Civilization is a very thin veneer lightly glued to a substrate of ugly. The ugly is mankind’s natural tendencies to do whatever it takes to get what he needs and wants. Thousands and thousands of years of having incredible amounts of adversity – drought, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat, extreme cold, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, diseases, war, and injuries have taught man how to survive. Until very recently people who had major medical problems simply suffered until they died. Modern medicine is truly a miraculous thing. Life was harsh and short for our ancestors. They didn’t have the luxury of playing nice. We still have their survival genes. We see that when we are placed into a fight-or-flight situation. Our heart rate goes up. Adrenaline rushes through our veins, giving us the strength to fight or run.
What is the glue that holds down that thin veneer of civilization? Honor
Enter the modern world. We live in a man-made environment that shields us from the harsh realities of nature. Think of it as a bubble of unreality. We are seldom put into a situation of mortal danger. We call this “civilization.” For us to co-exist peacefully in our civilized society, we must live by a different set of rules than did our ancestors. We must “play well with others.” When we engage in trade with a stranger, such as when we buy a car, we must be able to assume that the other person will do exactly what he says he will do. In this example, let’s say that we wish to purchase a used car. We find one in the local newspaper or on Craigslist. We call the seller and arrange to look it over. The seller may or may not be completely honest about how well the car runs, but for the most part we have a pretty good idea of what we are getting. We decide to purchase it, and agree on a price. The seller signs the title, transferring ownership to the buyer when the buyer gives the seller the agreed upon purchase price. In order for this transaction to be successful, both the buyer and the seller are operating under an unwritten rule – that each will conduct himself in an honorable fashion.
Let’s look at another common everyday example. Let’s say we would like to go to a restaurant for dinner. We go in, sit down, and select what we would like from the menu. We place our order, and the food is prepared and served. Only after we have consumed the meal does the server present the bill for us to pay. The honorable thing for us to do is to pay for the meal. The dishonorable thing for us to do would be to walk out without paying. This transaction occurs millions of times every day in this country. It could not work in this order if a significant percentage of the people who ordered and consumed meals at restaurants failed to pay. As a civilized society we work under the honor system.
For the most part, rural America understands this concept and applies it to everyday life much more often than urban America. I’ll give you an example. We live in Las Vegas, Nevada, a city of approximately 2,000,000 people. When my wife and mother visited Thermopolis, Wyoming, a town of approximately 3,000 people, the culture shock was astounding. They stopped at a gas station in Thermopolis to put gas into the tank of their car. In Las Vegas there have been so many occurrences of people putting gas into their tank and driving off that all of the gas stations are pay first. The pump will not operate until the gas station attendant has received payment or the pump itself is designed to accept your debit/credit card or cash. Only when payment has been received or authorized will the pump operate. When they stopped at the gas station in Thermopolis my wife had her cash out and was trying to hand it to the gas station attendant. He looked at her like she had just dropped in from another planet. He asked, “How do you know how much to pay when you don’t know how much gas the car will take?” Pre-pay was a foreign concept that didn’t make any sense to him. In Las Vegas all of the pumps are do-it-yourself so she was going for the pump handle to pump her own gas. The gas station attendant (who bore a remarkable resemblance to Gomer Pyle) calmly told her that pumping the gas was his job. He not only pumped the gas, he also checked the oil (pronounced awl in WY), and washed the windows at no extra charge. Being from the city and having been ripped off by countless mechanics, my wife scrunched down and watched him from the driver’s seat as he “checked the oil,” fully expecting him to pull off one of the spark plug wires or do something else to create a problem that he could charge them for. My mother, who grew up in Thermopolis, explained to my wife that people in Wyoming are honorable people. If there was an issue, he would bring it to their attention but would never create a problem where none existed.
On that same trip they were driving out on a desolate highway, 50 miles from the nearest town. Right next to the highway was a honey stand. The honey was in 3 different sized jars, all marked with a price. Next to the many jars of honey on the table was a very large jar full of money. There was no attendant. The sign said it was an On Your Honor Honey Stand. Choose the amount of honey you wished and leave payment in the big jar. No attendant, no cameras, and no one around to see if you put money in the jar or just took all of the honey and the money jar. They purchased a small jar of honey, leaving the money in the big jar, and drove off. For a city slicker, this was an amazing thing to see. When my wife got back to Las Vegas she showed everyone she knew the photo of this beautiful example of people acting honorably.
We took a trip to Washington State a few years ago. We stayed at a small motel in a tiny town of about 500 people. The next day we wandered around, taking in the beautiful scenery. At the end of the second day we found ourselves back in the same area, about ½ hour away, so we called the proprietor of the motel and asked if they had an available room for that night. The woman who owned the motel explained that it was her bedtime so she would not be up by the time we finished our dinner and drove back to the motel. She said she would leave the key to the room on top of the TV and the door unlocked so we could just go in whenever we were ready. We asked, “What about payment?” She said, “Just pay me in the morning.” We done found Mayberry!
What do these three examples of communities where honor is an important concept have in common? These are communities where neighbors help each other. People have an expectation that the person they are dealing with will be honest and trustworthy. Business dealings are sealed with a handshake, with each participant knowing that a man’s word is his bond. If another member of your little community says he will doing something he will do it. You can count on it. What is just as important is that he knows that your word means something to you too. There is no need for any rules or regulations to ensure that transactions go smoothly. Neither is there a need for a policing body to enforce the rules.
Doing the honorable thing is also described as doing what is “morally right” or “ethically correct.” It is based on the concept of right and wrong. When we were growing up we learned the difference between right and wrong from our parents. This concept was reinforced by our teachers at school, as well as by countless books, movies and television shows. Superheroes were always good guys, trying to keep the bad guys from doing bad things to good people. Good triumphed over evil. Stories ended with, “and they lived happily ever after.”
The concepts of right and wrong are inexorably linked to the concept of individual responsibility. Once we were grown up we were responsible for ourselves in every way. We were responsible for every action we took. We were responsible for everything we said and how it affected the person we were speaking to or about. We were responsible for learning a trade so we could get jobs that paid enough money for us to pay for our own needs, plus our family’s needs. When a man got married he was responsible for his wife. When the couple had children he was responsible for providing for the children as well. Relying on someone else to pay your bills was shameful. You were a disgrace to your family if you did not accept your responsibilities and act in an honorable fashion. When parents grew elderly and could not provide for themselves, they knew they could count on their children to provide for them. Young women were taught that they were responsible for all aspects of child rearing when they became mothers. No job was more important than raising the next generation to be responsible adults.
A society that does not have the vast majority of its members trying to conduct their affairs in an honorable way is a society that is dysfunctional. If I can trust you about as far as I can throw you, how can we achieve anything that requires cooperation between individuals?
What happens to our “civilized” society when honor is no longer considered important?
Civilization (a state in which members of a society peacefully co-exist most of the time) ceases to exist.
Part of American culture no longer concerns itself with the concept of honor. “There is no right or wrong” is what is being taught in the public schools. (This was the purpose of creating the Department of Education – to spread propaganda to generations of young impressionable Americans) “Everyone’s opinion is equally valid” is also being taught. “You are a fool not to get your share” is the oft repeated slogan of people who are receiving government assistance like welfare and food stamps. “Perception is reality” is being presented as fact. The idea that all adults are responsible for themselves and their progeny is considered old fashioned and out of step with today. In this modern culture most people go to work every day to earn the money they need to take care of themselves and their families. A significant portion of their money is taken from them and given to those who choose not to work. The percentage of those who are productive and are payers into this system is decreasing while the percentage of those who are non-productive recipients is increasing. The system has become unsustainable and is in imminent danger of collapse. “When the populace discovers it can vote itself the treasury, democracy will cease.” – Thomas Jefferson
Let’s take a look at the structure of society in America today. The founding fathers of this nation wrote the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land. No laws may be written or put into place that are inconsistent with the Constitution. This includes the Bill of Rights. The intent of the Constitution was to limit the power of the government to interfere with the God-given right of all Americans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All government employees swear an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” What is the value of swearing an oath if the person is just saying the words without fully intending to honor the promise they are making? That is why the Judeo-Christian tradition is to have the person swearing the oath to place their left hand on the Bible. If a person believes in God and believes that God wants him/her to be an honorable person, then an oath taken with their hand on the Bible is not taken lightly. The importance of the belief in God cannot be overstated. It is the foundation upon which civilization is built. That is why people in the Progressive Movement are trying very hard to replace Christianity and Judaism with secular humanism. Religion tells us that we are ultimately answerable to God. Secular humanism tells us that we are answerable to the State. When we are answerable to an all-knowing, all-seeing God, we will do our best to behave in all situations, not just when some other person is looking. If we are answerable only to the State, we only need to concern ourselves with covering our tracks to avoid being held accountable for our actions.
America has lost sight of the importance of the principles that are the basis of our society. Anything religious (unless it is Islam) is ridiculed. Millions of Americans now embrace secular humanism and liberal thought. They are focused on things designed to distract them from seeing the damage being done by the progressive movement. A good example is global warming. It has absolutely no basis in science, yet billions of dollars have been spent fighting against it. Millions of Americans have bought into the lie about “reducing our carbon footprint.” Why? Because most Americans are decent people who do not intentionally harm other people, animals, or plants. We know we need food, water and shelter to survive but we don’t want to pollute the groundwater or the atmosphere. When we discovered that some types of aerosol sprays were hurting the ozone layer, which allowed more harmful ultraviolet light to reach the planet’s surface, we switched to pump sprays. When we discovered that there was an alternative to just throwing everything into landfill, then going back to the forest, the field, or the mine for more raw materials, we jumped on it. Most Americans are willing to put extra effort into separating their garbage by category, so paper, plastics, and metals can be recycled. It makes us feel good about ourselves when we believe we are working towards an honorable goal. It is also very important for our psyche to feel that we are a part of something larger than ourselves.
Why should we concern ourselves with concepts like honor and individual responsibility? Why does it matter that people have turned away from God and no longer believe in Him? Why shouldn’t we just go with the flow and see where it leads? Because we already know this path takes us.
Let’s look at the two opposing ideologies for a moment.
Conservatives wish to preserve the system that has worked in the United States for over 200 years. The Constitution of the United States guarantees the right of each person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Millions of people from all over the world have come to America because of its promise of opportunity. When every person has the freedom to pursue their dreams, limited only by their imagination and willingness to work, there is no limit to what one can achieve. Ray Kroc bought a small hamburger stand. We know his business today as McDonald’s, a multi-billion dollar company that employs 1.5 million people worldwide. When Sam Walton got started he had a little store. We know his business today as Wal-mart, the country’s largest civilian employer. When individuals are given the opportunity to succeed, they bring other people up with them. Americans don’t have to struggle every day to just to survive. Instead, Americans enjoy the highest standard of living on Earth. When individuals have the opportunity to create wealth, they create jobs. No one starts their working career as CEO of a major corporation. We all start with jobs like being a cook at McDonald’s or a cashier at Wal-mart. Whether we stay in those jobs or move to better paying jobs is up to us. Our work ethic, our individual abilities, and our dedication determine our level of success. The most important factor is discretionary effort. It’s a basic part of human nature. If I can exert minimal effort to achieve what I need and want, I will exert minimal effort. If I must do more to achieve what I need or want, I will put forth that discretionary effort. As an example, let’s say I will make $1,000 in take home pay if I work 40 hours/week at my job. If I am willing to work 60 hours/week I can make $1,500 in take home pay. If the economic system allows me to keep the $1,500 I am much more likely to put in the extra time because the discretionary effort is rewarded. If I work 60 hours/week and get bumped up into a higher tax bracket so my take-home pay is only $1,200 I am not likely to consider the discretionary effort of working an additional 20 hours for $200 worth it, and will decline the overtime when it is offered by my employer. If you were making $25/hour for the first 40 hours you worked each week, would you work 20 more hours at $10/hour? “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” – Thomas Jefferson
This leads us to the ideology of the liberal. The liberal looks around and sees a lot of wealth in this country. He also sees people living in poverty in this country. The liberal believes that the disparity between the wealthy and the poor is unfair and needs to be corrected. To do so one must depart from focusing on the individual and instead redirect attention to the entire population as a whole. The “liberal” or “progressive” uses simple math for his solution. If there are 300,000,000 Americans and there are literally trillions of dollars in the economy, then every person can be elevated in economic status through redistribution of wealth. Take from the haves and give to the have-nots. Voila! Poverty has been eliminated. This simplistic approach ignores discretionary effort. It erroneously assumes that since there is plenty to go around, there will always be plenty to go around. If you take away the reward for discretionary effort by taking more from the wage earner, you eliminate the excess you are trying to redistribute. In no time at all everyone has an equal amount, but an equal amount of a much smaller pie. Taking the wealth from the wealthy does not improve the lot of the poor, it only adds to the numbers of poor. “The more one considers the matter, the clearer it becomes that redistribution is in effect far less a redistribution of free income from the richer to the poorer, as we imagined, than a redistribution of power from the individual to the State.” – Bertrand de Jouvenel
Ask someone who is on welfare or food stamps where the money comes from. They will tell you it’s from “the government.” When asked where the government got it they will tell you “they print it.” There is a serious disconnect here when the people receiving checks from the government do not know (or pretend not to know) that the money comes from taxes levied by the government on the people who earned it. The welfare money you just got was earned by your neighbor. Charity is no longer something individuals can do out of the kindness of their hearts. Charity is now enforced at the end of a gun. If you don’t believe me try not paying your taxes and see what happens. 50 years ago neighbors helped each other out. When a man lost his job his neighbors pitched in and gave his family food and helped him pay his bills until he could get another job. Women babysat for other women in the neighborhood. There were no day care centers. This is what “community” was all about. Now there is no sense of community. There is only resentment and anger when those who choose not to work are handed money that was earned by those who do work. There is a common misconception that welfare is only for people who are elderly or handicapped and cannot work. That is not true. Welfare is given to anyone who asks for it. And who says the handicapped are not employable? Years ago there was a man in an iron lung who wanted to work. He did not want to be a financial burden on his family, so he thought of how he could earn a living. He had the person who helped him with his medical needs hook up a phone with an autodialer. All day long he called people from numbers listed in the phonebook and attempted to sell them products. He didn’t have the use of his feet or hands so he worked the telephone with his tongue. The liberal would have you believe that this man could not do anything for himself. Since this man did not believe he could not, he did.
A few years ago there was a category 5 hurricane called Katrina. It hit the southeast, causing devastation to New Orleans and many other cities and towns. The majority of the people who were living 23 feet below sea level in hurricane alley did nothing to prepare for this disaster. Most residents did not put aside food, water or medicine. They did not have a plan of what to do to save themselves or their families if a hurricane greater than category 3 hit the levees that were designed to withstand up to a category 3 hurricane. When disaster struck many people looted the stores, stealing everything in sight. Thousands of people stood around and demanded that the government, the army, or someone else save them. 1,836 people died. The vast majority of the hurricane victims were welfare recipients, accustomed to having all of their needs and most of their wants met by the government. They never learned to be self-sufficient or responsible for themselves. Millions of Americans donated money, food, medicine, and their time to helping the victims of Katrina. Billions of dollars of tax money were spent on disaster relief and recovery. What many Americans could not comprehend was that so many people in the area hit by the hurricane said it was the responsibility of the government to rescue them and provide for all of their needs.
A few years ago there was a huge snowstorm in North Dakota. Most of the people in the towns hardest hit by the snowstorm were prepared with food, bottled water, extra medicines, blankets, shovels, fuel, etc. People rescued their neighbors who were trapped inside their homes. They brought medicine and food to the elderly. Neighbors opened their homes to their neighbors, sharing all they had. No one died. No one was seriously injured. No one called for help from the government. Not one tax dollar was spent on disaster relief or recovery. Every person who lives in North Dakota knows that the state gets hit with snow and ice storms. The difference between Louisiana’s hurricane and North Dakota’s snow storm was in how they prepared for it, and then handled it when it came. This, in a nutshell, is the difference between the ideologies of liberalism and conservatism.
In the hurricane example, “community” was defined as the entire country. In the snowstorm example, “community” was defined as the towns and outlying areas. In the area that defined community as the entire country the concept of honor was noticeably absent. Looting, raping and murder were committed by many dishonorable people who took advantage of the natural disaster. In the area that defined community as the small towns and outlying areas, people conducted themselves honorably.
“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” – William Boetcker
“You cannot continue to have a civilized society once the majority of the populace no longer values the concept of individual honor.” – Uncle
The United States is in the middle of a culture war, with those who value honor on one side, and those who do not value honor on the other side. It is time for us to acknowledge the difference, and to make a decision. Will we continue to embrace the new liberal vision for our future, or will we insist on retaining the values that made the United States the best place in the world to live for over 200 years?