Untrue Things People Believe
Duty And Honor
This is the third article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.
Both "duty" and "honor" have good and important meanings. This fact makes the way both these words are usually used very deceiving and very dangerous. I will explain the true meanings first.
The True Meanings of Duty and Honor
Duty means an obligation. If one has a duty to do something, it means they are morally obligated to do it. The only moral obligations one has to others is to never interfere in anyone else's life and keep all of ones promises. There are no other "social" moral obligations. There is one other thing a person is obligated to do if they choose to live happily and successfully in this world and that is to be the best possible human being they can be in all things, physically, intellectually, and morally. There are no other human duties and every attempt to saddle anyone with any other supposed duty is a form of oppression.
Honor implies honesty, but it actually means that aspect of human nature that requires honesty. Honesty does not mean never lying, it means never attempting to fake reality and never attempting to gain anything: wealth, position, or reputation, by means of intentional deception or evasion of the truth. It is immoral to be dishonest with others, but the greatest harm dishonesty does is to one's own conscious awareness that one who is dishonest is a cheat and a fake who has violated that unforgiving sense of honor that produces an inescapable sense of guilt.
[NOTE: The word honor has several meanings and can be used as both a noun and a verb. It is the first meaning I am emphasizing, but will reference some others as well. For the sake of clarity and to remove any ambiguity all the meanings and uses of the word honor are listed.
As A Noun:
- Personal integrity; honesty
- Fame, glory, prestige
- Glory or prestige endowed on something by someone, e.g "he brought honor to his family, or community, or school."
- High or noble rank or position
- A privilege, e.g. "an honor to serve"
- A woman's virtue (reputation)
As A Verb:
- to respect or esteem
- to behave courteously toward
- to worship
- to confer distinction or praise upon
- to accept or pay a check or credit card
- to keep one's promise or fulfill an obligation]
Perversions Of The Concept Honor
The Boy Scout oath begins well: "On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty ...;" then continues with a contradiction of all that true honor and duty are: "... to God and my country ...."
If one's honor is their natural need to be honest in all they think and do and one's duty is to never interfere in anyone else's life, to keep all one's promises, and be all one can possibly be as a human being, it is obvious that swearing to honestly do one's duty is a promise to be a moral individual.
Since I am not going to debate theism here, I will grant that those who believe in a God believe that one's duty to God is a duty to obey God's laws, which in most cases are similar to objective moral principles, which would be similar to being all one could be as a human being. No one, however, has a duty, that is, any kind of moral obligation, to a country. What exactly is one's country? Is it the government? Is it the land, mountains, plains, rivers, and lakes? Is it the country's society? Where does this unasked-for undeserved obligation to a country come from? Is one just born with this obligation they never agreed to? The idea is a very subtle method of subjugating people, and most people just swallow it without question. [It is the basis of both wrong concepts: patriotism and nationalism, which are covered in the article on Patriotism.]
I've used this example of the Boy Scout Oath to illustrate that the perversion of the concepts of honor and duty are pervasive and begin being impressed on children while very young and in almost everything they are taught or experience.
The wrong meaning of duty is the companion of the wrong meaning of rights; something one is just born with without having to earn it, deserve it, or sign-up for, and is sometimes used to bolster the wrong concept of rights: "those who have the ability have a duty to help those less fortunate. The loafer has a right to food, clothing, shelter, health-care, and an education and if you are not a loafer you have a duty to help supply all the things the bum has a right to."
The worst perversion of the word Duty is the one that assumes someone is born with any kind of obligation to a country, meaning the government, the society, or both. There is everything wrong with that idea.
No one chooses what country they will be born in, or what state, county, or city they will be born in either. There is no logical or moral principle that gives any government a claim to any part of a persons life just because they were born within its jurisdiction. It is exactly what all governments claim, and it is a lie. If one is born with an unchosen obligation to anything, it is exactly like being born a slave because one is born to slaves on a plantation. If there is a difference, it is only a matter of degree, and the fact the slave owners happen to call themselves the government and the plantation is whatever geography the government claims.
Perversions Of The Concept Honor
Real honor is an individual's own sense of integrity and worth as an individual, based solely on one's knowledge that they are honest in all things, that what they are is the best they can be, that what they have they have earned by their own effort, and that they have taken responsibility for every choice they have made, regardless of the consequences. Anything else called honor is a fake and a substitute for real honor.
Notice that almost all other views of honor depend on the views and opinions of others. The usual substitutes for real honor are fame, glory, celebrity, and prestige.
One can have fame and glory and be one of the most popular of celebrities, and yet be a totally worthless scoundrel, like most politicians, for example. So long as enough people are blindly impressed by the popular media's praises, and fooled into believing all pompous titles conferred on them actually mean anything, they will be honored. It is almost always this second-hand version of honor that most people seek: the respect, praise, and adoration of others.
The only honor that matters is one's own knowledge that they are honorable. To the truly honorable individual, what others think about them does not matter.
Did you notice in the verb forms of honor, the one word that is never used is recognition? According to the popular view, to honor someone is to respect or esteem them, to fawn on them, to praise them, but never to recognize them. That is because those who are "honored" in this world are not those who have actually achieved or produced anything of value or importance, but have impressed others with their, "charm," "charisma," or, "celebrity". The truly virtuous can only be "honored" by being recognized, (which recognition they would never desire in any public way). Recognition requires that one truly understands the value and character of an individual which means understanding what they have actually produced of value and what kind of a person they actually are, not what their reputation is, or whether they are popular, famous, or "loved" by the ignorant masses.
Some Comments On Honor
Except for personal integrity and honesty, all the other definitions of honor are not really honor.
Fame, glory, and prestige, for example may or may not be true indications of an individuals true value as a human being, but none of them are honor, and none of them can substitute for true honor.
True honor cannot be transferred. One cannot confer honor on anyone else, not another individual, a family, a community, or an organization. No matter how truly honorable an individual is it brings no honor to anyone else. A community of lazy ignorant people is dishonorable no matter how honorable one of its members happens to be, just as a community of decent honest productive people is honorable, no matter how worthless and dishonorable one of its members might be.
True honor cannot be derived by association with a group or class deemed honorable. The belief that one's membership in some collective: a society, a nationality, an organization, a family, or a fraternity confers any kind of honor on a member is an example of the false belief that honor is transferable. It is not, and any worthless scoundrel, no matter what he considers himself a member of, remains an honorless worthless scoundrel.
No position, title, or rank confers either honor or dishonor on anyone, although to even accept some positions (such as those giving one authority over others, like bureaucrats) is dishonorable.
Unless one is paid for it, any other form of "service" to others is dishonorable, a form of self-immolation and self-imposed slavery. What one does for their own enjoyment, even when it involves doing things for others, is not service. One's enjoyment is the payment.
There is no difference between a woman's honor and a man's honor, because there is no difference between a woman's virtue and a man's virtue. The old phrase, "a woman's virtue," is just an old fashioned euphemism. It's OK if you do not know what it is a euphemism for.
There is nothing wrong with using the word honor to mean having respect and appreciation for others, their achievements, or their integrity. An honorable individual assumes that others are honorable and will respect them and treat them courteously, until and unless those others demonstrate that they are not worthy of one's respect. This is not a duty on the part of the honorable, it is the way all rational beings deal with other rational beings to their mutual benefit.
Some Comments On Duty
Doing one's duty is the equivalent of living morally, seeking always to be the best one can be in all things, never interfering in anyone else's life, and keeping all of one's promises and agreed commitments.
Whenever anyone else invokes the word duty to convince someone they are obligated to do (or not do) something, or to excuse something they do, it is the immoral version of duty that is meant, not duty required by the facts of reality, but one of any number of false obligations based solely on social convention, popular sentiment, government mandate, or some religious teaching.
Doing one's real duty is always life enhancing and benevolent to others. Submitting to any of the false forms of duty is always life limiting and often harmful to others.
Some examples of the consequences of the wrong use of duty:
Many young men and women are convinced to be wounded, have arms, legs, or genitals blown of, their brains scrambled, and to do the same lovely things to other people in foreign lands because it is their duty. There is no duty to die or sacrifice one's life for the politicians who wage wars and profit from them, and no duty excuses killing and maiming others.
One of the worst notions of duty to infect society is found in all those who really believe they have some kind of duty to society, a duty they seek to fulfill by looking for every possible kind of "misconduct" by others which they can report to the proper authorities. No one will ever know how many families have been destroyed by these interferers reporting the innocent but misunderstood actions of others to Child Protective Services or the police. These busy bodies epitomize the violation of the moral principle to never interfere in anyone else's life, and they are irredeemably evil.
Speaking of the police, every time policemen enforce any of the endless immoral laws which cost innocent people their freedom, their time, their money, and sometimes their lives, the policemen are just doing their duty. A policeman will never see the immorality of the things he does every day as long as can cite the magic word duty to excuse them.
Every bureaucrat uses the same excuse for being an agent for extorting money from people in the form of taxes, or payments for licenses, permits, and any so-called services provided by the same state that mandates them. They'll never see themselves as the crooks they are because they're only doing their duty, and it usually pays them very well.
A Similar Lie
There is another word used for excusing the immoral, policy, and it may be even worse than the excuse of duty. How it is used, and what is wrong with it will be explained in the article on policy.