Colette Bishogo (South Africa) on a Global Understanding of Respect and Excellence

August 22, 2012

“Don’t sit in the same room with grown-ups.” ”Never make eye contact when you’re talking to an older person.” These were some of the instructions that I received as a youngster on how to be respectful. As an African, respect has always been the focal point of our culture. If a child loses respect for his parents or disobeys them, it is considered the ultimate insult. As I grew older, I realized that respect could be applied in many more different forms.
Today, more than ever before, the need has arisen to inculcate respect in the minds of all people, especially the youth. Whereas our ancestors lived in towns where everyone was similar in terms of race, the language that they spoke, and cultural practices and belief systems, such a place is hard to find now. As the world keeps on expanding and becoming a global village, we have become interconnected, our actions impacting other people. Therefore, greater respect and acceptance needs to be shown, not only to people who are older than you, but also those who do not share the same religious beliefs, sexual orientation, cultural practices, etc.

Having grown up in a foreign country, it was not always easy for me to interact with the Zulu people, specifically in Durban. However, I was able to find a niche with my fellow foreigners. Regardless of our different nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds, we had one thing in common, and that bond united us. Similarly, the evolution of the ”world norm” in terms of who can be friends with whom has meant that people can look for friendships that previously would have been absurd. Friendships are formed over a mutual love for a song, heartache, or even a common hatred for something; South Africa is one of the contexts where such values are being developed, despite its strong history of intolerance.

Throughout the duration of the Olympic Games, we will shed tears with our favorite athletes when they lose or will be awed at the mystery of the human body and mind as history is made and world records broken. Perhaps the greatest lesson to emulate from the athletes is the quality they all share: excellence. Whether it is through playing board games or doing work, excellence should always be the goal. It means aspiring to get more words correct in Scrabble or doing a work assignment to the best of our ability. The word “excellence” might imply a wide array of ideas, but put to use correctly, it means doing everything, no matter how minute or gigantic, the best way we know how.

Olympic values should not be viewed in a box, separated from everything else. They should be integrated in our daily lives. As a society, we have many rules of what not to do. Why not make it a rule that society as a whole is to be respectful, friendly, and aspire for greatness? More than these being Olympic values, they are also world values: guidelines to how human beings should live.
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