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The café door opens and the young woman breezes in talking on her phone. She approaches the counter and, by pointing and mouthing, conveys her order to the incredibly patient man behind it while continuing her conversation. Loudly. She then settles at a table next to me sniffling, coughing and still talking on her phone. After an excruciating time of inane gabbing the call is completed and, without asking the café owners for permission, she unpacks her laptop and plugs it into a wall socket. Shortly thereafter, another phone conversation is begun.

Old guy (that’d be me) walking away from an ATM sees two young men sitting in car outside a sandwich bar. As I pass the passenger tosses a can and a sandwich wrap out of his window. I walk across and pick them up, saying, ‘Sorry about your legs, mate. Hope they get better soon.’ I then deposit the trash in the bin a few short steps away. The young man leaps out of the car and shapes up to fight me. A 25 years old in the prime of his life challenging a 69 years old pensioner to a punch up. Fucking hero. Luckily, his pal, the driver, called him to heel.

I see such things every day. People showing complete disregard for other people and the planet in general. The young woman reading this might well ask, ‘What’s your point? I only did what thousands of people do everyday in shops and cafes and restaurants and public transport and so on. This the 21st century Granddad, get with the program.’ And no doubt there’d millions who would agree with her, the concept of respect being completely foreign to them.

I believe this attitude and such incidents are symptomatic of the thing that’s wrong with the world today — the thing that is the root of many of my grumpy old man rants — a complete lack of respect for everything and everybody.

I know it bores the shit out of younger people when I begin a sentence with ‘when I was young’ but …

When I was young we respected: Elders, Parents, Teachers, Police, Rules, Codes of behaviour, Manners, Traditions, Property, Privacy, Personal space…. the list goes on and for some of you would have included Priests.

Now nobody respects nothing not even grammar. (Joke intended).

I hasten to say that it is not just young people who are guilty of lack of respect it’s universal. The so-called Leader of the Free World is a classic example. Then again, I have no respect for him.

How did we get this way?

My suspicion is that respect is no longer being taught in the home. My observation is that parents today desperately want to be their children’s best friends and so they respect the child’s wishes ahead of their own. Am I being a dinosaur about this? Perhaps. All I know is that I hear children speaking to their parents — often demanding things — in a disrespectful tone I would never have used with my mother or father. Not twice anyway.

Here’s a scenario that might resonate: Child walks into your home. Parents brought him or her along and he or she is clearly bored. Dragging his or her iPad out — because all 8 year olds must have an iPad, right?’
The child says, ‘What’s the password?’ Not, ‘Is it okay if I use your wi fi?’
Parents say nothing.
‘Do you know the word please you little shit?’ You answer.
‘Strange password.’ the kid says.

Ok so I joke but…

When was the last time you saw a young person stand for an old lady on any form of public transport? (By the way, I’m old fashioned and I’d like to say something similar about young men giving up seats for young women but that would only trigger an avalanche of feministic outrage, which would bore me to death.) Is this lack of respect or lack of good manners? Perhaps both.

I believe it’s this complete absence of respect that underpins many of problems that plague us today.

Lack of respect for the environment and others on the planet it is at the root of all the pollution, littering and other forms of natural disasters.

Lack of respect for common decency, financial prudence and the rights of ordinary people enables the psychopathic practices of Wall Street bankers and their ilk.

Lack of respect for the law and the consequences of breaking it fuels gang members and other cerebrally challenged criminals, meth addiction and/or a severely disadvantaged upbringing notwithstanding.

Lack of respect for women is at the root of domestic violence and many other overt and covert forms of sexual violence. It’s also the reason men get paid more than women in so many fields.

Lack of respect for other cultures and religions is the root of racism and xenophobia and the resultant friction. Lack of respect for the truth belongs in this category, too.

Lack of respect for intellectual property means that art, literature, photography, music, film and all manner of creative work is downloaded for free by generations who consider copyright and intellectual property to be outmoded concepts if they think about it at all.

Ironically, the companies who distribute the pirated works are the ones making the money. It drives me nuts when a phone company offers access to millions of songs for free. Really?

I could go on but you’re probably bored already and I’m sure I will have brought to mind a few instances in your own life where someone’s lack of respect for something or someone has been disappointing to say the least.

As I approach the proverbial three score and ten years of age I’m well aware of the giant strides that have been made during my time on Earth. We have a great deal to be grateful for, to share and to celebrate. If we could all work together there is nothing we could not overcome. But I can’t see how that can ever happen when divisions/borders/walls (call them what you will) that are essentially built upon lack of respect remain impenetrable and immovable.

Paraphrasing the golden rule attributed to Jesus, it seems to me that if we always ‘Respect others as we would like to be respected ourselves’ the world would be better place.

And that, my dear friends begins with the most important form of respect of all — Self Respect.