Apply Respect As Needed

Respect Few Fear None

Not even YOLO packs so much stupidity into such a small space. That is some impressive stupidensity (I’m pretty sure that’s a real word).

This wretched phrase has roots in motorcycle culture, in hip-hop culture, and most noticeably, in douchebag culture. You see it printed on tee-shirts a lot, which is helpful because it alerts you instantly to the fact that the wearer of the tee-shirt is a tool. The problem with this expression is that except in a few rare cases (motorcycle gang members, for example) anybody uttering, wearing, or otherwise communicating this phrase is trying to sound a heck of a lot tougher than they actually are. Please stop. Everybody knows you aren’t that gangster.

The phrase itself is problematic even if you are tough enough to pull it off. Respect few? What kind of garbage is that? First of all, there are multiple kinds of respect. I humbly submit that there are four layers of respect, each of which applies to an increasingly exclusive group of people. Let’s start with the broadest.

There’s basic human respect – you know, the kind of respect encoded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It isn’t too hard to pay somebody this kind of respect. Just don’t be a tyrant. If you aren’t actively engaging in genocide, you’re already showing some respect to more than seven billion people. Congratulations. You won’t ruin the lives of millions, and you won’t eventually wind up in front of a war crimes tribunal.

And that’s a good thing, but it’s not enough respect for you to make it in polite society. You have to be concerned about your more immediate surroundings; your community and neighborhood. You have to eschew anti-social behavior on the homefront, including raping, murdering, stealing, and jaywalking. You have to hold doors (and not just for women), say “please” and “thank you”, and watch where you’re driving. This is a more personal level of respect; while you might not know all of your neighbors by name, you could potentially meet, dine, and twerk with each of the people whose lives your respect will positively influence, so choose your actions well when you’re out and about.

Above that, there’s a level of respect that you reserve for your friends. I don’t think it’s controversial to suggest that you are going to show your besties a higher degree of respect; at least, you should. After all, they tolerate your company, so you’d better do something to deserve it. Respecting your friends means different things to different people, but in general you do things to show your friends that they’re special to you. You remember their birthdays, and listen to their boring stories, and when you’re out with a group of friends, you don’t insist that you all go to a five-hour-long interpretive dance show.

Finally, there’s the respect you reserve for the one person who has, for whatever reason, graced your life with his or her presence. I’m talking about your significant other, your life partner, your spouse, your lover, your confidant and co-conspirator. It should go without saying that this person is the focal point of your respect. In addition to affording him or her all the other layers of respect, you’ve chosen to open your heart and potentially make yourself vulnerable. If you cannot see that your significant other deserves a layer of respect above and beyond what you afford to the rest of humanity, then you should be single.

I think the problem with a lot of people (certainly the type of people who say things like “respect few”) is that they think respecting somebody is an admission of inferiority. They say things like “You have to earn my respect,” which is really selfish and thoughtless. By virtue of the fact that I am alive, I deserve at least a modicum of your respect, as you do of mine. I deserve to be treated with an ounce of decency, whether you know who I am or not. I deserve not to be marginalized, oppressed, or in any other way mistreated – in fact, everybody deserves that. If you think that giving all people a crumb of dignity somehow makes you a punk, then you are the one unworthy of respect…not everybody else. Don’t worry, though…I’ll still afford you the basic human respect I give the rest of humanity. That’s just how I roll.

Now let’s talk about fear. Fear – in a proper setting – is a healthy emotion designed to assist you in your survival. It is perfectly acceptable to be afraid of somebody who has the capacity and determination to hurt you and/or your loved ones. Fear engages a set of survival tools that can make the difference between life and death. Don’t deny the fear…learn from it.

And stop being such an asshole. Seriously.

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