By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Honor Blind

Sandro Botticelli, The Story of Lucretia 1496-...Image via Wikipedia
It is fitting in the immediate aftermath of what is, hopefully, a sustainable victory for democracy and freedom in Egypt to speak about honor. For, from reports I have read, it seems that honor and dignity are precisely what the Egyptian demonstrators were demanding from a regime whose inept bureaucracy viewed them with disdain and indifference until it was too late.

I am reminded of the ancient Roman legend of how the last king of Rome was overthrown and replaced by the Roman Republic. The Republic supposedly arose in reaction to a grievous offense to honor-- when the son of the king raped Lucretia, one of the virtuous and chaste matrons of Rome (see the Botticelli image above). Offending honor can have significant historical consequences.

All human beings have an innate desire for honor and dignity, yet many are "honor blind" in the sense that they cannot perceive how they offend the honor and dignity of others. You can see it on the level of nations, as we just saw in Egypt. You see it at the level of social and religious groups where division arises when leaders refuse to loosen their grip on power and, instead of serving others, decide that others exist to serve their delusions of grandeur. You see it in personal relations where some individuals cannot comprehend or do not wish to comprehend how they have offended the honor and dignity of others. As a result, these honor blind individuals do not even attempt to mitigate the dishonor they impose on others.

It is a great irony: everyone wants honor and dignity, yet many deny it routinely to others and refuse to make amends. In the U.S., we are fortunate to live in a society that respects the human rights of most (unless you happen to be living in a womb). Yet, in many of our personal relationships, honor blindness is present. We need to recover the significance of honor, our own and that of others, and think how our actions will affect the honor and dignity of others. Think how often people engage in actions that have grave effects on others without once taking into account the damage to the honor of others. Then, they remain clueless as to why things do not work out as they wish. We can paraphrase the Bible: if you wish to reap honor, then sow decent respect, with foresight, for the honor and dignity of others.