There are two ways of looking at honor with respect to peace. Pride drives us to say no peace without honor. In other words, unless our opponent offers conditions that guarantee our self-respect, we won’t quite fighting. That’s a frivolous way of looking at honor.
The second way of looking at honor with respect to peace has to do with honor as a virtue. How is honor a virtue? Well, there is some ambiguity in that matter.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), defined honour as having several senses, the first of which was “nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness.” This sort of honour derives from the perceived virtuous conduct and personal integrity of the person endowed with it. On the other hand, Johnson also defined honour in relationship to “reputation” and “fame”; to “privileges of rank or birth”, and as “respect” of the kind which “places an individual socially and determines his right to precedence.” This sort of honour is not so much a function of moral or ethical excellence, as it is a consequence of power. Finally, with respect to sexuality, honour has traditionally been associated with (or identical to) “chastity” or “virginity”, or in case of married men and women, “fidelity”. Some have argued that honour should be seen more as a rhetoric, or set of possible actions, than as a code. (from here)
In our society rank still exists. So people with power, because of their pride, still demand honor. For the most part, however, we expect people to earn honor by gaining a reputation for virtuous conduct and personal integrity. At least, that’s the theory. Nevertheless, we still honor the powerful. Why? Some among us do fear the powerful, but the more serious issue is that we no longer share a common code of honor. Instead of honoring virtuous conduct and integrity, many of us will just as happily honor power, wealth, and fame.
Western Civilization once shared a common ethical system based upon the Bible. Most people of European descent understood the Bible to be literally true, and they believed all of the Bible was the word of God. During the Protestant Reformation, if anything, such sentiments about the Bible grew even stronger. However, the Protestant Reformation also set in motion an opposite trend. Instead of the Roman Catholic clergy being the sole interpreters of the faith, Protestantism made it possible for anyone to decide for themselves the meaning of Bible. In fact, these days we can decide what the Bible means without having ever read it. Hence, Western Civilization’s shared code of honor (or ethics) is slowly dissolving into gibberish.
Consider an obvious controversy. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as a sin. Nevertheless, many mainstream Christian churches don’t have a problem with same-sex marriage. Is there any practical way to condone homosexuality based upon what the Bible actually says? No, but once we decide feelings matter more than the truth what the Bible actually says does not matter. We can be a Christian and even say the Bible says homosexuality is okay.
How does this sort of integrity relate to peace? Virtuous conduct, especially as it relates to integrity, requires an unwavering respect for the truth. Otherwise, peace is logically impossible because we cannot work out and maintain the compromises that make peace possible.
Consider what a compromise involves. People meet. They discuss their objectives and their differences. Then they reach an agreement that sorts out their objectives and their differences so that each party to the agreement gets most of what wants at the cost of some objectives it cedes to the other parties.
What is the key to a successful compromise? Well, good negotiators help, but the main ingredient is usually honor (that is, a high degree of integrity). Each of the parties to a compromise has to be willing to honor the agreement as written.
The Constitution, for example, is a compromise. Because of the compromises it contains, the Constitution allowed the 13 original colonies, each a small country with its own interests, to come together as a federation. The Constitution worked because most of the citizens of each of the colonies fully expected their leaders to abide by the document as written.
Unfortunately, the integrity of our people is not exactly what it use to be. Now many of our leaders regard the Constitution as a Living Constitution.
In United States constitutional interpretation, the Living Constitution (or loose constructionism) is the claim that the Constitution has a dynamic meaning or that it has the properties of an animate being in the sense that it changes. The idea is associated with views that contemporaneous society should be taken into account when interpreting key constitutional phrases. (from here)
What is the problem with a Living Constitution? If the compromises in the Constitution are “living compromises”, then what are the compromises? Why would anyone want to be party to a compromise that can be arbitrarily changed by the “other side”? What good does it even do to put agreement on paper if after a period of time the agreement can be arbitrarily changed by unelected judges?
We can discuss how we think the Constitution has changed, but all we can know is what something in the Constitution meant the last time the Supreme Court issued a ruling. Tomorrow? Who knows? Yesterday? Well, it seems history is just so beyond us. Only highfalutin experts can rightfully have an opinion, but consider these examples. Before the Supreme Court’s decisions related Social Security, Obamacare, or to same sex “marriage”, would any of those things have been legal? Were they legal in the several decades before each suddenly became legal? Was the Constitution actually changed to make them legal?
Let me close this post with one last observation. In a very real sense, our Constitution is a peace treaty. Search The Federalist Papers for the word “peace” and you will get 175 hits. Sometimes the writers spoke of the need for a Constitution to maintain peace with other nations. Each colony on its own was too weak to easily defend itself. Often, however, the writers also worried the colonies would fight among themselves, and they were right. Because they could not agree about the issue of slavery, in spite of the Constitution there was war between the states.
What we honor matters.