In 1971, the Staple Singers, a band I’m sure you all have on your Spotify playlists, sang:
“If you disrespect anybody that you run in to,
How in the world do you think anybody’s s’posed to respect you”
in their marvellous track “Respect Yourself”.
But of course, the Staple Singers were not the first to talk about respect. What has been termed “The Golden Rule” from as long ago as Shakespeare’s time, is a maxim of all the major religions and, indeed, in 1993, 143 global faith leaders endorsed it as part of a “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic“, which includes Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism, Baha’i Faith, Brahmanism and Freddie Mercury’s own Zoroastrian, to name just some of the religions that have signed up to this. The Christian form usually reads “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and those of you with other faiths will recognise the way it is worded in your own holy text. In summary, treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Now this is obvious, right? It should be obvious, and for the vast majority of Hult students, it is a given. Most of us are polite to each other: we say “good morning” and expect to hear “good morning” in return. We apologise when we accidentally bump into people. We listen when others are talking and we expect them to listen when we are talking. We do not insult others and we expect others not to insult us. We do not make others feel belittled, bullied or attacked in just the same way that we would not want to feel that way ourselves – having others talk about us behind our backs (or to our faces), making fun of us, making comments about us that would make us feel exposed or harassed or an object of ridicule. We do not steal other people’s property and we expect them not to steal ours. We do not damage other people’s property and we expect everyone else not to deliberately damage ours.
And yet, in life, in society, there are some people who think that they are above the norms of what most people do. I believe it is down to either selfishness or ignorance. Selfishness because they do not care about anyone but themselves or ignorance because they have not spent two seconds to think about how their actions might affect others.
Imagine, if you will, a society in which there was no respect for each other. Where you could expect to be robbed as soon as you had cash in your pocket, where women and men were constantly at risk of being physically assaulted in the street (or in the home!), where nothing worked properly because it was vandalised as soon as it had been installed, where everyone lived in fear of being made fun of, harassed, attacked or injured. Unfortunately, there are some parts of the world where, for one reason or another, there is no sense of mutual respect and people do live like this, even if only temporarily due to the political changes of the country or wars that take place.
So why talk about this now? Because every so often, at Hult, we have one (possibly two) students who display the selfish and ignorant behaviour I described above, rather than treating others equally, and recently I have seen a run of this poor behaviour in different forms. I have seen a student think that the best contribution they can offer to society is drawing graffiti inside campus (and this was not art, by the way). I have seen a student ‘vape’ on campus, in the library and in the classroom, as if the rules about smoking and vaping did not apply to them. I have seen smokers throw their butts on the pavement outside Benugo rather than walk two metres to put them in the ashtrays, leaving a disgusting pile of litter for everyone else to have to walk over and clean up. I have seen students leave coffee cups and takeaway boxes on the floors of classrooms rather than taking them to the dustbins after class. I have seen toilets left unflushed and with rubbish on the floor. I have seen a student speak aggressively and rudely to a member of staff. I have seen posts on social media that, whilst perhaps intended to complement the objects of their desire, are no better than the worst examples of sexual harassment highlighted in 2018 in the #metoo movement.
It is possible that some students have come from a childhood where they were never asked to clean up after themselves, but now that we are all adults, we can expect to help each other do the right thing. I would ask you all, therefore, to think about the Golden Rule and mutual respect. It is incredibly easy to do, and most of you do it already. Most of you treat the campus, the area, your friends and the wider the Hult community (students, staff and faculty) with respect – and to you, I say “thank you”. Thank you for doing the right thing. Thank you for proving that respect exists in every generation. And for that tiny minority who do not yet understand how to show mutual respect, please remember it is never too late to learn and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the amazing sensation of knowing that you are doing the right thing! Clean up after yourself. Treat your campus and your colleagues with respect; and be nice – it’s nice to be nice!