Is respect a quality seriously lacking in today’s society? Is it something everyone expects but has no willingness to show?  It is probably no bad thing that automatic respect is in decline; deferring to others because of their age, profession, status or religion is unnecessary but not respecting people does not mean one has to be discourteous. I held little regard for my superiors at work but I would never have been rude enough to display this; in my eyes respect has to be earned.

Respect is a crucial and neglected aspect of most relationships. Friends and partners will be unwilling to express opinions if they know they will be shouted down or their ideas quickly dismissed.It is possible to disagree with another’s point of view and still respect the person but few seem to manage it. We all want and need to be respected; I told my daughter yesterday she didn’t respect me to which she shouted back, “well ,you don’t respect me.” Unlike her, I did think about that statement and admit that she could have a point. I don’t always listen to her, can quickly disregard her (constant) chattering and shout at her (quite often) so I am not exactly a good role model. The trouble is, respect  can not always be observed by actions, it can be silent but I think most are aware when it is there and definitely when it is not.

It is a truism that if you can’t respect yourself you can’t respect others and there is an apparent lack of self-respect in the modern world. Theodore Dalrymple describes self-respect as “a social virtue, a discipline that requires an awareness of and sensitivity to the feelings of others…it requires dignity and fortitude and not always taking the line of least resistance.” He gives examples of people’s dress. Being not exactly sartorially elegant myself, I generally think that how one dresses is pretty unimportant; but even I have certain standards (low ones, admittedly). I couldn’t for instance walk in a town with a cropped top displaying rolls of flesh, or wear a T-shirt bearing the legend “Is Anal Sex the Ultimate Expression of Love?” when visiting my elderly friend in a nursing home. This would be inappropriate and disrespectful though some would see no problem. My grandmother insisted on polishing my school shoes each morning saying that we are judged by the state of our shoes. I have never been big on polishing my own shoes but think it probably does show discipline and a small sign that one is prepared to put in some effort for the good opinion and satisfaction of others.

Perhaps respect is a dying virtue because boorishness and arrogance are in fashion. You only have to watch the shenanigans in the House of Commons for a few minutes to see faux respect between “the honorable gentlemen.” Similarly corporations have no regard for their customers as they are simply revenue, employers have no regard for their staff whom they regard as “human resources.” Respect today is not so much seen or given but more often simply used in slang dialect. This example quoted in the Urban Dictionary says it all; Person 1,”I was banging dumb bitches last night.”  Person 2, “Respect.”

 

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