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I think we're using the wrong word...

Respect is a fascinating concept, is it not?


And it comes in several forms.


The most important, in my view, is self-respect. That’s pretty much you liking yourself, what you are, who you are, and how you interact with other people.


A degree of self-awareness needs to come with self-respect. You need to know and understand yourself first. And if you have that level of self-awareness, you can then decide if you’re worthy of yourself respecting what you know about yourself.


It’s a level of introspection not too many people are overly keen to explore. Maybe because they already know what they’re gonna find if they look. Put simply, you pretty much know if you’re a piece of shit.


Sure, you can self-justify that all you want – and you certainly do – and blame your upbringing, your circumstances, other people, life, fate, God, or a curse some gypsy woman may have put on you. But deep down inside you know you’re entirely to blame for being a piece of shit, simply because you’re not interested in doing anything about that. It’s just too hard, huh?


Fair play to you. Off you go. Self-respect takes some effort.


I’ll get back to people like you in a minute.


Let’s now look at the respect other people demand – and yes, it is a demand – that you accord them. Personally. In their world-view, respect is something they are entitled to. Automatically. Just because.


And yet, in my experience, people who demand respect are usually the least worthy of it. Note that I stated “demand”, and I’ll ask you to understand the difference between people who demand respect and people who command respect.


There are people who command respect because of their deeds. And the respect accorded to them comes as a result of those deeds, ie. After the fact. So respect is a result of something rather than an automatic provision based on an their expectation.


This paradigm is especially evident among motorcyclists. Billions of Internet bytes are given over to demands for respect by riders who imagine they are entitled to it simply by dint of the fact they ride.


The fuck you say?


So because you ride a bike one has to respect you? Yeah…I don’t think so.


I can certainly respect how you ride, if it’s good and I see some demonstration of skill. But when I see you death-clutching your handlebars and wobbling up the road, my only thought is to get around you and away from you. Respect? No, champion. There’s none of that. Make all the demands you want. It’s not happening.


But then many of these trundlers take it to another level altogether. They form clubs and organisations, adorn themselves with various sigils identifying their allegiance, and then demand and expect this occurrence to be respected.


Now let’s all be brutally honest here. These dinky little social clubs, rider collectives, and social-media motorcycle covens are nothing but an expression of two things. The first is a normal human desire to tribalise. Find like-minded people and hang out with them. The second is to convey to outside observers that here is a tribe that you, the outsider looking in, is not part of. It’s a statement.


Taken to its ultimate conclusion, you arrive at the one-percenter tribe. Hugely exclusive and introspective, these organisations demand incredible levels of loyalty and allegiance, and the commensurate personal sacrifices, and reward their members with the same in return. Such a life suits very, very few people, and appeals to even fewer. Which is perfectly understandable – and entirely incomprehensible to those not in such an organisation.


You may have hung out with outlaw clubs. You may know members of outlaw clubs. But you actually don’t know shit until you become a member yourself.


Interestingly, the question of respect inside an outlaw club is entirely an internal one. These people do not care if you respect them or not. You’re irrelevant, as are your thoughts and feelings. The only thing that’s important is the club, and the self-respect of its members – for only when those are paramount does the organisation function as it should and as it’s intended to.


But I’m sure you’ve noticed the respect one-percenters are treated with when they appear among other motorcyclists. These appearances are a rare occurrence these days, but it used to happen quite a bit.


You see, outlaw clubs command respect. Organisations which feed off the glamour stolen from outlaw clubs, on the other hand, demand respect. And because of that, they deserve none at all, not ever.


So how is it outlaw clubs command such respect? One would think that is obvious. You might spend a lot of your time on social media or with your mates putting shit on people who ride Harleys and on Harleys in general, but you’re certainly not going to belly up to a patched member of a club and hold forth about such things, are you?


And why won’t you? Because you know the outcome might not be favourable to you. Never mind the fact that many outlaws know very well the limitations of their bikes. That’s not the issue here. One-percenters don’t even breathe the same air you do, so you shut your mouth, keep your opinions to yourself, and have a pleasant day.


What’s happening here? Simple. Respect is being commanded.


Now you might think outlaw clubs are hives of savage, drug-pedalling criminals because the police and the media have been plugging that narrative for decades. And you may despise outlaw clubs and all you think they represent. And that’s fine. But you’re going to keep your mouth shut, aren’t you? At least if such people are within earshot.


And you’re going to do that because of the respect that is being commanded from you. Not demanded, but commanded. See the difference?


But when you see organisations or individuals demanding respect as if it’s some birthright, surely you have to pause and think to yourself why this is so?


The answer to that is quite simple as well. People who are not worthy of respect invariably demand it. They are unable to command it on a personal level, and hope that when they join an organisation, this is enough to get them the respect they so very much crave.


I’m pretty sure this is tied up in their own lack of self-respect. They know they are not the calibre of human being that will ever command respect, so they join a society they expect will deliver them the respect they crave.


Shall I point to the police force, or can you work this out for yourself?


If you need another example of how respect is commanded rather than demanded, then compare the fire brigade and the ambulance service, and the armed forces to the police force. Which of these command respect and which of these demand respect?


On general principles, respect is something that is invariably earned. It needs to be or it is worthless. It does not exist. It can’t.


Think about it like this, if you would…


The society we live in is big on according respect to everyone – individually and collectively. We are told, ad nauseum, that everyone must be respected. I think what they actually mean, but dare not articulate, is that everyone must be tolerated.


But tolerance is very different to respect, is it not?


Sure, I’ll put up with all sorts of shit, all sorts of views, and all sorts of opinions (informed and uninformed) because I am part of a tolerant society and I am, perforce, a tolerant creature. And it is right and correct to expect and demand tolerance.


But that’s not respect, is it?


Respect means admiration, deference, esteem, and reverence. It’s a big thing. And it is rightly prized when it happens. But it is not now and never has been something that can be demanded.


It can be commanded, as we have seen, but it’s not something that happens automatically just because a demand is made or there is an expectation.


I think the only expectation possible is one of tolerance.


I will tolerate. Until whatever it is I’m tolerating becomes intolerable, and then I will travel that path.


But demanding my respect? Or demanding respect from anyone?


That has to be earned. Always. And that’s on you.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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