With the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi just two days away, I’m going to skate on thin ice here and reflect on respect.
Respect is complicated. The whole concept is shrouded in a bevy of contradictions and regularly slanted to suit the occasion.
Imagine, say, explaining to an alien that we must treat everyone with equal respect. Including serial killers? Umm, no. But we respect their Human Rights, right? Of course we do! Or at least some countries do. Other countries permit the death penalty, for example, which most of us consider abhorrent. So do we hate all those countries? Oh no, just some of them. We don’t despise the ones with decent holiday destinations or the ones we depend on for trade. So, we only hate the ones we can afford to hate and have no interest in visiting? Yes, and please don’t use the word ‘hate’, it’s politically incorrect. Use a synonym.
What about respect for the law? Well, we all have to respect the law or the country would be in chaos. Does everyone agree on that? Yes, in principle. Although we all speed or jaywalk occasionally – but only when we think it’s safe. So that’s not disrespecting the law? Hmmm. Many people consider these little breaches more like white lies – they don’t really count, do they? Respecting the law is a given. Obeying sometimes takes a little more effort.
And obviously we must respect the laws in other countries too. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Mind you, that has just as much to do with wanting to avoid jail as it does with respect. Besides, we don’t want other people coming into our country and disregarding our laws just because they disagree with them either. And equally, people who come to our country must be allowed to practice their own religion and traditions. We have no right to try and dictate how other people live.
Is this why we don’t like dictators? Yes, we don’t like dictators because they tell their own people how they must live and allow them very few rights. It’s not democratic, so they don’t deserve our respect. Respect has to be earned. Oh! So we don’t treat everyone with equal respect after all. And when these people do something good, we shouldn’t respect them because they are dictators? Gotcha. No, wait, it’s not as black and white as that. Which leads me on to another point. We respect everyone equally regardless of skin colour. Is that black or white? Yes.
Hmmm. But what about respecting a completely different opinion? Well that’s a no brainer. It’s called freedom of speech. Everyone has the right to speak openly and without fear. And everyone has to respect that right. Any tabloid journalist will tell you that. We have to agree to differ and still rub along or there would be discord all over the place.
But what if we seriously disagree with a country we respect? Don’t worry, we have a whole system for respectfully disagreeing. It’s called The Diplomatic Service. These guys are trained to communicate and convey forceful respectful objection. They have diplomatic immunity, by the way – so they cannot be prosecuted abroad if they break the law. So they don’t go to jail? No, they get sent home.
Ok, but if we are to respect everyone’s laws and freedom to state their opinions, except those of serious criminals and dodgy dictators, why are some political leaders boycotting the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi?
Out of respect. Respect for the hundreds of men and women denied gender equality, who are not permitted to love the partner of their choice. Who are prosecuted and punished for loving in a same sex relationship. Who are persecuted for being gay. Not for assaulting, raping or killing, not for stealing or fraud, not for lying or cheating, avoiding tax or speeding. For loving.
But, hold up. You just said we have to respect the law, both here and in other countries, free speech and other opinions. Some people think and say that homosexuality is wrong. How do we decide which opinions should and shouldn’t be respected?
Ah. This is where it starts to get complicated.
It comes down to personal decision and self-respect. There comes a point when another opinion crosses your line of fundamental common decency and you must take a stand. Be brave enough to stand up and say No! That’s simply not right. It’s unacceptable and reprehensible. I do not respect your opinion because it is not worthy of my respect. I reject your point of view. It’s downright wrong.
Isn’t that called disrespect?
No. It’s called doing the right thing.
In my humble opinion.
Please respect it.