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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 19, 2004
Latest Update: September 20, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Discussion Thread on Respect

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This thread was started on September 19, 2004, by Malika Person, in response to Tahia's (a 9th grader) request for information on respect.

Jeanne's comments are interspersed in purple.

    Moses' Horns, Freud, Monotheism, and Respect

    On Monday, September 20, 2004, Mr. Bob Lippman wrote to tell me of the meaning of Moses' horns in S. Pietro de Vincoli, in Rome. I believe he wrote in response to a question I had asked on Moses and Monotheism about what those horns meant to Michelangelo. Read about the mistranslation of the Greek for "rays of light" and a few other resources for the mistranslation and for the concept of Jews as devils.

    I'm pretty content to leave it up to Michelangelo what he was thinking. As a postmodernist, I'm more curious about what it means to us in the beginning of the 21st Century. If Michelangelo did misinterpret, or accept the misinterpretation about "rays of light," do we need to know that in order to respect his version of Moses? What if, as one author suggests, Michelangelo was learned enough to know the truth of the interpretation? Might he have chosen the horns as a means of expressing something anyway? Are we respecting Michelangelo's vision if we insist on either of the interpretations: rays of light or Jew Devils? Respect is definitely complex, as are most social constructs.

    Statue of Moses in S. Pietro de Vincoli

    Insults and Respect - Too deep

    Now, having considered Moses' horns, and their meaning in respect and disrespect, I would like to send you to Richard Hart's Daily Splash and suggest you read the entry for September 21, 2004. Yes, that really is on the Index of Love. Maybe I shouldn't show that to the Dean, hmmm?

    (You might like to look at Now I get it for his take on insults. My brain is fried right now from too many hours at this computer, so I'm not up to memorizing anything, but maybe after I get back from New Orleans. I've been thinking about some answers to:

    • Do I get credit for this? - As if. - Next time I'll give you credit for asking.
    • Have you ever considered streamlining the site? - I hope. - Why would I want to get any sleep?
    • Well, I found this syllabus. Is that what you want me to read? - Why bother? - You mean you can read?
    • OK. I found the site, and I read something. Now you want me to write something to you? - Whatever - If this keeps up, you may graduate.
    • What do you want me to read? - Bad timing. - You don't have to read. Your choice. But it helps get a job.
    • What do you want me to do? - Too soon. - Maybe you should just go hang out at the beach.

    I think you should all help me with this. There is really something to be said for Richard's technique of just be yourself, and remember how you handled these things as a child. My problem is I didn't have a childhood, so I didn't learn these crazy quick responses. But I've been laughing a lot since I read his site. Good sign, hmmm? Thanks, Richard. I needed a big brother.

    What should I have said when the lady said "Get out of MY classroom?" from the dark of their video show, when she was in my officially-scheduled classroom? How about: - Too scary? - Are you the Loch Ness Monster? (This last part is silent, remember. Don't start a fight.) Richard's right. I should have had something memorized for that. Darcy, could we adapt Richard's theory as one reasonable and plausible alternative for handling bullies?

    Kids' insults can be mean, but they can also wake us up if we're listening. But notice that Richard says those mean pieces are just for in your head as backup. You certainly don't have to say them. Some of you have never really listened to what you're saying to your teachers. Maybe if we just tried Richard's technique, we'd stop insulting each other so. And notice that he often says,"just walk away once you've answered. Let it go. It ain't worth it." That's important in peacemaking, folks.

    Richard's on site persona drives a taxicab. He almost makes me want to give up and drive a taxicab, 'cept that the more I think about it, the more it feels like that's what I'm doing. When I first started writing out the questions above, I couldn't think of answers. Then, I went back to his site and found some, and suddenly the silent thoughts behind them were just popping right out. No time for painting them yet, but I'll get there right after New Orleans.

    What does this say about respect? Is keeping your own balance important to your ability to respect anything? many things? everything? Can you respect people that are mean to you? What do you think about Richard's two word crazy responses, kid-like? Can we get back to that child-like shining on of Others who hurt us? Oh, and don't write to Richard that you can't figure out how to navigate his *$#%* @# site. He's already got a two-word response to that one up somewhere. (Don't let your kids read that. It has the F word in it.)

    Respect Is More Complex than We're Saying: Think Hierarchy

  • Ben Plaisted wrote on Monday, September 20, 2004:
    I think Jeanne wanted us to respond on topics of interest for Tuesday. I wanted to discuss Tahia’s subject of respect.

    I like Jeanne’s explanation of respect using consideration and caring. However, I think there is more involved in the relationship aspect of respect. The nature of relationships depicts the amount and type of respect that will occur. I would say it is possible to be considerate and caring without having full respect for the other individual. You can be considerate to everyone while only being respectful to a few. I think that in some aspects respect is predetermined by the relationship.

    I agree, Ben. Like everything else, respect is a social construct. It's not something we cna see or touch or that exists out there in reality. And every social construct is what we make it by our collective perceptions and communication of it. All these factors are interdependent.

    If I have a prof. at CSUDH, I automatically will show respect to them before I even know them, based on the nature of the relationship.

    Good example. Notice that Ben is giving not just his theoretical position, but explaining that by facts that will clarify it. Facts, law, facts, law. That's legal reasoning.

    So if all relationships could be placed in some sort a hierarchical list, would respect flow down that list respectively. I think that in general yes, people with more power, wealth, knowledge, and experience command more respect.

    Ben, I think you're making an unstated assumption here that hierarchical relationships are "natural." If so, I would refer you to Martha Minow of Harvard Law on unstated assumptions. Many relationships are not hierarchical. As a matter of fact that would be something that critical theory would suggest we need to change, or Duncan Kennedy at Harvard Law, for example.

    So can you disrespect people who are at a lower power position than you? I agree with Jeanne in that some people may act caring towards you without respecting your professional opinions etc., so do I respect that person or not?

    Good question. Borders on Darcy's question of what do we do about bullies who disrespect us? Parents can be bullies, too. So can teachers. Certainly, bosses can be bullies. Complex questions.

    One thing that Jeanne mentioned in the thread was “why isn’t there a law that says people have to respect each other? I am wondering if all laws are actually trying to get people to do just that. Laws against stealing are trying to get people to respect each other’s property, etc. Would defamation of character be an example of a law that deals directly with disrespect when no physical harm has been done?

    Good response, Ben. I was actually thinking about how our law is not affirmative. These laws are written to punish disrespect, not to force respect. That's because it's very hard to do that with the law. That's one reason why law is not the most effective tool for social transformation.

    Ok…I wanted to throw this out for discussion.

    Is being disrespectful always wrong? Can you ever be disrespectful and still be doing the right thing? When John Kerry came back from Vietnam in the early 1970’s he became the most vocal member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). He stood in front of congress and depicted his view of how the Viet Cong were being treated in US war prisons. He claimed soldiers "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians.”

    Was this disrespectful of American Prisoners of war and their families? What about those US soldiers still missing in action? Consider at the time there were thousands of U.S. POWs in North Vietnam. Hundreds of US soldiers were murdered and tortured because of John Kerry’s protests against US war crimes. I believe this is a good example of doing the right thing but being disrespectful. Kerry thought what he was doing was morally right. While being morally right he was at the same time disrespecting the families and individuals who had sacrificed their lives for their country.

    Again, good question. is open disagreement disrespectful? sometimes? when lives may depend on not letting someone know about our disagreement? How would we have solved the problem of an unjust war if we were not permitted to disagree? Malika might stay quiet to avoid the drama, but what would that mean to our national morals? How would we decide on the limits to disagreement? How do we discover and agree on "truth"? Especially when those in power have a vested interest in denying that the disagreement is valid. Consider the military abuse in Iraq.

    On Sunday evening, September 20, Armando Garcia wrote:

    Ben makes a good comment when it comes to the relativity of social context and respect. Given this I would like to speak my piece on the respect for social order and change. For us to enjoy the benefits of social order we must respect it. There must be an assumption that the way things are done is, basically, right. But to differ, to progress, one must challenge, and in a sense, disrespect the social order and all the people who faithfully live by the popular repartee.

    Good point, Armando. It's like the individual vs. community dilemma, isn't it?

    That explains the sheer outrage that people express toward individuals that challenge the status quo. Let’s take the example of the anti communist propaganda of the 1940’s and 50’s: The situation of the time was one of economic insecurity and civil unrest. Several members of this society looked for ways to progress, to catapult this society out of the then current situation and the system that persecuted them. Some of the greatest thinkers of this country subscribed to the left, an ideology they presumed they were free to believe in, yet they were charged with crimes of treason. There is a price to pay for dissatisfaction with social norms.

    I agree. And that reminds us of the importance of illocutionary discourse.

    One last thought and I’ll get off my soapbox. No matter how valid our claim of dissatisfaction (“it sucks”) is with the magic numbers, someone somewhere will feel hurt and disrespected by our honest attempt to rectify an ineffective system. Sad, but true.

    Yes, they will. But that is largely because the university system denies us answerability. As we learn to use our voice with skill in presenting our validity claims, we hope that such responses will go quietly away into that dark night. This one did. The school has arranged for all of you to be registered, without penalty. Our Chair just called. One last reminder: Don't let your expectation of that non-answerability response force you to not open doors in your psychological life space. Remember, Freire says hope is an ontological need. jeanne

    Know Who You Are and Avoid the Unnecessary Drama

  • Malika Person wrote on Saturday, September 19, 2004:
    Hello Jeanne,

    I am writing in response to Tahia's request for information about respect. I believe giving respect is displaying behavior to others in the same manner you would also want to be treated. Others should be given respect and consideration of their needs and feelings even at times when you may not feel like it or agree. Many times for myself, I have to think very rationally to show respect for some people, otherwise I would act disrespectful or inappropriately to them. I know in the long-run this option is best because it saves me from getting caught up in a whole lot of unnecessary drama.

    I agree with your definition generally, Malika. But you remain very general. What about Darcy's question? What if the Other is bullying or disrespecting you? How should we handle that? I just dealt with this when I responded to someone who was very critical on the CASA listserv. Was I right to respond? Was that respectful of the feelings of the woman who didn't like the CASA meetings in Amsterdam?

    Could you tell us the story of one of those times when you had to hold yourself back from being disrespectful? What you have doen is give us a theoretical position. Now give us some details, so we can decide in our discourse if we agree with you. In the law, we would say that you need to give us both the law and the facts. You've given us "the law." Now give us "the facts."

    In order to receive respect from others, you must know who you are and what you will and will not tolerate from other people and make sure you live up to your standards. Often times, people allow themselves to be disrespected because they do not do this. Everybody gets disrespected from time to time, but if you know who you are and abide by your standards it helps to alleviate a high amount of disrespect from others.

    Malika Person

    This is a very important point, Malika. We do need to know who we are and what our standards are. Now could you give us a detailed example, so that we could see if your conclusions match our expectations in this area?

    Do You Think It's in Human Nature to Be Nice?

  • Renee Decter wrote on Sunday, September 19, 2004:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Malika. As an addition: Christians, or rather "True Believers" in Christ (along with followers of many other faiths), don't have to rationally think about being respectful too much, as long as they ask, WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) Then, the course to follow is simple and clear because they know, and live with, the teachings of Christ. However, many Christians stumble in this regard because, as Malika so beautifully points out, one has to really know herself in order to shoulder disrespect from others with grace. In this, some people actually invite disrespect, sometimes because they tangle with people who are, simply put, disrespectful/selfish/self-absorbed/self-serving people, OR they are disrespectful people themselves. It's easier to survive in this world by mowing over others as we struggle on our own paths; yet, it really becomes easier in the long-run by, as Rodney King once said, "being nice" to each other. Hmmmmm ... do you think it's in the human nature to ... be nice?

    Renee Decter
    Peace and Joy to All.
    And A God Awesome Day!

  • On Sunday, September 19, 2004, jeanne responded:
    Renee, you, like Malika, raise some interesting questions for our discussion. First let me say that I think it might really be in human nature to be nice. I say that because it feels good. Remember Transaction Analysis therapy? If you can't get good strokes, you'll take any strokes, even bad ones, because we need strokes. I believe that tells us something about ourselves; we want to love. But along the way, all those interpersonal relationships grow confusing as we develop who we are and how we feel through the interdependence of our own agency and the social structure in which we find ourselves.

    In other words, we as humans, as social creatures, can't escape relationships. Wasnt it Woody Allen who said relationships are like eggs, they crack easily, but we seem to need them, anyway? One thing that both you and Malika seem to be assuming is that I can control my interactions with those around me. Not always. Remember the classroom the other teacher tried to take away from us? Took me days to assess the power relationships in that transaction. I might have lost. But was there even a win or lose involved there, even though it felt to all of us like there was? And I didn't really get a chance to choose whether or not to interact there. So respect and disrespect are complex.

    Does disrespect on the part of a bully justify my disrespecting the bully? Not if he's bigger than I am. And not if he has greater system power than I do. What about the magic numbers fiasco? Should we just pay the $50 and be silenced? What would Jesus do? What would it mean to the practice of Jesus' teachings? What do our community values tell us? What if the whole community is being bullied? What if we turn around and bully the bully? What would Jesus do? What would He tell us to do? Are we bullying Iraq?

    What would a Buddhist tell us to do? The Dalai Lama, for example? about a bully? about the magic numbers? about Iraq? I've got some of his books. Need to look it up.

    What would Mohammed do? I really don't know. But I'll bet Karen Armstrong would in her book on Mohammed. I don't have time today, but I've got the book. I'll look it up when I get a moment or two.

    I liked Malika's reference to drama. I think we should stay out of the soap opera arena, too. Technically we say that when affect is high, we should stop shouting rhetoric at one another and back off to some technical reasoning. (Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language.) Can you relate back to our reasoning that escalating the problem over the rooms wasn't a good idea because it would distract us from our agenda? That's an example of backing off to a technical level, letting the Dean's work it out, and avoiding the soap opera. Hall doesn't say so, but might we assume that backing off from the informal level, where affect is high, is a form of respecting the Other?

    Suppose I adapt your guide of asking "What would Jesus do?" Suppose I follow his example. But then suppose that in my heart of hearts I find it impossible to say that Jesus is the Son of God? Does that mean I am disrespecting Jesus? Does it mean I am disrespecting Christianity? If I respect both Jesus and Mohammed, how do I resolve the demand that I choose one over the other?

    I don't have these answers. But these are some of the issues we face with the religious right. Want to start reading on some of these issues? Try Stanley Fish's Why We Can't All Just Get Along An interpretation of the reason vs. faith, based on God's battle with Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost. Actually, it reads pretty easily.

    Statement of Faith of the National Association of Evangelicals. This link includes the statement: "We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation."

    Wow! Lots to think about, yes? jeanne

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