The Respectful Revolution:
How two Chico residents are using video and the internet to promote beauty and kindness in our society.
by Gerard Ungerman
Something that everybody can agree on, regardless of political or spiritual leaning, is that our society is suffering on many levels. We may be concerned by environmental degradation, or the ravages that bad food, diabetes and obesity are causing to a growing percentage of the population. We may worry about our utter dependence on finite energy sources. Or, perhaps, we are one of a multitude of people who seem to move through this life without paying much conscious attention to such things. Nevertheless, something is bound to make us feel uneasy. Maybe we feel irritated by careless and dangerous behaviors on the road. Maybe we feel hurt by seeing parents or elders insulted by their own children. Maybe we feel appalled by business practices that seem to cut every corner towards, in the end, delivering nothing but hollow promises. Maybe we feel like crying at the sight of older people, veterans often, having to sleep on the street. We sense that these behaviors are not what we strive for, and that perhaps something has been lost. And it doesn’t matter if we believe in God or not. It doesn’t matter whether we tend to be more individualistic and fearful of the world, or whether we tend to be more collectively-minded and open to others. Certain attitudes and behaviors will push our buttons. Now we may or may not realize what the root cause of that is, and we may articulate our frustration in many different ways, but one thing is certain; we can trace all these negative human behaviors back to one thing: a lack of respect.
I can tell you from recent experience that bringing up the concept of respect in conversations with people is likely to create an energetic discussion. And respect might not be such an interesting topic if it weren’t for the fat that in our modern lives we feel hurt and oppressed by its lack. Again, respect takes many forms and is applied in many different ways. Undeniably there are cultural components to it – one culture may see disrespect in someone showing the palms of their hands while another will frown upon short pants and short sleeves for adults. However, most aspects of respect are universal. For example, anywhere you go it is respectful to hold the door for someone else who’s carrying packages, or to offer quality craftsmanship to one’s customers, or to not interrupt while someone speaking, or to pick up after oneself. The idea of respect is something that anyone can get behind, no matter where you come from. And universally speaking, showing respect feels good. When we are consciously being respectful, we feel purposeful and a part of something bigger than ourselves. And in being shown respect, we feel really good. We feel seen and we feel valued. A mutually respectful interaction is an incredibly positive and satisfying experience. Whether we realize it or not, respect is the spontaneous or imposed understanding that positive behaviors will make everybody happier and more successful in the end. A society that relies on and begets disrespectful behaviors cannot possibly remain viable over the long run. One merely needs to look around to see that disrespect causes an imbalance that will eventually cause the ship to capsize and sink. It is not just about using one or another kind of energy source, or supporting certain kinds of technologies as opposed to some others. It is about how we behave and with what kind of an attitude.
Ultimately, I believe that respect must become a conscious and core philosophy if human life is to continue and thrive on this planet. I also believe that this basic concept of respect needs to be promoted. This is the main motivation behind the Respectful Revolution Project. Created along with my partner Stacey Wear, the Respectful Revolution project means to be a platform of visibility for all sorts of positive actions taking place in our society-those that are motivated by a sense of respect for others, for society, for nature, and for the world in general. We need to hear about the many ways we can witness goodness, kindness, generosity and respectfulness in our society. Our goal is to promote these types of behaviors in order to help make respect our new social, cultural, spiritual and political norm so we can go to bed every night feeling happier and more uplifted. The project centers on a map-based website (www.RespectfulRevolution.org), which will be populated with video portraits of people doing good, respectful things, big or small, out of wanting to contribute positively to their lives and to the world around them. Stacey and I will be searching for stories and producing the vignettes, collecting a cast of real-life characters chosen for their potential to uplift and inspire others. We have started collecting footage right here where we live, in Chico, CA, and have posted the first of what we hope are many, many portraits. *(Please visit our website, or go to our Facebook page facebook.com/respectfulrevolution to view “Ron’s Bike Swap” and “What Does Respect Mean To You?” )
Luckily, respect again is a universal attitude and many if not most people around the world tend to behave according to personal or collective ethics that always include elements of respect. It’s important to point out that America, the “Land-of-I-want-it-all-and–I-want-it-now”, is also the land where many people have forcefully and successfully rebelled against disrespect under all its possible forms. Many thousands of people everywhere in this country are acting day-in, day-out with the intention of contributing positively to the world around them. Whether they are concerned with the health of their children, or with that of their natural environment; whether they are concerned about the moral and psychological well-being of children who are abandoned to their own devices in a commercial environment that mostly seek to exploit them, or whether they want to make sure that everyone has an equal chance to have a happy, fulfilling life, there is no shortage of good will and respectful actions in this country. Many seeds of happier, healthier lives are planted everyday, but we often we don’t know about it. We rarely hear about these examples, certainly in the big commercial media that’s too busy promoting fear and insecurity, and the prevailing culture of utter exploitation of all at all cost seems to muddle everything. We want to help to combat this by shining a light on the positive. Stacey and I know firsthand through the support that we’ve received personally from our Chico-based community that being exposed to a high level of love and respect can alter the course of a person’s life. We credit our surroundings and the people we know with showing us just how important this concept is.
While the occurrence of respectful ideas and behaviors is in no short supply here in Northern California, this project is meant to be ongoing, open-ended and national in its scope. As of this writing, I am currently on the road (the Respectful Revolution Road Trip!), meeting troves of amazing people and videotaping their stories. Stacey is now editing vignettes that we hope will inspire many more people and contribute to catalyzing the changes in attitudes and behaviors, without which our society cannot possibly become sustainable. This project is a total leap of faith. Whether or not this endeavor is itself viable and can be sustained remains to be seen. We are betting however, that the public is so thirsty for good news and stories that illustrate that there is no reason to be afraid, that this project will grow wings. We both believe deeply that this is an opportune time to be putting people in contact with others who can inspire us all to live better. Stacey and I have faith that hope, goodness and our inherent inner-connectedness will eventually trump cynicism if just enough effort is made to promote all the beauty and respectfulness that our society has to offer. We believe that this behavioral shift must occur, if human life on this planet is to survive.