The missing ingredient: Respect

This morning I was reflecting on all the incredible events that have unfolded in this year 2020. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to state that the situation is almost war-like with a raging pandemic, social unrest and natural calamities like fierce wildfires and record number of hurricanes. More than 200,000 lives lost, millions of jobs gone and countless lives upended by all the happenings. One common aspect in all the tragedies we have seen this year is lack of respect. During earlier times there used to be respect for the opponent one was fighting. In filmed TV series of Hindu epics like Mahabharatha and Ramayana both sides used to abide by the rules of war and respect the opponent’s strengths. Start and cessation of hostilities were marked by blowing conch shell. Battles were fought between sunrise and sunset and the true warriors did not celebrate their victory by dancing over the graves of the fallen. Even the Cold War period was remarkable for both sides showing restraint in trying to prevent situations escalating to war. Sign of respect (for the other side’s strength and capability) and fear of mutual assured destruction (MAD) in the event conflicts spiraled out of control.

Fast forward to the present. In business we have seen well established companies paying the price for disregarding the competition of smaller, nimbler startups and struggling to stay relevant. In sports when champions have not taken their challengers seriously and instead indulged in trash talk they have fallen from their perch. Politics too has been marred by politicians belittling their opponents and making false allegations against them. Hubris in human beings forces some to assume showing any respect is a signal of weakness. Sadly it’s not limited to behavior towards other human beings. Lack of respect has extended to nature too. The effect of wanton destruction of forests, merciless killing of animals and unchecked pollution of environment in the name of development is evidenced by raging wildfires, frequent once in a century type floods, vanishing species and poor air and water quality. Unfortunately the same lack of respect has afflicted the fight against the ongoing pandemic. While there were lot of unknowns at the start of the pandemic there has been unmistakable evidence in the past few months of the extreme infectious and destructive capability of novel coronavirus. The virus is an equal opportunity offender in that it doesn’t care for a person’s wealth, power, social status, gender, race etc. Any person deliberately ignoring the safety guidelines or accidentally dropping their guard risk getting infected. Be it sports, business, politics, natural disasters or pandemic some level of respect is required while fighting an opponent, along with preparation. Will the humans rise to the occasion? I hope so 🙏