Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Respect Belongs To The Individual

Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word tells of his epiphany when viewing minimalist abstract art. Wolfe became aware that the black and white paintings of Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko were the result of a refining fire in the massive, world-wide, time-eternal libraries of spiritual understanding. The paintings, in a sense, distilled ages of literature. Wolfe was on to something. Professor of Fine Arts Robert Rosenblum wrote of Newman's Stations of the Cross series:

Here the ultimates pertain to death and resurrection, evoked by the primal duality of black and white, and of taut linear forces that, like paths of feeling, quiver and strain against a field of raw canvas, translating the sequence of Christ's martyrdom into irreducible, abstract metaphors, and totally transforming the corporeal Passion into a spiritual one.

This sentence is comprehensible if and only if the reader is steeped in the volumes that reveal that Passion. Even then, the physical realities of what actually happened when our Messiah was arrested and crucified escape us. What is missing is the true concept of respect.

The reasonable and proper understanding of the concept of respect remains the recognition of past personal development built upon the foundation of ultimate truths. It is complete foolishness to look upon the end results - wealth, power, or personality - and believe it worthy of respect any more than we can understand the Passion of the Christ simply by viewing a series of paintings at a museum.

The present Post Modern culture has not only reduced the inscrutable mysteries of meaning into mere painted black and white lines, but we project this attitude in our daily lives and think we have gained insight and understanding. Kind of like Clark Griswold's attitude of seeing the Grand Canyon (okay..okay...let's go!) before pointing the station wagon toward Wally World for a 'real' vacation. The post-modern mind shallowly accepts the final synthesized product as the lesson to be learned without the bother of exploring the volumes of thought the final product represents.

Those that demand true respect the most, deserve it the least. But how do we know this basic truth unless we explore the countless volumes of past commentary? The etymology of respect is English, from Latin respectus, literally, act of looking back, from respicere to look back, regard, from re- + specere to look. In Western thought, respect became a commodity of the free man. The feudal man was told whom he was to respect without choice and without the ability to regard the character of the man. If he did regard the character of the person of means, it amounted to nothing unless the entire system were to be overturned. Power in feudal times belonged to those that seized it or were appointed by divine right.

By the Age of Enlightenment, respect came to be a worthy commodity, granted and retained according to the free will of the individual. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution declared the respect of the individual according to secular and political terms. Respect became an individual's raw material and this new Constitution provided the protection to develop that raw material in our personal pursuit of happiness. The respect garnered by the individual as he lived his life was valued at all costs by the owner. The gift of pledging personal respect to add to that of another individual was a sober event. Respect is only as dear as the individuals bearing it behave.

This is the freedom that the United States of America was created to protect and to nurture. A new order of men established according to the value of the individual. No worldly connections should be able to earn a man respect; this new order required men to build their own. The foundation stones of respect -- duty, honor, commitment, righteousness -- are the same for all men. All men were equal upon achieving the age of consent. From that point, development of personal respect was the deciding factor in the value of that respect. America was designed to reward choice, not connections. To decide or choose is to live in freedom.

The Post-Modern world has supposedly freed itself from all that baggage stored in the libraries of philosophical thought. They were all "out with the old/ in with the new." To ponder out the good from the bad, the enduring from the au currant, was so yesterday. The Post-Modernists are respect thieves. Anyone with integrity who operates in righteousness is vilified for doing so. Post-Modernists add up their stolen respect like notches on a gun. Every day they take aim at a new target and then proceed to destroy their prey.

Freed of the past form of constitutional respect, post-modernists can destroy the integrity of men of respect while being completely devoid of the characteristics of respect themselves. Stolen respect creates a wealth of power. Stolen respect is sold on the political table and we see such odd bedfellows as the burly guys of the labor union's support for girly-man presidential candidate, John Edwards. Freed from working out your own respect before an omniscient God, a Post-Modernist can answer the question, "Did you have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski?" with a transcendental musing on the legal meaning of "is".

These leaders spend so much political time destroying any opposition or buying respect back in the home district that they fail to do that which they were elected to do. Keep bridges from falling down, protect the border, defeat those who would do us harm, honor the Constitution -- these things require men of integrity, righteousness, honor, diligence, justice; all the historical aspects of respect. To expect anything of value, of worth and principle from a Post Modernist is complete foolishness. Without examination of the qualities that have stood the test of time, respect devolves back into a feudal age of power, coercion and compulsion. This is our future unless something is done.

Today's leaders are leaders because they were elected 20-30+ years ago. Most have never worked any other job other than politics. The current thought of accepting the end result of power in exchange for the age old qualities of personal respect has allowed the incumbent to rule rather than the Constitution. Our Congress is full of 'appointed' Lords and Ladies rather than men of respect. Why should we be surprised to find corruption, malfeasance, lack of character, and incompetence on both sides of the aisle?

We have allowed our leaders too much respect for the end result of position rather than observing the qualities of their own personal respect. Even worse, in doing so, we have devalued our own respect and become unwashed wastrels begging at the trough of government largess. We continue to vote for our appointed representative to keep the money flowing even though that representative's votes tell sensible constituents to go pound sand. When Chet Edwards (D-TX 17) was questioned about his vote not to fund the troops of the surge in Iraq, (a vote that had many of his constituents furious) he laughed and said, "That's what's great about a democracy." (!) This cocksure presumption comes from having purchased his position through distribution of taxpayer money. Such is the attitude of any elected official when citizens sell their self-respect.

The Post Modernist sees the black and white paintings of The Stations of the Cross and thinks himself a better person on the hierarchy of mankind, rather than having met the truth of his need to develop his own personal respect. When the '60's radicals did away with such arcane rules as respect for authority (i.e. police and military) or office (i.e. Republican Party) they paved the way for a legalistic regard for respect. If you doubt that the United States went through a cultural upheaval that has taken us backwards one need only look at the wall of a local classroom where they will see a poster put up by a teacher to describe how students are to treat her and how she will treat them. While these placards use the word respect, the behavior sought is better termed etiquette or common courtesy. Behavior is not respect. Not even good behavior. Treating someone kindly is not the same as respecting them. However, doing so is an investment in your own commodity of respect. Today, politically correct rules seek to enforce honor to those not willing to cultivate their own respect. All these Post Modernist views of respect are in opposition to the original intent of our Constitution.

To understand respect is to appreciate the value of your own existence and then that of others. A freeman's respect is qualified by his own ability to cultivate that raw material that makes us all equal. The process of developing these abilities are free and available to every man: discipline, work ethic, and integrity. To truly appreciate respect is to recognize and accept the rules and spiritual foundation that created it. The recipient cannot claim the final product as truly his own, unless he dares enter into the great volumes of the past to continue the qualities of men who have set us apart and put us on the road to establish community and civilization. It is to this end that the everlasting qualities of respect are revealed, not by viewing a canvas of end results and assigning upon them respect. Civilization suffers when respect is coerced or stolen from the holder by thugs or those holding political office and authority . The future of our nation depends upon respect remaining the commodity of freeman.