Monday, May 30, 2011

Respect is a One-Way Street?

This weekend I watched Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress. Set in feudal Japan, the movie portray the very strict class roles of peasant, Samurai, and royalty. The two lowest-class characters felt the need to treat with great disrespect anyone who wasn't obviously higher than them in class. Several upper-class characters appear clad in nondescript garments that don't properly signal their status to the peasants, so the pair (a familiar cinematic duo of bumbling, bickering, cowardly males) only gets wise when the disrespect is turned around on them. Respect, it appears, is a one-way street, and a Japanese general or princess can completely disguise his or her social class simply by refraining from disrespecting the lower classes.

It was fiction, of course, but I wasn't struck by its historical accuracy or lack of same. I was struck by the familiarity of the pattern: "respect is a one-way street". It struck me in the same odd way it did in middle school and high school - whoever "lowered himself into the gutter" by throwing insults fastest and most frequently got the most respect.  Just as I was taught that throwing insults debased the insulter, I was taught that respect was a two-way street and that it occurred between equals.  The adults who taught this were obviously autistic, dishonest, or from a completely different culture.

It occurs to me now that the latter explanation is most likely.  Equality in modern voter-states is as superficial as it is absolute.  But while we lack the yeoman / republican equality of the early United States (i.e., anyone who paid taxes was considered a full citizen, worthy of reciprocated respect), we also lack the rigid caste structure of a feudal society.  Instead, we have a chaotic socio-political tumult in which anyone who can put someone down "effectively" is, for the time being, a Samurai general or princess.

"Effectively" must be in quotation marks, of course, because I was taught (by mostly irrelevant adults from a different culture) that only sticks and stones can break our bones; names can never harm us.  What "effectively" means nowadays is (a) quickly, (b) without remorse, and (c) using buzzwords of only the highest currency.  Thus it is no longer  "effective" to say someone is "retarded", you have to say they are "butthurt".  (By invoking anal rape, the insulter aligns himself with prison gangs and likens his target to an incarcerated white man.  And thus we see that anti-white bigotry has wormed its way into the most thoughtless chancres of everyday discourse, as it has into literature, social science, and governance.)

You can throw away class structures based on erudition, breeding, good looks, and money, but you will still have class structures.  With no law and order, classes would sort themselves along the lines of combat ability and weapon stockpiles.  For the time being, though, actual violence is kept to a minimum in circles occupied by the nonmilitary elites - college punks, propaganda hacks, and bureaucrats.  The grownup is dead, and middle-aged adolescents rule in quite the same way that they ruled in school - clever putdowns.


seedofjapheth said...

When you look at how ferocious society is you realize how stupid it is for white people to engage in public self-flagellation(metaphorically speaking). Basically what I mean is is if you let people walk all over you in society other people will see it and see you as the guy people can disrespect. When all the races see that people are insulting their own race and that white people are inviting non-whites to be racist against them(via white guilt) the result is that whites are seen as the people whose race it is ok to defecate on. White people are like the guy in prison who gave a big prisoner their desert from their desert tray and now that guy in prison is expected to always give his desert away. Thats like white people. White people are the people who it is ok to degrade and insult for being white. And white people are the people who are supposed to give all their money away to non-whites.

seedofjapheth said...

*When all the races see that WHITE people are insulting their own race

Olave d'Estienne said...

Spot on.

unamusementpark said...

So White people, with rare exceptions, have overcome this idiotic notion of "respec'" and don't murder each other over things like prolonged eye contact (actual example).

But apparently we have to revert to thuggery, just to stop actual thugs from seeing us as weak.

PS Olave is a sexy beast. (See? You get comments like that too.)

Olave d'Estienne said...

Thanks for stopping by! I'll have you know, every time I see the phrase "sexy beast" I think it says "sexy breast" for a second.

unamusementpark said...

I drop by all the time, I just rarely have anything intelligent to add that doesn't require an entire post of its own.

I am now thinking about sexy breasts.

Anonymous said...

"Star Wars" (Episode 4) is supposedly based on "Hidden Fortress" and the two peasants who bicker are the model for C3PO and R2D2.