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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Earning Respect" Is An Excuse For Being An Asshole

“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” ― Robert E. Howard 

This past week, the stars aligned, and an outpouring of Internet hate was spewed at Coach Blauer and his CrossFit Defense program. The Internet seems to do this occasionally--erupt in a burst of hatred toward a particular coach, system, style, or whatever. A lot of it is noise of the lowest quality, and at this point in my life, I try not to invest much of my limited time in it. This particular round, however, included a comment that I've seen before, but touched off this particular line of thought.

One of the Twitter Trolls (Is that a term? Did I just make up an internet word?) told Coach Blauer "Respect is given to those who earn it." This was at the tail end of an exchange that involved calling Coach Blauer a "fraud", telling him his techniques were "bullshit" and "garbage". In short, a lot of childish, vulgar, name calling.

The idea that "Respect is given to those who earn it" is one that I've heard before, and I may have even said it in the past (and I was wrong to do so). But seeing it in this twitter exchange, it struck me that it's essentially just an excuse to be an asshole.

Some of this comes from the fact that "respect" has two definitions which are similar, but not exactly the same (technically, it has more than two definitions, but only two are relevant to this discussion).

The first definition ( "esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability" carries with it a connotation of sincere admiration. To respect someone in this sense is to truly admire them for who they are, what they have done, or both. This is the kind of respect that is earned, not given. There is no particular reason to admire someone who you've never met, spoken to, or in the case of martial arts, trained with, simply because of who they are or what they do. I have no problem with that line of though.

The second definition "deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment" is not about admiration at all. It's just about being polite. And no one needs to "earn" that. The very notion is insane.

Maybe I'm just turning into a cranky old man, but where is it written that someone has to earn the right to have you speak to them like a human being? I imagine that most of the people spewing vitriol at Coach Blauer and his team would get deeply angry and offended if someone spoke to them the same way they were speaking to him. And with good reason. Telling someone they're "full of shit" and "fucking suck" is rude. Yet the children of the Internet seem to think that it's not only perfectly acceptable, but that somehow, someone has to earn the right to NOT be spoken to in that way.

Here's a newsflash--if you're waiting for someone to prove to you that they've earned the right to be spoken to politely, you are an asshole.

You have a disagreement with someone? Fine. Disagree politely.

You don't like what someone teaches? Fine. Ask questions, explain your position, but do it politely.

If you can't handle that, then you really aren't interested in the disagreement or the discussion. You're interested in puffing yourself up, and (you guessed it), being an asshole.

When I was younger, a lot of my seniors in the martial arts worried that the MMA movement was destroying the culture of respect that was imbedded in the martial arts. At the time, I scoffed. Now, I'm not so certain they were wrong.


Kamil Devonish said...

The one form of respect is often tied in with the other preventing people from seeing the need for civility and courtesy irrespective of whether or not you admire or agree with the other person. I actually think that deference, respect and courtesy are three separate things but most people I know think that they are all different words for the same thing.

Maija said...

I think the 'earn respect' comment is a red herring.
People troll for many reasons, many weak people do it, and many loud mouthed idiots.
I would also like to propose 2 other reasons, that actually offend me less -
1) Some people identify with their physical pain, or their past, or some perceived trauma. Others identify with having 'enemies' .... And if you feel you do not have enough, or perhaps that people have forgotten, why not make some more, or rub some more salt into the old?

2) Some people just like shaking shit up. They are agents of chaos, not looking for reason, debate or 'truth'. They do not want to solve anything.

Just to be clear, MOST people that behave 'badly' are weak copy cats looking for kudos from the biggest monkey ... But the unselfconscious ones who just do it to do it? I kinda think that's OK.

On some level I think these folks are actually of benefit to the rest of us. Their lack of respect and disregard for polite behavior, though boorish and ultimately not worth much time or effort spent, DO keep us all a little more 'alive' and on our toes than if we all behaved 'well' all of the time.
I personally can't even contemplate being angry so much of the time, but I am weirdly happy that the energy is in the universe.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jake. Well put

Jake said...


Well, yes, sort of. Respect, courtesy, and deference are different concepts, but there is overlap in the meanings.

It's not wrong to use respect to mean courtesy or deference, necessarily, but the fact that the word has several meanings can confuse the issue.

Which doesn't justify this behavior, really.


That's an interesting perspective. I gotta think about that one for a bit.



Rory said...

"We do not treat criminals like ladies and gentlemen because they are, but because WE are." Can't remember who said it first.

The respect you feel is one thing. The respect you show is who you are. When you see someone better, a weak person needs to tear that person down, they can't stand the comparison. A strong person, or one working to become strong, sees it as a challenge and incentive to become better.