With each breaking day, the culture of our world community is cracking into crassness and the memes of delivery for that debasing of human nature lives in the tubes of the internets.  When you see the — now infamous — image of the boy below, do you laugh or cringe?

When I see such a young boy publicly demonstrating contempt for others, I cringe. 

When I see that young boy celebrated as a mascot and honored as a harbinger of appropriate public behavior on other websites and blogs, I feel like withdrawing from the world and revoking my license to practice participation in the Human Race.  Why run a life when the slog only ends in a tar pit? Is “respect” a savior from the pit, or is it merely a shovel to implement your end?

“Respect” is now a big issue for many in the world and, it seems, the key to “respect” is “earning” it or “gaining” it — while I argue the opposite is more engaging and necessary:  “Respect is always given and must never be earned.”

If we require “respect” for each other to be a high-water mark for fulfilling our narrow wishes, or if we make “respect” a test we give to each other with the risk of a failing grade, we will never respect anyone beyond our self-interested inner circle because the risk to health and profitability is too great, and so “respect” becomes a social noose and an economic whip to be used against everyone else in a circular argument that successfully eats it own tail without ever satiating its rabid hunger:

“You don’t respect me!”

“You earn my respect, first!”

If, however, we decide to respect each other by default — then behavior and the execution of anticipation become the methods of quantifying the successful quest for respect — and that inevitably leads to quietness and getting along with each other.  Do we even want quiet and joy?  Or do we really crave noise and chaos?

Can we ever allow respect to become innate, but revocable, as a new community standard where we can, as a group, infrequently reserve the right to withdraw respect in the event of anti-social threats and non-conforming behavior?  If we don’t respect each other, then we risk a crasser culture.

We are already getting heightened crass indices as middle-finger pointing replaces calm disagreement on mainstream television shows like Big Brother 10 on CBS.  Big Brother now prefers to propagate hatred on TV and in live internet feeds instead of providing ways to heal our loss of love and lack of respect for each other. 

Here’s Keesha, a 30-year-old current houseguest at CBS, vehemently demonstrating her missing self-respect to her housemates:

Then there’s the matter of April and Ollie, also current houseguests on the Big Brother 10, as they doggedly do it doggy-style in the dark — but with night vision cameras actively broadcasting their every humping live on the internet — so the entire world can glimpse her real breasts and his arm pulling her harder into his other middle-finger.

CBS used to be known as “The Tiffany Network” where grace and quality were the leading principles of their broadcast aesthetic.  Today, the CBS “eye” logo has been replaced with an erect middle-finger and a wish for wanton disrespect.

CBS is documenting, in an unexpected and unintended way, the live decay of human culture — and all we can do is try no to watch while we wonder for the younger and calmer days when entertainment indicated a hope for humanity and not a pox upon us all.


  1. David!
    You’re right that the phrase “Respect is earned” seems to imply that it is something that one must actively court or get. When, in fact, the only respect that is of value is when it is given by those who know or have come to sense what it is that they find worthy of it.
    Of course, our value system defines what exactly we respect and find worthy of respect.
    Civil societies respect qualities like kindness, altruism, wisdom, talent, competence, compassion, good taste, grace, good manners, character and respect itself.
    but in not-so-civil environments only brute force and power are feared and respected.
    in the latter case, i’ve noticed two interesting studies of the dynamic in two works of fiction that reveal the utterly fickle and and ultimate worthlessness of respect in this form-
    The first instance is in the movie “Goodfellas”:
    Tommy and the guys are playing cards one evening.
    Tommy mistakenly assumes that the boy Spider doesn’t respect him and shoots him in the foot. In a later scene, Spider – now with his foot in a bandage – makes it clear to Tommy that he doesn’t respect him – not anymore.

    The second instance occurs in a scene from the “Sopranos” i saw a long time back on youtube (but isn’t there anymore). I found out that it happens in Episode 8 of Season 1. The relevant dialogues are here –
    Christopher Moltisanti: [Christopher is annoyed that a bakery clerk is ignoring him and serving another customer] You touch a single f-ckin’ crust, you’re gonna wish you took that job at McDonald’s!
    [Christopher then pulls out his gun and proceeds to shoot the boy]
    Counter Boy: You @#!%*! You shot my foot!
    Christopher Moltisanti: [walking out] It happens.
    It seems, that in a world like this,
    a. there is no respect for anybody.
    b. you are “respected” only if you show you are armed and are capable of harm.
    c. AND – here’s the interesting bit – you lose that “respect” if you use it.
    I guess, when respect is bought with fear, it disappears when the fear is lost.

  2. Excellent analysis, Dananjay! You’re right that respect has taken on a strange life of its own and if we don’t give it by default, then it becomes a commodity to be withdrawn and bartered and sold without any sort of sense of human being.
    When respect is determined and not divined, we run into troubles concerning definition and extraction. My “respect” may not be yours and if you don’t understand my unwritten rules — then the end of that wager may be death… yours, mine… or others!

  3. I don’t know why you bother with the Big Brother show. What’s the point of it? Every year you say it gets worse.

  4. Anne —
    Big Brother is a barometer of social values and cultural memes. The first year was charming and fun and every year after that has been a steady decline into the never-ending abyss.
    Only recently — the past couple of seasons — has the show become sexually exploitative. It’s a bad sign…

  5. I’m surprised the sex hasn’t come sooner. I can’t imagine being pent up in a house with a large group of people of the opposite sex without there being some sort of sexual tension. 🙂

  6. Gordon —
    The producers have tried to push the sexual aspect of the game for a long time now — and with BB After Dark on Showtime 2 airing the show live from Midnight-3am Eastern, it’s a natural fit. The other international Big Brothers have had full-on sex now for many years.
    The USA has been pretty tame until this year with Ollie and April scuzzing it up every night. He doesn’t wear a condom. She uses the same, old, sticky, towel to clean up after. She thinks it great they’re “doing it” on TV because it “shows how much they respect each other” and she has said over and over again she’s on the show so she can get in Playboy. Did I mention she’s a Lincoln, Nebraska gal? Sheesh!

  7. It seems the whole world has started speaking and understanding only one lewd language.
    Why on earth vulgarity and violence will be equivalent to “freedom of speech” or “power” or some equal nonsense?
    How come we can afford to forget that our own behavior displays our own core value?
    All these images make me cringe David, in fact, it makes me sad.
    “Respect” comes naturally – same as love, affection, friendliness etc.
    It should not come by being “entertained/ amused/ frightened/ forced/ threatened”…
    We either respect someone or we don’t, but do we need to stoop so low to demonstrate it?
    I don’t think so.

  8. Katha —
    You make a good point about the lewdness of society. Young kids today see nothing really wrong with oral sex — because you can’t get pregnant from it — and it is those values that they will pass along to their children.
    So how low can we go? Will we be running naked in the streets in a couple of generations and fornicating with anyone and everyone as part of the daily, necessary, interaction between people?
    How soon will f*ck, sh*t and *sshole become the most popular children’s names?

  9. Hi David,
    Who knows…
    May be the “civilization” will complete a full circle that way.

  10. I’m not sure a circle could recover from that degradation, Katha.

  11. Hi David,
    It won’t; it will just push us back to the pre-civilized era.

  12. Hi David,
    May be after couple hundred years people will say…”look how far we have come from the pre-historic repressed society…now we can do whatever we want …no David W Boles will write about it any more…”
    Unless we make a conscious choice – we will go backward but we will “glorify” it in the name of god knows what.

  13. Hello David,
    I found your article to be thought provoking. You seem to emphasise the growing division between giving and earning respect, where I feel that both giving and earning respect is one and the same beast. One example is that people can earn respect by their actions, while others will freely give respect for these actions. Another example is that the Office of the Prime Minister, or the Office of the Presidency is afforded respect, freely and openly, but this in no way means the the incumbent holder of this office should be afforded this respect without earning the respect of people.
    On another matter, do you allow other people to use your written material without giving due credit, of your name?
    I ask as I have come across an individual who has done this in his blog, claiming that your material is, quote, “…just my opinion…”, end quote.
    I am interested in hearing your opinion on both my comment and this breach of copyright.

  14. Hi Eugene —
    Sorry for the delay in publishing your interesting comment. You were caught in our Spam trap.
    Can you elaborate a bit more with specifics about the person who is using my material? How do you know it is my material being used?

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