Currently in Australia we have a Prime Minister who happens to be, in some circles, controversial. Not because of what he is doing so much as what he is not doing for certain people. To explain why is to basically explain a whole load of politics and also to explain that more or less, people have taken offence to who he is as a person. I for one accept him as our leader and because of this respect him as an individual.
Unfortunately, in my eyes, several individuals I know happen to act in a manner which is disrespectful to him as our leader. Name calling and attacking every action undertaken is something I can understand, and yet to me it seems very disrespectful. And thinking upon this has lead me to recognise an issue in society at large. We seem to believe that respect must be earned.
I strongly disagree with this. Think for a moment on the concept of respect and who we as various people groups in our different societies say we should respect. There are three key groups I can think of and they tend to be children, women and the elderly. I have never seen someone come up with a rationalised argument that they should not respect the elderly because 'hey they have to earn my respect'. And the same goes for attitudes towards women and children. Because, hey, when you act in a way that is disrespectful to those groups in particular, most people will look upon you as a lower quality person.
Respect does not need to be earned, but I do believe that trust needs to be. I believe that respect is not earned but is inherent in identity. I believe that all people as human beings deserve the respect of everyone else. I believe that our leaders deserve our respect as leaders. But I do not believe we have to throw our trust around blindly, because trust is a very different issue.
Of course, someone could always try throwing the spanner in the works. 'What about rapists, murderers, paedophiles? Do they deserve respect?' I would say that yes, yes they do. They deserve the base level of respect that you would afford any human being. Idealistically at least. Because being human is not linked to your actions but to the innate part of who you are and I truly believe that there is a basic level of respect that all humans deserve aside from any actions they may undertake. Call it the courtesy of recognising another individual's humanity. And even if such people do not deserve respect in the form of deference, for I use the term 'respect' broadly as it links to the ability of us all to regard others in a polite manner, it does little for anyone to lower themselves to the level of disrespect. In other words what I am stating is that I consider respect to be linked to acting in a manner of politeness and that even if you loathe what some people have done and what some people are, that it befits and benefits us all to act with courtesy and dignity, to be a step ahead and not a step behind.
Respect is not earned, at least not on the base level. Respect may be earned on higher levels for someone showing that (in moral terms at least) they are a 'better class of individual. And the reason I say that respect is not earned is because if you choose to believe that it is, and in so doing resort to disrespecting certain types of individuals, you only become that same type of person who does not deserve respect. Because your actions should not define your worth as a human being. Because we are all born into different circumstances, but we are all born with the same purity and dignity of spirit and respect means recognising this.