A 65-year-old comedienne from Brooklyn recently riffed on “sexual harassment,” “When I was a girl just starting out, we called it ‘going to work.’” The audience roared. It’s a quip chock-full of the history of gender relations, which gives us all much to consider.
We are living in a time of seismic power shifts. The once powerless are being increasingly heard. Whether the imbalance in power has a cultural (e.g., gender inequality) or a financial (e.g., income inequity) basis, it is now being confronted all over the world.
As has always happened under such conditions, people who feel entitled dig in, get creative, and fight back as they strive to yield as little power as possible. It’s the story of the world … and this episode is taking place in our lifetime!
If we look at the sexual harassment news-making stories in this context, we might feel that we are riding a wave of progress, even as we may rue a lack of due process. That too is the way of the world. (Think Kevin Spacey and Marie Antoinette!)
It’s a good time to take stock of history and current events and to observe that respect for each of our fellow human beings is what is missing in all power struggles including the current ones.
The dictionary describes respect as due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions of others. It is a major element of the love we must have for our “neighbor”… I don’t truly love another if I don’t respect them.
Respect for others cannot be legislated; it must be cultivated in our guts and minds and souls. If we cultivate attitudes of respect for others, regardless of their relative position on any so-called power scale, we will go a long way toward resolving our current struggles peacefully and creating better balance in our societies.
This cultivation begins with how and what we teach children. It requires adults to develop radical listening skills. It requires mediating in good faith, compromising, and yielding. And it requires recognizing our common human bond with the weakest and poorest among us… and with the most obnoxious and despised we can think of.
Meditate on these things as 2018 unfolds and we write a new chapter in the history of human relations!
Happy New Year!
Joe Mc Kay