Respect [From the Latin verb respicere “to look back at.” … “An understanding that individuals, communities (including other species), the ecosphere should be treated in a just and appropriate way.”
Modified from Oxford; Merriam-Webster dictionaries]
paul bain martin
Entre menos burros, mas elotes. Dicho de Mexico Me? … We!! Muhammad Ali
The free bird thinks of another breeze … and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams … his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. Maya Angelou
Respect within relationships among individuals, demes, populations, and communities--locally and across the globe—is dependent upon profound and comprehensive comprehension. During my formative years and afterward I played, studied and worked with young and old of various shades of color and various roots in Devine, College Station, Florida, Georgia, Mexico, Poland, Brazil and other locales (and during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964—after a feed mill accident--my life was saved by Afro-Mexican American coworkers, Lacy and Gene Haywood, which must have in part spurred my quest for respect and justice). But I respectfully acknowledge and confess that despite my good fortune to have relative power, money, education, resources, and time with which to work toward improved states of respect, I can be very lazy and I need to work much harder at learning how to respect various peoples and assist in the realization of justice for all. To wholly respect others it takes a life of learning the nuances of their language, culture and history. I also recognize that I need to spend more time communicating with the poorest of this and other regions and countries--including ancient (indigenous) and recent immigrants--and to afford them with the power, resources, time, and communication skills (in their native language, English, mathematics; through computers and algorithms) to understand me and my culture and history.
As touched upon above, a goal of realizing respect is as simple as the theme of the 2014 prestigious TLU Krost Symposium, environmental justice, i.e., ecological justice, or … just justice! It involves simple affirmations that we will do unto, e.g., Haitians and other peoples as we would have Haitians and others do unto to us if we were in their extremely challenging situation. It is simply the achieving very significant reductions of consumption by the 1% of humans who consume 75 times per capita what the poorest 20% consume. It would involve drastic reduction of this consumption also because it is decimating populations of other species. Moreover, this simple goal would include the transfer of a large portion of that power of consumption of the 1% over to the 20% who are hungry and undernourished and poorly clothed & sheltered, and to other species. In addition, it would involve short and long-term management of population growth of humans and domesticated animals. It would necessarily be a process of working toward equality and equity through “applied ecology across curricula and campuses” … curricula and campuses of churches, businesses, government entities, not-for-profit non-governmental organizations, as well as school systems--public, private and home schools. It would be the beginning of what I call a generation of positively ethical applied community ecologists/PEACEmakers who have sustainable livelihoods. (Herein, community always includes all species in an area!)
On the other hand, the reality of even the beginnings of a realization of just a bit of a dream of ubiquitous and universal respect truly is perhaps not so simple, but is very, very, very complex and muddled. It involves grassroot work in the trenches in local communities all over the world as well as heavy-duty politicking at the local level and on regional, state, national and even international scenes. Certainly the great works of Sam Flores, A.J. Malone, Dolores Huerta, Willie Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, Betty Friedan, Harvey Milk, W.E.B. DuBois, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi and others who have fought so hard for respect and justice—but only partially achieved it--have attested to that.
A journey toward truly holistic respect is about positive relationships with other humans and with Nature. And it is about real action. It is not “Yes sir!” and “No sir!” to the status quo, including our current world systems’ status quo of rampant transformation of energy and subsequent loss of existing topsoil, quality of water systems, & biodiversity. Respect is not bowing down to the power structures who worship big and fast at the expense of others, including other species. It is most certainly not a neglect of going to the voting booth and a disdain for getting involved in the political process. An attitude of respect does not involve the acceptance of our current socio-political/economic systems which are so exploitive of relatively stable natural economies. Respect is looking hard for a different route toward individual quality life which is quality life for all of the community. It starts by speaking truth to power and to apathy, and to ignorance of ecological processes and principles. (Global and local power might include the moneyed, transnational corporations, politicians and bureaucrats, the majority in a democracy, the military-industrial complex, or religious institutions.)
Down these lines, I have to say that too many of us—including yours truly--are often quite satisfied with our sheltered “life” in comfortable artificial bubbles. But surely we
should begin to more fully live and launch a critical mass of relatively wealthy, powerful and ”good” christians/muslims/jews/hindus/buddhists/humanists/others who would travel to troublesome sites in great numbers and use strategies and tactics of civil disobedience and non-violence to stop: wars in Syria, Central Africa, Ukraine, and other areas of the world; continued production of weaponry; extreme poverty in Zimbabwe and Haiti and other countries; ecological disruption all over the globe … and perhaps one day take us a bit closer to open borders, cosmopolitan and relative peace.
Respect must start with self, but self must also include local and global community. Respect is an effort toward pristine and natural and is not polluting and not so artificial. It recognizes anthropogenic detrimental changes in Nature/the Land. We are but one of many species working at survival, but we are the dominant one on this ecosphere and we need to recognize that an excess of this dominance can lead to extinction of quality life for more and more. … Respect is having Faith in the power of good & community. But respect also gives Science equal weight and works to conserve and share with others the resources of mineral and hydrological cycles, photosynthesis and biodiversity and the daily solar energy which arrives on this ecosphere. (On the other hand it is not imprudently and totally getting on the bandwagon of STEM and many of the values being pushed in these programs. In some ways this currently fashionable “education” process of STEM has little respect for positively ethical applied community ecology or faith in Nature/the Commons/the Land, and is far too focused on faster and bigger, pseudo-growth, inappropriate technology, upward mobility, and money … and power over resources.)
As far as the Latin derivation of the word respect is concerned, in looking back I appreciate any good/god I may have in me which would have been contributed from the villages in which I have lived, including Seguin! I am grateful for the freedom of continuing development these villages provided or are now providing toward eliciting freedom songs from “caged birds” and enabling “free birds” to realize “We!”
Finally, I want to get back to the point made in the 3rd paragraph herein that respect is a complicated and confused process. It is an understatement to say that humans and human relationships are not perfect and that change toward real conservation, resilience, & sustainability--i.e., social justice, humaneness, and ecological sanity--is tough and very challenging. But across the ecosphere much does exist in the way of healthy relationships, dialogue, discussion, listening, diplomacy, and consensus-building. And we do need to shed plenty of light on this good which is taking place in community. Indeed there is much that is happening in Seguin which might get us on a road toward increased respect and good-/god-liness, i.e.,:
- voter registration drives
- some research into Seguin’s sustainability status (and a committee on sustainability)
- dialogue about better and more holistic educational systems including continuing ecological education
- initiatives at more art, historical knowledge, learning of other languages, including mathematics and computer languages
- programs to increase individual/family/community physical and spiritual health
- scholarships and leadership programs focusing on the less fortunate
- naturalists working to protect and enhance green space
- programs to achieve more nutritious, energetically-sound and user-friendly food systems a library which is being constructed with goals of the long-term conserving of energy and resources
- some efforts at reducing, reusing & then recycling
- an effort at mass transport, some bicycle lanes and increased bicycling for transport rather than just for exercise or recreation
- efforts toward quality life in Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Africa and other parts of the world
- a realization that land fills and waste can be very problematic
- perhaps some realization that (conspicuous) consumption and the desperate grab for & transformation of energy can be a serious problem …
- the respect campaign which initiated this column which has been run much of this year of 2014!!
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.” Wendell Berry