Redistribute Wealth? No, Redistribute Respect.

Some_respect_please

Some respect please (CC)

Could a shift in perception heal the divide between the haves and the have nots in western society? What say you, Disinfonauts?

via The Week

What happened to America’s sense of egalitarianism?

“It is said that heaven does not create one man above or below another man.”
— Yukichi Fukuzawa

I’ve always been a communist revolutionary at heart. Inequalities between human beings have always annoyed me, and I have the strong desire to see them eliminated. In American society, we generally discuss three kinds of “equality”: 1) “equality of outcome”, usually meaning equality of wealth or income, 2) “equality of opportunity”, and 3) “equal rights” under the law. The first is typically supported by true communists and socialists, and some liberals; the second by centrist liberals; and the third by libertarians and conservatives. The arguments between proponents of the three types of equality are voluminous and endless. And I think all three are important.

But I find that there is something missing from this list. I’ve come to realize that there is another important dimension of equality that I care about. Maybe more than any of the others. It’s equality of respect.

I had this realization (as with so many others) while living in Japan. I first noticed it when I was sitting in a “kaiten-zushi” restaurant, watching some cooks chop fish. It was robotic, repetitive work, about as difficult — and about as well-paid — as flipping burgers. But my Japanese friend referred to one of those cooks as “sushi-ya-san”, meaning “Mr. Sushi Chef”. She used the honorific reflexively, not patronizingly or sarcastically. The respect for this low-paid, low-skilled worker was reflexive, automatic. I suddenly wondered if we could get Americans to start calling burger-flippers “sir”. The thought made me laugh.

There are other ways in which the customs of Japanese society work to encourage equal respect. Japan is not a particularly “equal” country in terms of income; its Gini coefficient is higher than that of most European countries’. But conspicuous displays of wealth are rare. Rich people live in secluded apartments and houses concealed by high stone walls, instead of in the palatial mansions preferred by wealthy Americans. No one discusses how much money anyone makes. Flashy cars exist, but are rare, and are more likely to be sported by yakuza gangsters than corporate lawyers or young investment bankers. People insist (wrongly, but tellingly) that “there is no poverty in Japan.” Displays of wealth are a major taboo, as are displays of poverty; begging is extremely rare.

CONTINUE READING

 

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  • alizardx

    The answer to the question is FUCK, NO!!!.

    Not why the money to solve the problems critical to the survival of technological civilization is locked up in the hedge funds and dark pools of the .001%.

    While it is desirable to treat everyone with respect, even if that person is making minimum wage, this isn’t going to fix global warming or keep roofs over the head of people at the low end of the economic spectrum, even if the article’s author can afford not to worry about trivial things like that.

    If the superwealthy would like to cut back on their security expenses and live in a society where 20% of the population is “guard labor”, they have to put their own money into social stability and infrastructure funding, not try to paper over the cracks. While a McD employee might like to be addressed as “sir” or “madam”, that employee would far rather make $15/hour with benefits.

    What you reference looks like a message useful to the .001%, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this message gets turned into a highly-promoted book. If this happens, don’t buy it.

    • echar

      Do you feel that the CEO’s would give themselves such gross raises if they had more respect for the rest of us?

      • American Cannibal

        You mean an upgrade in respect from disgust to simple benign neglect? Nah. I’m doubtful that would change a thing.

        • echar

          To be honest, I have been working on being kind lately. I am finding it difficult to do this with you. Your consistent negativity and nay saying is something I would rather do without. Do me a favor and refrain from replying to me.

          • American Cannibal

            Why do you take everything so personal?

          • echar

            What I find tough is to keep from exploiting weaknesses that you continually broadcast by acting like a jerk. I don’t want to do this, because I think it is harmful to a community that I care about, as well as harmful to myself.

            I have noticed that I do not feel very good about acting like a jerk, so I have taken action to be more kind.

          • American Cannibal

            Commenting is performance, it’s acting, it’s improv. It helps blow cobwebs from the mind through very real interactive group-play, providing a variety of thought and connection and meaning that constantly changes with each addition. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s a joke, sometimes it absurd. These discussion meander into abstraction from clarity and back again. Commenting is drama, it’s horror, it’s debate, it’s goofing off and jerking around. But at it’s very basic, you and I, and everyone else, we are here creating individual fictional characters that we use to rub off on each other. I named my character American Cannibal. He is not ‘me’. You named yours Echar, and Echar is not ‘you’. And these comments aren’t directed at ‘you’. One day, AC will be gone, and I’ll use another ‘character’, widely different, but equally nutty & wise.

            Realize “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”

            Judge the weight you give to your personal attachment to your “character” and see if, maybe, it’s a little overloaded at the moment. Ya know what I mean? We’re having fun here improving. Don’t take it so seriously.

            Anyway, I’m off to make my Mothership Connection. Because this is how I Funk With You. <3

          • echar

            Very well. I take my play seriously and my serious with a smile. I try to be me as much as possible online. I accept your explanation.

          • American Cannibal

            Exactly. You’re a serious character. That’s why you’re in my Double Act. I can’t do this without you, Echar! Don’t change for me. We’re all wrastling here on Disinfo.

      • alizardx

        Power will provide the form of respect to what it considers “the lower orders” if it feels compelled to do so by fear.

        • echar

          I am not sure I understand, but that seems like a rationalization to me.

          • American Cannibal

            Good grief. Short-circuit your way to understanding with a history book: 48 Laws of Power.

          • kowalityjesus

            holy crap, that is the most Machiavellian material I have read in my life!

          • American Cannibal

            I know! Echar should read it.

          • kowalityjesus

            I don’t advocate it. It is very far disposed from my POV.

          • American Cannibal

            Read not to implement it, but as to understand what the masters are doing. You know, a glimpse into the playbook with the added benefit of a deeper historical context for why things are the way they are now.

          • echar

            I prefer the Art of War. Mostly to recognize awful people who think their book learning counts for anything.

          • American Cannibal

            Don’t forget Clausewitz and Alistair Horne.

          • alizardx

            Conspicuous displays of wealth were frowned on by the wealthy during the Great Depression shortly after they collectively figured out they were in deep shit because public tolerance for them had run out.

          • echar

            I understand this. Old money doesn’t flaunt for that very reason. I am pretty sure you are aware of the difference in CEO income difference in east compared to the west. This is what I was hinting at.

          • alizardx

            Technocapitalists look increasingly like a return of the old robber barons, you heard of the top 5 tech firms in Si Valley caught colluding to reduce wages via agreement not to hire each other’s employees?

          • echar

            I did, and it’s gross.

    • LovelyLady666

      The beginning of the article already addressed that problem, this was only offering a 4th viewpoint to the situation.

      • alizardx

        No, the author simply offered excuses to explain why we should listen to his expression of a wealth friendly viewpoint.

        • LovelyLady666

          you use excuses i use viewpoint, either way my statement still stands.

          • alizardx

            He addressed them by dismissing them so he could pitch us his own notion.

          • LovelyLady666

            Just as you reiterate what I said to fit your opinion. This had to do with perspectives, a viewpoint, not the income distribution on a money level rather a perspective. When I say addressed I mean the author acknowledge and moved onto his point, which you obviously missed and continue to miss on any level. No shit people would rather more money than respect, anything else captain can’t see past the surface would like to point out? (funny part is I don’t even agree with this author).

    • Simon Valentine

      man i didn’t know if anyone else was as sick about all the thieving and mis or mal application of ideas/innovation as i can be … the answer that i’m not the only one busts out of your post like hulk busts out of a shirt. there ought to be a word for the disgusting type of criminal management practices involved… all i can come up with is a list of laws broken, however.

      for my part, feel free to hit me if i complain about you knocking horse blinders off~

      • alizardx

        It was bad enough when the elites started using Orwell and Huxley as DIY guides to what everyone’s future should look like.

        Looks like they’ve added Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” to their DIY Futurist list. If they want to go lemming and go over a cliff, fine with me, however, I want them to go by themselves.

        • American Cannibal

          They’re pulling us over the cliff in chains…

        • Simon Valentine

          if only self-control, self-actualization, and self-awareness came in a pill, maybe they could work on being responsible. it’s like training a dead horse to pull a cart built from wood on the moon.

          • echar

            If only aum was a real drug.

          • Simon Valentine

            good point

    • Lookinfor Buford

      You are a sad confused individual. Respect among differing socio-economic classes is precisely what keeps this society going. And if you think the poor have it bad here, then there is no hope for you. YOU need to wake up and take a look, “sympathize”, with the truly downtrodden in this world. Here’s a clue, it ain’t your typical OWS dude.
      global warming.. pfff, I can’t even….

  • LovelyLady666

    While a good idea it is very far from the reality in which we live (well….most people). Poor people can’t even respect each other and would rather compete for a little tiny hill so long as it’s higher than the guys next to him.

    • American Cannibal

      Poor people are rationally fighting over scraps, as the Winners run away with the Bank.

  • Simon Valentine

    i do what i can to communicate respect (i eat a lot of fast food) and empathy at both my own place of work and to other workers. it’s always got results, and they’re the type that aren’t personal. they’re deeper/heavier than smiles in terms of the old “a smile is contagious” and far more useful than a mood. the best way to be in charge is to not be in charge and let no one depend on you. clearly that comes with its own management practices, but such is life.

  • BuzzCoastin

    I haven’t had a job since 1999
    I gave away all my possessions in 2001
    since then
    I traveled around the whirld several times
    lived in the EU & Asia
    once wondering through Loas it occurred to me
    Bill Gates can’t do this
    & I’m more wealthy than he

    respect, who needs it?

    • Lookinfor Buford

      I am respectfully jealous.

      • American Cannibal

        how wasteful u are.

      • BuzzCoastin

        thanks
        what’s really interesting to me is
        I actually know sevelal pepole named Buford

  • kowalityjesus

    As corny as this sounds, I think of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when I wonder how wealth distribution could be advantageously implemented. The Grinch’s heart won’t grow 4 sizes unless we all get together and sing when there is ostensibly nothing to be singing about. Was Seuss naive to suggest we can soften, or “grow,” the hearts of corporate psychopaths?

    Failing that, God give me the strength to get fucked when I have to get fucked, the fortitude to fuck shit up when I should fuck shit up and the wisdom to know the difference.

    • American Cannibal

      heh.

      The Grinch can’t hear your singing from the Parlor of his estate set waaay back in the woods, far-far-far away, surrounded by walls and armed guards with dogs; provided with intel, bullet proof vehicles for local commutes, private garages and private plane service anywhere in the world immediately. So, yeah? Maybe a little naive? Unless Seuss is thinking of the Mr Potter type, living on the edge of town, nodding to Dickens.

      • kowalityjesus

        No man is an island.

        • American Cannibal

          True. But we’re pretty good at denying this as a species, especially among the most successful hoarders, so…

        • alizardx

          By the time elites realize this, they’re generally standing in the ruins of what used to be their social order, shortly to die because they overconsumed and killed their hosts.

          • echar

            A smart vampire capitalist gives back to make sure they aren’t too weak. Never do they takes too much..

    • alizardx

      I think he was pointing his message towards kids in a lower-level econ demographic capable of getting it. (recent studies state that higher econ level people have far less human empathy)

      • kowalityjesus

        That is an interesting point, but I would still use as a last resort to take money from “greedy” people a government completely and wholly incapable of a solvent budget.

      • Lookinfor Buford

        Don’t need a study for that. Empathy requires having experienced the same condition as the subject. So, obviously a person who’s never been poor can’t relate to the plight of the poor as well as one who has.
        If you had said sympathy, then I’d ask you, “what study”? Because I’d like to see it. A lot of sympathy flows from guilt, and I’m not so sure your claim would apply.

  • Damien Quinn

    Seems like a reasonably astute obsrrvation.
    Personally I see very little about the process of earning money that comands respect in and of itself, the monitary reward afforded and the value of the work done isn’t very well matched from the perspective of the masses but to place anyone in a position of disrespect based on their circumstances alone seems wrongheaded, whether the circumstance is poverty or wealth.

    Its not like being respectful is particularly taxing, whats the worst that could happen?

    • American Cannibal

      Guilt? Bad PR?

      For me, it’s: I Don’t Have Dinner With the President.

    • kowalityjesus

      man, some people have no manners, never know when to apologize and never know when to admit they are wrong. I would say “fuck those people” but they comprise a majority of the people I know. haha!

      • Damien Quinn

        It’s difficult to admit that you’re wrong in a society that places so much emphasis on being right, being knowledgeable and displaying a lot of self assurance. Somehow, apologies seem to be a sign of weakness.

        It’s fairly perverse but when you let that whole thing go and concede to yourself that you basically know nothing and that it’s important to admit you were wrong, you end up rarely being wrong because you only ever commit to something you’re reasonably confident about.

        Also, it becomes a lot less important to be right, I think. You tend to argue less, at least I tend to argue less.

  • Rhoid Rager

    The honorific is reflexive–which means it’s applied without thinking. This doesn’t imply respect is bountiful in Japanese society. Respect is based on ritualistic context, and not be any vaunting ambition towards being good to one another for the sake of being good. I was just talking about this today with my wife. People in Japan can be extremely respectful to people they know (the in-group), but they can be complete assholes to the people they don’t know.

    Everyone goes to Japan and mistakenly thinks that it’s such a respectful polite society, but that’s only because they either have business there and meet people there waiting for them, or they are travelling there and don’t have any plans to stay for long. The assumption behind both of those conditions is that said persons will leave–meaning they are simply guests. If you want to have a real perspective, try living here, learning the language and settling into a job somewhere. Then you’ll start to pick up on all of the pettiness, ugliness and rude parts of a culture that is just as strained as any other culture in the world right now. The ‘grass is greener’ trope is born of ignorance of the other, and contempt for the self.

    • echar

      I appreciate your insight on this.

    • Calypso_1

      “contempt for the self” – nailed it.

      • Anti-Crowley

        It’s not really contempt for the self. It’s contempt for your current conditions as the ego feels it deserves something better than it has. Contempt for the self would actually satiate the appearance that your grass is not green enough. Basically it’s big baby that wants the other baby’s toy.

    • Lookinfor Buford

      The striking thing I noticed about the Japanese while passing through the Tokyo airport was how freakin quiet they are. I could hear a pin drop in that massive airport with a million peeps in there. Literally, I could hear the air conditioner. The only convo I heard were some deep grunty chuckles from some Japanese businessmen.
      I later learned that is part of the culture there, that it’s considered rude if people more than an arms length away can hear your convos.
      But anyway, to your point, I guess I could’ve mistaken that for a society in polite respectful harmony.

      • n0b0d1

        You didn’t happen to notice the starving homeless at the Tokyo airport, did you?

        Because I certainly noticed that they looked much scrawnier than any homeless I’ve seen in the States who didn’t have an assumed drug problem…maybe they *were* meth addicts, how the hell should I know, but they didn’t really beg…just sat there while everyone ignored them, just like every other city in the world, I’m sure…

        Today I bought a polite lady at the bus station a hotdog. She was the first homeless person in a long time who tried to strike up a casual conversation and compliment my shoes before getting around to asking (although, now that I think about it, the shoes might have been why she thought I had enough money to spare…hm)…as opposed to the aggressive demands of those who act very much as though I owe them a debt.

        Maybe I do, in a way, but just the same, the polite woman gets a hotdog…the others get uncomfortable shifty eyes and mumbling something about my only having a card.

        Maybe the ones who demand even need it more than she did…she seemed together enough to know how to go about it, but could the others be suffering more than her? Could their lack of social graces be why they are in such a position and/or indicative of mental instability? Should I have bought everyone a damn hotdog? Or just the old man wearing a skirt?

        • Lookinfor Buford

          I actually did not notice that. But heck I’m not even sure if I was at Narita or Haneda. It was about 17 years ago.
          Your queries are food for thought. But I will say I have been more charitable in my life out of pity and sympathy, than respect. In fact, respect almost demands abstinence from charity. It’s a little bit ironic.

  • Lookinfor Buford

    Respect levels are not known until there is real interaction between two people. My dad taught me that a man (or woman) deserves my full respect if they get up and go to work everyday, *regardless* of the job they do. This concept not only opened many doors for me, but also kept me respecting myself while I did menial jobs as a young adult, working toward something better. Today, I have great respect for many friends at many socio-economic levels. My best bud here at the office is the janitor, Tomas. We are close to the point of knowing intricate details about one another. The fact is, I respect that old Hispanic man a lot more than I do some people, precisely *because* I see him doing this work every day. And I mean *every* work day. And he does it with a smile, communicates without envy, and is happy. It is really his personality, attitude, and work ethic that commands respect. But I will point out it is not automatic. You don’t just get respect because of hard knocks. If you cave in, piss and moan, chisel, mope, and generally act like the world owes you something, you’re gonna have to do something pretty amazing to get my respect.

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