We've been debating the issue of respect for teachers in another thread and I think this makes an interesting topic for discussion.

It seems to me that there are two types of society.

Those whose members automatically respect people because of their position/situation, whether they be teachers, older people, men, from a certain family or background, royalty, employers, members of a certain profession, caste/class/whatever.

Those whose members don't automatically respect people because of these things but work out whether they respect someone or not on a personal level because of their achievements and personality.

I can see that there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of culture.

In the UK I'd say that most of us fall into the second category these days, but were historically in the first.

Which do you think is better? Or should we try to find some sort of 'middle ground' between the two attitudes?
We here in China still fall into the first category these days with our respects to teachers.

And people tend not to trust doctors any more. (I don't know what will happen in the following years. Something must be done to convert this abnormal phenomenon. )

I'm not very sure about the trends of the attitudes towards other positions/situations. We are still advocating the respects to elders, but I guess many young people would doubt if merely age is a reason to be respected.
Hmm. Perhaps a combination. These days, more "positions" are earned rather than being hereditary. I don't think that I would feel any automatic respect for someone who was simply born into a position. However, people who have earned their position through study and hard work, I am inclined to feel automatic respect as my "default." But I can easily lose respect for them if they don't demonstrate what I expect from someone of that rank/position/etc.

For examle, I was in the armed forces. Someone who had achieved the rank of admiral had done some hard work to get there. However, if I see him speaking rudely to others, not looking out for the needs of the people who work for him, and so on, I will lose respect for him. I will still show him the proper courtesies, however.

So there is a difference in terms of how people BEHAVE towards others (what courtesies we show, including using titles of "honor") and how we THINK about them (the true level of respect that we feel). But it works both ways - Americans in particular are notoriously casual in how we address people - our courtesies are "lacking" some would say - even when we do feel great respect for the person. And perhaps this is the source of the culture clash: when people don't show the courtesy that others think are due, the "others" think that respect is lacking - although that might not be the case at all.

I know that even on this forum, because I am 40, some of the teens who use this don't feel comfortable calling me by my first name, because in their culture, you would not refer to someone your mother's age by her first name. Americans have no trouble with that at all.
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Our society (in Ukraine) struggled for equality for a while (but some of us appeared to be ‘more equal than the others’ ((C) Orwell) in the end. In schools we were taught to respect common people, the most honorable were professions of workers, miners, drivers and collective-farmers and so on. The profession of teacher was highly respectable, too (especially in villages). So it seemed to be the first type of society (at least formally), according to this classification. Since that times there were many changes in our people’s mentality. Now, I think, our society tends to be the one of a second type. I can’t name any profession/class/religion/etc I would automatically respect a member of. I can’t even name any criteria, which is important to me; it often can be decided on a personal level only. I respect some of my teachers for their professional skills, but I don’t respect a teacher, who is high-educated, but takes bribes (still, someone else can pay no attention at this matter and respect this teacher for other qualities). I respect my best friend for being reasonable, clever, practical and kind-hearted, etc.

As for treating elder people with respect, we have such traditions, of course. Parents must be respected, too.
When I was a child I learned form my parents that one should respect elderpersons and teachers etc.But as a mature person I think that these things should be followed to some extent but not blindly because I met some teachers and elderly persons who didn't behave repectably.I personally feel that as the younger should respect the elders, elders should also be respectable, otherwise it becomes just a mere formality and sometimes hipocrisy.
you're right Jhumjhum: unfortunately I've often been insulted by old people just because I was younger than them, so I agree when you say that they should also be respectable!
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Agree with everybody, the second attitude is right because it's a real freedom of feeling to respect anybody. But for my attitude, I think we should respect to everybody : younger, elder, high or low status anything even a poor beggar because everybody has his equal chance to get a higher status one day.