Due respect

Despite the widespread importance of respect in moral and liberal political life, struggling for and giving respect is nonetheless a perennial personal affair.

Smearing cake icing on a waiter’s forehead set off a social media storm in the last few days, catching our attention.

Any viral video clip triggering widespread public condemnation and disgust, of course, prompts us to ask: Can we dismiss it outright as a trivial public whim or see it as an interesting social phenomenon, not at all beneath us and deserving of extended comment?

It’s an interesting social phenomenon.

At the outset, naming the apologetic mediocre actress involved in the episode need not detain us, for obvious reasons.

Our concerns are not so much her personal circumstances but more on the consequences of her supposed obnoxious villainy.

Diligently scouring publicly available social media comments, we found but one absorbing general theme in what many thought led to despicable behavior: Respect.

In the cake-icing case, respect for the male waiter’s dignity and his obsequious job in the service industry.

Going no further, that’s probably all there is to it.

But I will go on, even at the risk of distasteful overthinking, since respect is an indispensable human virtue.

And if the viral video clip and its reaction will tell us anything significant, Filipinos won’t, in any way, dispense with such a virtue.

To continue, the core meaning of the word “respect” is to give something or someone particular attention and consideration.

Respecting someone means you recognize that he or she is important and deserves to be treated well since, like each one of us, that person has a mind and human feelings.

Undoubtedly, all these are strikingly evident in the reactions to the cake-icing incident.

At any rate, respect, says the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “has great importance in everyday life. As children, we are taught (one hopes) to respect our parents and teachers, school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other people’s feelings and rights, our country’s flag and leaders, the truth, and people’s differing opinions.”

Now, when we come to value respect for such things, we may shake our heads (or fists) at people who seem not to have learned to respect them.

As such, the vehement public reaction to the cake-icing incident is understandably normal.

Still, respect has many facets. But in recent times the notion of respect has overwhelmingly focused on respect for persons, the idea that all persons should be treated with respect simply because they are persons.

In fact, respect for persons and the insistence that “persons are ends in themselves with an absolute dignity who must always be respected has become a core ideal of modern humanism and political liberalism.”

Despite the widespread importance of respect in moral and liberal political life, struggling for and giving respect is nonetheless a perennial personal affair.

To wrap your head around this idea, approach the struggle as similar to one’s struggle for freedom.

Celebrated French writer Albert Camus once famously wrote that “freedom is not constituted primarily of privileges but of responsibilities.”

Many interpret Camus’ point as meaning “the notion that freedom isn’t something that’s given to you or something that’s your right as a human being.”

Instead, freedom is something to be worked for and fought for as part of a lifelong struggle, placing squarely on the shoulders of an individual the attainment of freedom as one’s responsibility to achieve for oneself and others.

Once we recognize this responsibility, this overriding sense of duty is when we can join together with others to engage in the wider political struggle for freedom in society, rejecting in the process the humiliation by which the less privileged classes have been subjected for hundreds of years.

Transposing these notions about freedom to respect and to the recent incident, we are happy to report the constant struggle to respect fellow Filipinos, no matter their station in life, is alive and well with Filipinos.

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