If, having fetched a pale of water, Jack said to Jill ‘I respect you’, what might he mean? The Oxford English Dictionary has for the verb ‘to treat or regard with deference, esteem or honour; to feel or show respect for; to esteem, prize or value a thing’, or person. Jack is saying that he has a good opinion of Jill, or that he thinks well of her.
What if Jack says that he respects the flag? Well, he is not talking about the cloth that is the symbol. He is talking about the people, nation, or political entity for which the flag is a symbol. And all those entities, involving tens of millions of people, all of whom are entitled to their own respect, are far more abstract than the little girl called Jill. And there may be a lot more room to discuss just what are the aspects of, say, the nation that causes Jack to respect it. Jack may not be of the ‘my nation right or wrong’ faction. To use the distinctions of the OED, the question may also arise whether Jack regards the nation with deference, or whether he merely treats it that way; whether Jack feels respect for the nation, or whether he just shows it.
We are talking about a ritual performed before a symbol – like a lawyer bowing in court, or a believer genuflecting in church. There may be many shades of meaning behind the ritual or the belief of the person making it to the ideas of those for whom the symbol represents.
Some American footballers chose a different form of that ritual to protest about one aspect of the governance of the nation. That was their right. Their president claimed the right to abuse them. He wanted them punished by being fired. He did not specify what law or contract had been broken. He would be equally ignorant of both. But he showed his lack of respect for his fellow citizens when he offended and insulted them by the vulgar locker room banter that is his stock in verbal trade. Well, we are used to that with Trump. He is a bad stupid man who thrives on conflict.
But his unctuous vice-president – who, unlike the president, has God, and has Him written all over his face –feigned a tantrum, and staged a walk-out, at God knows what expense to the American taxpayer. Mr Pence said:
I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.
What would Jack and Jill know about the concluding trinity? It’s hard to say something good about a nation that seeks to cast out anyone who does not think well of it. It’s just as hard to think of anything good to say of a leader of such a nation who turns his back on someone who does not think well of it. They are marks of regimes that we least respect.
We are having this discussion while looking at a massive lack of respect in the best known industry of the U S – Hollywood. Mr Weinstein sounds evil to the core. He reminds me of Mr Strauss-Kahn. Their vice is identical. They are predatory bullies who abuse their power to exploit those beneath them in pursuit of their own self-gratification.
So does Donald Trump. He shows no respect for those beneath him. He shows no respect for what the flag or anthem stand for – the Constitution, Congress, the judiciary, or the office of President. The President has no idea about the Bill of Rights, except for the current fallacies about guns. He is a true abuser of power, and not just because of his celebrated curbside opinion about pussy-grabbing. The difference between Trump and people like Strauss-Kahn and Weinstein is one of degree.
These thoughts came up as I read an article in the Financial Times. It referred to an article entitled Why the assholes are winning. Its author, a Stanford professor, said that leaders who create ‘toxic and hellish work environments’ are often admired nonetheless: ‘It seemingly doesn’t matter what an individual or a company does … as long as they are sufficiently rich and successful.’
The Financial Times went on:
In ‘Down and Dirty Pictures’, his book about Miramax, Peter Biskind described the Weinstein brothers’ reputation ‘for brilliance but also for malice and brutality’.
Another study of the traits of dominant people noted that greater power triggers ‘disinhibited behaviour’. In other words, leaders who are allowed to do whatever they want can end up behaving very badly. The powerful ‘more frequently act on their desires in a socially inappropriate way’, the authors concluded.
Over-eating, over-aggression and predatory sexual behaviour were among syndromes they described for ‘high status, powerful individuals’ whose moods swing from irritability into mania. When personal patronage is the surest route from obscurity to glamour, danger lurks.
The references to ‘disinhibited behaviour’ and ‘personal patronage’ may or may not reflect what happens in the Murdoch empire, but the whole piece looks to describe the current white House – word for word. Leaders who get away with doing what they want end up behaving badly – very badly.
Poet of the Month
Andy’s gone with cattle
Our Andy’s gone to battle now
‘Gainst Drought, the red marauder;
Our Andy’s gone with cattle now
Across the Queensland border.
He’s left us in dejection now;
Our hearts with him are roving.
It’s dull on this selection now,
Since Andy went a-droving.
Who now shall wear the cheerful face
In times when things are slackest?
And who shall whistle round the place
When Fortune frowns her blackest?
Oh, who shall cheek the squatter now
When he comes round us snarling?
His tongue is growing hotter now
Since Andy cross’d the Darling. T
he gates are out of order now,
In storms the `riders’ rattle;
For far across the border now Our Andy’s gone with cattle.
Poor Aunty’s looking thin and white;
And Uncle’s cross with worry;
And poor old Blucher howls all night
Since Andy left Macquarie.
Oh, may the showers in torrents fall,
And all the tanks run over;
And may the grass grow green and tall
In pathways of the drover;
And may good angels send the rain
On desert stretches sandy;
And when the summer comes again
God grant ’twill bring us Andy.