Respect fund

It seems many folks I talk to these days believe disrespect is a kind of deduction from a person’s fund of social capital. If a person already possesses a great fortune in social capital — in the form of privilege, or prestige, or power — they can spare such withdrawals of respect.

And if they’ve inherited this social capital fortune from previous generations, and never earned it themselves, is it really theirs to have? And was the fortune accumulated legitimately? Perhaps they deserve to be divested of this ill-gained social capital. And look how impoverished other groups are… redistribution of respect is not only permissible, it is required!

Where did this belief come from? Were other conceptions of respect considered? Why did this way of seeing things prevail?

Do the people who use this “fund model” of respect even know they are using it? Are they aware that other conceptions are possible? Or that these models have practical consequences?

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Here is my view on the matter:

Disrespect is immediately and intrinsically painful.

What do I mean by disrespect? I mean being regarded as unworthy of consideration. A disrespected person’s thoughts, feelings, interpretations, judgments and intentions do not matter.

When we amass power, wealth, prestige, etc. one of the primary benefits is receiving respect. If respect is withheld, we tend to use our other resources to regain it. This is where honor, revenge, etc. enters the picture.

Wherever a person seems able to absorb acts of disrespect with dignity, this does not come from some mysterious store of respect — it comes from a place of benevolent contempt. The disrespected person cares too little about the disrespectful person to even acknowledge the slight. It is this aloofness that creates the illusion of a prestige fund among folks who misunderstand the nature of respect.

So no, we cannot draw on some mysterious fund of social capital to balance out disrespect any more than we can draw on a fund of past pleasures to absorb pain.

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The problem I see with the forms of disrespect I see permeating and dominating our society is the disrespect precludes all civil appeals.

Normal human indignation at being treated with disrespect is derided as “fragility” or demographic “rage”. And reasoned arguments against such treatment are summarily dismissed as self-interested “motivated reasoning” unworthy of consideration.

No normal people, and least of all people who respect enough to desire mutual respect, can tolerate this for long.

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This is an incredibly dangerous situation, and it is caused by philosophical ignorance: never reflecting on hw we think or how we might think differently and better.

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