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Respect

Posted on 2006.09.05 at 10:47
I've never been taught to respect elders. We never said po and opo at home, using it only to deal with older people other than our parents. I grew up under a meritocracy of sorts where you are judged by what you do and how you behave, instead of how long you've spent on this earth. It reinforced in me the idea that respect is earned, not bestowed on anyone who implies that they have to be respected or honored. Like those politicians (heck, barangay officials) who insist on being called "Honorable" and obsessively compile every certificate and letter of commendation.

But I've realized as I grew older that in order to deal civilly with society at large you need to assume that everyone deserves your respect first. We all love Greg House but the reason he's a maladjusted curmudgeon is because he assumes everyone else is stupid unless proven otherwise. The rest of us were taught to do it the other way around.

Elders are generally assumed to be wise by virtue of their long stay here. But that isn't always the case. Three recent examples come to mind.

1. Isagani A. Cruz -- respected constitutionalist and former SC Justice who lashed against homosexuals in Philippine society. We would understand if it were a case of religious zeal or a simple ranting against imporper decorum, but no. Cruz used outdated myths and chauvinistic assumptions to back up his allegations that gays are the scourge of society. He even has the gall to defend himself by claiming that he was simply stating the sentiments of the silent majority. Yeah right. If the majority weren't tolerant of gays, he wouldn't have needed to write that column at all.

2. Raul Gonzales -- of course, I never thought of him as an elder, just an idiot. But he's part of the generation that's supposed to be wise so we wonder why he keeps on saying some stupid thing every week. His latest was a rant against UP graduates, which offended even those of us who went to college elsewhere. Going so far as to condemn what UP students did during the First Quarter Storm, Gonzales just proves (as he does every week) that this current administration thrives on sycophants.

3. James Reuter -- there is nothing wrong with acting as spiritual adviser to the marines accused of rape; those boys need as much counseling as they can get. But to actually defend them by saying that it was "seduction" is just plain wrong. Perhaps even more wrong than those calling for the Americans' heads without hearing them out first. If anything it betrays a poor understanding of how women are nowadays. I was half expecting him to scream "Harlot!"

One might say that they are products of their time and that they simply subscribe to certain assumptions and a way of thinking that was prevalent back in their heyday. But that doesn't mean they're excused from thinking clearly. We should apply to them the same standards we apply to everyone else, perhaps even more so since they've been around longer.

I've never been taught to respect elders. At least not per se simply because of their advanced age. I've been taught to respect people (regardless of age) who deserve my respect.

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