When did we become a culture of no respect? And I don’t mean the Rodney Dangerfield type, either.
I’ll give you an example. Last week I had to go to traffic court because of a fender-bender I was in. (Nothing major, never fear.) Out of the thirty or so people there, only two were dressed nicely, one being me. I realize it’s not a criminal court, but come on, people, it’s still a court of law. I was raised that you dress up for business, anything to do with the law, and to go to the theatre. I won’t go so far as to dress up for air travel (if you’re going through hell, you may as well be comfortable), but at least show you look like you know you’re not in your living room.
One woman was downright belligerent to the judge and several talked back to him. When did that become permissible? I kept waiting for someone to throw their butts in jail. I’ve known people who talk back to cops, too. Why would you do that? What part of “yes, sir,” and “no, your honor,” do you not get? You may not be happy about your situation, but at least show these authority figures the respect that goes with their station.
Another example comes from my day job, where our CEO, like so many others, has an internal blog. We allow comments on this blog so that it’s a two-way dialogue. A fair number of our co-workers don’t seem to understand this does not mean say what you would say on your personal Facebook account. They just say whatever they want, however they want, even though their picture and contact information are tied to their account. I want to shake them and say, “Do you not realize this is the CEO of the entire organization you’re talking to and you could get fired over this?” There have even been a few occasions of profanity, which had to be addressed with the person who wrote it. (Glad that’s not my job…)
This all crosses over into writing with the Internet. I’m not sure whether or not to blame it (and its anonymity) for people feeling like respect is no longer owed to anyone else (but don’t you dare disrespect them because they deserve respect and they’ll make sure you know it). Or is it a parenting thing? A larger cultural issue? All of the above? But do I know that when we regularly have things like writers stalking/flaming reviewers, or threats against authors because a series didn’t end the way someone thought it should, it’s clear we’ve thrown respect out the window.
One of my relatives has long been an advocate of mandatory military service at age 18 to help kids mature and learn to respect authority. God knows I would make the worst soldier ever (I’m small, have no stamina and I don’t like being yelled at, plus I’m a weenie), but I think she may be right. Perhaps such a drastic measure isn’t the answer, but we need to do something to put respect for others back into people.
I don’t want us to turn into some weird totalitarian society with blind faith and required allegiance, but we can’t go on this way. When we’ve lost the basic tenants of respect for authority and for one another, there’s not much left. What goes next, dignity? Or is that already gone, too? I prefer to see this as a blip in our culture’s history, rather than a sign of its crumbling. But sometimes it’s hard to have hope.
As for me, all I can do is try my best to act like a civilized human being.
What do you think? Have you seen evidence of lack of respect in our culture? What do you think is the reason? What are your solutions?