Respect is a learned behavior. At least in our day and age, respect is not found intrinsically, but rather in what one has been taught to respect. This applies to everything, from respect of parents, teachers, family, friends, and (perhaps most importantly) self. It also includes respect of laws, hierarchies, customs, traditions, motivations, goals, lifestyles, and social contracts. Really, I can’t think of anything it does not apply to.
Let that idea sink in for a moment. And then, if that does not worry you adequately, think on this: in an age of subjectivity, relativism, and ‘personal realities’, each subsequent generation is taught less respect than the generation previous. Since there is no longer a set of common values in society, why would there be common respect?
We see this everywhere we look. Even those who believe that they are advocating free thought and equality of opinion are undermining themselves beyond recognition. (Half of the things said on behalf of equality really has nothing to do with equality, but rather with ‘politically correct’ non-partisan acceptance of anything; literally anything goes.) Is ‘anything goes’ really an actuality we’re ready to face? Think on that for a second too. Because people do not know or understand the weight of their words and established precedents, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
I digress a little.
It is a misconception to believe that advocating equality of ideas is advocating mutual respect. What ends up being popularized is the notion that no one’s thoughts, ideas, motivations, beliefs (you name it) are better than anyone else’s. This doesn’t engender high mutual respect, but rather lowered respect for ideas. Nothing is better than something else. Your ideas aren’t better than mine. They have no more value than mine. This is what we’re advocating. We’re popularizing blatant disregard for something which could be valuable, because I have a right to my opinion of something (which can’t be considered more right or more wrong than any other opinion) and you can’t tell me otherwise. I mean, once a common value system went out the window, this went hand in hand.
We have each and every one of us encountered this in our lives, whether we were cognizant of it or not. I encounter it every single day, and am sadly all too aware of it.
The scariest part is that we are bringing up our youth with this fallacy so deeply ingrained in their worldview that they are unable to see it at all. These children have learned a disregard for anything they don’t like or want, from their parents. They grow up seeing their parents pick and choose arbitrarily what they believe or do or like or accept (or don’t), because again – no common values. People do not respect what they do not value. If you and another person do not value the same thing, then you do not respect the same thing.
I teach sixteen second graders for seven hours a day, five days per week, ten months out of the year. These children respect nothing. They have never been taught to value their education, but rather have heard their parents repeatedly insist that it’s just something they have to do (seemingly arbitrarily), and so they’re forced onto school grounds with no value for their education, and no respect for those who can give it to them. They have never been taught to value the efforts that their parents expend for their upbringing, comfort, or sustained life. They do not respect their parents or the efforts made by their parents on their behalf. They have never been taught to value the existence of other people, of any age, but particularly of an age different from their own. Therefore they do not show respect for other people, especially their elders (but not even for their peers). These children have never been taught that they have value intrinsic to themselves, and so, they have no self respect.
In your experience, how do people treat things they have no respect for? Poorly. Very poorly. Do not try to pretend otherwise. Children who are brought up treating everything with little to no respect, will treat everything poorly.
This is our future.