Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

What is Respect?

Every so often, it seems that someone tells me to to respect someone else, either through some action or directly, and almost universally I react badly (this is admittedly one of the few things that can make me explode into anger, curse the person out, and storm off). As one example of this, some time back, when I was accompanying someone to martial arts event and I had need to walk on the mat, I didn't bow, nor did I bow to the head of the studio to which it belonged. The person I went with told me that I must respect the (Korean) culture tied to the discipline, and that I must respect the teacher - this was a double strike because to me, whether something belongs to a culture or not has no effect on if I will respect it (multiculturalist liberals attach special importance to an idea if enough people get behind it and label it a culture, but I not that kind of liberal). I managed to avoid exploding, but I was angry for the rest of the evening. I recently have been thinking about this - why does it make me so angry to be told what to respect? I think it's that to me, respect is a gift deeply tied to who I am and the standards of judgement that I've been working on improving over the years. In am amusing tie to most martial arts, I place great stock in my way of life and philosophy, and when I decide that I respect someone in some way, it's very meaningful to me (although, as I am fairly private in these matters, I usually don't share the fact that I respect them with them or other people). When someone tells me that I must respect something, it's telling me to discard my carefully crafted notions and the criteria that serve them for someone else's values and judgements. As my ethics and philosophy are so central to how I live, this strikes right at the core of who I am -- I could concievably be told to do so by some future version of myself that shared the same values but had better criteria, or some one-in-a-million person who so happened to be essentially equivalent, but otherwise such things seem completely inappropriate - about the only other thing that can piss me off in this way is when I've taken an ethical stand on a matter and refused to act in a certain manner relating to an ethical/moral judgement, to mock me on that matter - in almost all circumstances where that's happened, I've cut off all ties with that person and often actively sought to bring (nonphysical) harm to that person.

I guess I also tend to judge people fairly heavily on their integrity and philosophy, which is a bit unusual. I love talking about philosophy, but when people are very sure of their philosophy and it seems stupid to me, I have a tough time seeing them as an intelligent person afterwards, even if in other aspects of life they're quite bright. I generally don't like dogmatism (or especially formalism) in philosophy, and seeing it attached to wooly thinking really bugs me (hence my almost instant dislike of Objectivists). It's probably true that people who start talking about things being objectively right or a priori as being more than things one decides to assume are likely to avoid my disrespect by avoiding such topics with me. Then, I've managed with people who are cool enough in other ways to overlook some things I regard as nasty flaws.

Even still, I sometimes wonder if it's reasonable to react so badly to this kind of thing - I suspect most people don't really think things through when they tell someone else to respect someone or something - I think if they did, they'd probably never make such requests/demands, but like so many things in life, without really thinking about it this is the kind of thing where people might do it without really thinking it through. If I had been able to contain my anger and if I had had this insight before now, perhaps I might've handled some situations better. On the other hand, it's been exceedingly rare that people have seen me explode (or be incivil when it wasn't a careful choice, even in difficult situations/conversations), so I'm not generally doing so bad on that front.


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