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Born Respected

22 November 2012, 14:00

After reading articles on respect posted by XFactor  http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Some-thoughts-on-Racism-and-Respect-20121108 and No. You’re a handbag http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Respect-20121109 I felt the need to express some thoughts and stuff (!) about the subject matter.

Most of us receive upbringing by our parents (the lucky ones) from birth till about the age of 15 or 17 when we are sure we know it all better in any case. After that we still acknowledge that they are saying something but we prefer to find out by ourselves, the hard way. While our parents or elders, teach us morals, rights and wrongs, behavior and trust, they also rub respect off on us. We learn that we have to respect our parents, teachers, older people and ourselves. To most of us (as little boys in any case) respect was a kind of weird word, like trust or love – girls liked to swing those notions around – we knew of it but couldn't really explain what it meant besides some kind of humbleness or submissiveness. It was only when we started life on our own that these concepts began to switch a light on somewhere.

As a young boy, I also had a pellet gun. We used to go to the veld and see what we could shoot; just because we had a gun and something has to die (It’s a man thing…). One time I was aiming at this turtle dove and hit it straight through the head, it fell like a ripe apple to the ground with me sprinting towards it to see my marksmanship. I picked up the dove and got that weird feeling, almost like a hunger on a full tummy. This bird, now eyeless and bleeding in my hand, was going to fly no more. After that I only did target practice and the dove incident stayed with me for a long time, shaping the way I view nature today.

That day, without knowing it then, I learnt my first solo lesson about respect of nature. Since then life’s lessons also ground me, shaped me and (hopefully) polished me. Now I know what trust is, as it had been broken so many times. I know the rights and wrongs in life, solely by the way they made me feel while doing them – and I know respect - if only due to admiration of life.

Nothing “earns” respect. Everybody earns trust. Because life grinds us and chips away at our being, from the person we are to the one we become, we tend to reserve trust until our minds are satisfied that it won’t get broken. When the probability arises that our trust is safe, we give it to those who earned it. The fact that broken trust can scar us emotionally necessitates us to keep it until we are O.K. to give it. Losing respect for someone hits us, but we are usually able to cope better with it than loss of trust.

Respect is a different animal. I believe that every living thing, from shrubs and trees to animals and humans, should be respected on the spot. Sure you may need to trim the tree away from the house; you may have to set some rat traps or kill a colony of ants invading your grocery cupboard, but unnecessary hurting, killing or scarring of nature is just disrespectful. Being fortunate enough to live in an area which is sustainable for owl life, I stopped the usage of rat poison the first time I heard it. I was just not going to pick up a dead owl off of my lawn.

When you give people respect the very first time you meet, you will know soon enough if it is worthy or not. Should it be non-reciprocal, that’s when you start losing respect – where in some cases you may have no respect left at all. I have it on with people in power positions like CEO’s, general managers and the all-powerful traffic cop. To me, a good CEO respects everybody in his company initially, it is then up to the worker to return it in kind or show other colours. There is nothing so off-putting than a power person looking down on “lower class” people; it triggers the withdrawal of respect within me immediately. By all means, respect the guy on the corner trying to wash your windscreen but if you kindly say:”No thank you” and he simply ignores you and starts washing - boom, respect gone. It is the exact same with Juju (Malema), he had my respect when I heard his name; it only disappeared when he opened his mouth.

In this sense, it is only humans who can diminish the respect you may give them. No animal, plant or tree can do that as they are non-conscious of themselves. My respect for nature is automatic – it never lets me down.

Try it sometime (especially in this turmoil of the rainbow nation), give the cleaner initial respect. Respect the hobo at the liquor store; give a person with much less items a spot in the queue in front of you at the check-out till, it will take a fair amount of friendliness but we should all have some capacity for that? Share it with everyone you meet, you’ll be surprised at how much respect is returned.

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