Monday, July 23, 2012

The Meaning of Honor

Took the short people to see a production of Romeo and Juliet last night and they were both disturbed by it. Part of it was the tragedy -- nowadays we see nothing but happy endings -- but part of it was the violence. It was clear in the three big altercations that Benvolio once and Romeo twice tried to stop the fight before it started, but got lured into it saying, basically, don't make me have to do this...or more like abstain thee from compelling my blade from having to do this to thine torso which shall be pierceth in undesirable places. If they didn't want to fight, they asked, why did they?

Part of it is the nature of youth; fiery and uncontrollable although quite predictable. But part of it is the notion of honor. If you insult me to a certain degree, I have no choice but to face you, consequences be damned. It is that last clause that we have lost as a culture. The consequences are now always a part of the calculation and that has meant a loss of the notion of honor which is to be esteemed above consequences. To consider a cost/benefit analysis before defending your honor would make you a coward or greedy, both marks of an unclean character. But now such considerations makes you prudent and reasonable.

Has this change been realized by a maturing in the culture, a sense that we need to see the larger picture, or is it that we have become so materialistic that such considerations seem moral and we have lost something higher in the pursuit of comforts? Is it that we have moved away from machismo as a defining characteristic to something more thoughtful or is it that we have sold ourselves to industrialization? Is the loss of the traditional notion of honor a positive thing?