RESPECT: deferential regard that is conceded according to accepted values

There is a sense in which 'respect' describes an attitude of cautious consideration towards just about any existential circumstance, after it has been evaluated according to a set of accepted values. A rock-climber may 'respect' a particular mountain once the challenges of getting to the summit have been evaluated as significant. A gardener may 'respect' a wasp nest because of its threat to physical well-being. A citizen may 'respect' the civil rights of other citizens because of the democratic implications of not doing so. If what is being evaluated satisfies the criteria of the evaluee, then some form of 'respect' may be conferred. On the other hand, if the criteria are not satisfied, 'respect' will probably not be forthcoming. A voter with socialist inclinations has difficulty in respecting the aspirations of mercenary politics. The tramper failing to credit the outdoors with the levels of danger that are appropriate will not 'respect' the environment, neglect to take suitable equipment, and probably suffer the consequences. Respect is thus a general attitude of wary, guarded and heedful circumspection that is held by an individual towards another individual, a group, a system or some sort of existential circumstance.

The degree to which fear is an element of any respectful attitude may be difficult to estimate. Anything that is truly respected is not feared. A prudent pilot respects the aircraft being flown and keeps within the envelope of its flight characteristics, but he/she does not usually fear it. If one respects one's parents it is not because one fears them. A child does not respect a bullying parent nor does anyone respect an officious and corrupt police officer. More likely they would both fear and despise them. Respect is conferred on something voluntarily. Whatever form of obedience, compliance or submission is imposed by means of violence, coercion or duress... it is not respect. Respect is never gained by means of attempting to induce fear, but that reality has never stopped countless individuals from trying.

Although many cultural rules and traditions would have it otherwise, obtaining respect is not a right and can only be earned. Parents do not have the right to be respected by their children. Religions do not have the right to be respected by non-adherents. Respect may only be conferred when they have demonstrated that their behaviour is egalitarian and pragmatic, and their belief systems are not a mycelium of bizarre intellectual convictions. Parents and religions may desire and be granted tolerance from the members of a democratic society but they cannot demand respect as some sort of right. Parents who neglect or abuse their children should receive no respect for that behaviour whatsoever. They may deserve respect for other behaviours... like bravery or exceptional skills... but certainly not for the neglect and abuse. In a generalized secular environment, religions are not worthy of respect for the absurd intricacies of their belief structures and the often ludicrous social dress and behaviour codes, but may well entirely warrant respect for their altruistic and community-focused contributions. Respect is not a blanket overgarment that covers all, but is made up of various items of apparel that are worn where they best fit.

Respect... like trust... is not a medal awarded for bravery or prowess or a physical attribute like eye-color or DNA. Respect is not like such lifetime associations, which are normally considered practically permanent and irrevocable. If someone has genuinely qualified for a bravery award by being brave, that circumstance will be associated with them for the rest of their life, but is no guarantee that bravery will be exhibited in future situations. Your DNA is your DNA and it is not going to change no matter what you do or think. Respect, on the other hand, is only earned from an individual...or indeed from a social group... by conforming to a set of their accepted norms and standards, and is only retained by a process of continual reevaluation. Respect is more like a Captain's warrant than a long-service ribbon, it is only gained with some difficulty, and can be lost with very little effort.

At various times in the history of human social evolution, political, religious, racial and cultural attitudes have gained such coordinated significance that civil wars and mass exterminations have been the outcome. The attitudes and values that have engendered such traumatic and destructive upheavals, have been for the most part almost devoid of any generalized cosmic perspective, and have usually been imbued by an impenetrable confusion of bizarre concepts and absurd aspirations. Idiosyncratic concepts of 'god', 'power', 'benefit', 'undesirable', 'virtue', and so on, are bandied about meaninglessly, and even written up in contrived presentations of supposed coherence, in order to further persuade. If the factions gain support in equitable amounts, the inevitable confrontational disintegration is probably only a matter of time. The aristocracy, the clergy and the citizens eventually fought to further their perspectives in bloody revolution. The slavers and the abolitionists resolved their differences by killing one another. The christians and the muslims assisted one another to heaven in order to promote their different earthly points of view.

To repeat the point made in "tolerance"...
In an attempt to avoid such destructive and self-perpetuating disharmony, so-called 'democratic' societies in particular have attempted to promote the universal acceptance of the idea of 'tolerance and respect' for all. Whilst the initiative is worthy of support... on the grounds of pragmatism, efficiency, and common sense alone... any society that attempts to encourage such an attitude, needs to consider certain factors with great care. 'Tolerance' is not a social characteristic that can be universalized. No society can 'tolerate' everything and anything. In particular, there should be a clearly enunciated range of behaviours that a society will not tolerate... no matter what are the beliefs of its members. If a society decides that it will not tolerate murder, fraud, sexual mutilation, the killing of rhinoceros, the wearing of the niqab, etc... then no-one can be exempt. Certainly NOT for 'religious' reasons. Respect on the other hand must be earned, and the values promoted in evaluating that respect are more likely to result in an integrated and cooperative society if they are egalitarian, pragmatic, altruistic and ecological.