Tuesday, February 19, 2008


[with some of Martha's signs, in Martha's front window,
and the little man in the de Young Museum]

How do you talk about a universe without God when most of the humans on the planet feel they cannot live without a God? I am not alone in pondering that dilemma. Where can I turn to discuss eliminating the word “honor” when so many feel that is such an essential concept?

Although the addiction of humans to violence leads to a toll of human suffering and death so tragic to the fully human as to be maddening, your average fighting human does not see it. Judging from those who mourn fallen soldiers, most of those fighters do not even fight for some political problem; their purpose and their sacrifice may be for nothing or for something completely wrong-headed, but they feel fulfilled if they are commended for “Honor," the crown bestowed on them by their family and their nation. These men and women of Honor are living in a medieval fantasy; they are not conscious participants in a political strategy. How sad that survivors find consolation in their child or husband or themselves having won the mythical gold coin of honor (represented by military medals or folded flags – I remember the cousin who came to a family reunion on leave from World War II, bitter and certain that he had made a good bargain by exchanging his Purple Heart for a bottle of whiskey). And it would also seem from what they say that the majority of those who become involved in violent actions against other humans do it not for any political reasons, but with an adolescent hunger for adventure and for this movie and fairytale prize of Honor. What is this terrible ignorance called Honor?

I live in fear of the Honorable. Am I going to ask any U.S. Marine if it is truly honorable for them to carry out the orders of a mad man because he has a title, such as President? Or to follow orders to kill “enemies” and civilians with a general sweep of their machine guns because they faithfully follow orders? I wold not question the Honor of any of the warriors unless I had a gang of 8 people around me – for those who love Honor know that their Honor gives them free licence to resort to violence without question. Honor seems to be the bully’s way of saying, “I have a god-given right to be violent because I myself can expose myself to violence without flinching” (the way Gordon Liddy would put out burning cigarettes on the back of his hand to prove his “manhood”—not, let it be noted, his “humanhood”). I suppose Honor has mostly to do with males (and some females seeking equality on all fronts?), wanting to prove they have courage, and they don’t realize that society long ago devised this way to deal with their testosterone-driven urges and anxieties.

Where is the athletic field for the men seeking Honor – war. It may be as old as the human race, but surely Honor is a false sense of integrity based on a man baptizing himself with blood drawn from another man’s body, or by sacrificing his own blood. Surely, this is a relic of the more primitive part of the human brain, the pre-conscious nature of someone who does not know that the human nature (our “better angel,” the evolved person) is achieved only through a searching doubt and questioning consciousness, not blind obedience or possession by some fantasy.

It is unfortunate that there is not an outcry against violent video games and the multitude of other devices for training males to think they "need" violence -- the latest manifestations of the prehuman gone hogwild. It is difficult to watch all the violent entertainments of the so-called heterosexual man – and that is a question: Just what kind of “sexual” are they? If you can bear to watch the average war-as-entertainment-movie, there is something that is very transparent. One man is pursuing another, then the one who is captured is tortured by his conqueror: Watch the writhing (playacting, after all) as the one tortured squirms while the torturer talks to him, asking, in effect, "How does it feel?" -- not asking "Is it good for you?" yet, similarly, asking, "Is it bad for you?" It is so transparent that most male-directed entertainments are sado-masochistic love stories. What is the meaning of that? Is it the way heterosexual men express a repressed homosexuality: We can show love for each other so long as we punish each other at the same time -- a caress disguised as the slice of a knife? I am truly asking this question: How else can I interpret those movies? SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was especially loathsome when at the end a Nazi stabs an American Jewish soldier in a way that is purely sexual, presented as a cruel intimacy. What is it with these violence-addicted males?

But back to Honor – Try this: Any time you think that Honor may be an appropriate word to use (so vague a term, something having to do with knights and chivalry, surely), try substituting one of these words: Rather than “That was very honorable of you,” try some word that has a clear definition: “That was very honest of you.” Other words that would be more appropriate, besides Honesty: Integrity, Dignity, Character, Respect, Credibility, Authenticity, Respect for Others, Fair, Just, etc. Can anyone give me a good argument in favor of using the word "Honor"? Can anyone suggest a way to undermine its use in the world in general?!

“From the viewpoint of anthropology, cultures of honour typically appear among nomadic peoples and herdsmen who carry their most valuable property with them and risk having it stolen, without having recourse to law enforcement or government. In this situation, inspiring fear forms a better strategy than promoting friendship; and cultivating a reputation for swift and disproportionate revenge increases the safety of one’s person and property. Thinkers ranging from Montesquieu to Steven Pinker have remarked upon the mindset needed for a culture of honour….Cultures of honour also flourish in criminal underworlds and gangs, whose members carry large amounts of cash and contraband and cannot complain to the law if it is stolen. Once a culture of honor exists, it is difficult for its members to make the transition to a culture of law; this requires that people become willing to back down and refuse to immediately retaliate, and from the viewpoint of the culture of honour, this tends to appear to be an unwise act reflecting weakness.” – Wikipedia.

“…During the time that the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts of honour, loyalty, etc., were dominant; during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts freedom, equality, etc.” – Marx and Engles, THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY, quoted on Wikipedia.

Although I am tempted to keep the word when I read Sophocles: “Rather fail with honour than succeed by fraud” we can replace honor there with “self-respect.” So many things have to be rewritten to convert the word “God” to “Love,” or, depending on the context, to “Law” or some other meaning.
Here’s a hard one to translate – Want to provide a substitution? “Peace is a precious and a desirable thing. Our generation, bloodied in wars, certainly deserves peace. But peace, like almost all things of this world, has its price, a high but measureable one. We in Poland do not know the concept of peace at any price. There is only one thing in the lives of man, nations, and countries that is without price. That thing is honor.” – Jozef Beck.

Mmm, maybe I will submit this to some local magazine -- Will anyone be brave enough to accept a denunciation of Honor?

Meanwhile, will he really help change our sick nation? He is even being stenciled on the sidewalks of San Francisco....

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