By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
If you listen carefully to a conversation at a party, in the barbershop, or at a gathering of friendly neighbors, all talkers are offering guarded evidence that they want to be respected for their intelligence, abilities, or accomplishments. If the listener smiles and nods his head in agreement with the speaker, that simple gesture convinces the speaker that he or she is respected somehow. Any potential issues that could lead to conflict are usually kept out of the verbal interchange.
Whether it is a talking head on TV, a garrulous associate at work, a chatty cashier at a store, or a journalist in a magazine or newspaper, each individual is seeking respect from others for their personal response about (or “take” on) a subject that comes up for comment or discussion. Conflict rarely results unless the topic of discussion is one that divides the more outspoken members of our polarized society and causes some vehement verbal reaction.
Most sincere humans want to be right about something because they have been taught that “right makes might.” Being righteous and powerful are qualities envied in any society. Hence, some degree of respect accrues to those in positions of power and authority, which may be contested subsequently by the lesser respected members of the local “out” group. The competitive nature of humans results in adversarial posturing about and aggressively defending ideas that are at best theoretical, speculative, or lack substantive justification of experienced human witnesses.
No one can be certain about the future even with the best record of predicting events of the past. But humans spend an inordinate amount of time and energy guessing what might happen next to their loved ones and them. Fortune telling is a popular game played by politicians, businessmen, doctors, gamblers, and weather forecasters. Any psychologist worthy of his salt knows this. The competitive animal spirit that humans share with other living creatures cannot be expunged without dying.
Seeking respect happens at all levels of human society. Any process to be followed in gaining the respect of others is vague, and the results are certainly not guaranteed. A “live and let live” philosophy is essential to avoid becoming embroiled in any serious conflict. Every human has personal interests, beliefs, and cultural values which he or she will defend. Some of these are considered “rights” granted by some authority: religious, secular, tribal, or familiar. All of which are negotiable with the authority figures if they are honest.
Of course, when negotiation fails, the best recourse is to avoid further contact. That reduces friction and disputes about the controversies between those who disagree. Any right (civil, human, or property) is not bequeathed forever. Times change, attitudes evolve, values fluctuate. Each right depends on some human authority that can be removed peacefully or forcefully. Such is the common practice among humans and their sophisticated governments.
The ultimate “right” in the human social milieu it the unimpeachable sovereignty of a nation. Messing with another country’s sovereignty is a serious act of disrespect. Internal revolution is frowned upon by the leaders of foreign countries who honor the sovereignty of the nation facing revolution. Hints from outsiders at what should be done under the circumstances are handled diplomatically. However, defensive allies may be sought when common interests are shared by sympathetic nations. Not joining the revolutionary fray may be the best advice even when human rights are obviously being abused. Revolutions don’t solve all that much! Another human form of authority replaces the old one.
No one at any level of society wants to be told what to do, where to live, with whom they should associate, how they should behave, and why they should stop gambling and abusing drugs and alcohol. If a decent person wants to keep his casual friends, he must tolerate the vices that others choose to indulge in. The devoutly religious or the political neophytes strive to be accepted in their peer groups. Americans who want to show respect to immigrants must learn how to welcome those new foreigners with poor English language skills who prefer to celebrate the strange customs they have learned in their home countries.
The melting pot metaphor doesn’t seem to work very well here any longer. Too many newcomers want to align themselves with their country of origin because they are disappointed with the social situation they encounter in the U.S. Coalescence may be a noble objective for the tired, weary, and destitute that sincerely want to abandon their homeland, but integration here requires generations of sacrifice that weren’t expected when the initial wanderers left home.
When foreigners cross our borders legally or illegally hoping to be respected, the reality sets in at the border. A welcome wagon is no place to be found except with displaced members of their homeland. And often the first nomads to arrive on these shores are as bad in treating others as the elite citizens born here. Most nations today are skeptical of the intentions of the itinerant masses roaming the Earth seeking a job and a better lifestyle for themselves and their families.
The obvious message natives give to foreigners is: if you want respect, stay home and earn it there. You speak the language, and you know the customs. Likewise, if Americans truly want to be respected in the world, we should stay home and fix this debt-ridden, intolerant, and imperialistic nation. Of course, rich Americans can travel abroad and spend heaps of money in foreign tourist traps. With such behavior they will be encouraged to return again and again. However, foreign diplomatic emissaries will warn us not to mess with their evolving socialism, their weird ways of doing things, and their U.N. blessed sovereignty!
The next time you seriously consider entering into a personal relationship with someone you don’t know very well, be prepared to agree with their views of anything and acquiesce to their preferred customs. That way conflict will be minimized. And who needs more conflict in our busy modern lives?