Friday, 23 September 2011


What exactly is respect?

“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements” - Oxford dictionary

My thought on this convention is quite different from how most of the world perceive it to be (note : My article would be closer to the Eastern thought on this norm, since I'm more familiar with it). In most cases, from what I see, respect, more or less is calling someone by a title / not using first name, using certain gestures which show “respect”, using a particular tone, etcetera.

Coming to the first name, in South Asia, it is considered disrespectful if someone is called by name, especially an elder. You have to call the elder by a particular title even if you don't actually respect that person. From what I understand from the works of fiction written by some of the European authors, they also aren't all that pleased in being called by their first name and would rather prefer being called “Mr. last name” or even by just the last name.  

What I fail to understand is, does respect come just out of this? I feel this is more of an unnecessary procedure than actually showing respect. What is the achievement of someone who is just elder to you that you have are bound to show respect? It is just that the person was born before you. In that case, what is the use of a first name if it is not going to be used after you reach a particular age / position? Even if you don't use the first name, what is the point of saying, “You know, I hate Mr. Fletcher.”? Besides, won't the person who is supposed to show “respect” feel much more comfortable when they are entitled to talk with an elder casually and by using first name?

Coming to the next part of this article, gestures showing respect. From what I can gather with my limited knowledge, in Japan they bow, in India they touch their feet and in the West, they shake hands(which by itself has an extremely stupid rule – with particular reference to the left hand), etcetera. What is the use of showing such gestures? Do people do this to show respect or fulfil a custom? In most cases, I believe it is the latter and in my opinion, it is nothing but just waste of energy.

Then, there are certain tones to maintain while talking to a person whom you're supposed to “respect”. You aren't supposed to be too loud, or not speak in a tone which suggests that you're trying to be aggressive, etcetera.

Personally, I feel none of these conventions show respect and they remain a custom and I believe most people do these only because they're fear driven and if they are given a choice, most of them would not be willing to follow this procedure. I believe, the real way of showing respect and admiration to a certain person is to be casual with them, indulge in informal talks, share information, etcetera. Even as per the definition in the dictionary, one need not respect the person whom you fear and if you really admire a person's qualities or achievements, then the person must be more like a friend from whom you would benefit.

It is a ubiquitous fact that respect is something that can't be seen and I feel there is no point in trying to make it visible by following these customs and instead, if you admire a person from the bottom of your heart, it is more than enough. Things are changing fast, and I'm sure that people thought on these conventions would also soon be fast changing.

Have a nice day,

Andrew Anderson