Respect all People, Regardless of Whatever
At long last it is time I sit down to elaborate my conceptions of respect and how people ought to be treated. I have at least two other essays on this subject in store- one, on the dichotomy between HONOR and VIRTUE and the necessity of striking a proper balance between allegiance to constructed norms and allegiance to eternal principles; the other on my pre-modern notion of the non-existence of intrinsic or natural Human Rights and my view of morality as a nebulous gas rather than a solid set of rules.
But for now I shall contain my discussion to a matter at hand- identity and self-expression, and instances of disrespect against these.
Anyone who has followed my writings knows that I do not take identity or self-expression to be the paramount rights which so much of liberal postmodernity takes them to be. It is important that an African-American is an African-American, that a Basque is a Basque, and they should be proud of that and understand that this is part of their political and social identity- but it goes too far when such groups put their identity in your face, condemn you for being part of a broader system that legitimizes mistreatment of these groups and awards privilege to those not in these groups, and seek out and identify every possible (or impossible) piece of evidence slightly in their favor as evidence as yet more slights, yet more oppression, against their collective by a majority collective. Moreover it is sheer hypocrisy that majority groups are castigated for behaving in the same way, yet likely fitting, for if they were not castigated then it is likely that perceived slights might become real slights.
Now I do not doubt that such oppression exists, nor do I doubt that collectives are brutal by nature. But to focus entirely on this, and moreover to use it as a method of COMPLAINT, and to complain to the point of despicability, are in my opinion not only unhelpful but harmful, not only to the cause being argued for but for the broader society at large. In particular, I have argued verbally and in writing against such behavior by the advocates of gay rights, the advocates of Asian-American empowerment, and the advocates of feminism. Complaining about how bad things are is the business of whiners, not to be embraced by those who would move the world.
I should be viewed as a complete and utter hypocrite, then, for I have recently defended conservative realist intellectuals, the Catholic Church, and the mentally ill with the same vigor that those arguing for feminists, gay rights, and Asian American empowerment have argued. I have condemned the broader society’s tendency to, at times, ostracize these groups, view them as problems and progenitors of problems, treat them as outsiders, relish their distress. I have placed myself in the position of the crusader fighting for the rights of identity and self-expression, clamoring for equal treatment and appealing to a sense of Christ-like equal justice. I am in no way different, in fact, than the people I attack; I merely fight for a different set of factions.
Yet as I considered things, I realized that I am not truly the opposite of my opponents on any of their platforms. While I do not condone their quest for public recognition of their cause and social change and total equal treatment of all people, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or ethnicity (mostly because I do not believe in equality at all, except before the eyes of God) I do not oppose it. I would never treat a gay man, a woman, or an Asian-American the ways they warn us about and condemn; I would treat them all as human beings, and respect their differences (and that includes joking about their differences too.) I’m not about to get down and worship homosexuals for their homosexuality; neither am I going to shun them, speak down to them, condemn them, or otherwise hate them, for anything other than their personal behaviors and personalities as individual human beings. The same thing runs true for individuals of every other minority group there is, and indeed every other majority group there is, from Protestants to liberal intellectuals to the psychotic to Asian-Americans to African-Americans to Basques to Mayans to Armenians to trans people and everything outside and in between. I’m just not going to buy into the sociological research of privilege and the assertions that, as a (mostly) white male in 21st Century America, I contribute to the oppression of women, minorities, and the poor by my very existence. If such is true, then I frankly couldn’t care less. What I care about is real relationships.
At a fundamental level, there is a proper way to treat people, that perhaps bends and changes and at times of extremity should be subordinated to survival and in times of pressure should be subordinated to greater goods, but is generally recognizable across time and space as an objectively proper way to behave, not constructed nor destructible, for it is written on our hearts and eats our consciences. And all transgressions against this fundamental way, regardless of how well-justified they might be, do not go unseen or unpunished, in the end, by the might of God. It may be the right thing to do, at times, to go against it; but that does not make going against it RIGHT. The fundamental way, of course, is respect.
Now respect is a very thin shade of morality. Responsibility is far greater a virtue, and love yet deeper. But respect is crucial and self-evident as a virtue, because it regulates relations between all individuals when it is properly observed- a prevention of tension and violence due to sheer understanding that no being is inherently better than another being, all things considered. And surely no human can embody this principle in full, and all must stumble; but it serves as a general guiding tool. If nothing else, it helps to stifle self-righteousness. A conservative Christian who cursed gays would be in the wrong, as would a liberal atheist who cursed religious believers.
And in general, I think most people are inclined to follow the ethic of respect, at least generally. They will always have their prejudices, but so long as they are respectful individuals they will not let these leave their heads. Even if they disagree with a conservative’s views on welfare or a transvestite’s sexual nature, they would still treat them as human beings, caring not so much for their IDENTITY as for their HUMANITY.
And that is why I have passionately defended various groups, from Boy Scouts to Catholics to conservative intellectuals to the mentally ill. I sense injustice done towards them and am offended; and I fight to expose the hypocrisy of those who attack them. At a fundamental level, I think, that is why my intellectual opponents defend the groups they do, for there truly are grave injustices against all their groups which must be addressed.
But as different as night and day are the contrasting tendencies between Nature and Man- Man, to strive to excess, Nature, to achieve balance and moderation. The noble cause of treating all people equally mutates into a self-righteous and intolerant fundamentalism whose members might subscribe to the phrase, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me.” Nothing could be more fully different from these individuals’ original goal of tolerance and equality. Yet they hold nothing more dearly.
All this being considered, I will soften my attacks on the advocates of gay rights, feminism, and Asian Empowerment, for no other reason than the fact that I don’t actually disagree with them on a good many things. I think people should be treated as people. But I WILL continue to attack them on the various things on which I believe them to be deadly wrong, from the fluidity of human nature (it’s iron) to the construction of race (it’s genetic) to the necessity of social action to correct inequities (it’s all about how individuals treat individuals) to the institutionalization of privilege (life is unfair for me too, bub) and everything in between.
And more importantly, I will fight against the messianic at every available opportunity. If you see yourself to be so wise, so enlightened- if you believe that no opposing opinion has merit, that all those who disagree with you necessarily must be poor, unfortunate barbarians- if you would believe yourself to hold the wisdom of God, the perfect truth, so profoundly that no other information could ever possibly change what you hold to be true- then even if your entire metaphysical system revolves around the value of ‘respect,’ you have not an ounce of respect flowing through your blood. You have not the slightest idea what respect IS.