The definition of RESPECT is to esteem, honor or show a sense of worth toward a person or personal quality. Every person deserves respect, and because they do not get it at crucial, formative times of their lives, they develop coping patterns which evolve into personally and collectively destructive behaviors.
In his book, "Metaphysics of Morals" Kant described his belief that, as a human being, everyone has worth, independent of "social standing or individual merit." He argued for a basic respect for human beings that is not based upon heredity, social rank, behavior or even moral goodness.
What would a truly respectful society look like? A respectful society is characterized by non-coercion. But the society we live in today is rife with coercion. Coercion begins in infancy and is encouraged and even required in order to live in our present society.
A baby is born. From the moment it is born, its parents feel their job is to mold and coerce the baby into becoming what they want. The parents try to "train" the child to eat and sleep the way they want, wear the kind of clothes they want, get the kind of education they want and follow the religion they want. What about what the child wants? Most parents don't care what the child wants. Almost all parenting is geared toward being "in control" of your child or teaching your child self-control, making sure your child speaks and acts they way the parents or society deems appropriate and making sure the child follows acceptable norms.
In his article "How Societies with Little Coercion have Little Mental Illness," Bruce Levine discusses how Coercion, "the use of physical, legal, chemical, psychological, financial, and other forces to gain compliance—is intrinsic to our society’s employment, schooling, and parenting. However, coercion results in fear and resentment, which are fuels for miserable marriages, unhappy families, and what we today call mental illness."
Yet knowing this, we tolerate and even encourage a life spent coercing and being coerced. If we are lucky, by the time we reach late middle age we may have realized that the things we are trying to be coerced into are things we don't value and aren't interested in complying with, and we will chuck a life of social conformity in favor of real authenticity.
Wouldn't it be wonderful, however, if we could create a society where no one was coerced, where our children grew up free, without force, punishment, or fear of any kind, where no matter who they chose to become, they would be accepted? A society where everyone's needs are met and no one has to resort to coercion of any kind to get what they want? I believe it is possible to create just such a society.
In this society, people would be valued, not based on their behavior or beliefs, but simply because they exist. Everyone would be entitled to and would receive food, clothing and shelter, and everyone would be free to engage in the pursuits they find appealing and fulfilling. No one lifestyle of set of principles would be valued higher than another. And no one would be punished for not living according to what someone else thinks is right.
In her article "Indigenous Justice Systems and Tribal Society", Ada Pecos Melton states "The American paradigm has its roots in the world view of Europeans and is based on a retributive philosophy that is hierarchical, adversarial, punitive, and guided by codified laws and written rules, procedures, and guidelines. The vertical power structure is upward, with decision making limited to a few. The retributive philosophy holds that because the victim has suffered, the criminal should suffer as well. It is premised on the notion that criminals are wicked people who are responsible for their actions and deserve to be punished. Punishment is used to appease the victim, to satisfy society's desire for revenge, and to reconcile the offender to the community by paying a debt to society. It does not offer a reduction in future crime or reparation to victims...The indigenous justice paradigm is based on a holistic philosophy and the world view of the aboriginal inhabitants of North America. These systems are guided by the unwritten customary laws, traditions, and practices that are learned primarily by example and through the oral teachings of tribal elders. The holistic philosophy is a circle of justice that connects everyone involved with a problem or conflict on a continuum, with everyone focused on the same center. The center of the circle represents the underlying issues that need to be resolved to attain peace and harmony for the individuals and the community. The continuum represents the entire process, from disclosure of problems, to discussion and resolution, to making amends and restoring relationships. The methods used are based on concepts of restorative and reparative justice and the principles of healing and living in harmony with all beings and with nature."
Brant, in his “Native Ethics,” pp. 534–35, stated "In Aboriginal times, when this principle originated among Native peoples, group survival was more important than individual prosperity; consequently, individuals were expected to take no more than they needed from nature and to share it freely with others. Of course, this is somewhat akin to the central principle of Marxism and Christianity. Native people however, regard it neither as a political ideology nor as a religious requirement. It was and still is simply a part of the Native way of life. Although the main function was to help ensure group survival in the face of the ever present threat of starvation, it also serves as a form of conflict suppression by reducing the likelihood of greed, envy, arrogance and pride within the tribe."
Healing broken or damaged relationships, rectifying wrongs, and restoring justice ensures the full integration of parties into their societies again, and to adopt the mood of co-operation. This mode of conflict resolution would be preferable than what is currently used in Western society, which focuses on banishing the offender from society and exacting revenge and retribution. This response to conflict is not healthy for the society nor the offender. One cannot expect an offender to learn respect when the response to their infraction is itself disrespectful.
The law of attraction states that what you focus on, you get more of. Focusing on how bad the person is for hurting you only makes them more hurtful and makes you feel worse, whereas focusing on restoring harmony brings peace.
By the same token, focusing on giving respect will mean you get more respect.
When a person is rewarded for his individual merit or punished for lack of it, he is being sent the wrong message about the value of human life.
Stop trying to coerce others in your life to behave the way you want them to. Respect their right to live as they choose.
Stop trying to punish those who have hurt you. Surround them with love, respect and acceptance. Help them to develop new coping patterns that are not personally nor collectively destructive. Only love, respect, compassion and equal treatment can do this.
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Copyright 2014 Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living