Values, Respect and Love
I sometimes wonder how we are able to communicate with each other at all. It appears at times that we are constantly proving Osmo Wiio’s law of communication which says “Communication usually fails except by accident.”
I received an e-mail yesterday to join a group called “values voters” who are Christians defending the right to express “our” values in the political sphere. Since I am a Christian, I have values and do vote it certainly seemed to be something that interested me. Sadly, the list of values they support did not 100% match up with mine. In fact, their web page all but said flat out that if you don’t precisely share these values than there is something wrong with you. Vote any other way than what they tell you and you are simply not a voter with values. There appears to be no room for other values, no matter how sure you are that they are important.
Meanwhile, up in Quebec, Canada, they are pushing a Values Charter. These people probably need to work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Values Voters, right? Nope. The plan there is for the government to take “the confessional (meaning religious) character out of its institutions.” If adopted, government workers would not be allowed to wear “conspicuous” items with a religious connotation. This would include crosses, burkas, Jewish or Muslim male head-covering and Sikh turbans.
So we have two groups, both pushing values, going in opposite directions. If nothing else it shows that the word values, while an effective club to pound those who differ with you, means nothing unless you say which values are “right.” And how do we decide that? As a result there are frequent calls for tolerance and respect for those with other values, something that both the above examples seem to lack.
That word respect is yet another fun word. I’ve been reading a book called “Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs.” The premise of the Christian author is that respect is a man’s primary need and love is a woman’s primary need. This book, based on the nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews, is clearly something you either love or hate. I’ve said before that I don’t buy the idea that this is an either/or thing based on gender. I see no reason why man and woman can’t want them both equally.
But the author clearly thinks I am wrong. His position is that modern society deliberately downplays the male need for respect. A key example of this egregious downplaying? How about the Aretha Franklin classic hit RESPECT? Franklin’s covered an Otis Redding song and, to this day, most of us who remember it remember her version, not his. But this author says she is wrong, she really doesn’t need respect, this does not reflect the woman’s real need for love. His exact words are “…the primary meaning in Otis Redding’s song is a cry from a man’s deepest soul that says respect is what he needs…”
I probably could make the case that, in the 1960s, the real call for respect was not based on gender at all but on race. Both Redding and Franklin had the need to call for others to “show me a little respect.” The author doesn’t deny that Franklin’s call is from the heart, he just feels she has it wrong; she doesn’t understand that all she needs is love. Makes me wonder what he thinks of the Beatles song “All You Need is Love.” Does that apply only to women?
This all comes down to the tendency to throw out words, using them as clubs without a thought to establishing commonality of meaning. Perhaps a little tolerance might be good here, except of course tolerance is another word that needs some degree of explanation of what you mean. I’m going with the Wikipedia definition where tolerance is “…a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own…” I hope you can tolerate my definition.