We often ignore the fact that many of today’s conflicts, this being at individual level, in families, at the workplace and even (or perhaps in particular) at international level often is about respect or lack thereof. Respect can be understood as a positive feeling of defense or deference of another person or entity like a nation, religion or race. Respect is not about liking or disliking nor is it about tolerance, but rather about acceptance of others as human beings. To what extent do we hold each other in esteem for real and in a manner that is genuinely considerate and caring for other human beings?
Respect is closely connected with the concept of protection. The origin of human rights law for instance focuses on the need to protect individuals against arbitrary use of state power. States are obliged to respect international law implicitly protecting its citizens, as is evident we still have a long way to go. Syria, Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine amongst others tell a sad tale about the international status of respect. Paradoxically, best protected are often those who are responsible for the suffering of millions of civilians – those who are elected and bear the primary responsibility to uphold the respect human rights.
The Internet plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives and unwelcome bi-effects of a connected world must take part of the blame for evolving disrespecting practice. The spreading of malware, spy-ware and virus and an accelerating number of cyber attacks witness an increasing disrespect for the right to privacy. At the worldwide web, respect for individual rights is probably one of the greatest challenges we meet in today’s modern world. Evolving measures to protect children online for instance is exactly a result of disrespect for the rights of the child.
In our daily lives, individual actions may cause respect or disrespect. This may be at home, at work or otherwise in our social lives. Respect is a difficult concept and even more difficult to teach. You have to give respect to earn respect, but sometimes we miss out on respecting others simply because we do not have respect for ourselves – often without realizing it. Self-respect is in many ways our best protection and at the end of the day it is all about conducting oneself in a manner that regards another person.