A few years ago I visited an Asian country on a business trip. I had to stay in that country for several weeks, so I took my wife and daughter with me. There was a shopping center next to the hotel we stayed at. We dined at the restaurants in the shopping center for several days.
One day, after dinner, while we were looking around at the shopping center, my daughter wandered to a nearby store and looked at their merchandise on display. The merchandise was made of glass. The clerk at the store, seeing my daughter getting close to the glass, shooed my daughter away from the store. I saw the whole process from the next storefront. I was shocked at what I had just witnessed. Having lived in the US for so many years, I was used to people treating each other with courtesy. Even for kids, who has no purchasing power of their own, would be treated with the same, if not more, courtesy as adults. I understand the clerk did not want to risk the possibility of my daughter breaking the glassware, and did not see my daughter with any potential of making a purchase from the store on her own. However, I think if I had been with my daughter, the clerk wouldn't have treated my daughter with such attitude.
Prior to this trip, I knew this country has been known for its human rights abuse on political level. However, I have always dismissed that as what it is, i.e., a political issue. This incident, although a miniscule one, gave me the chance to observe the tell tale of where the political issue might have come from. As I reflect more on this incident, I realized that this country, despite its modern appearance, was far behind on the concept of respecting each individual. I think the lack of human rights awareness runs far and deep in this country. The clerk's decision to shoo a kid away was a reflex reaction, based on the tradition and value systems she has been exposed to in her life.
If people do not respect others in their daily lives, they surely would not respect other living beings such as animals, plants, or the very planet, our earth, that provides the environment for us to live on. All sorts of practices that damage our environment would go freely unchecked and un-censored, all in the name of economy growth. It's no surprise then that with its economy expansion in recent years, the government in this country has been known to displace residents forcefully on the land that have been designated for public projects. While this may, or may not be the central government policy to allow this to happen. Many of the over-zealous local governments have been known to press ahead with industries or public projects that have long term and disastrous effects on local people and environment.
Unfortunately, this lack of respect for people and environment is not limited to government level. Some people of this country, in their eagerness to profit from the growing economy, have taken dangerous short cuts to reach their personal goals at the expense of the well beings of others. There have been notorious incidents of ill constructed public projects that later failed disastrously, or food that has been made with unethical practices or harmful ingredients known to the manufacturers.
The concept of respect for others is more deeply rooted in the US society. In their daily life, US people are more conscious about the courtesy for respecting other people and their rights. The respect for others is also extended to all living beings and the environment that we live in. Since the respect for environment is ingrained in people's mind, they are more likely to do things in their daily lives that are more environment-friendly. As a result, the environment in US community is better protected than in most other countries.
People can love and protect their environment, however, when it comes to large scale public projects that have impact on wide area, large population, and over long period of time. The protection of environment has to rely on systematic measures, such as government agencies and the legal system. A country's legal system and public policy are set by law makers and government agencies and officials. Law makers and government officials themselves are also members of the community who, like others, are aware of the need to respect people, all living beings, and the environment. Therefore, the legal system and public policy have more check and balance between the overall needs for public and private sectors, and for the protection of environment.
The concept of "respect" can extend from human beings to every and all beings, and to the environment that we all share and live on, i.e., the earth. Each of us should do our part and exercise "respect" in our daily life, and encourage others to do the same. Only with the appreciation and respect of our precious environment could there be sustainable environment for us to live in our time, and for the future generations.