Sunday, August 09, 2009


I've been thinking a lot lately about respect, and how we dole it out. Do we respect the homeless man, the mentally ill woman? Do we respect the secretary, the maintenance man, the day trader, the day laborer? Do we respect the skateboarding kid, the nursing home resident, the single mother in the broken down car?

We place a huge amount of emphasis in our society on what people do for a living, as if somehow that relates to their worth as human beings. How did that develop? It seems like a system we would have nipped in the bud before it ever took root.

On the news in the US there's a phrase you hear repeatedly when talking about an accident somewhere: "No Americans were harmed." What is implied is that American life is more valuable than other life. Do we respect Americans more than other nationalities? Do we respect people from England? Australia? France? Mexico? Germany?

We respect people who drive certain kinds of cars more than others. Does a BMW really make the driver more worthy of respect than a Ford Focus?

Respect is tricky business. We all want it. It's a universal human desire it seems. But, we can be stingy when giving it to others. Why is that? Do we view it as a commodity that we can run out of if we give?

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