Friday, October 21, 2005

No If or But

AAMI has recently reported that there has been an increase in “road rage” here in Australia. According to the expert who was interviewed in the news, the cause can be attributed to the increase in traffic congestion and the drivers are running out of patience. In the same news broadcast that evening in the Radio ABC News, it was reported that there has been a rise in parent abuse involving children “bullying” their elderly parents into “rearranging” the parents’ financial affairs to benefit the children. Experts are urging the victims to seek legal protection… Now, these are hardly earth shattering news. The initial impression is that road rage and parent abuse would appear to be the logical conclusions to our go-faster, I-want-it-now life style which we have created for ourselves, and we talk about patience, tolerance or greed among others as immediate causes. But then I begin to wonder if these are really the culprits. The question is: what makes the same person patient/impatient, tolerant/intolerant, and greedy/generous? Is there a common thread that strings them all together? Well, there is. The word “Respect” pops into my mind. I hate “lecturing”, but this has been nagging me for some weeks now, so I am putting it in writing if just to get some decent sleep.

How often have we heard the expression, “If you want my respect, you have to earn it.”? I have said it myself a few times in my life, and to the people I didn’t particular like at the time. It was especially cool to say it behind the back of your new boss. But what did I mean when I said, “You have to earn it.”? Now that I have had time to think over it, I guess what I really wanted to say was this, “You have to do exactly what I think you should do.” In other words, I was prescribing a set of behaviors that I deemed acceptable to me in order for me to respect you, which meant that I was imposing my preconceived conditions on our relationship. The devil didn’t make me say it. What seduced me into saying it was that it sounded so good and proper at the time that I didn’t really bother to think about the underlying meaning of the expression. Now I know better.

No one has to earn his or her respect. It comes with you as a being, not more or not less than any another being, whether you are rich or poor, weak or strong, young or old, black, white, yellow or brown. You earn your esteem, your fame, your high praises, for which you work hard. Respect is something intrinsic, it comes fundamentally with you at your birth. It defines the limit that we set ourselves when we interact with others. There is a limit to what we can do and say; we do not impose our will on others out of respect, and that goes beyond mere courtesy

In exercising your free will, you may choose to be whom and what you want to be, I would respect your choice, even if I disagree with the path you have chosen. Who am I to intervene in whatever lessons you need to take in your life? If you ask me for some advice I would be glad to tell you what I think, but you do not need my approval. Just respect what I have to say, as I respect what you have to do. The questions you may like to consider are: Are you fulfilling your inner urge? Is what you are becoming enriching your inner soul? Are you at peace with your inner self in doing the things that you choose to do? There must be a reason for you to act in a certain way, and I respect that. It therefore makes no impact on me whether you want to spray-paint my white fence with your tag, tailgate me down the busy road with your horn blasting, or threaten me with violence if I don’t sign over my property to you, none whatsoever, if you think your choice of action fulfils your urge and enrich your inner soul. Just remember, you alone have to accept the full responsibility for the choice you make, and account for the action you take, no one else, even if in the process you have shown a remarkable lack of respect for me or my property.

I maybe naïve or simplistic, but somehow I feel that there would be less conflicts and damages if people show respect for one another. If you respect other drivers on the road, you would not expect them to drive the way you do; if children respect their elderly parents, they would not force them to do things they do not wish to do; if a vandal respect my property, he would not choose to spray-paint his tag on it. Imagine what it would be like in a grand scale: if a culture shows its respect for another culture, a religion for another religion, and a nation for another nation. Not everyone thinks or acts like you, it would be totally pointless to judge others or expect others to behave in accordance with your standard or believes in order for you to respect them. In this regards, respect is unconditional, no if or but.

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