want to be respected, you must respect yourself. Spanish Proverb
The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) explains the term "respect" as a transitive verb and noun. As a transitive verb in use, we know respect as "respected," "respecting," or "respects" in the context that one feels or shows deferential regard for somebody or something, even for a cause or an action. The term "deferential" in itself can be understood in many ways depending on which culture we grow up in (e.g., respectful, admiring, reverent, polite, courteous, or obsequious).
The AHD also refers to the term "esteem," which has different cultural ways of expression, such as regard, respect, admiration, high regard, good opinion, value, appreciation, and last but not least, prize. The AHD furthermore explains the verb "respect" as an action—to avoid violation of or interference with somebody or something—and gives the example of respecting a speed limit. In the context of being concerned with somebody or something, the AHD adds that relating to or referring to somebody or something can indicate a respective approach. As a noun, the AHD shows the following examples to illustrate the term "respect":
1. A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem. See Synonyms at regard. 2. The state of being regarded with honour or esteem. 3. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation. 4. Polite expressions of consideration or deference: pay one's respects.
What becomes obvious is the connection "respect" has with esteem, appreciation, honour, and regard. I would like to look into the etymology of the term "respect" to understand the evolution of this word's usage.
If we look at the Latin verb respicere, we are told that it means simply "looking back at" or "regarding," whereas the verb respecere in the Indo-European proto-language means "looking at." With one little letter change from I to E in respicere to respecere, we already can find a different way of culturally employing these words.
But the term "respect" also offers a unique use—the highlighting of something special. For instance, we use the term as a detail—a point or characteristic in saying, "She differs in some respects from her daughters." In other words, "She is unique," and it is this very uniqueness that I would like to draw attention to. In my understanding, respect carries a value of uniqueness.
Our society has become a pluralistic, economic society, and individuality—uniqueness—has become less appreciated for the simple reason that it cannot drive a wealthy society. A wealthy society does need plural members; one unique person alone simply cannot establish a wealthy industry. Industry in the days following WWII promised a more comfortable lifestyle. In my understanding, this is the core of the evil. Money speaks louder than actions. More to the point, it is louder than respect.
The Free Online Dictionary (FOD) shows an example of the usage of the term "respect" in regard to estimation or an estimate, the respect with which a person is held, and gives the following example: "They had a high estimation of his ability." This statement reminds me of the very esteemed tradition of labour and trade.
My childhood in West Germany was filled with respect for labour and trade, hard workers, and skilled tradesmen. Back then, esteem was very much associated with the adjectives "hard" and "skilled," not with the nouns "workers" and "tradesmen." Workers and tradesmen alike had to earn their respect. And it was with this value that the meaning of "prize," as explained in the AHD, could grow from, as we literally came to prize the skilfulness of a tradesman as well as the hardship of a labourer.
Values of esteem and respect started to change greatly within the twentieth century. Industrialization, new technologies, farming with the goal of import/export, and automation shifted a great part of the world's population toward fiscal values. The hardworking dollar changed into a figure on a balance sheet. In other words, where we once could respicere—or in the Indo-European proto-language, respecere—during the last half of the twentieth century, we now could no longer look at our weekly wages in our hands. Instead, we gained a bank account and a balance sheet. We had lost our ability to see the value of our labour and trade.
Hence, the following generation lost the ability to respicere/respecere, the value of its own (individual, unique) work. Respect had gone out of our hands and into a bank account and was not owned anymore—it was out of view, so to speak. It could not be looked back at, let alone looked at. Instead, with a bank account and black figures on a white paper, greed and power grew. Respect was not earned anymore; it was paid and looked at on a sheet of paper. And the more one could see in one's bank account, the more one seemed to grow in terms of esteem in society. We can see how respect and esteem seemed to have grown apart.
The FOD also speaks of respect in the context of attitude—the mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values, and dispositions to act in certain ways. For example, "He had the attitude that work was fun." It seems obvious that attitudes with a changed lifestyle will also change. A population that is driven by pluralistic values will automatically change away from individual values, as they do not support the success of their society. The mental state of a pluralistic, economic society is a complex fragment of its own desires, and individual, unique needs have to be left behind. Uniqueness does not pay. Pluralism does. Consequently, the value of the "I" has shifted to the value of the "we." A "we" mental state, though, is hardly genuine or liveable. It offers avenues towards anonymity, conformism, and last but not least, a fake patriotism or religion.
The FOD furthermore links respect to a courteous expression, by word or deed, of esteem or regard and gives the following examples: "His deference to her wishes was very flattering" or "Be sure to give my respect to the dean." Reading this, I hardly can remember when this kind of deference has been given to me or when I would have witnessed such displayed respect elsewhere in my life in recent years. I do see a lot of disrespect, though, and I have come to wonder if again a pluralistic economic society can be blamed for the vanishing of courteous expressions. I have not seen many acts of showing regard for others—not in my neighbourhood, not at theatre performances, not in movies, or at any other public events.
That brings me to the biblical admonition in the fifth of the Ten Commandments: "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you." *1 It clearly commands you to respect your parents in the context of your days upon the land. In the pluralistic, economic society of today, we do not have our days upon the land; even for farmers, the land has become a business resource. Even though I respect the Ten Commandments as a valuable guideline to live by, I will not go too deeply into this religious edict concerning the value of respect at this point. But we will discuss the influence of a religious society later on in the book.
I have always wondered how we can respect our parents when they have not earned the respect as such. But children of any kind of upbringing—be it kind or abusive—are told to pay respect to their parents. Again, there is a price to pay to become regarded. Respect towards parents these days, I feel, has changed to an emphasis on pleasing them. Children have learnt to adapt their behaviour to please their parents. How many children have later chosen a career to please their parents rather than fulfilling their own career wishes? How often do we hear the words, "It was his filial duty to become a farmer, too"? That, certainly, did not honour this pleasing boy's uniqueness. Such a boy might have become an extraordinary mechanic, researcher, bookkeeper, lawyer, or even a writer or essayist. Who knows?
Also, the respect—as an action of pleasing—shown towards parents nowadays can be seen as a learnt skill of obedience, which in my opinion throws the essence of respect completely out of its cradle. The only matter that is being looked back at or looked at in this context is the authority of the parental figure, irrespective of parental actions. In certain situations, obedience can be rather vital, and as such, I respect the ability to be obedient as well as the adage of "do as you are told." As long as obedience serves a good intention—let's say to protect, safeguard, or enforce something—I can without any hesitation accept a necessity for it. In certain careers, obedience is an absolute must. But I fail to link obedience with the true meaning of respect. To the contrary, I believe too much exercised obedience lets respect again go out of its cradle of origin.
But there is an area where I still see respect displayed today, and it is often very genuinely shown. This is on the occasion of funerals when one pays respect to the deceased. It is a very enlightened feeling for me to find somebody standing quietly at the graveside of a deceased family member, friend, or colleague to pay his or her last respects. It would be very nice to see this quietness and, in a way, solitude at the side of a family member, friend, or colleague whilst that person is still alive. That to me would bring respect back into our lifestyle. But we have forgotten how to be quiet and how to be private with somebody else around. A pluralistic, economydriven society cannot live like that. A pluralistic economic society has bred noisy, hectic people—doers rather than "be-ers." And in that, we also have learnt to misunderstand signs of affection, warmth, fondness, or tenderness, which of course, all could be part of a respectful approach.
How often do women mistake one's manly regard for love, for instance? Power and greed can lead to extreme loneliness and neediness, and if one's affection comes your way, you will be surprised and helpless, not knowing how to deal with such warmth, appreciation, and respect. I can see this phenomenon quite often in adolescents. Of course, this phenomenon works vice versa, with manly regard or womanly regard. Unfortunately, this very lack of self-respect (self-respecere—being able to look back at yourself or simply at yourself) has led to inconceivable acts of abuse and violence. Often a child who is not respected for who and what he or she is becomes a victim. A victim is only too eager to be used and abused; everything for a little bit of attention becomes the rule of life. But let's face it—attention is, by far, miles away from respect.
New Zealand has the highest suicide rate among adolescents in the world. I am in awe of how this little country at the end of the world could become a pluralistic economic society in such a short time of existence, quickly following the rules of power and greed and ignoring the uniqueness of personality in its children.
In no other country have I witnessed how the matters of work are manipulating people like dancing dolls within their lifestyle to the extent that the lifestyle in fact gets lost. People in New Zealand don't go to work. People in New Zealand earn a dollar. The ethics around work seem to have gone astray in this country.
I can still see these ethics in the elder generation—the labourers and skilled tradesmen. They do still display respect, consideration, and courtesy. But the later following generation, which shies away from going to work and instead earns a dollar, doesn't seem to know what respect is.
So let's dive a little deeper.
Respect Towards Family Members
The way to procure insults is to submit to them: a man meets with no more respect than he exacts. William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
We spoke of the Fifth Commandment before: "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you."
This always has confused me deeply. How can I, as a newborn child in a completely strange world born to equally strange parents upon their land, respecere what is before me? Isn't it obvious that respect has to be taught—in other words, seen or looked at? Isn't it the responsibility of a mother and/or a father to look at me as a newborn first so that I can learn what it means to be looked at? Isn't that how the pathway of respect and acknowledgment has to start in one's life? I wonder ...
I and Thou is a book by Martin Buber that was published in 1923. Buber suggested that we may address existence in two ways. One is that of the "I" towards an "it"—that is, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we even as newborns either use or experience. The second way is that of the "I" towards "thou," in which we move into existence in a relationship without bounds. Martin Buber concludes that human life finds its meaning in relationships. All of our relationships, says Buber, bring us ultimately into a relationship with God—the eternal "thou."
For Buber, there are two pairs of words for two fundamentally different types of relationship—the "I—it" and the "I—thou" relationship. Whatever the "it" might be—an entity as a discrete object which makes it evidently different from other living entities, like Mum and Dad or brother and sister—this "it" is in a person's life. And this is also what the newborn will perceive. But the "I—thou" relationship is a separate concept. The "I" in this relationship is sustained in the spirit and mind of an "I—thou" for however long the feeling or idea of relationship is the dominant mode of perception. Buber explains, for instance, that a person sitting next to a complete stranger on a park bench may enter into an "I—thou" relationship with the stranger merely by beginning to think positively about people in general. The stranger is a person as well, obviously, and gets instantaneously drawn into a mental or spiritual relationship with the person whose positive thoughts necessarily include the stranger as a member of the set of persons about whom positive thoughts are directed. In this spiritual connection, however, it is not necessary for the stranger to have any idea that he is being drawn into an "I—thou" relationship for such a relationship to arise. My understanding of this "I—thou" example is that the stranger easily could be the newborn and the "thou" the parents.
Let's now examine if young parents, when looking at their newborn, are able to have positive thoughts of people in general that emerge in the very presence of the newborn. Most parents I have witnessed did not at all think of other people in general at that moment in time, when looking at their newborn for the very first time. They thought of the miracle of having such a beautiful baby and that their baby was the most beautiful of all. Yet the newborn is still very untouched from conditioning and knows little of the make-up of a society, let alone of economy or pluralism. The baby will only initially perceive its "I" within the context of the "I—thou" relationship and will pick up the energy of its parents as its reality "upon the land," on which all participants are residing and acting next to the newborn.
The "I" will initially only grow through the "I—thou" connection—a very strong attachment—as a newborn has not yet established a recognition of "I" in itself. The "I" of the newborn is bounded by others—"it"s and "thou"s—and will learn that for every object, there is another object. The "thou," though—the parents in this example—has no limitations. When "thou"—the parents—is spoken, the speaker has nothing, which means that "thou" is abstract. The speaker takes his stand in relation.
How will a newborn experience the world? It will notice that humankind goes around the world, hauling out knowledge from the world. But these experiences, the newborn will soon learn, present humankind with mere words of "it," "he," "she," and "it" with contrast to "I—thou." And this newborn learner will then learn that experiences are all physical yet do involve a great deal of spirituality. Consequently, the twofold nature of the world means that our experience of the world has two aspects: the aspect of experience, which is experienced by the "I—it" relationship, and the aspect of relation, which is perceived by the "I—thou."
It becomes obvious that the newborn needs to perceive a sense of respect for humankind (that is, consequently, from it) to grow into one person who then can give out respectful thoughts in his or her environment later on, as well. Love in itself, according to Buber, is a subject relationship—that is, an "I—it" relationship. Like the "I—thou" relationship, love is not a relationship of subject to object, but rather a relationship in which both members in the relationship are subjects and share the unity of being. In this, the "I—it" becomes a "being—being" relationship.
As I mentioned previously, the ultimate "thou" for Buber is God—or as I prefer to say, creation or existence itself, in which there are no barriers. This then means that man can relate directly to God or creation respectively. Though today's metaphysical approach of understanding life in its essence confirms Buber's teachings, it is by no means widely practiced. God—respectively, creation and existence—is ever-present in human consciousness and manifests itself in music, literature, and other forms of culture. I might add that it even manifests in creating new life within the creation of human life. We must not forget that the newborn is, in fact, part of the same consciousness.
Excerpted from RE-spect by Eve Linn Copyright © 2012 by Eve Linn. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.