Thursday, 26 December 2013
All due respect
A complete stranger is as worthy of respect as an old friend you've known for years. They deserve respect simply because they're another vulnerable human being, with the same feelings and needs and weaknesses.
If a person hasn't "earned" respect, does that mean I can treat them as badly as I like, kick them around, abuse them, until such time as they've qualified for better treatment? Whose barbaric idea is that?
This absurd principle is trotted out all the time to justify hostile attitudes towards immigrants, welfare claimants, single mothers and all sorts of minorities people don't want to treat decently.
It means people are regarded as second-class citizens unless they've jumped through all sorts of demeaning and ingratiating hoops to raise their status.
It's like saying people have to earn kindness, or courtesy, or fairness. Shouldn't these be the normal way to behave?
Do we say a new-born baby has to earn our respect? Do we say a dinner guest has to earn our respect? Of course not.
Everyone deserves an initial respect, be they malodorous beggars, beer-slurping couch potatoes or clock-watching pen-pushers. Surely respect should be the norm unless it's forfeited by something unforgivable or reprehensible? Or unless the person's actually attacking or robbing you.
To my mind, respect is the cornerstone of a civilised society. It's not some prize to be competed for. It's not a carrot on the end of a stick. It's a basic right.