Is honor a lost value?

I’m railing against the kind of missing-the-point style of AmericanMacho that the Bush philosophy represents, which looks down on honor as naive and childish.

To paraphrase a Supreme Court justice, I think we know honor when we see it, even if it isn’t easily defined. And I don’t think it has entirely died off, though it might be scarce.

I relayed the story some time ago of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines in Fallujah by falling on a live grenade. Peralta hasn’t yet been decorated for this bravery, because the investigation for medals this high up takes a while sometimes.

Word is that the medal, when it comes through, will probably be a Medal of Honor.

Depending on how it’s defined, yeah. I generally find “honor” to be a silly concept.

A woman gets raped so her family kills her to protect their honor.

A pitcher in baseball throws a pitch at a batter’s head because he “showed him up” the last time he batted.

GW Bush has to go stomp Saddam Hussein because Hussein thumbed his nose at the US and GW’s daddy.

These are all forms of caring about “honor” that I don’t give fig for. Anyone who takes an action because someone else made him look bad needs to grow the hell up.

Interesting that no one has defined honor as noblesse oblige, treating your subordinates with respect, telling the truth even to your own detriment, or faithfulness to your vows of honor. Nor mentioned that it might have declined during the period from January 20, 1993, thru January 20, 2001. :wink:


Ahem! Excuse me…up in post #8:

True, a new mistress now I chase

That’s a good point, I’ve lamented the loss of Noblesse Oblige on numerous occasions. The yuppie Junk Bond 80s were probably the beginning of a loss of honor for this country, where it was all grab as much as you can. snooooort (ironically the track “Money Money Money” just came on my mp3s)

The Dotcom 90s didn’t really help where VCs were trying to own the soul of the “Next big thing”, and the Dotcom millionaires were trying to bleed the VC sharks dry in their own right.
jsgoddess** As was said earlier, honor can’t be taken from someone, but it can be thrown away. So while I agree that many of those things you say are stupid manifestations of honor, I’d say that they come from a rampant insecurity about one’s honor, rather than from a solid sense of honor.

I think a story of honor that I think is archetypal to American Honor. In the Wild West you had Billy the Kid. He wasn’t the street thug that we have today. He was actually a law man at one point. He was on the wrong side of a feud between two powerful cattle ranching families and he ended up as a cattle rustler, stealing cattle from the wealthy families. Now I am not saying stealing is honorable. However, as far as honor goes there is a story about him taking a horse from one of the townspeople in a daring escape, he told them he’d return it, and a week or two later, he did. The townspeople loved him, because he treated them with utmost respect. Of course he’s remembered as a rogue because he found himself on the wrong side of the laws of what would later become the establishment in New Mexico Territory.

Billy the Kid is the archetypal American Ronin IMO. And while our sense of him is probably inaccurate, I think that this sense of honor in a frontier setting heavily informs upon the American idea of honor. At least it does for me. I think this is why Billy the Kid is romanticized whereas other cattle rustlers are not really remembered.

Someone dismissed Braveheart, but I think that the portrayal of William Wallace is very indicative of our archetypal sense of honor in this country. The strong silent type.

You know come to think of it, for some reason I can’t think of someone who was honorable that wasn’t overrun by the establishment. I am not convinced of the honor of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps this is where honor has gone, because we don’t see honor as gaining power for anyone.

Hmm, it’s a strange question.


I’m with BrainGlutton. What exactly do you mean by “honor”? Do you mean some kind of warrior code? Do you mean preserving face at all costs? Putting yourself ahead of others? Just being nice to people?

There are plenty of people who demonstrate the best forms of “honor” every day. Soldiers in Iraq fighting a war they may or may not believe in. Volunteers who helped out in any of the major disasters over the past few years. Working a crappy job you hate so you can put food on your family’s table.

Maybe the fact that you can’t see honor in other people is more a reflection on you than society?

Way back when I was a Boy Scout (yes, yes - I was a Boy Scout) I remember being given this definition of honor, which I have always liked: honor is behaving the same way regardless of whether anyone else is watching.

He deserves that medal. How many of us could have done that? I have serious doubts about myself doing it.

As I said, the words Brainglutton used before are good. I like the words he used when he asked. All of them.

I don’t see how fighting in a war one doesn’t believe in is honorable. Sure there are lots of instances of honor, I’m not disputing that. But why is it not portrayed very much in politics or on television? Two things that take a wide look at the demographic makeup of the United States. I know lots of people who are honorable, but it’s not being expressed widely as an American value. I feel like in a lot of cases people are hanging back from stating outright those types of virtues, biting their tongue rather than expounding on why it’s good to be honorable.

Perhaps, though I’ve been really dubious about that line of thinking. I am not so convinced about the one finger pointing outward three fingers pointing back line of thinking. Sometimes the answer really is someone else, and not that it reflects upon you. It’s not a one to one ratio. I might be upset at a lack of honor because I naively expected someone to be honorable. Not necessarily because I myself am dishonorable. I’m not claiming that I live up to my own ideals of honor necessarily, only that I am unconvinced by this argument, I feel that this argument has become something of a copout in this day and age. It’s really easy to deflect criticism by saying, “Well look at yourself before you point fingers at me.”

I guess I’d define honor as treating people with respect and humility even when there is no law to keep you in line. Sort of the opposite of “Get Rich or Die Trying”.


You want honor? I’ll give you honor.

Majik Jones was world powerlifting champion in 1984. I used to train at the same gym as her.

In 1985, she got to the world championships and found that her scale was off by almost a kilo, and she was over the limit in her class (48 kilos). She did everything she could - cutting her hair, saunas - but she was still four ounces over the limit.

There is a diuretic called Lasix. It was entirely legal at the time, and she could have taken it and dropped a quarter pound in fifteen minutes. But, in her own words, “No. I am a drug-free lifter. No steroids, no uppers, no diuretics, no nothing.”

She competed in the next highest weight class, and placed third. Her total would have won the 48 kilo division by a wide margin.

Is she famous? No. Is she a two-time world champion? No. Is she a person of honor, conducting herself in a way that I would like my daughter to do, if she ever is confronted with the same sort of choice? HELL YES.

If you want examples of honor paying off, no doubt we could come up with some. But that is not the point.

Honor is what you do because it is right. Not because you will win, or become famous, or be rewarded. Because it is right.

It’s all around you. But you have to look for it, because honorable people don’t expect anyone to notice.


Is it a situation that if you have to ask what it is, you don’t have any?

Heh, I wouldn’t be in the war in Iraq, as can be evidenced by the fact that I am not. So I can’t see myself being put into that situation.

Though, I always kind of admired that. My elementary school which served Peralta NM ironically, was named “Daniel Fernandez” after a local boy who threw himself on top of a grenade to save his platoon in Vietnam.


It’s possible, but I’m going with the idea that the people asking just want a clarification as the definition is very vague and used to justify many different types of actions.


This is worth discussing a bit.

We often see honor when people act in a way that upholds principles even at personal cost.

Now, it’s no less honorable to uphold principles and receive personal gain… but since the motivation is less than clear, it’s seldom lauded as “honor”.

The Democratic senators that voted to convict Bill Clinton, and the Republican senators that voted to acquit him… I’d say both of those sets most likely acted with honor… because each took a position that (presumably) they believed in, and did it at personal cost. The Democrats that voted to acquit, and Republicans that voted to convict… they may well have acted honorably, too. That is, they may well have believed in what they were doing. But since their actions were also consistent with gain, not loss, it’s harder to tell.

The above example assumes that reasonable men of honor may differ on the question of whether impeachment and removal from office was the right penalty for Clinton’s actions, of course.

Paris Hilton? She has honor. That boyfriend from the video was honor and off 'er all night.

Because you are putting yourself at risk to fullfill an obligation that you made.

We don’t celebrate “honor” in an overblown poetic Shakespearean sense, but TV and movies constantly portray characters demonstrating honor through their actions.

Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfield are not good examples because they are about characters that only care about themselves. They have no honor because they have no regard for even their friends.

By comparison, Mike from Arested Development is an honorable character because he only cares for protecting his family, even in spite of them.

I’m not say that you are dishonorable, only that maybe the problem is that you don’t see it in others because you are looking for a romantacized version of it.

In reality, how often is our honor tested? Most of us just trudge to work, do our job and then go home.

I still don’t think anyone here has been able to define honor in a manner clear enough for the purposes of discussion.

“Uphold the family honor”? OK, so are we talking about tradition or simply respect? Because honor means two different things in the two different situations.

Honor of your sister, your daughter? This is used equivalant to her virtue. Not correct.

Honor of telling the truth? That’s honesty.

I’d like a clearer definition, please.

This is going to end up a No True Scotsman debate. The people I mention would say that theirs is the true form of honor.

Honor is crap.

And that has nothing to do with your definition of honor, however you define it. You can lump all kinds of good qualities into you definition of honor, but it doesn’t help.

Honor is crap, because people who sit around bemoaning the loss of honor are most often pushing self-serving, self-righteous, hypocritical arguments. Such as the post in this thread making a gratuitous swipe at Bill Clinton. Seriously, can you make a sincere argument that substance-abusing, spoiled-frat-boy neglecting his obligations, business-failing, depending-on-his-father’s friends for bailouts George W. Bush is any more honourable than Bill Clinton.

Throughout history, people have used “honor” to justify a host of malfeasance and legal and moral crimes.

If you mean “truthful,” say “truthful.” If you mean “incorruptible,” say “incorruptible.” If you mean “sincere,” say “sincere.” If you mean “dutiful,” say “dutiful.” Forget honor.