I’m sure I’ve touched on the subject of respect before, but for today’s rant I think I’ll focus solely on the phrase “respect your elders”. But before I begin, a typical disclaimer: as you’ll likely see from what I’m about to write, I am completely supportive of respect. In fact I don’t believe it should be limited to just your elders, but your peers, those younger, different species (ie: dogs, snakes, platypuses (platypi?), etc) and especially the natural world. But that being said, with the exception of animals and nature, that respect needs to be earned. By all means treat a stranger with respect (they’ve done nothing to you at this point), but if someone doesn’t show you respect, I believe they forfeit their right to your respect. This is still true of anyone, and I wanted to talk mainly of the phrase “respect your elders”, so with that in mind, let’s examine the phrase itself.
So why should you respect your elder? They’ve lived longer, they’ve experienced more of what life has to offer, and are wiser for it… At least, that’s what they’d have you believe. More and more, I’m faced with people who are older than me, yet far less mature. Or if mature enough, still less courteous, and clearly wrong about certain things. Just one example is any of the countless people who shop at any retail location anywhere on the planet, and treat the employees like they’re the scum of the Earth. Now to be fair, these employees are of all ages, so it’s not always a case of an elder treating someone younger badly. But that situation does still happen (especially at fast food chains or grocery stores, where the employee base is mainly younger students), and even if it didn’t the people treating employees badly are still douchebags (hot tip you’ve likely heard before: the customer is not always right).
I’m sorry, but if you can’t treat the people who serve you with respect, then you don’t deserve any respect in return. That’s just the way I see things, and I think I can say with certainty that I will always see it that way. So elder or not, respect begets respect. Remember too (just as Fight Club taught us), that the people serving you are in a position to screw with you. They could mishandle your groceries (oops, all your eggs are broken and you’ll never know until you get home!), they could mishandle your package (oops, it just went down the wrong conveyor, and is now bound for an international location far from your intended destination!), or they could mishandle your meal (oops, some of my HIV-laden saliva fell on your burger!). You may never know it happened, or who did it, but you might still feel the effects, and they’ll certainly know they got their little bit of vengeance. My point is, it would behoove you to be polite and respectful, because not everyone will hold back on those vengeful impulses like I would (or would I? le gasp!).
On a different facet of the same issue, I once had one of the older fellows I work with tell me that he knew the little tricks I used to avoid certain work, or to go slow, or whatever else. He went on to tell me how I shouldn’t think he is unaware, because he’s older and knows more than me. There’s two things I’d like to say about that. Firstly, he has his own “tricks”, and he’s sorely mistaken if he thinks I haven’t noticed them. That’s a matter of being observant, not a matter of experience. Secondly, being older does not necessarily make someone more intelligent or keen-eyed. It falls back to being observant, and learning from your experiences. Not to mention, on occasion, a younger person may have experienced more than an older one, and if they’ve learned from those experiences, then it would follow that they’re more intelligent than the older person. We’ve seen it so many times, where a child has more sense than an adult. And now with so many of the “yolo” generation aging, there’s a very real possibility that the new generation of children are more sensible. I mean, come on. Look at these idiots we’re churning out now. It’s not hard to be more intelligent than that.
But sensibility is besides the point. Because this episode is about respect. And this older guy I work with? Well this holier-than-thou attitude is part of the lack of respect. Every day I start fresh though, and give him the respect I know he doesn’t fully deserve. And more often than not, he shows me again that I’ve made a mistake to give him that respect.
But this is the heart of it. Young or old, man or woman, tall or short. Treat everyone the same, and give them respect. But don’t be unconditional, and don’t let people abuse that respect. If they’re being stupid (or more realistically a douchebag), then don’t give them the respect they don’t deserve. I’m not saying be an outright ass to them, because that doesn’t solve anything, but rather remove them from your life, or ignore them, or some other passive-aggressive response. They’re not worth your energy anyway.