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Time to reflect on respect in society


Trinidad Express / Oh to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when Education Minister Anthony Garcia reported to Prime Minister Keith Rowley on his trip to the Santa Flora Government Primary School last week!

It apparently took an instruction from the latter to get him to visit the school that had been closed for nine weeks. This is despite the visit by the school’s PTA on October 11, to his offices with then three weeks old complaints about non-functioning toilets and other infrastructural woes. After that meeting he said, “if a child is out of school for one day that is a day too much…we are going to ensure that the time away is curtailed”. Last week he complained that “children were being used as pawns” and asserted “he will not speak (to parents as opposed to the PTA) if you cannot address me properly”.

The counter position articulated by a parent is, “I get big and still duncey. I don’t want that for my son…I do everything for him to have a better life and this is what is going on here”.

This exchange captures the need for us to reflect on the issue of respect in our society. Be it this case or one in Laventille we all desire respect.

A lack of respect is wounding since it fails to acknowledge that another human being is worthy. By according respect to only the highly placed, we create a man-made shortage for respect since it costs nothing to be respectful to each other.

In an age of inequality where some lose control over their lives becoming consumers of whatever is provided rather than participants in crafting the necessary solutions respect is even more desired.

Respect, or its lack, reveals personal character in situations of inequality. We experience it daily in our hospitals and on our roads. Those who lead, be they government or opposition, should avoid pity or contempt in dealing with the needs of the public. Their example may help us regain mutual respect.

Treating people with respect does not just happen; it is a negotiated position between our character and social structure. We have to distinguish between our position in society and our prestige which is the result of emotions ascribed by others to us in that position.

Status does not automatically lead to prestige as Minister Garcia and President Carmona, one of the school’s graduates, have discovered.

Disrespecting others comes naturally though we fight to keep from being disrespected ourselves. But society cannot function without restraint and adherence to recognised forms of behaviour. Therefore we cannot only show love to our friends and family and be indifferent to other social relations.

As Otis Redding sang “what you want you got it…all I’m asking for is a little respect”.


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