Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

~ Lao Tzu ~

Forget Respect, It’s Bye Bye Shove

January 18th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 33 secs

Even in the midst of a crisis there is room for respect.

As news keeps emerging about the fateful crash of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, it seems it wasn’t just poor judgment, but a lack of character at fault. Supreme disrespect heightened the impact of the disaster, magnifying a terrible tragedy.

Passengers and crew, left to fend for life and limb when the captain abandoned ship before them, faced a leadership vacuum at a critical time. We know he left early thanks to a recorded call between the captain and the coastguard who actually ordered him back to the ship.

No doubt Italian prosecutors will follow this matter through with diligence. But aside from the Captain’s negligence, there is another distressing aspect to this sorry saga.

You can understand the crew was unsure what to do. Variously telling passengers nothing, then to either return to their cabins or abandon ship, must have added enormously to the calamity. Such a bungled evacuation will no doubt lead to a maritime enquiry. And so it should. But there is still one more area that deserves attention too.

Smartphone footage of people panicking and eyewitness accounts of passengers pushing and shoving others to save themselves reflects an extraordinary ugliness of character. Most profoundly, it proclaims an abject lack of respect. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe it’s a telling disgrace that grown men were forcibly pushing away women and children to take their place in lifeboats. Thankfully, not all of the men were acting this way. But sadly, it seems, most showed no respect. Clambering on top of people in order to rescue themselves, they revealed complete disregard for dignity and compassion. People can dismiss such disrespectful behavior as merely a part of panic. But to me, it speaks of an inherent weakness of character that goes to the heart of many a modern day problem.

Declaring our interests above others might seem normal. But doing so in an antisocial way is a supreme declaration of ugliness. That action has been reflected in human behavior time and again. Most recently, with the calculated greed of people in the finance industry throughout Europe and the US.  Through the brutality of gunmen in the US and Norway, and in a host of incidents locally. It is the why by crime, cruelty, and domestic violence.

Like cancerous cells consuming the health of everyone around them, those who continually put their selfish interests above dignity and character fail to grasp what life is about. Yet, surprisingly, such faulty thinking is common.

Just look after number one. That’s what you’ve got to do.” 

If malignant cells could “talk” I expect that’s exactly what they’d say. But you and I don’t need to live like that or even accept its defective approach. Yes, of course, we need to apply self-care. But when people forgo the needs of their family, friends, and wider community, they become diminished and shabby. Whereas, when we give respect we get a boomerang effect. Give it and you serve it right back to yourself.

During WW2, Australian soldiers, captured as Japanese prisoners of war, were being forced to work to death. Exhausted, starving and brutalized, it would have been understandable had they merely looked after themselves. But they didn’t.

Instead, starving men shared what they had. The sick and dying were cared for with dignity. In the midst of unspeakable horror, these men were dignified by respect, compassion, and courage. Perhaps that’s why so many survived and lived to a ripe old age. They knew, as I’m sure you do, that we reach our best by upholding each other. The more we connect the stronger we are, and the more naturally we radiate respect.




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