There are many countries, particularly in Asia, in which honor is taken very seriously, even too seriously. In Japan or Korea, for examples, there are many instances of men taking their own lives due to what many in those nations have considered to be failures, particularly if losses of innocent lives have been involved under their leadership. In fact, it seems that it is even an expectation for men and/or women who have been viewed as failures, particularly when harm or death has come to others as a result, to take their own lives. It appears that such people who have taken their own lives as a result of these particular instances do so because of their feelings of honor and dishonor. It seems that there is the expectation that they should take their own lives as a result of actions that may have been considered dishonorable.
In several middle eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for examples, as well as in countries such as India and Afghanistan, women and girls are expected to remain covered and/or virginal until marriage, according to cultural and/or religious dictates. If a woman of such culture is raped, however, she is typically blamed and punished, often being disowned by her family, the very people who should be supportive of her. When a woman is raped in such cultures, society places the burden on her and dictates that she has been dishonorable rather than the man or men who raped her. Often, then, her family is unsupportive of her and/or may disown her because of her culture’s views that blame, punish, and even torture and kill women for being a victim. Such killings are known as “honor killings,” however they only bring dishonor to those who have done the killing. Little or nothing is heard, however, about the man or men bringing dishonor to themselves for perpetrating such crimes. How often do they get away with it, only to do it again and get away with it again?
Three hundred years ago, in the United States, questions of honor – at least among men of European descent who considered themselves “honorable” – may have been settled by a duel. If one man believed he was dishonored by another, he could challenge that man to a duel. In a duel, it was the accepted notion within society that the man who won the duel by killing his counterpart was, therefore, “the better man.” To me, this is not necessarily correct. That one man may have won a sword battle by killing another man reflects only that he may have been more skilled in wielding the sword. To me, for anyone to challenge another to a fight to the death simply for believing he was “dishonored” does not value the other’s life. Therefore, is it worth killing another or taking one’s own life in regard to questions or concerns about honor? I think not.
Today, however, very different views exist in the United States about honor and dishonor. One may even ask whether or not honor is a quality that is at all considered of high value in American culture and society. In the United States (as in other countries, as well), there are those who dishonor themselves by having affairs. There are those who dishonor, not only themselves, but their spouses and/or children when they divorce their spouses for situations and/or issues that they, themselves, contributed to and/or worsened. There are people who dishonor their children by hurting and abusing them; in doing so, they also dishonor themselves.
Crime victims (particularly rape and sexual trauma survivors) are often quick to be dishonored by the harassment and/or bullying of others, which may, in turn, cause them to take their own lives. In society, in general, women are not honored when they do not experience the respect, equality, and/or privilege that most men seem to typically give, unquestioningly, to other men. Children are not honored when they have no voice and are simply told what to do, how to feel, how to act. People with disabilities are not honored when parking spaces are occupied by vehicles that are not legally allowed to be there. Female (and male) military service members and veterans are not honored when they seek treatment for PTSD as a result of sexual trauma experienced by their colleagues, and are denied such treatment, thus being blamed and revictimized.
I am familiar with situations in which wealthy American men of influence and power have traumatized women and girls by sexually harassing them and/or committing other acts of sexual misconduct against them for decades. Such men may have performed such actions against various girls and/or women across generations, getting away with it because their wealth, power, influence, and privilege have always allowed them to get away with it. Not only do they get away with it, but they discredit their victims, spread false information and ill repute about their victims, and do whatever they can to cover up their wrongdoing, cause their victims to be ostracized, and save their own skin. Because of their powerful status in the community, state, nation in which they live, however, most people hold them in high regard and are unable to believe that any of them could possibly commit such acts. These men have, therefore, dishonored not only themselves, but their families, their communities, their churches, and their businesses.
What is sad, then, is that most people seem to be unable to see below the surface of these situations, or even to care about them, and/or attempt to change them for the better. When such situations are discussed, many avoid taking on these issues because they cause controversy. This often includes legal counsel and/or the legal system. How can a poor, albeit educated and intelligent woman be successful in bringing a lawsuit against men who have prominence and power in a state or nation? Further still, what about a girl who has experienced such situations by men of wealth and power? It just doesn’t happen, and if it is attempted, the female is discredited and portrayed as the liar, seductress, villainess, while the men are innocently reflected as having done no wrong. While the men don’t realize it, and likely even deny it, as a result of these situations, they have dishonored themselves.
So, my remaining question is to wonder if it is, indeed, correct to believe that there is little or no recourse for victims and/or survivors of the above-described situations? Those who create, provoke, and perform such situations are those who, typically, seem to get away with them. While mainstream society may hold them in high esteem, and/or they may obtain success in defending themselves through the legal system, they have still dishonored themselves by being dishonest and by behaving dishonorably.
People who are honorable lead in the footsteps of goodness and righteousness. They lead by example. Honorable people place value in the lives of others; they do what they can to help and support those who most need it; they recognize where they have been wrong, and seek to correct and improve themselves. People who are honorable are also forgiving, but also learn to protect themselves from those who are dishonorable as a result of their experiences. It is honorable to be good and forgiving, though it is also honorable to help oneself so that he or she is not further victimized.
People who are dishonorable care only about themselves. It seems that they, often, cannot see the harm that they create, nor do they care. And, when confronted about it, they do not take responsibility for it, but instead do whatever they can to deny it, cover it up, and further harm, discredit, and dishonor their victims. I have observed and experienced this reflected in people who bully others. I have observed and experienced this reflected in those who sexually traumatize others. I have observed and experienced this to occur in people who tend to be narcissistic, arrogant, and who believe that they are always correct, and that their way is the only way. While these people may not realize it, they have dishonored themselves. Contrary to their faulty thinking, it is not their victims who have dishonored themselves.
Therefore, it is important that people look below the surface of interactions, communications, and situations. Sometimes, it is important to analyze, research, investigate, and become better-informed about people and situations before making decisions and/or judgments about others that may be incorrect. It is important for society to realize and recognize that, just because people may appear “honorable” does not mean that they are. Especially in the United States, where wealth, power, status, and privilege are held so highly by society, it is imperative for people to look below the surface, to recognize that people may not be as good as they seem. It is also important for people to recognize that some situations, on the surface, may appear to be the fault of the victim, but were really created by the one in power, even years or decades prior to things coming to the surface.
As a person of honor, I appeal to others to view and consider as many possibilities about a particular situation as they can, and then to also investigate to know and understand the true background of such situations by looking below the surface, prior to coming to a conclusion that may be incorrect, and before making a misjudgment that characterizes the victim as the offender, when it may really be the other way around. I ask people in our society to consider the true nature of such situations so that they may be understood and revealed. Only then will the honor of those who are truly honorable be known.