Friday, 11 May 2012

Violence and respect

'The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly, when I asked them why they had assaulted someone, that it was because “he disrespected me” or “he disrespected my visit” (meaning ‘visitor’). The word disrespect is so central in the vocabulary, moral value system, and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men that they have abbreviated it into the slang term, “he dis’ed me”.' [Gilligan, Violence (New York: Putnam 1996), 106]
This is interesting, and of course rings true. But the (unexamined) notion that the way to get respect is not to -- you know -- act respectably, but rather to compel it by threat of, or actual, violence. It looks counterintuitive, until we realise that what is actually wanted here is that the Other respect precisely my capacity for violence.

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