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Honor in an Orwellian world

Most SF fans believe in honor. How can you read stories about heroes and not? I think we all believe we are honorable, I know I do. We can’t be certain though, we all fall short of our ideals, all we can do is try. Lois McMasters Bujold has a pertinent line about it. When her protagonist Miles Vorkosigan is comforting a lady who feels that she has violated her honor he say something along the lines of “Didn’t they show you your honor reset button? I think mine is located somewhere around my belly button”  While that was obviously black humor in a bleak situation it is true. Oh no, I’m not crazy, there is no real reset button. We have to assume it can be done though. No matter how hard you try there will come a day when different choices all violate your honor. You have to pick your heart up and try to be honorable again or die. Dieing is seldom a good option.

How do you do it? Well you don’t pretend it didn’t happen. The only way to do it is to acknowledge it to yourself and truly determine not to break it again. This is the place where honor become iffy for everyone. If you do not truly mean the promise to violate your honor again it is very easy to let it slide. Pretty soon you basically ignore it and it dies completely. Every violation is serious. You must be determined to uphold your honor or you won’t have any.

I am not talking about how people view you. everyone can think you the most honorable man in the world while you know you have none at all. See, honor is a unique concept we each build into ourselves. My sense of honor is based largely on the example of the characters of Louis L’Amour who wrote some very good novels with honorable men doing their best. This does not mean I am a paladin, if you read his work you know that many of his characters were outlaws, The laws of god and man do not determine what is honorable. What determines what is honorable is an internal view of the man you wish to be. Not the man you are I hope, but the ideal you wish to live up to. If you have a sense of honor and actually meet it your standards are too low. What you need is a goal, if you meet that goal too easily it isn’t much of a goal.

So you have a sense of honor and are determined to live up to it. You’re golden, right? Well not really, after all you live in an imperfect world and are imperfect yourself. Well, unless you are an avatar of a god, in which case why are you screwing around living a life instead of fixing the world?  As less than perfect people we have our foibles and weaknesses, all of which are going to interfere with living the ideal.

The biggest thing that will interfere with living up to your ideals is probably something else that is important, love. Not for your spouse, but for everyone who is part of your life. Lets take a simple one. You have a friend who has just had a baby. It looks like a red wrinkled monkey and he proudly displays it and asks you “Isn’t she beautiful?” You are now in the land of lying. Even if it is the most hideous child you have ever seen you are going to say something complimentary. Either that or you soon have no friends. Life demands little white lies. They are still lies and it is easy to slide form “You have a beautiful baby”  to “why yes I’d love to help you move” to bigger lies. So life demands you compromise  principles from the get go. The trick is to keep the lies white and not get carried away.

This becomes even more important if the person needing you to compromise your principles is your spouse or family. Your friend is in trouble, broken down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Honor may demand you go get him and bring him home safe. Your mother may forbid you  going out after ten PM. Which demand on your honor takes precedence? Obedience to your parent or assisting a friend in need? Either decision will be a problem to your sense of honor.

Of course the fact that we live in an Orwellian world makes this all worse. My sense of honor says that wrong is wrong and people should be held accountable. Certainly if you are going to criticize your cultural opponents for some particular type of action, then you need to criticize those on your side.Honor should demand that. The sad fact of the matter is that many people feel differently.

This is not the post I was going to write this week. I was going to criticize the handling of an event by some people who are nominally on my side of a cultural divide. I got sat upon by multiple people and told that I wasn’t to do that. I found that being forbidden to do that is an honor problem for me. You see my sense of honor demands that people are equal and if one side doing something is wrong it is equally wrong for the other. Apparently All Animals Are Equal but, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.

This has left me pondering my reset button. I still don’t know how much I am going to compromise my honor. I agreed not to write about what I was going to. Now I have to decide what not writing what I felt I should have is going to demand in recompense. It would sadden me if upholding my honor cost me friends. They don’t have the same sense of honor I do, they are, afterall, different people. The question remains, can I still consider them friends when being friends with them will cause this conflict again? I don’t know. Still contemplating that reset button.

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18 comments on “Honor in an Orwellian world

  1. Did they CONVINCE you that it would be better not to write about it? If so, then there is nothing dishonorable about being argued into a position.

    Did they ORDER you not to write about it? If so, then unless they are authorized or order you (and I don’t think anybody is), then there is nothing dishonorable in disobeying their orders.

    Did they THREATEN you so you won’t write about it? Then you have to weigh the threat against your honor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause;
    He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

    – – Sir Richard Francis Burton

    Liked by 1 person

  3. someone once said (I don’t recall if it was RAH using Lazareth or if it was LMMB using Miles’ dad) Honor is what you feel about yourself, Reputation is how others feel about you, don’t confuse the two. Have I had to do things because 1) I needed to keep peace in the family, 2) I was given a lawful order, 3) my Wife/someone that mattered to me wanted it done, when I felt that it was morally (honorable/moral same same in my book) wrong? Oh YEAH. sometimes upon reflection, I was wrong to think it was immoral to let that person think they won, or to go ahead and let someone have their way even if it was going to screw things up. I find crow damn inedible. However, needs must. Some times the only way to avoid a later more dishonorable activity is to conduct a small dishonorable thing early. See Churchill and the Coventry incident, for example. Some times it’s just the only way to avoid a war that you WILL not win, it’s sort of like “global Thermonuclear War” the only way to win is not to play.

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    • Ahh so I see you understand exactly where I am coming from

      Liked by 1 person

      • As above. Sometimes there is no good option, and you have to go with the least bad option and move on. You don’t have to like it. But you do have to move on. 😦

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        • Which is where the “reset button” comes in. Taking the least bad option shouldn’t mean you no longer have honor. Just that you have to work harder at it

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          • Yes. It’s a path, not a destination. Sometimes the path is washed out, the road signs are gone, and wandering monsters have invaded. The easy path is well-lit, straight, and dry- but you get no self respect from it. And while the downward slope isn’t too tasking, it gets steep before you know it.

            Trying to do the right thing is often tough. Sometimes it’s not what it first appears to be. When I was younger I used to think a stand on principle was always right, but now I am not so sure. I know I’m as fallible as they come, so I appreciate when someone gives me the benefit of the doubt, or lets lets a hasty word pass.

            I like the Sir Burton quote, too. It’s worthwhile to ponder on such things. But we live in a world of measured compromise. Forgiveness plays a part, too. May you strike a balance, good sir.

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      • As the guy on the wrong side of the fence said to the motorist, I’m here because I’m crazy, not STUPID.

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  4. I have more than a little experience with this. One of the hardest things in life, especially with your career, is choosing the right battles. Not very long ago, I chose to take a stand because I felt my honor demanded it. In fact, my honor was directly attacked, my integrity as a professional was at the very heart of the matter.

    I fully believe now it was absolutely the wrong choice. What I did not know was I was dealing with dishonest and dishonorable people in a process that benefited from bringing me down. My lack of personal experience and more experienced advice with that process lead me to believe I had to at least try to defend my honor. The truth was that justice was never possible, regardless of my own actions. Standing up for myself only made things worse and cost me, well, everything except those closest to me, including people I thought were friends. Worse, it has also limited my choices for the future. But, honestly, despite the woulda, coulda, shouldas, I can’t see myself making any other choice.

    I don’t talk about this much and I will not discuss the details publicly, but when people say “life isn’t fair,” they really mean it. There is not always a long step between “honor” and “pride.” I am still in the process of learning what that really means to me. I am not saying my hindsight is the right choice for you. However, you and I know the other side is not and will not play fair. Only you can decide whether your friends are trying to reign you in or holding you back.

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    • I empathize with you. Honor and integrity are like that. Sad but true. Keep your head up and i hope things go better for you henceforth. Still you can shave in the mornings, that has much value

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  5. To make a jest (something totally atypical of me) of a serious matter. She offered her honor. He honored her offer. And from then on it was honor and offer.

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  6. Ahh yeah, the various shades of grey.

    I don’t say this to mock. I’ve made decisions like this, and lived to regret them. As you said, we live in an Orwellian world, and it so easy to decide to take a stand, one that you will pay for later.

    Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where sides have been drawn, and we {using this instead of the singular} don’t really feel comfortable being drawn into the side that we have the most sympathy for. Maybe because there is an individual or individuals that are as “evil” in reputation as many on the other side.

    Maybe one feels that the evil one should be denounced so as to be fair to denounce the evil ones {plural} on the other side. Maybe it strikes one totally wrong to “side with” someone that evil.

    Kinda like the current kerfuffle in SFF today.

    Unfortunately {not really}, I’ve decided to stand with those I sympathize with. I side with the Sad Puppies {Sad not Rabid}. I also refuse to denounce anyone on the Rabid side. This is where the “various shades of grey” come in.

    The big thing for me is freedom to write what I want, freedom for other story tellers to tell their stories without censure or censorship, and freedom to read what one wants without the moral wardens coming down on one.

    I’ll also tell you, that I personally have said things over the last three weeks I usually wouldn’t have. I’ve goaded people when I told myself I never would again. And a few other things. In other words, I’ve dinged my honor.

    But, I’d do it again. Maybe try and choose my words more carefully. But freedom is worth struggling for. And I’ve done much, much worse in life than goad people. I’ve recovered my honor more than once.

    Life is a constant struggle. There are times that you have to make unpalatable choices, but then you have to live with them, you have to own them.

    Thus the various shades of grey. I’ve done right, and I’ve done wrong. I can live with it.

    I’m sure my situation is much different than yours. Maybe there’s a nugget there you can use though.

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    • Everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s situation is the same. It all boils down to “Can I live with myself if I do this? Can I live with myself if I don’t do this?”

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      • Yeah.

        Not only are our situations different, but our life experiences are different. What is right for one of us, might not be for the other. What one of us can tolerate, the other might not be able to.

        One other thing to think of, is we don’t live in a vacuum. How will the decision I make affect those around me, in particular the ones I love?

        Ohh, the complications of life. How wonderful it would be if everything was simple, black and white.

        Which reminds me, I have to get to the other keyboard. I have a couple of characters that need to be killed off before I’m done tonight, and I have some complications to setup before then.

        In all seriousness, good luck on your decision.

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