“[I]n the real world, nobody should expect respect . . . What we should all expect is exactly what we’re owed by the fruits of our work.”
After almost a month into 2018, your pals at The Arch Conservative are back into the workflow. Our regularly scheduled programming of podcasts has resumed, with a new episode of The Marketplace hosted by J.Thomas Perdue up now, as well as a new weekly podcast ready for your listening pleasure. Also, Book Editor Nick Geeslin will host his first Deeper Look podcast this Thursday.
Anyway, it’s cold, it’s wet and half of us have the flu, so on to a charmingly cynical observation of the culture.
At some point, the established and dignified institutions of our country misplaced the definition of respect. A staple of UGA orientation groups in recent years has been a red gym bag with the words “Expect Respect” adorning the back side. Future students are given these bags to tote around the pens, stickers, and other miscellaneous items they’ll undoubtedly throw away before they get to The Varsity. The “Expect Respect” campaign is a program designed to “engage youth, parents, schools, and communities in building healthy relationships and preventing violence and abuse.” This is undoubtedly a noble and helpful cause, but the chosen slogan is definitively erroneous.
A certain Entertainment Media lecture from the Spring of 2017 given at UGA comes to mind, in which the professor posed the question: “Where do we draw the line between being offensive and being too politically correct?” The first student to answer said that the ultimate boundary of dialogue is respect. As long as we respect each other in the way we debate and live our lives, we can get along without having to call the PC police.
It seems that at some point, we substituted “respect” for “decency.” We college students — well, some of us, at least — are probably old enough, or smart enough, to understand that respect is earned. For example, one would not respect his or her peer’s intellect or ability, in any field of endeavor, if it was not previously demonstrated. Sometimes that ability may earn a title, which is why we generally have respect for certain positions, such as doctor, soldier, or senator.
As clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson puts it, “Human civilization progresses and maintains itself when we respect people who’ve earned respect. You don’t just respect everybody randomly, then what use is respect? It’s like inflating the currency. Common decency between people is not respect, and definitions actually matter a lot.” This does matter, because decency and respect are not only two different concepts, they are totally dissimilar. Decency is more synonymous with compassion in than respect. We should all strive to treat our fellow humans with decency and compassion, but we should be careful to whom we dole out respect, lest none of it be returned and all of it lost.
Ponder for a moment the unabashed petulance saturating the phrase, “expect respect,” while also considering what respect really is. Again, not to detract from the program which bears this moniker, but, in the real world, nobody should expect respect. Nor should they even expect decency. What we should all expect is exactly what we’re owed by the fruits of our work. Be decent, and hope to be treated decently. Accept respect where you’ve earned it, and once you know you’ve earned it, accept nothing less.