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By Emily Wong


The sweet, lulling slogan whispered so seductively from the lips of the model as she pouts to the camera. One simple phrase. One billion dollars. That’s the amount of money L’oreal might have made had they simply made lipsticks. In actual fact, the total revenue attained by the multinational cosmetic empire was $33.81 billion dollars in 2012, and the figures continue to climb steadily year after year. What’s the secret to their success? One golden concept mixed in finely with their rouge blushes, and coral lipstick and disguised with a thin smear of beige coloured watery substance (also known as foundation) that you are worth it.  That’s right, you should self-indulge in any delectable, pleasurable treat within (or beyond) your hearts content because you deserve to be pampered and adored; you are special, you are worth it.

The beauty industry, although not confined to it, thrives insatiably on this perpetuating mantra of self-love. “ I love who I am” Miranda Kerr’s 2010 book ‘Treasure Yourself’ inculcates, offering enlightening views from the model herself on ideas of self-improvement and spiritual growth. However I don’t believe in this concept of self-love. In fact I think this is a very dangerous concept that, left untreated can slowly fester perniciously and start to rot your core. As infamously stated by Wellesley High School English teacher, David McCullogh, in his speech addressing the school’s graduating class of 2012, “the sweetest joys of life…come only with the recognition that you are not special, because everyone is”. In his speech, he cautions the trappings of an increasingly self-absorbed world whereby we are constantly coddled and our flaws buried under mountains of praise (or foundation). However, I fear as we continually bombard ourselves with the belief that we have some sort of supreme entitlement to a life of contentment and indulgence, rather than, as Fred so finely put in Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’, “fellow travellers to the grave”, we become chained to our self-serving desires that we lose one valuable quality….

Respect. A simple word bandied about carelessly, and like all-much loved porcelain dolls that have been entrusted to a three year-old, so too has the word been thrown haphazardly around so often and arbitrarily that is too has been slowly stripped of its subtle nuances and distinct flavour and, in a bid to restore it to its former glory varnished with a waxy, hard sheen of resin- a crude imitation of the once commanding stature the word held. You see, the word has been slowly meshed with others like ‘polite’ and ‘courteous’ that the all too common phrase “Respect your elders!” as instructed by mum as she drives you to grandma’s house, leaves you with the impression you must act like a robot as soon as you enter the threshold of the yellow brick house; answering that you too had a fine weekend, and yes the weather was too chilly for your taste. But respect extends beyond the mere perfunctory etiquette you deliver to your doting aunts and uncles, and although born of no melodic rhythm, the simplicity of the word serves to remind man that he too needs no excess embellishment, no bulging wallets to deliver it; simply a compassionate heart surpassing artificiality. You see, respect involves looking at people- truly seeing them beyond whatever exterior, slowly stripping away barriers from gender to race or social status in which society has encased them in- and seeing them as the main characters of their own stories, each with their own unique history and unwritten future.

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The story of ‘The Good Samaritan’ comes to mind, whereby it was not the Priest, or the Levite but the Samaritan who was travelling and who’s “heart filled with pity” when he saw the bruised and bloodied Jewish man lying on the side of the road after being robbed. As it goes, the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man, and bandaged up his wounds before putting the man on his animal and taking him to an inn. There, he paid the innkeeper two silver coins, instructing him to “Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return”. Martin Luther King Jr. references to this parable in his speech ‘I’ve been to the Mountaintop’, whereby he speculates as to why the Priest and Levite had abandoned the man, preferring to walk on the other side. “…It’s possible that the Priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around”. Indeed, perhaps they were wary of possible ambushes, “And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’”

Now, I’m not endorsing recklessly foolish behaviour without considering one’s own health, however Kings’ speech does offer insight into human tendencies: we are conditioned to exalt ourselves before others, in the corporate world and beyond, gradually stripping ourselves of our human qualities and becoming engrossed in a ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ mentality. But, alas although it may seem oh so grim, there is some hope; for the Samaritan chances upon the man and reverses the question, asking “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

The Good Samaritan. A man worthy of the name, for it was he who gave wholly of himself and demonstrated the highest level of respect, ignoring the entrenched hate between Samaritans and Jews and instead seeing him as an injured man in great need of care. Like the Samaritan, we are thus called to remember the vulnerable in our society; the asylum seeker, the mentally ill, all those whom society has shunned and turned his high nose upon as he daintily made his way carefully around them. Respect is not born out of kindness; no, it is a basic human right that takes no notice of economic condition nor the aesthetic set of the person. Thus, no one need ever fear of attempting to amount to the task of trying to earn one’s respect for if we slowly lose this ability to see someone- truly seeing them as greater than the size of their wallets, or state of their ragged clothes-as but a person with their own hopes and dreams and fears, then can we call ourselves human?

No, respect isn’t easy- nor should it be. It takes an understanding and patience that seems somewhat incongruous with this fast-paced technology driven world, where time is money and respect is often dealt to those who hold authority over us, or to those whose esteem we seek and whom offer us something back. It’s not easy to respect that man who wronged you; he might not even be deserving of it, however perhaps it is not your place to judge and deal punishment when you too have committed questionable acts.

But I challenge you to look beyond, to think of your fellow brother and sisters as not ”another race of creatures bound on other journeys” in Scrooge’s nephews words, but as human.

Why? Because they’re worth it.

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