Disrespect on Display

By | October 21, 2010

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I was watching CNN briefly this morning and saw a feature about the latest trend in campaign politics. It seems that the way to win votes these days is by catching your opponent doing or saying something potentially damaging or embarrassing, and then using the video as the basis for your own campaign ad. Kind of like political candid camera.

Now I get the fact that this is politics and it is all about winning votes. However, my mind jumped almost immediately to the recent suicide of 18 year old Tyler Clementi. Mr. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a video of him having sex with another man was filmed by two of his fellow students at Rutgers University and then posted to the internet.

I don’t think we have to stretch very far to figure out what may have influenced those university students to engage in such obviously disrespectful and cruel behaviour. I mean let’s face it, public humiliation is a new fad. Catch someone doing something potentially embarrassing, humiliating or inappropriate and then post it to You Tube. The impact this might have on the individual involved, the issue of potential harm, somehow never seems to enter the equation.

You can find scores of disrespectful, disturbing videos online these days. Girl to girl violence is immensely popular. Last month here in British Columbia a gang rape of a 16 year old girl at a rave was captured on video and posted online.

Those of you that read these posts regularly know that I am all about values, and this kind of behaviour does not flow from any of the values that I believe must be promoted either in society or in a workplace. This phenomenon is taking the damaging effects of public humiliation and gossip to a whole new level. How have we “evolved” to the point where we think this kind of behaviour is acceptable?

We are all familiar with the phrase “lead by example”. When our leaders, or those who aspire to become our leaders, employ disrespectful strategies to boost their own power and achieve their goals, the result is an increase in acceptance and adoption of disrespectful behaviours.

The huge increase we are witnessing in bullying and harassment both in our schools and our workplaces is not occurring in isolation. As I argue in Road to Respect, culture influences and shapes human behaviour. Values are the foundation of culture.

We all benefit when we actively work to promote the values of respect, empathy and collaboration that we recently saw expressed in the rescue of the Chilean miners. Personally, I would rather watch more videos that display that aspect of our humanity.

What about you?

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