Daily Archives: 15/03/2012

Respect and Respectability

‘It’s all about respect,’ says retired Major-General John Cantwell in the Sydney Morning Herald, before slagging off at various Australian Defence Ministers he has known.  In the case of the current one, Stephen Smith, it’s because he has ‘no respect for those who chose to serve in uniform for their country’.  Meanwhile Bob Katter’s gay half-brother complains that a political ad shows ‘disrespect’ to the homosexual community.

What is this thing called Respect?  When did a perceived lack of Respect become a rod with which to beat up 2 politicians at opposite ends of the political spectrum?  And when did Respect begin to sound like something in the Sopranos, or a bikie’s funeral oration?  Search for ‘Respect’ on Twitter, and you find yourself in the world of rappers and bad spelling.

I think what we are talking about is a new manifestation of the idea of Honour.  In these days of clashing civilizations, Honor (now spelt the American way) seems to be inextricably linked to the ‘honor killing’ of wives and daughters.

But Honour was for centuries associated with Europe.  Elite men fought duels to defend their honour and the honour of their [sic] womenfolk.  Even Jane Austen alludes to such a duel in Sense and Sensibility as a ‘fancied necessity’. Continue reading