After I complained that no one was interested in honor, there appeared a New York Times op-ed on honor. Commenting on a new book about honor, John Tierney discussed the different concepts of honor in different societies,
In the West we’ve redefined “honorable” as being virtuous, fair, truthful and sincere, but that’s not the traditional meaning. Honor meant simply the respect of the local “honor group” — the family, the extended clan, the tribe, the religious sect. It meant maintaining a reputation for courage and loyalty, not being charitable to enemy civilians. Telling the truth was secondary to saving face.But toward the end he said:
Eventually, with the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the bourgeoisie and democracy, the system evolved into what Bowman calls honor-by-merit, epitomized by the Victorian ideal of the gentleman who earns his reputation by working hard, playing fair, defending the weak and fighting for his country.As he says, honor, at least as described by the recent, Christian, perhaps Victorian concept, is important to Western society. I am afraid that George Bush either never had it, or has lost sight of it. He does not work hard (except at cutting brush); he does not play fair (when he taxes the poor and gives government handouts to the rich); he does not defend the weak (by cutting welfare for the poor while increasing corporate welfare); and he did not fight for his country during the Vietnam War.
The problem today, as Bowman sees it, is that the whole concept of defending one’s honor has been devalued in the West — mocked as an archaic bit of male vanity or childish macho chest-thumping. But if you don’t create a civilized honor culture, you risk ending up with the primitive variety.