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Respect and Disrespect


Respect and Disrespect

Matthew Staples

by Matthew Staples

In competitive fighting games, the words respect and disrespect have odd connotations.

To play respectfully is to play conservatively – you respect your opponent’s ability, and thus are focused above all on avoiding their traps and gambits.

Respect in fighting games is passive and reactive. When taken too far, it results in a playstyle based entirely out of a fear of adversity and failure, fear that your own commitments will be your downfall.

Disrespect, though, is pure confidence. You don’t respect the idea that your opponent has the ability to counter you. It is a complete trust in your decision-making, trust that your plans – whether meticulously crafted or entirely instinctual – will win out no matter what your opponent throws at you.

When a player is playing disrespectfully, they’re either going to crash and burn spectacularly or put on one of the best shows that fans have ever seen.

In my clarinet lesson today, I was having trouble with a certain difficult interval. It’s a problem I’ve had for years. Sometimes it gets better, sometimes it feels like it’s getting worse. It feels like I’m at war with the instrument, or at war with myself, or in some conflict that I can’t resolve. Over time I’ve come to feel that I’m either missing a fundamental piece of knowledge, or I’m just incapable for some intangible reason.

My teacher told me that I wasn’t lacking any information or ability. She just said, “I think you’re giving this issue too much respect.”

Automatically, this statement brought to my mind the spirit of my favorite fighting game player. He’s fearless, brash. An entertainer, a showman. When he plays, he plays his way, no matter the cost. He wants to showcase the game at its best, its most pure.

What am I respecting? What should I disrespect?

I played the interval perfectly.

“Kids these days have no respect,” they say – too loud, too irreverent, move around too much.

Respect is deferment, silence in the face of questions, complicity with the old ways.

Respect that white, male traditionalists know better than you.

In fighting games, no player is disrespectful in every moment, in every sense. But the confidence of these players is deeper. It extends to the knowledge of exactly when to slow the pace down and avoid their opponent’s traps.

They know precisely which issues need respect, because they know precisely in which ways their character can really get hurt.

A respectful player will not commit to anything until they know with absolute certainty that they are safe. That means a lot of waiting. So they’d better be comfortable where they are.

If you’re in the lead, then you’re comfortable with this waiting. But when you’re behind, waiting isn’t an option. The clock is ticking.

It’s a terrible analogy. When tensions rise, when it seems two sides are coming to a fight, shouldn’t respect be the key? Cautiously come to a mutual understanding? A compromise?

That’s what Jesus did, right?

He was respectful when he overturned the tables in the – oh, wait.

He was respectful when he said religious authorities were shutting the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s – um.

He was respectful when Peter corrected him, and he said Get behind – never mind.

Jesus disrespected the powers and authorities.

He wasn’t concerned with the idea that the abusers might actually have a point, that maybe the solution was a very slow and considerate re-examination of the system. That he might need to live-in-the-tension or all-lives-matter or very-fine-people-on-both-sides.

So whom did Jesus respect?

The crowds of hungry people, he called blessed.

The Samaritan woman at the well, he called true.

Of the little children, he said, “It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Not the powerful but the powerless. Not the insider but the outcast. Not those in the majority but those who have been minoritized.

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Also this. “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Because there is no peace without justice.