I was just talking to my mum on the phone about consideration and respect. We were discussing how people don’t seem to be as considerate now-a-days, and I wasn’t sure if it was just something I notice now that I’m older and around the public more (also I work in retail, so . . .) or if it really is that there are people who don’t treat others kindly, and always look out for number one.
We aren’t sure, but it spurred some interesting conversation that led to me saying,
“When people say sir or ma’am, it makes me feel weird. I’m not sure why exactly, it’s hard to explain, but it bothers me.”
She replied, “You mean like they are mocking them?”
“No, more like, it’s supposed to be a term of respect, but, I don’t know, maybe as a child of the equality generation that I am, I feel like it’s more a term of inferiority than of respect.”
She later mentioned, “Sometimes I say that to my preschoolers. I say, ‘Why thank you, sir.’ Or, ‘Here you go, ma’am.'”
“Yes,” I said, smiling, “And yet that doesn’t bother me at all. It actually makes me happy. I think it’s because they are, by nature of being your student, supposed to be inferior to you. Like, they should be saying ma’am to you, but by saying it to them, you even it out, you recognize the equality. You recognize them as fellow human beings.”
I’m not entirely sure how she felt about this. She comes from the generation of the 50’s where ma’am and sir are really just terms of respect. And she’s from a southern family, so that’s even more normal for her.
But to me, yeah, it bothers me. I see a world where people are treated as inferior or are oppressed because they look, think, or act differently from other people. I’ve seen movies and articles and documentaries and TV shows depicting folks degrading other folks.
It feels very military and almost brain-washy to me.
And I saw sir and ma’am in action from my little brother who took Taekwondo for 10 years of his childhood. He was always considered as “so polite.” And, yeah, I can see the respect and politeness of it, but in a world where we need to assert our individuality and we need to learn to respect everyone and recognize the beauty and importance of everyone and everything we encounter, I’m not sure politeness and respect fall into those words any longer.
But maybe it’s just me.
I can’t put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn’t clear to me.