Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Via Anonymous Liberal (guesting for Greenwald), I read this quote from “Pundit Superstar” Bill Kristol, writing shortly before Bush’s war began:
It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain.

And I just wanted to mention that these are two things that conservatives never got right.  

First off, Respect and Fear are two entirely separate things, and are often mutually exclusive.  Fear is only required when respect isn’t there.  And the feeling people have towards those they fear isn’t respect, but resentment.  They might follow your orders, but they’ll resent every moment of it, and will be thinking of revenge the entire time.  Only a fool wants to be feared.  Even dictators like Saddam and Castro relied heavily on building goodwill with loyal followers, and can’t rule solely with an iron fist.  Fear is the last resort and won’t be effective if used too often.  

And if the people you want to scare aren’t actually under your control (North Korea, Iran, etc), then it is in their best interests to actively fight against you.  And conservatives know that.  If a bully tries to scare you, it’s almost always in your best interest to fight back.  Submission is almost never an option.  So why do conservatives seem so surprised when these rogue nations act exactly like anyone would act when threatened?  Particularly as the key lesson in Iraq was that the Bushies were going to get you, even if you weren’t doing anything wrong.  Just like what any dumb bully does.  So these rogue leaders would be fools to submit to our demands.

And the other issue they get wrong is sensitivity.  Conservatives often mocked Clinton for feeling people’s pain and still harp against “political correctness”.  And that’s just stupid and conservatives should know that more than anybody.  They’re the great victims of the world and cry in bitter agony every time someone slights them in the smallest way.  Because it’s not really about feeling “pain”.  It’s about respect.  Showing respect for other people.  That’s what we expect from everyone and what everyone expects from us.  And there’s no better way to lose someone’s respect than by showing them that you don’t respect them at all.  Even the most respected celebrity or politician can totally blow it by being rude to people (Macaca, anyone).

I guess the real problem is that Republicans and conservatives are exclusivists who think that only the “right” people deserve to be treated with respect.  It’s not enough that they don’t treat the “other” people with respect; they don’t respect people who pay respect to the wrong people either.  Only their team is owed proper respect, and within that team, the higher-ups clearly deserve more respect than the lower-downs.  And it continues that way until we finally get to the top of that sadomasochistic pyramid and see a frightened, lonely old man with a very large bank account, cackling to a joke that he can’t explain to anyone else.

And so Clinton and the Democrats think that everyone is worthy of respect.  What could be so wrong about that?  Nothing, of course.  But the Republicans got a nice sounding spinline against Clinton and were still repeating it years after he left office.  And it wasn’t even a good line.  Because it doesn’t take much to realize that Clinton looked good by showing empathy for people.  The only people it really hounded were the conservatives, because it went against their better judgment.  They’re authoritarians, and it offends them to think anyone would need to pay respect to black people, or Hispanics, or Muslims, or Iraqis.  To conservatives, those people are dogs who only respond appropriately to a kick in the ass and a gun to the head.

Needless to say, America would have done a lot better in Iraq, had we been more worried about showing our respect towards the Iraqi people than in insisting that they show their respect for us.  We had the guns, we were the invaders, the least we could have done was to show a little respect.  But no.  This wasn’t about winning in Iraq.  This was about being a badass.  Showing the world how tough the wimpass neo-cons really were.  Bill Kristol wants respect, but the most he can ever hope for is fear.  And the longer they fear us in Iraq, the worse things will continue to be for us.


The Ridger said...

There was an episode of Due South where Fraser informed a mobster that "Many people live their lives thinking that they're respected, when in fact they're only feared. And fear can be overcome."

And respect can be lost - often is when "making someone respect you" is interpreted as "making them fear you". And then we get Lucius Accius's saying, a favorite of Caligula: Oderint dum metuant - let them hate so long as they fear.

Caligula is our role model now? I fear, myself: for my country.

Anonymous said...

...the Democrats think that everyone is worthy of respect.

Really? Everyone? Maybe you mean courtesy. Respect is, after all, earned. Plenty of people, groups, and nations have earned nothing but contempt. I feel I need to treat everyone with courtesy, even people I consider to be scum, but general respect seems a bit much to ask.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Anon - I think you're using respect in a different way than how I was using it. I don't mean it in the strong "admiration" way. I was speaking more of respecting other people's opinions and feelings and whatnot. Like by not telling racist or sexist jokes. Conservatives think it's wrong to speak ill of white Christians, but that it's ok to diss everyone else. And so they get annoyed that everyone is supposed to be be given the same basic level of respect as they expect for themselves.

Overall, I think there are different levels of respect. I can respect your opinion and still think you're an asshole for having it.