You may have noticed a crisis of respect emerging. Many people lately may speak of a financial crisis or economic crisis. However, perhaps there has been a crisis in a lack of respect for the instability of certain economic patterns and trends. People who respected certain instabilities have not been surprised by economic developments while many people who did not respect those instabilities have been surprised and disappointed in the results of their choices.
Maybe there has been too much respect for idealistic presumptions and not enough respect for realistic measurements. Maybe there has been not enough respect for competent financial analysts and too much respect for the commission-earning salespeople that entice the naive in to hysterical gambling on real estate with high-risk mortgages that have led to a huge increase in bankruptcies in recent years.
Certainly, there has been a financial crisis for many people and many business as well as the governments of manycountries. However, some people have been cautious and conservative, leading them to benefit from the same changes that have produced a crisis for so many.
So, a financial crisis has developed, but in some places more than others. In Alaska, high fuel prices have led to a unprecedented surplus and profit. In Arizona, high fuel prices led instead to a reversal to the prior trend of suburban sprawl.
In any particular place, some people have had above average results for that place and some people have had below average results. Could it be that the social crisis is producing a shift in what people respect most?
You may have noticed a lack of respect for many things: a lack of respect for other people, a lack of respect for the power of courts and militaries (organized use of weapons), a lack of respect for the influence of language, and even a lack of respect for science and technology.
Some groups are losing respect faster than others: mainstream churches have decreasing participation, mainstream media is losing market share as the internet balloons in popularity, and mainstream politicians are losing respect very fast in some places. The masses are increasingly skeptical of how well governments in places like Greece and Japan will be able to keep their promises.
Further, many mainstream politicians have a habit of publicly criticizing other mainstream politicians, especially during “primary” elections. If the politicians do not respect each other, is it any mystery that so many people would tire of the cycle of optimistic campaign promises and finger-pointing to explain the lack of fulfillment of the promises? Likewise, if mainstream religious leaders do not even respect each other, will they attract the respect of anyone but the most loyal believers?
We are in the midst of a crisis of respect. Many people have invested their hope in huge bureaucracies to be responsible for them, like the socialized health care programs of the Soviet Union. When that union dissolved, the hopes and dreams of many patriotic Soviets also dissolved.
In my life, I have interacted with many religious leaders of many denominations. Not only do many religious leaders lack
respect for other religions, but also for politicians. When religious leaders join the choir of contempt toward politicians and governments, again, that may be a factor in people withdrawing their respect for those political leaders.
Note that I am not condemning condemnation. It is quite functional to rebuke a beloved child who is endangering itself naively, right? However, rebuking naivete is very distinct from people presenting themselves as religious leaders and yet inciting contempt among their congregation toward specific people and groups.
Is it the functional priority of religious leaders to incite contempt for people elsewhere? Did the most faithful religious leaders in the USSR incite contempt for the Nazis while the most faithful religious leaders in Germany incited contempt for the Soviets?
Inciting contempt is one thing that can happen. Media celebrities may incite contempt, including the media celebrities that are politicians. However, if a religious leader is faithful, would they incite contempt or rebuke contempt?
We are in the midst of a crisis of contempt. We are facing not just a lack of respect, but the presence of contempt.
What is there to do about it? One thing to do is to respect the addictive power of contempt.
In contrast, if I have no presumptions about life, then life will surprise me consistently, but I would never experience contempt just for being surprised. Contempt is a response to being ashamed. When I am making presumptions and then one of the presumptions is corrected by life, I may be not just surprised, but also embarrassed or ashamed at having made a false presumption and having the inaccuracy of the presumption exposed by life.
I may resist recognizing that I have made a false presumption. I may struggle against life to make it fit my presumption- or at least hide any aspects of my life that do not fit my presumptions. I may blame other people for being responsible for life being inconsistent with my presumptions. I may be afraid and invite attention and assistance, even by blaming and whining and raging.
Who can face my contempt and still show me respect, even if rebuking me? Who can I trust? Who can I trust to be a faithful religious leader?
Who will recognize the crisis of contempt as also a crisis of a lack of respect, even a lack of maturity? Who will lead a revolution away from contempt and toward respect? If not us, then who?
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