August 27, 2010

Real honor

According to Webster's New World dictionary:
honor: 1. high regard or respect; esp., a)glory; fame b) good reputation 2. adherence to principles considered right; integrity

The Bible often mentions honor, but only as a way of showing respect to parents, the aged, the king, and of course, God. Webster's definition is not much, defining honor in rather general terms and making it virtually a synonym for respect. So what is this quality we call, "honor"?

Honor begins in the heart. This is why it is so easily dismissed by those who refuse to incorporate it into their own life. Modern science has worked very hard to remove the concepts of honor, love, and generosity from daily life. Social scientists recast them in shades of self-preservation, revealing the deep narcissism of the sociologist rather than discrediting the principle itself. Still, narcissism is a very common frame of mind in today's world and as a result, many have dismissed honor as old-fashioned and unnecessary. Sometimes they will even go so far as to label honor narcissistic. They do this by utilizing a perverse form of transference that runs through progressivism like a cancer. "Modern", "progressive", and "global" have all become words used to discredit anyone who displays honor, love, and generosity by labeling that person old-fashioned, ignorant, conservative, and worst of all, bigoted. The implication is that a principled heart is unwelcome in the modern age of enlightened self-interest, which is a fancy way of describing narcissism and making it seem somehow superior to traditional values.

I am a traditionalist. I have always been a traditionalist. I will die a traditionalist.

But none of that really defines the word, "honor".

So what is it?

Honor, to me, begins with the recognition that the individual is both sacrosanct and irrelevant. Sacrosanct because it is only through empowering the individual that society can hope to survive and flourish, irrelevant because no one is the center of the universe. We need each other the way a flower needs sunshine, a fish needs water, and a deer needs a meadow. Honor is the glue that binds us together in mutual respect because it starts by both recognizing the importance of the individual and reminding the individual that alone they are powerless.

It is honor that compels me to acknowledge that yes, the Cordoba Initiative does have the legal and moral right to build an Islamic Community Center and Shari'a university only two blocks from the site of the most destructive Islamic terrorist attack against American people and property in the history of our nation. An attack planned and carried out by Islamic fighters trained by the American C.I.A. to fight against Soviet invaders in Afghanistan. Honor also compels me to acknowledge the blind, arrogant, and narcissistic actions of the American Congress when they abandoned the people of Afghanistan once the Soviet forces departed. I understand all of that, however, it is also honor that refuses to justify the actions of the terrorists, refuses to let them be called "heroes", and demands the Cordoba Initiative relocate their community center somewhere at least eight or ten blocks away. American actions following the Soviet departure were indeed dishonorable, but that does not justify the murder of over two thousand people, many of whom in life could not have located Afghanistan on a map. It was not their fault. They did not deserve to die. Their killers do not deserve to be memorialized.

Honesty derived from realism is part and parcel of honor, but honor goes beyond honesty. Honor recognizes that although a fact is a fact, truth is illusive and hard to define. It is a fact that the C.I.A. trained the team leaders of the four teams of five terrorists that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and murdered over two thousand people. Honor stops with the fact itself, refusing to derive from that fact some "truth" implicating the American government, the citizens of Afghanistan, or some foreign intelligence agency. The facts of the attack are brutal enough on their own that deriving some complicated conspiracy from them would be dishonorable.

Why? Because in order for such a conspiracy to be concocted the conspiracist must assume they are the center of all creation with access to greater facts, greater intelligence, and greater truth than the sum total of the information available to the rest of us. Every conspiracy begins in narcissism, either because the participants believe they are entitled to something the rest of us do not deserve or because the observers prefer their imaginative recreation to a simple recognition of the facts. Narcissism is the death of honor, and honor is the only way to counter the narcissistic tendencies that each and every one of us possess. Of course you feel like the center of the universe, so do I, but that does not make it real and honor is the internal mechanism used to counter the delusion of narcissism. Honor reminds me that facts are facts and speculation must not be confused with facts.

But that as well brings us full circle. Describing "honor" as the counter to narcissism does not define what it is, only what it achieves. Nor have I yet addressed the relationship between honor and the idea that somehow the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and society must be homogenized into a collective whole capable of standing against some other collective whole. If honor is the realization of irrelevance, then are socialism, Marxism, theocracy, and other collectivist ideals merely a more modern form of honor?

No. In fact, honor is just the opposite. Regardless of what we label them or how appealing their promised utopia might be, all forms of collectivism are dishonorable.

Collectivism seeks a utopia where regardless of individual strengths and weaknesses each individual is so totally subsumed within the whole that the whole must provide their needs even if the whole has no use for them. Collectivism disempowers the individual because it prevents them from realizing their individual strengths, building on those strengths, and working to overcome their weaknesses. The collectivist is always a narcissist because the collectivist believes that they are inherently superior to everyone around them and any personal failure is not related to their own individual weaknesses. When collectivists find themselves in positions of influence they immediately begin looking for ways to deprive other individuals of the fruit of their labor. This is because the collectivist depends upon the whole to provide their sense of empowerment. A collectivist believes they are inherently superior and because of this belief, when they find themselves in control of the resources of the community they use those resources to enhance their own position either through conspicuous consumption or through bribery, and often through both. Egalitarianism is their sermon, but self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement are their lifestyle. Honor is the opposite of collectivism because honor is the internal weapon used to defeat narcissism.

In a metaphysical sense I am divine, but so are you. You are just as important to the whole as I am. If either of us is removed, society will continue to survive and flourish. The strengths you and I individually possess can support, strengthen, and assist the survival and prosperity of our family, our community, our nation, and our world, but no one individual is irreplaceable, nor are they unnecessary.

Honor is the realization that together we can accomplish far more than either of us could possibly achieve on our own. Honor is the willingness and the desire to work together for the common good through allowing the individual to flourish or fail on their own merits. The narcissist hates honor because it reminds them that they are no better than anyone else and are not entitled to the rewards someone else has gained through their individual success. Honor uplifts the individual while reminding them that alone they are meaningless.

So what is honor? Honor is the conscious and deliberate recognition of my own importance to the world around me as well as the conscious and deliberate recognition of my own place within that world. Honor is the conscious and deliberate willingness to root out and destroy every narcissistic tendency whether it arises on its own or through the self-congratulation that follows every success. Honor is the conscious and deliberate restructuring of self-love, self-congratulation, and self-indulgence into humility, service, and respect. Honor cannot be awarded. It can only be developed. Each of us must recognize our own individual narcissistic tendency and then make a conscious and deliberate decision to replace it with honor.