Sunday, June 11, 2006

A tyranny of 'respect'

Here is a very thoughtful essay by Stuart Waiton which examines the premise that "ours is a society that lacks the capacity to connect people with one another through a system of meaning". Its theme is the issue of anti-social behaviour.

Noting the tendency for people to insulate themselves socially within their own "bubbles", Waiton examines the broader implications that arise from state intervention in the determination of societal norms and an understanding of respect that encompasses the "same asocial and equally amoral outlook that is coming to dominate politics and social policy". He notes that respect is all too often discussed and/or defined in terms devoid of content or character and he explores the ramifications that arise when a society fails to develop the necessary capacity for social integration.

Broken down to its basic elements, the idea of respect today is really: ‘Respect my bubble, my rules and I will respect yours.’ Rather than the individual being drawn out of himself through values that relate to society, society is validating the inward-looking and insecure outlook of the ‘therapeutic me'.

In effect, we have lost the ability and willingness to accept responsibility for either our own actions or those of others. The corollary is that "government" is its various manifestations assumes an accountability beyond its capacity and capability. Moreover, we are constantly told that the solution is yet more governance and an even smaller expectation for individual responsibility. In effect, 'people are encouraged to have respect for the "self" rather than actively achieving self-respect'.

To me, the issues of respect, individual responsibility and social accountability are at the very heart of today's environmentalism. The continued propagation of ecomyths are symptomatic of a much broader societal malaise: a coma of complacency that stems from a stasis culture of axiomatic beliefs and learnt acquiescence to elitist intellectualism.

Wow. Every so often my narrative reverts back into academic mode.

In real words, what we have is lazy people, encouraged in their laziness by those who will exploit widespread apathy in society as an opportunity to invoke their own ideas and agendas, even though those concepts largely foist on others activities that have marginal effect on the elite proposing them. Do as I say, not as I do and obey me because I make the rules for you to follow. Because I am smart and you aren't.

It is arrogant. It is elitist. And it is also the very essence of a lack of respect for others. Central to its continued acceptance in society is a vociferous dismissal of anything that smacks of questioning its authority and fundamental "correctness". As Orwell so aptly illustrated, stripping respect of its inherent character and content is essential to the furtherance of a stasist society.