“Always seek justice but love only mercy. To love justice and hate mercy is but a doorway to more injustice.”
― Criss Jami, Healology
What is respect, what does it mean to respect someone? The Oxford Dictionary defines respect as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. 2Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. 3Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements. I prefer definition number two for our purposes here. Respect seems simple enough to understand but with humans nothing is ever as simple as it should or could be. We are each individuals, with unique histories and experiences which will influence our perception of what is and is not respectable. Were you raised in a religious household? What specific religion? Were you raised in a two-parent home or singe? What country, state, city, were you plopped into at birth? What race and gender do you happen to be? All of these things will be the foundation for how you define what is and is not respectable. Thusly there is no solid definition of respect just a loose set of ideas that can be molded to fit any chosen perspective. Apparently, respect (like most beautiful things) is all in the eye of the beholder.
The fluidity of respect is very problematic, this means that it can be effortlessly shifted and easily influenced. Respect is reliant on human memory and as such tends to be a bit selective. From my personal perspective and some of the text that I have read human memory is not always based in reality. We are primed to hold on to negative experiences. I can understand this from an evolutionary standpoint, as a hunter gatherer you needed to remember the bad things that could cause harm to you and your family to ensure that you avoided them. Yes, we needed to remember the good, but fear generates more of a stress response and will linger in one’s memory longer. Your human ancestors were the best at remembering the bad things and knowing how to avoid them. If they hadn’t been you would not be here today. Skip forward and to present day and we humans are still holding on the negative memories that usually do little to support our survival and evolution at this point. Largely due to how selective we are about the negatives that we stockpile. If a negative situation is caused by one of Us, I may be able to relate to understand; “they are just like me and my family (or they are my family).” I would be more willing to simply attribute the negative action to a youthful mistake or believe it was due to them having a “bad day” or a “moment of weakness”. I could rationalize that this as simply a good guy or gal (or some very nice people) who did something bad. With my perspective there would be no conflict with me still having respect and understanding for such a person.
Now let’s say that the person that committed a negative act was a Them, this totally changes things! In the previous post I spoke about how people build, and entire negative framework sometimes based entirely on a myth that they created for people in the Them category. This negative start point can be based on news, movies, music, or even personal experience. The amazing thing is that no matter the source the negative framework is still usually a myth created by the individual. For example, if someone in the Us group is robbed at gunpoint by another Us group member the victim will usually vilify the individual. The internal conversation would be based around how could this person do such a thing.
Now if the robber happened to be a Them group member the internal conversation is usually “this is how THEY are” the entire group has been set as the villain and this one incident can serve as a justification for hate and the disregard to all members of the Them community. We have seen this again and a gain. Even this month with the mass murder of multiple Asian women by a single white gunman who, as the police chief stated, was just having a bad day. He was not brutalized or dehumanized in the media in any way, he looked like a typical young white adult and for some (police and media) that made it ok to present him in a humane way. This is not the way suspects or even victims of other groups are handled. During the investigation into the Trayvon Martin case it was released to the media that he had drug reside in his backpack and was suspended from school. Images of him with a gun and text messages from his phone were used to ensure that he was properly labeled as a typical Them. Such small childhood transgressions made him deserve the death sentence that he received. Even though on the night in question none of that was relevant or known by his attacker who stalked and murdered him after being instructed by emergency personnel not to approach Trayvon. In these cases when the suspect is not white, they are depicted as horrible criminals with no redeeming qualities, very little if any humanity, and are usually deemed not worthy of respect. The media will dig into their past to find even the slightest rumor that they might have smoked weed, wore a hoodie or some other small transgression to prop up their preconceived ideas and justify not seeing the humanity of the person and will afford them no understanding or respect. As humans we get to create whatever reality we choose…
“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”
― George Orwell, 1984
This article is a part of a series focused on the analysis and origins of hate:
|1. What Is Hate? Published 01.14.2021||5. Social Darwinism Published 02.25.21|
|2. So, What’s The Plan? Published 01.21.2021||6. Selective Breeding Published 03.04.21|
|3. How to Make Mutant Published 01.28.2021||7. Us vs. Them Published 03.11.21|
|4. Don’t Take it Personal Published 02.04.21||8.Love Published 03.18.21|
|9. The exaggeration of SELF published 03.25.21|
- Beck, A. T. (2000). Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence (1st ed.). Harper Perennial.
- Sapolsky, R. M. (2018). Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Illustrated ed.). Penguin Books.