The Way to Show Respect
May 16 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh) – There is no respect these days, say the old folks – no respect for the elderly, for teachers, for your older siblings, just no respect. If you are among these whining, disgruntled naysayers please be informed: Respect is not something to be earned, it is something to be extracted.
Is this a little too cryptic for your overtaxed brain? Well here’s how it goes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, gaining respect is not something that comes after you have done amazing good for humanity, say teaching underprivileged kids how to use a computer, or discovering a solution for village folk to get safe, drinking water. It is not about having a squeaky clean record of honesty, integrity, humility and generosity. These are old, archaic ideas that have no value in today’s reality. RESPECT is directly proportional to POSITION. In other words how much respect you will get depends on how close you are to the highest seat of power or to those who own half the town.
That’s not all. Sometimes, even though you have the right credentials – you are the nephew of the sister of the local MP but so what, not every Kamal, Jamal and Damal knows what you look like so you must have what is known in Bengali a bhaab – an attitude that exudes enough scorn and arrogance to make people think you must be someone important and hence worthy of respect. Puffed up hair seems to work as it gives the impression of tallness as well as affluence. The latter can be enhanced with gold chains around the neck and rings on every finger with stones one’s favourite fortuneteller has provided through paranormal means. Of course, the usual accessories are prerequisites – SUVs, a retinue of thuggish looking –ahem – ‘associates’ preferably wearing ominous bandanas and dirty grins while speeding along motorbikes harassing the local womenfolk.
But wait, aren’t we forgetting the main point of this thesis – the extracting respect part? You see that’s the most intriguing aspect. When all the paraphernalia linked with power and status fail to get lowly commoners to show respect – say they forget to salam or shower you with petals when you enter the vicinity of the primary school you are to visit – there is only one thing to do – give ‘em a few blows. Let them know who’s Boss.
If you are looking for real life examples, look no more. Only a few days ago a UNO (Upazila Nirbahi Officer) was beaten up by the goons (sorry ‘associates’) of a local leader because he had not responded when a local MP asked him to pay his respects to the local leader. He had made a major boo boo: he had not shown respect. Hence the severe head injuries he was rewarded with.
In another incident, a traffic police was slapped by a member of one of the most respected echelons of society (one refrains from giving out details lest it’s interpreted as ‘showing lack of respect’) because he had been going on the wrong side, and the fool tried to be the goody two shoes type of protector of the law. He actually had the nerve to stop the person who must be respected ‘at all times under any circumstance’, and asked him to refrain from breaking the law.
So here are some new lessons we must learn and unfortunately impart to our children.
Behave in a thuggish way at all times – rude, uncaring, brash and irreverent.
Master the art of shouting like a death metal vocalist with the traditional refrain “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”
Sport your material possessions as loudly and crudely as possible – like driving a Hummer around the dug up roads of Banani and Gulshan, with blaring Bhangra music, and followed by a microbus full of mean looking men in dark glasses, bandying their rifles for everyone to see.
Randomly break rules – get your cronies (you must have a whole bunch of them to ensure you get uninterrupted ‘respect’ 24-7) to go to various individuals to teach them how to respect you. A small fee may also be extracted while ‘persuading’ the person to show proper respect.
You may be thinking these are just the usual tactics employed by gangsters of the underworld that we watch with such relish in movies where someone gets shot or knived every 37 seconds. Here’s an FYI – this is how it works in the real world. These are strategies adopted by those who hold the most respectable positions in society. Hey, hey do I detect a yawn? Being disrespectful, eh? Just you wait.
The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial & Op-ed, The Daily Star.
This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka