Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919
The most productive environment is that where employees are valued and treated with respect and dignity and where there is no unethical behaviour. Ethical behaviour encompasses the concepts of honesty, integrity, probity, diligence, fairness, trust, respect and consistency. It includes avoiding conflicts whenever possible, and not making improper use of an individual’s position or of someone else’s work without proper acknowledgement. Nobody should be forced to listen to bad language or insults or be belittled in front of others in any way.
Equal Opportunities at CERN: Respect and Dignity in the Workplace
I had an interesting conversation with a friend, recently, sparked by Rod Dreher’s post about a horribly objectivist young person in which the topic of respect came up — we were mostly in agreement, but she cringed at the use of terms such as respect and honor, finding them hijacked by authoritarian groups and prefering terms like consideration. The double-meaning of such words, especially in traditional cultures, certainly does not help (hands up, those native English speakers among you, who honestly does not free-associate the word honor with the word killing). But as the second quote indicates, the word respect still has its more neutral, relational meaning… and it’s a disturbing trend when people shirk from using it and letting reactionary groups own that space.
In the larger scheme of things, Western society as a whole seems to be trapped in the same dilemma as that facing the grid-locked, partisan US politics. On one side, the fundamentalist religionists denouncing the depravity of modern culture, the collapse of traditional authority, etc. — despite their own rhetoric, hypocritically showing no respect for the dignity and humanity of the other side. On the other, the fundamentalist atheism of Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and their ilk. Trapped in the middle are the moderates, whether religious or agnostic/atheistic (I experienced this first-hand — an Anglican priest in Jakarta (very low-church, he shows complete disrespect for the Anglican patrimony w.r.t. liturgy — managed to diss both agnostics like de Botton and adherents of other religions, in one sermon. Yes, I explicitly wrote sermon instead of homily). I’m not singling out Westerners here; in many other parts of the world atheists can’t even come out.
It’s important not to adopt a false equivalence — when it comes to politics and religion, the responsibility for the increased divide is not shared equally by both sides. Respected political scientists showed that Republicans are the problem in US politics (even traditionalist conservatives like Rod Dreher find many problems with the party, although culture war issues prevent many of them from ever contemplating voting for the other side, thus perpetuating the gridlock). When it comes to religious attitudes, likewise, it seems that there are relatively few really outspoken atheists on one side, outnumbered by the many outspoken Prosperity Gospel evangelical televangelists, pastors, and their followers. As a liberal Anglo-Catholic, I’d say this definitely for the record: the so-called Prosperity Gospel is immoral, un-Christian, and even the most overbearing neo-atheists such as Dawkins are more morally upright than the hypocritical, self-serving, greedy and manipulative lifestyles of those who use God and fellow brethrens to make a quick buck.
The only way to get out of this impasse is for the moderates on both sides of the divide to reach out to one another — and that requires having a shared language, and respectful understanding of where the other side is coming from. Secular liberals in the West would do well to acknowledge and remember the Christian origin of their form of liberalism — or even their practice of atheism — to quote Andre Comte-Sponville:
This is why I sometimes like to describe myself as a faithful atheist. I am an atheist, since I believe neither in God nor in any supernatural power, and yet I am faithful, since I acknowledge my place within a specific history, tradition and community, namely the Greco-Judeo-Christian values of the Western world.
Andre Comte-Sponville, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, page 30.
Likewise, strong majorities of all but Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe theirs is the exclusive path to salvation — and it’d certainly improve things if some religious leaders would start leading from the front rather than holding their flocks back. As an OJN affiliate, I remain cautiously optimistic about the future — but there’s certainly a lot of work ahead of us
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well