26 May 2005 | Draft
Honour Essential to Psycho-social Integrity
challenge of dishonourable leadership to the nameless
- / -
Essential nature of honour
Varieties of Honour
and Dishonour: distinguishing intrinsic honour from honourable externalities
Varieties of honour
Two forms of "honour": Beyond honouring power and tolerating
of the disciplines
Honour in practice
Institutionalization of honour
systems and codes
Distortions of honour
Honour and credibility: "without honour"
Honour: "Finite games" vs "Infinite games"
Honourable "Nomenklatura" vs Unhonoured "Nameless"
Integrative function of honour in interdisciplinarity and interfaith
In a society that is critically challenged by "truth" in every field,
it is possible that "honour" transcends truth in its significance
for social coherence. It may have a superordinate role. This may have always
been the case, which would explain the extent to which its trappings have become
a focus of attention. It could be argued that, in a period of increasing social
turbulence marked by crises of law and order, that the role of honour will come
to be seen as even more vital and fundamental. Whereas its role at the highest
levels of society may be increasingly called into question, the recognition
of its role in some form amongst the most disadvantaged, and even amongst street
gangs, is of striking significance.
The challenge for society is that strategic decisions, if made by any leadership,
are now made without honour -- or are quite incapable of being proved to have
been made honourably. This is the case despite the honourable trappings that
may accompany such decisions: ceremonies, treaty signatures, etc. Those at the
highest level may even be subject to indictment, impeachment or be justifiably
accused of lying to, or deliberately misleading, those they represent.
Maybe honour is of greater significance in providing coherence to social initiatives
than rationality. This is the case in heroic action to save life (such as by
emergency services), in terrorist suicide missions. In contrast to many qualities,
honour is readily recognized across cultures and languages. The unusual lack
of confusion or ambiguity in this regard suggests that it may be associated
with a more fundamental and universal understanding.
There is now far greater capacity to present and declare anything to be honourable
-- as an act of public relations -- than to recognize something that is. Curiously
dictatorships are strongly focused on the trappings of honour as a means of
shoring up legitimacy for their regimes. In this sense the perceptions triggered
by the rituals of honouring provide a form of keystone.
Honour might be considered to be inherently dissociated from the preoccupations
of most disciplines and from their practice. By extension, honour might therefore
be considered as distant from any form of interdisciplinarity. This assumption
is challenged in what follows. It is argued here that, on the contrary, honour
is central to effective interdisciplinarity, if only because of its cognitive
implications. A sense of honour and acting honourably conditions practice of
a discipline -- as is often most explicitly articulated in relation to the martial
arts -- but notably in the light of widespread preoccupation with "academic
integrity". Failure to imbue the practice of any discipline with honour
can then be understood as putting the effectiveness of that practice at significant
risk. The question is whether what is understood as honour does indeed have
some form of superordinate cognitive role in interdisciplinary practice.
It would of course be an exaggeration to assert that all leadership today is
in some ways dishonourable. It is however fair to assert that those leaders
who remain honourable are, through their undeclared knowledge of the behavior
of their less honourable colleagues, tainted in some measure by their complicity
in that dishonour.
Essential nature of honour
Honour as a fundamental existential experience: Basic to this
question is the distinction between the honours accorded to others in various
tangible forms and the honour felt to be due to someone. The one is expressed
through forms and the other is fundamentally experiential. The two may of course
be related, and ideally the forms may be experienced as appropriately reflecting
the inner judgement. The emphasis may of course be placed on the forms with
little concern for their experiential significance. Some dimensions of the existential
understanding of honour may include:
- a sense of transcendental integrity in the other
- a timelessness or timeless quality recalled through association with the
other as an exemplar
- a sense of appropriateness, of a complex or high-risk situation having been
- a reminder of the nature and quality of appropriate action
- a representation of something to "stand for" (possibly associated
with being "upstanding"), or even to die for
- a sense of fulfillment, possibly even of destiny, affirming the essential
nature of that which evokes the sense of honour
- an understanding of a "good place to be" in existential terms
- a reminder of how one would wish to be remembered
Just as dishonour may destroy an individual, honour may be the key to the rise
and decline of collective identity (civilization, team, etc). In reflecting
on collective honour, such dimensions raise questions as to whether (in the
eyes of the past, the future, or extraterrestrials):
- western civilization is to be perceived as honourable
- humanity as a whole will be perceived as honourable:
Psychodynamics may eventually demonstrate that what is understood as "honour"
is fundamental to the cybernetic process through which identity is sustained.
Of particular importance may be the process of reciprocation, namely the two-way
process through which those honoured effectively raise the level of consciousness
of those that honour. This may indeed work in some measure for those honouring
whether or not those honoured are worthy of the honour accorded them.
Honour and integrity: There is a natural assumption that integrity
tends to be honoured -- in some measure and possibly only after a lifetime of
being progressively appreciated by others. Such appreciation may however be
broad in scope, encompassing:
- the eccentricities of a character that is felt to be in some way "larger
than life", whatever the peccadilloes -- a person "for all seasons".
- someone who acts with integrity, in the sense of consistency, even though
the discipline imposed on others may have been severe to the point of causing
- a person who has ensured the leadership of a group in ways that have sustained
the integrity of that group, irrespective of the morality of the person or
the group -- or the degree of suffering caused to others by its actions.
- roguishness honoured for its inherent challenge, especially when associated
with the exercise of charm designed to beguile the gullible and unwary --
and evoking a sense of accomplishment in those sufficiently vigilant to be
challenged by the trickster qualities of such a "slippery customer"
(who would of course respond to any accusation by saying "it is my nature")
There is a curious symmetry to be explored in the relationship between honour
and integrity -- as notably held by gender symbolism, celibacy and the dishonour
associated with adultery or rape:
- female (honour > integrity): virginity (honourably "intact"),
motherhood ("on my mother's honour"), family honour and integrity,
integrity of the motherland, missile shield integrity
- male (honour > integrity): penis ("honourable"
erection), a "toast to the honour of..." ("being upstanding"),
soldier (erect on guard duty or parade), military integrity, missile, space
Honouring exemplars: Honour is typically accorded to those
who exhibit exemplary behaviour to the point of being recognized as role models
for the future. These may include:
- heros as conventionally understood, exemplifying the qualities most admired
by the group and by which it would wish to be known and remembered. Typically
this includes acting beyond the call of duty -- where the response to an emergency
involves a high personal risk, whether or not this is considered in the moment
- heroic response to adverse circumstances over an extended period of time,
and with a degree of personal sacrifice in the interests of others, as acknowledged
by the Right Livelihood Awards.
Variants may include those acknowledged as responding to a "different
drummer", exemplified by Schindler's
- pre-eminent practitioners of a discipline that requires dedicated training
possibly over years, whose actions bring honour to their team or to the territory
they represent. These may include sporting heros and those who triumph in
other kinds of games (eg chess), or performance disciplines (acrobats, musicians).
Achievements in intellectual disciplines are notably honoured through such
awards as the Nobel Prizes -- including the variations for literary creativity
and the skills of operacy relating to peace
- people whose achievements are distinguished in the light of the considerable
obstacles they have had to overcome in comparison with their contemporaries
-- as with the handicapped
- media heros, as noted by Lubna Abdel-Aziz (The
Lure of Superheroes, 2002): "Could it be that the lack of heroes
amongst us, the lack of honour and courage, the lack of moral values, of justice
and truth, is what makes us cling all the more to our screen superheroes from
other worlds and other planets?"
Varieties of Honour and Dishonour: distinguishing intrinsic honour from honourable externalities
systems and codes
credibility: "without honour"
Two forms of "honour": Beyond honouring power
and tolerating difference
In reviewing the variants in the Annex,
a major distinction can usefully be made between:
- honour associated with externalities, tangibles, reifications and
trappings (often valued by others as "honours") and
- honour associated with an inherent, integrative quality (to which
others may not attach value).
The two may be further characterized by analogy with two distinct crystal forms:
- "face-centered": concern with "face" in relation
to others, whether "maintaining face" or "losing face",
whereby it is the relation to others through which self-identity is defined
and enhanced. The challenge of this form relates to the selective set of the
relations on which a sense of honour may be built and the vulnerability to
collapse of what might be characterized as a bubble. Sustaining this bubble
may reinforce dangerous tendencies to "group think" (cf Dynamically
Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge
- "body-centered": concern with being centered, through which
a sense of self-identity is associated with "being grounded" or
"present" within oneself. In some disciplines, this may be contrasted
with being "in the head" and is notably explored as fundamental
to Zen-related martial arts through a focus on the hara
(t'an-tien, dantien, chi-chung) [more].
The challenge of this form is the tendency to dysfunctional self-centeredness.
The distinction between internal and external forms of honour is well made
in the words of Steven Dutch (The
World's Most Toxic Value System, 2001):
One meaning denotes a set of largely internal attributes: trustworthiness,
loyalty, courage and truthfulness. The other denotes an externality, as in
the expressions "graduation with honors" or "honorary degree."
The dual usage arises from the notion that honor given externally by others
should arise from behavior that exemplifies the internal kind of honor. Thus,
Winston Churchill was given honorary U. S. citizenship (honor in the external
sense) because his leadership during World War II exemplified honor in the
internal sense. It is perfectly possible, and all too common, to be vilified
externally for pursing internal honor. It is also possible to achieve honor
in the external sense without having the internal variety, in some cases through
deliberate deception. The student who graduates "with honors" by
cheating on exams is the perfect example.
One or other form of honour may be emphasized to the seeming exclusion of the
other. For example:
Honour consists in living up to the expectations of a group expectations
of a group -- in particular, in keeping faith, observing promises, and
keeping faith, observing promises, and telling truth. Honour requires a social
context in which individuals can bind themselves….. .." (Routledge
Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The distinction is particularly evident in the case of expressions of power
to which people may be obliged to be attentive in order to thrive, or even to
survive, in a given social context. Honouring processes in response to the powerful
may then be necessarily contrived or difficult to distinguish as genuinely felt
or meant. Symbols of power, such as weapons, may be acquired to elicit such
power-determined response -- especially in cultures that value machismo.
In complex societies power may take a variety of forms that may well be incommensurable
-- for example the power of the priesthood in contrast with that of the military,
or that of business. The various forms of power may then have to be duly honoured
-- as representing different domains -- in a sustainable system of governance.
The matter becomes more complex when difference is not perceptibly associated
with power, and may well be understood as some form of weakness or impotence.
The traditional male view of females may be framed in this way. At best difference
may then be tolerated or exploited without being genuinely valued. This may
be evident where disciplinary "pecking orders" prevail in academia,
or where religious faiths are viewed as variously distant from a particular
doctrinal truth -- to the point where some are framed as "unbelievers".
It is particularly obvious in understandings of racial "purity", to
the point of distinguishing degrees of progressively "impure" coloration.
Such distinctions may be embodied in caste systems, for example.
The challenge is to create a framework of understanding that honours difference
as a celebration of requisite variety in the subtler dynamics of a complex system.
The most illustrative analogy is that of the environment in which species of
great variety, and extremely unequal power, coexist and are necessary to each
other's survival. Systemically their relationship may only be apparent as weak,
and easily ignored, signals. The extent to which the varieties of human beings
(or their belief systems, sets of values, or disciplines) are to be understood
-- and honoured -- as co-equal in ensuring the viability of the human race remains
to be understood. Again this is not a question of simply tolerating difference
but of appreciating and honouring its function.
In an uncompleted book by Paul Feyerabend (Conquest of Abundance: A Tale
of Abstraction Versus the Richness of Being, 1999), he specifically aims
to show how "specialists and common people reduce the abundance that surrounds
and confuses them". He is concerned with the challenge of incommensurability
and the puzzle of how scientists immersed in incommensurable paradigms can even
communicate -- and thus find themselves locked in abstractions and absorbed
in self-generated problems. He therefore focuses on the irremediable ambiguity
of discourse. He uses a passionate speech about honour by Achilles in the Illiad
that stuns his audience. Feyerabend notes that scholars have seen this as the
historical point of rupture in the meaning or concept of honour. In his review,
Bas C van Fraassen (The
Sham Victory of Abstraction, 23 June 2000) argues:
We distinguish between someone being genuinely honourable in character and
someone honoured in society for his character and actions. The claim is that
there had been no such separation in the Homeric world. When Achilles claims
that "now equal honour goes to the virtuous and the worthless",
the messengers hear something that literally makes no sense to them at all.
For van Fraassen, to explain why later readers of this epic find this comprehensible:
Feyerabend answers, in effect, that from the posterior vantage point we can
see the ambiguities and conflations that were already there (in some way hidden)
in the prior discourse, and became entangled throught that emotional crisis.
For in the prior conception there were already, for example, links between
honour and how the gods see the actions, which are distinct from how the surrounding
humans see them. In addition Achilles sees other examples where in his own
view actions which should have been honoured and were not, as well as worthless
actions that received honours. These examples can then serve to break apart
what was conceived as indissolubly linked in meaning.
challenges of the disciplines
Discussed in Annex 2
Honour: "Finite games" vs "Infinite games"
The relationship between titles and honour is fruitfully explored through the
study of games by James Carse (Finite and Infinite Games, 1986) [ review
| review | review
]. He distinguishes between "finite games" that are played for the
purpose of winning and "infinite games" played for the purpose of
continuing the play.
This distinction might be usefully related to that between the two forms of
honour identified above, namely internalized and externalized. In that sense
the distinction could be related to games as follows:
- finite games (externalized honour): "face" centred, and therefore
to some degree "hollow" -- duly celebrated by "sounding brass"
- infinite games: (internalized honour): "body" centred, with a
measure of invariance
"Finite games": Titles as honourable outcomes of game-playing:
Carse argues that what one wins in a finite game is a title, whose effectiveness
depends on its visibility. He makes the following relevant points:
- Validation of titles: It is a principal function of society
to validate titles and to assure their perpetual recognition. (ch. 19)
- Death: It is in connection with the timelessness of titles
that we can first discern the importance of death to both finite and infinite
games and the great difference between the ways death is understood
in each.... Properly speaking, life and death as such are rarely
the stakes of a finite game. What one wins is a title; and when the loser
of a finite game is declared dead to further play, it is equivalent to declaring
that person utterly without title -- a person to whom no attention whatsoever
need be given. Death in finite play is the triumph of the past over the future,
a condition in which no surprise is possible.... What winners of finite games
achieve is not properly an afterlife but an afterworld,
not continuing existence but continuing recognition of their titles. (ch.
- Death for finite players is abstract, not concrete. It is not the whole
person, but only an abstracted fragment of the whole, that dies in life or
lives in death ... Immortality is therefore the extreme example of the contradictoriness
of finite play. It is a life one cannot live. (ch. 22)
- Infinite players die. Since the boundaries of death are always part of the
play, the infinite player does not die at the end of play, but in the course
of play. The death of an infinite player is dramatic. It does not mean that
the game comes to an end with death; on the contrary, infinite players offer
their death as a way of continuing the play. For that reason they do not play
for their own life, they live for their own play.... Where the finite player
plays for immortality, the infinite player plays as a mortal ... It is a kind
of play that requires complete vulnerability. To the degree that one is protected
against the future [as in a finite game], one has established a boundary and
no longer plays with but against others. (ch. 23)
- Names: If finite players acquire titles from winning their
games, we must say of infinite players that they have nothing but their names....
Titles are given at the end of play, names at the beginning. When a person
is known by title, the attention is on a completed past, on a game already
concluded, and not therefore to be played again. A title effectively takes
a person out of play. When a person is known only by name, the attention of
others is on an open future. We simply cannot know what to expect.... That
I cannot now predict your future is exactly what makes mine unpredictable
... We prepare each other for surprise. (ch. 25). Titles, then, point back
in time. They have their origin in an unrepeatable past. (ch. 26)
- Power: The titled are powerful. Those around them are expected
to yield, to withdraw their opposition, and to conform to their will -- in
the area in which the title was won. (ch. 27)
- We need a term that will stand in contrast to "power" as it acquires
its meaning in finite play. Let us say that where the finite player plays
to be powerful the infinite player plays with strength.
A powerful person is one who brings the past to an outcome, settling all its
unresolved issues. A strong person is one who carries the past into the future,
showing that none of its issues is capable of resolution.... Power will always
be restricted to a relatively small number of persons. Anyone can be strong.
Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do
what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow
them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them. (ch.
- Winning: The more we are recognized as winners, the more
we know ourselves to be losers. That is why it is rare for the winners of
highly coveted and publicized prizes to settle for their titles and retire.
Winners, especially celebrated winners, must prove repeatedly they are winners....
Titles must be defended by new contests. (ch. 54)
"Infinite games": Honour as authenticity in contrast to the
honourability of "honours": Carse effectively distinguishes
between those invisible characteristics of honour that are better understood
as deriving from sensing the strength of an infinite player -- in contrast with
the visible "honours" and titles deriving from skill in finite games
to acquire power.
The sense of "authenticity" (integrity, etc) in its various connotations
perhaps best describes the dramatic understanding of honour. This is notably
sensed in the contrast between:
- the felt appropriateness of the actions and
- the possible recognition of the actions in the form of a medal subsequently
awarded -- knowing that ("without having been there") others may
not understand what it represents (and yet still others may be awarded the
medal "without deserving it").
Such authenticity is recognized in phrases like "walking your talk",
or through the "word of honour" implicit in handshake agreements.
Theory as paradoxical provocation: Carse explicitly recognizes the role
of paradox in infinite play, and Plato's role as a poetry-maker (a poietes)
engaged in infinite play in the invention of his Republic (effectively based
on finite games). It is therefore important to avoid the playful trap implicit
in Carse's own articulation (above) -- in the light of the points he makes about
Since all veiling is self-veiling, we cannot help but think that behind the
rational metaphysician, philosophy's great Master Player [of finite games],
stood Plato the poet, fully aware that the entire opus was an act of [infinite]
play, an invitation to readers not to reproduce the truth but to take his
inventions into their own play, establishing the continuity of his art by
changing it. (ch. 49)
Honourable "Nomenklatura" vs. Unhonoured "Nameless"
Whilst many strategic considerations relating to social development effectively
ensure that those involved are appropriately titled and honoured, there is almost
no concern with the honour sensed in relation to authenticity and integrity
-- whether by players in the game of social development or its audience.
As Carse points out: "finite players acquire titles from winning their
games, we must say of infinite players that they have nothing but their names....
Titles are given at the end of play, names at the beginning". With the
focus on the titles of those involved "the attention is on a completed
past, on a game already concluded" which "effectively takes a person
out of play". Paradoxically, to the extent that the untitled are considered
"nameless" -- the "nameless multitudes" that are the preoccupation
of development -- all such untitled have is their name. This is not the case
with the "the nameless ones" of Argentine who disappeared when the
military junta took over in 1976, as noted by David Bryant (Anonymity
is the road to nothingness, The Guardian, 16 April 2005):.
Depersonalisation is an insidious evil and it permeates society. Deprive
people of their names and they become dispensable, third-rate citizens, fodder
for a computer statistic. Stalin was a dab hand at this.... Victims in the
Iraq war are daily "dampened down" and categorised as collateral
damage. Give them personality, shape, name and a reference point in society
and in conscience you couldn't bomb them....
An invidious and disintegrating factor lies behind all this. As we categorise
and exclude individuals from society's heart, so it becomes progressively
more polarised and bigoted. In this depersonalised climate gang warfare, football
rioting, street muggings, shop lifting and domestic violence thrive like rank
A name is life-giving. It is the summation of your psyche. It embodies all
that you are. It gives you a sense of "is-ness". What's more it
places you fairly and squarely in the quantum universe. Your name shouts out
loud and strong that you are an invaluable and integral part of the sum of
things. It roots you cosmologically and relates you to the society in which
you move.... And none of us want to go down to the grave nameless.
This suggests that a fundamental trap in the current institutionalization of
social change processes and development programmes -- and "making the world
free for democracy" -- is that they are intimately bound up in, and defined
by, finite games. This is recognized in the frustration felt by change agents
with the extent of "game-playing" to which they are exposed, whether
in the bureaucracies they have to deal with or in unfruitful relations with
their peers. In Carse's terms, this "theatre" is in contrast with
the "drama" of reality for the nameless (which the media may portray)
and the challenge of embodying them into development as an infinite game --
"a vision of life as play and possibility" (Carses's subtitle).
Reminiscent of the emerging style of "open source" software development,
the potential challenge of sustainable development, understood as an infinite
game, might then be reframed in Carse's words as :
When a person is known only by name, the attention of others is on an open
future. We simply cannot know what to expect. Whenever we address each other
by name we ignore all scripts, and open the possibility that our relationship
will become deeply reciprocal. That I cannot now predict your future is exactly
what makes mine unpredictable. Our futures enter into each other. We prepare
each other for surprise. (ch. 25)
This poses a real change for "participatory democracy" as currently
conceived, where it becomes mathematically impossible for elected representatives
to interact with the nameless multitudes they represent -- other than impersonally
(through communications euphemistically described as "personalized").
It is very hard to have a real dialogue with someone with a title. (cf Practicalities
of Participatory Democracy with International Institutions: Attitudinal, Quantitative
and Qualitative Challenges, 2003).
Elected representatives, like other honourable bearers of titles, can be usefully
distinguished as members of the Nomenklatura
of modern society. The term was used to describe the elite of the USSR -- deriving
from the Latin nomenclatura, meaning a list of names, understood here
to be of a necessarily exclusive nature. It provides a useful contrast to the
untitled "nameless multitudes". It is of course much easier to transform
the nameless into the kinds of depersonalized, dehumanized units that can be
allowed to starve or be subject to ethnic cleansing.
A title may be understood as a kind of one-stop "instant explanation"
-- a form of conceptual shortcut for busy people. It bypasses any need to recognize
the complexity from which the title has emerged -- or to comprehend the discipline
which enabled that emergence. The endorsement of a celebrity avoids the need
for further reflection or due process in policy making -- as with Jamie Oliver's
endorsement of improved school meals (Gaby Hinsliff. Blair
acts on Jamie's plan for schools. Guardian, 20 March 2005). UNICEF,
for example, has a programme of International
Goodwill Ambassadors; UNESCO also has Goodwill
Ambassadors. Endorsements by Nobel Laureates may similarly be sought to
advance intellectual and other agendas -- again bypassing considered debate.
Naming in this context is of course related to the process of nomination
-- of being proposed as a candidate for a titled position. Of related interest
is the notion of denomination. This is conventionally used
in distinguishing both religious
denominations within a faith [more
and.monetary currencies -- by implication as part of a larger (unnamed) set.
Disciplines might also be fruitfully understood as "denominations".
[A "non-denominational" religious group (usually Christian) is one
which does not necessarily align its mission and teachings to an established
denomination. Some religious bodies consciously reject the idea of a denominational
structure as a matter of doctrine. Theological denominationalism ultimately
denies reality to any apparent doctrinal differences among the "denominations",
reducing all differences to mere matters de nomina --"of names".]
From the perspective of finite game-playing and its pursuit of titles, sustainable
development may be understood as conceived in terms of "entitlements"
-- whether entitlement to the benefits of "development" (goods and
services) or to the benefits of "environment" (quality of life). It
becomes the sustainable development of entitlements. Such entitlements may then
be intimately related to the property associated with acquired titles, whether
real estate, "goods and chattels", or intellectual property. In effect
it is the titled who are the "winners" in the finite game of life,
with the nameless being framed as "losers" and "nobodies".
It is understandably easy to set aside moral scruples regarding the collateral
damage associated with their elimination of nameless "units" in warfare
(carpet bombing, weapons of mass destruiction, etc) or through ethnic cleansing
procedures (gas chambers, etc). Cynically it might be said that "nobodies"
have been categorized as those whose bodies are scheduled to be preferentially
From the perspective of infinite game-playing, there is a counterintuitive
dimension to undertaking sustainable development understood in this way:
Infinite play is inherently paradoxical, just as finite play is
inherently contradictory. Because it is the purpose of infinite players
to continue the play, they do not play for themselves. The contradiction of
finite play is that the players desire to bring play to an end for themselves.
The paradox of infinite play is that the players desire to continue the
play in others. The paradox is precisely that they play only when others
go on with the game. (ch. 24)
Effectively Carse pleads for recognition of the culture that enables infinite
play, arguing that:
- ...where a society is defined by its boundaries, a culture is defined by
its horizon. A boundary is a phenomenon of opposition. It is the meeting place
of hostile forces.... One cannot move beyond a boundary without being resisted.
- This is why patriotism -- that is, the desire to protect the power in a
society by way of increasing the power of a society -- is inherently belligerent....
Because patriotism is the desire to contain all other finite games within
itself -- that is, to embrace all horizons within a single boundary -- it
is inherently evil....
- Every move an infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made
by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game
therefore presents a new vision, a new range of possibilities. The Renaissance,
like all genuine cultural phenomena, was not an effort to promote one or another
vision. It was an effort to find visions that promised still more vision.
"Ennobling" the Nameless as infinite players: The
response of the Nameless to the East Asian tsunami of 2004 provided a major
surprise to the Nomenklatura
of the world. Whereas the latter were prepared to add the area to other zones
of minimimalistic response like Dafur, the level of donations and initiatives
by the Nameless forced the Nomenklatura to engage in a much higher level of
promissory response to match the level of participatory engagement of their
populations. However even the UN Secretary-General was forced to recognize that
such official pledges were as often fulfilled as not.
- honourable discretion by the nameless
- they have a word for it - Thai
- increasingly private quality of honour confronted with systemic dishonourability
- focus on elegance of moves rather than on winning
Integrative function of honour in interdisciplinarity and
Interdisciplinarity: Whilst honour may indeed play a fundamental role
within a discipline, the question is what role it might play between disciplines
in an interdisciplinary mode. Is there any honour operative between the disciplines
-- beyond "academic integrity"?
A first answer might be sought in the evidence regarding the operation of academic
"common rooms", notably as explored by Owen Barfield (Worlds
Apart, 1971) in the light of the ideal Platonic symposium -- and caricatured
by Arthur Koestler
(The Call-Girls: a tragi-comedy with prologue and epilogue, 1972) with
a theme taken up by Irving Hexham (On
Christianity and Call-Girls, 1996). It could be argued that at best
there is some tolerance, by those perceived as highest in the disciplinary "pecking
order", of disciplines lowest in that order. The latter are however definitely
not to be taken seriously by the former. Exceptions may occur through integrative
bridging centres such as the Center for Advanced
Visual Studies (CAVS) founded at MIT by Gyorgy
Kepes. The widespread acknowledgement of phenomena such as academic "back
stabbing" points to a problematic relationship to honour.
It would appear that honour amongst disciplines in that context is more closely
related to administrative matters, notably associated with tenure politics and
career paths. Practitioners of each discipline are then obliged to accord recognition
to those of others -- as fellow academics and scholars -- but this is unlikely
to translate into recognition of the credibility of the other discipline. Colleagues
of different disciplines may then be treated honourably through support networks
-- but their research interests would not be so treated. Indeed the notion of
a "pecking order" implies that, at least to some degree, the practice
of some disciplines is more honourable than that of others. Paul
Feyerabend (Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge,
1970) has been assiduous in challenging such assumptions. He emphasizes the
"disunity of science" as a a collage, not a system or a unified project, that
includes many components derived from distinctly "non-scientific" disciplines,
which are often vital parts of the "progress" science has made (however this
In the rare references to honour in relations to interdisciplinarity, it is
not unexpected that there is sensitivity on the part of feminist scholars. Thus
Marjorie Pryse (Critical
Interdisciplinarity, Women's Studies, and Cross-Cultural Insight, NWSA
Journal Volume 10, Number 1) cites Jane Roland Martin (Methodological
essentialism, false difference, and other dangerous traps. Signs,
1994, 19, 630-657. 1994):
To suggest that an "unhinged" historicity, a quasi-historical-materialist
interdisciplinarity, is the only route to "the counterhegemonic coherence"
that determines the radical effectiveness of any feminist project -- or even
that counterhegemonic coherence is a desirable goal -- buys into the kind
of methodological essentialism Martin suggests is itself hegemonic and counterproductive
to the collaborative enterprise of feminist scholarship. Thus a cross-cultural
critical interdisciplinarity must also "honor diversity in the methodological
realm as we already honor it in other areas" (p. 649), must construct an epistemological
coalition, not a methodological monolith.
For M J Epstein (Teaching
a humanistic science: Reflections on interdisciplinary course design at the
post-secondary level. Current Issues in Education, Vol 7, 2004).
The integration of knowledge and methods from widely differing disciplines
into a seamless unity requires respect, imagination and lateral thinking.
For disciplines based in the methods of science, the task of integration with
non-scientific fields is particularly problematic, since it may involve accepting
the validity of alternative methods of proof. In a defense of multi-disciplinary
and integrative approaches from a scientist's point of view, Stephen J. Kline
[Conceptual Foundations for Multi-Disciplinary Thinking, 1995] presents
a series of hypotheses based in Systems Theory. The second of these is:
Honor All Credible Data. In multidisciplinary work, we need to honor
all credible data from wherever they arise. (This includes not only data
from various disciplines and from our laboratories, but also from the world
itself, since we have no labs from which we can obtain data for many important
The question to be asked is whether this apparently significant recommendation
regarding "honour" might not easily be interpreted tokenistically
as a means of dealing with "externalities" that need to be accorded
respect -- the first form of honour.
Most references to honour in relationship to interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity
tend indeed to be essays or lectures "in honour of... " -- namely
mutual appreciation honour systems with no reference to the methodological or
epistemological implications of honour. The real challenge is the possibility
of a second, intrinsic, form of honour through whose integrative potential the
incommensurable forms and orderings of data may be integrated.
interfaith understanding: The spiritual disciplines that are the core
practice of religious faiths are variously understood to provide means of understanding
what is otherwise incomprehensible and inexplicable. In many ways, in epistemological
terms, their perspectives are incommensurable, to employ Feyerabend's term.
The many religious conflicts around the world are a more or less direct consequence
of this. The challenge they constitute for each other is to some extent explored
in efforts towards interfaith dialogue.
In contrast with interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, as described
above, the nature of the fundamental integrative insight -- and how it is to
be experienced -- is a matter of the greatest subtlety and sensitivity. The
many efforts towards interfaith dialogue are indeed honourable -- the most ambitious
being the Parliament of the World's Religions
for the Future of interfaith Dialogue, 1993).
Honour figures prominently in such events. It may be an honour to attend. Participants
may be honoured by the presence of a spiritual leader. Words may be spoken to
honour other faiths, spiritual paths, and the many expressions of God. Spirituality
may be honoured above religion. Commemorative events may be held to honour victims
or martyrs. Participants may honour one another in their pursuit of their respective
paths. But again, is this not the first form of honour -- of externalities?
Or how is the distinction made?
Does such explicit honouring not obscure the challenge of the nature and consequence
of the learning to be obtained through encountering honour of the intrinsic
kind -- that is fundamental to the integrity and worldview of the other pursuing
a different path? The challenge of such honour is evident in that it is the
"fundamentalists", whether Christian or Islamic, who do not participate.
Relevant points regarding interfaith "honouring" are made in Islam
and the "Interfaith" Movement (2003):
- However, the greatest danger of this movement is that it is part of a conscious
strategy to erode the 'Izzah (honor, dignity, and superiority) of the
Muslims, placing them on the same level as the Jews and Christians; leading
the Muslims to accept the un-Islamic political concepts of equality, liberty,
- Furthermore, Allah Ta'ala informs humanity that dignity, honor, and
superiority are for this Ummah. He says: Dignity, honor, and superiority (al-'Izzah)
is for Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers. However, the hypocrites know
it not. (63:8). Unlike the alleged superiority of the Jews, Aryans or other
racists, the superiority of the Muslims is conferred by Allah, because the
Muslims have agreed to uphold the Standard of Islam. This honor is extended
to all human beings who accept to choose belief, regardless of their racial
or ethnic background.
Interfaith initiatives may appear similarly offensive to Catholics. For example,
in 2003 many Catholics were reportedly rallying "to defend the honor of
Our Lady of Fatima" in response to proposals to build an interfaith shrine
at Fatima in Portugal [more]
The core role of honour in the interfaith challenge is well addressed by James
L. Fredericks (Buddhists
and Christians: Through Comparative Theology to Solidarity, Faith
Meets Faith, An Orbis Series in Interreligious Dialogue):
... Roman Catholic fulfillment theology can be contrasted with what is often
called the pluralist model of the theology of religions championed by John
Hick. In his philosophy of religion Hick argues that we should assume that
all religions are roughly equal attempts to interpret a transcendent Absolute,
"the Real", that ultimately remains beyond our ability to express
in language. Salvation is a matter of moving from ego-centeredness to Reality-centeredness.
As no religion can claim to be any better than any other religion in its attempt
to name the Ultimate, so also, no religion can claim to be superior to any
other religion in providing a path that leads to salvation.
Interestingly, in relation to the earlier discussion regarding the Nameless, Fredericks
emphasizes the challenge of the unnameable:
Christians talk about faith in Jesus Christ. Hindus seek mystical union with
Brahman. Buddhists meditate in order to achieve nirvana. Daoists talk about
harmony with the Dao. Muslims call for submission to Allah. According to the
pluralist model all these believers are really trying to name the same unnameable
Ultimate Reality. There is nothing that is superior or unique in any religion,
including Christianity and its faith in Jesus Christ.
However, as with the perspective of Islam, the exceptional challenge is made clear
Like replacement theologies, theologies based on the pluralist model
fail to do justice to the demands of Christian tradition. If replacement theologies
do not sufficiently honor the universality of God’s grace and the unrestrained
work of the Holy Spirit among all the religions, the pluralist model does not
sufficiently honor the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Christianity does not teach
that Jesus is but one way among others to become "Reality-centered",
as John Hick has argued. Instead, Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth,
and the life". The Christ event is the one great mediation of grace that
reconciles God and creation. All salvation is in Christ.
Such a perspective precludes the role of honour recommended by the renowned
Indian king Ashoka the Great,
over 2,300 years ago, which neatly makes the distinction between the two forms
of honour. As noted by Francis V. Tiso (On
world religions and peace, 2002) the decree is unprecedented and never
fully emulated by any other monarch in the entire history of the world. It reads:
The Beloved of the Gods, King Piyadasi (Ashoka) honors both the ascetics
and the householders of all religions and he honors them with gifts and honors
of various kinds. But the King does not value gifts and honors as much as
he values this: that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions.
Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as
their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one's own religion or
condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause
for criticism, it should be done in a mild way.
But it is better to honor other religions for this reason: By so doing, one's
own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms
one's own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion
due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought, "Let
me glorify my own religion" only harms his own religion. Therefore contact
[between religions] is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines
professed by others. The King desires that all should be well-learned in the
good doctrines of other religions.
Transcendent honour -- a third form? What is the experiential, intrinsic
role of honour in providing integrative insight under such conditions. How does
this avoid the challenge of intellectual and spiritual disciplines who may legitimately
fear that their insights are inappropriately subsumed? Given the level of religious
violence, these are important issues in a context of movement towards faith-based
governance (cf Future
Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003). Equally, the lack of integration
between the disciplines inhibits effective strategies in response to the challengs
The polarizing distinction made above between external and internal forms of
honour may well be an unfruitful simplification. Specifically it fails to address
the ways in which internal honour may endow external forms with greater significance,
just as the external form may enhance the internal sense of honour (as when
the "job makes the person"). Neither does justice to the transcendent,
depersonalized experience that evokes what might be termed honour in conditions
where the other two forms are secondary or transparent to that expression. In
the case of both transdisciplinarity and interfaith, this third form might be:
- "Interdisciplinarity": For the most insightful and intuitive
(notably in the disciplines of mathematics, physics, and cosmology), an integrative
understanding may be a lifelong pursuit. Although the quality of this understanding
cannot be conveyed in the form of equations and texts, their accounts of the
experience is of a different order (cf Philip J Davis and Reuben Hersh. The
Mathematical Experience, 1984/1995). It might be said that they are indeed
"honour bound" in the awe their insights evoke of the nature of
the "music of the spheres" or some Theory of Everything. This deeply
participative honour is of a quite different nature to the two forms previously
distinguished. Curiously the most eminent in this respect have also been people
of deep spiritual faith (eg Isaac Newton, Sreenivas Aiyengar Ramanujan, Georg
- "Interfaith": The term "honour" and the process
of "honouring" are indeed very central to the integrative spiritual
experience of holiness and divinity. Again it might be said that it is experienced,
and evoked, as transcending the personal and any sense of personal honour.
For some faiths, this form of honour is associated with the discipline of
In both cases, others may indeed honour that transcendent experience, to the
extent that it is felt to be expressed through the individuals concerned --
possibly to be described as "transfiguring" them. In the religious
case, even the potential may be honoured in ritual greetings: "The Spirit
in me honours the Spirit in you" (Namaste).
But of course, such processes may be purely symbolic and tokenistic for those
who engage unthinkingly in them. On the other hand their cognitive and epistemological
significance for the experiencer may well be beyond description. As explored
in enactivism, the
experience is essentially participative -- thereby transforming the significance
of the honoured-honourer relationship. Under these conditions, any distinction
made between the quality of the integration from an "interdisciplinary"
perspective and that from the "interfaith" perspective may not be
meaningful. For example, Nicholas
of Cusa (De Docta
Ignorantia) held that the true love of God is amor Dei intellectualis
and that the intellectual act through which the divine is revealed is mathematics.
The relations between the three forms of honour might be usefully described
by the following very tentative table in which they are understood as forming
a continuum -- at one extreme of which the focus is on the finite games of the
"Nomenklatura" and at the other on the infinite games of the "Nameless".
Of the 9 conditions, the 4 yellow-coloured cells are indicative of harmonious
conditions of different degrees of "depth". The uncoloured cells are
indicative of more asymmetric conditions in which the participants have very
different perceptions of the honourability of the relationship. The descriptors
of each cell call for further reflection since they should hold both insightful
and alienated perspectives (see also Table
4: Symmetric and asymmetric conditions of honour).
|Table 5: Tentative Relationship between
Forms of Honour in Dialogue
||Perspective of the "Honoured"
(finite games >>>><<<< infinite games)
Perspective of the "Honourer"
|endowing integrity ("divinity")
projection / sceptical
The intransigence of the Islamic perspective (above), concerned that honour
might be "eroded" by interfaith perspectives, is metaphorically well-matched
by that of Steven Dutch (The
World's Most Toxic Value System, 2001) with his emphasis on "toxic".
Within such a shared metaphorical framework, it is worth reflecting on the nature
of the insight, traditionally articulated through the symbolism of an alchemical
"vessel" in which all "base matter" can be dissolved -- the epistemological
container for the "universal solvent". Religions might then be fruitfully understood
as agents -- necessarily mutually destructive -- through which the invariance
of spirituality becomes apparent, as a result of their mutual "destruction"
Alchemy postulates the existence of such a universal solvent as being capable
of transforming "base metals" into "gold" and bestowing
eternal youth and therefore immortality on human beings. Disciplines may in
this sense be understood as "base metals" from which spirtitual insight
is to be extracted. The universal solvent -- counterpart to the "philosopher's
stone" -- is not ordinary water, but "philosophical" water, the water of life,
aqua permanens, aqua mercurialis. It is what cannot be "eroded",
and is unaffected by "toxins", that describes the essential nature
of the transcendent -- the Sanskrit Neti, Neti ("Not this, Not that")
characteristic of the Via
Negativa of apophatic (rather than kataphatic) theology [more],
as notably articulated by Maimonides
(The Guide of the Perplexed):
You must understand that the description of God by means of negative terms
is the only sound description which contains no element of loose terminology,
and implies altogether in no circumstances a lack of perfection in God. His
description by positive terms, on the other hand, comports polytheism and
a lack of perfection in God...
The role of mathematical insight in clarifying this distinction -- with regard
to any expression of the highest forms of integrative understanding -- is explored
by Thomas J. McFarlane (Mathematical
Poetics of Enlightenment, 2004) with:
Gödel showed that truth cannot be contained within the limits of strict logic.
Only if we allow paradox can truth completely reveal itself in form. These
two sides of Gödel's proof represent the apophatic (via negativa) and
cataphatic (via positiva) approaches to truth, respectively. In the
apophatic approach, one adheres to strict logic to show that any attempt to
represent or speak of truth necessarily fails--the truth is beyond all rational
comprehension. In the cataphatic approach, on the other hand, one embraces
paradox and the coincidence of opposites to demonstrate the tangible presence
of truth in all its limitless expressions.
The fundamental role of metaphor in conveying such insight is a theme explored
by George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez (Where
Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being,
It is time that the complexity implied in such forms of understanding benefits
from the various lines of research in the complexity sciences -- and the challenge
they pose to comprehension (cf Psycho-social
Significance of the Mandelbrot Set: a sustainable boundary between chaos and
order, 2005). The associated implications for sustainable development
also merit consideration (cf Sustainability
through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas: in the light of the coherence and
visual form of the Mandelbrot set, 2005).
The rise and fall of empires, notably that of Imperial Rome, might arguably
be related to the sense of honour on which they were held to be based -- whether
by their citizens, their armies, their priesthoods, their leadership or by neighbouring
countries -- however that honourability was articulated and manipulated. Could
it be said that at some point their fall was precipitated by an increasing lack
of integrity and dishonourability at the highest level? Could the disintegration
of the USSR be understood in these terms?
And what of the sense of honour that sustains the American Empire? Is there
a danger that American society will implode -- from the kind of shame that obliges
them to honour their own military dead by stealth, and to resist attempts to
identify those whose death they caused? Given the emergence of "neopraetorianism"
-- into which the American people have democratically bought -- can the honour
of the American people, nourished and articulated by the military, sustain the
levels of collective denial and schizophrenia? (cf Charles J Dunlap Jr (Melancholy
Reunion: a report from the future on the collapse of civil-military relations
in the United States, 1996)
For the American people, the sense of honour has in many ways been subverted
by the need to call upon it as a means of justifying actions that many in the
world find questionable and reprehensible -- notably through widespread priest-like
appeals to God by politicians ("God Bless America") to credit belief
in the honourability of the Manifest
Destiny of America. From this perspective, the sense of honour, so vital
to the esteem in which Americans hold their culture, has been placed at risk
(as with their own self-esteem therein). This is strikingly exemplified by the
realities of indiscriminate military action, notably as illustrated by the dishonouring
images of Abu Ghraib, for which the American flag is the implicit backdrop.
What is to be said of a culture that needs to dishonour its enemies in order
to justify both the reprehensible means by which they were defeated and its
subsequent judgement of them? The point is tragically made by the dissemination
of the Abu Ghraib images, those of a "broken" Saddam Hussein awaiting
trial in his underwear [more],
investigated reports of the widespread nature of American torture involving
even the highest levels of its military hierarchy [more
There is every possibility that these were deliberately leaked, as argued by
Naomi Klein (The
True Purpose of Torture, The Guardian, 14 May 2005). Paradoxically,
the USA is in the curious position of now being completely unable to provide
credible proof that Saddam Hussein is not regularly beaten, perhaps even personally
by the highest officers of the Bush regime who derive pleasure from such humiliation
-- or that the output of the three CCTV cameras permanently trained on him is
not offered as a feed to selected others around the world to reinforce their
own sense of honour. Is he being "persuaded" by military chaplains
to convert to the faith of those who so gloriously defeated him?
As argued elsewhere (Paradoxes
of Tyranny and Death: Judging Saddam Hussein and La Santa Muerte, 2004),
it is how a culture treats its enemies that is the measure of its honourability.
Honouring those "who are with us" is ultimately a form of narcissism,
in comparison with the capacity to honour others "who are against us"
-- transcending their radical differences in values and behaviour. The latter
capacity might be said to be the essence of democracy and of a mature civilization.
Similarly, by what ethical standards do boards of directors of multinational
corporations consider themselves to be honourable people -- faced with the evidence
of the consequences of their initiatives -- and their excessive personal benefits?
How honourable is "corporate social responsibility" when the corporations
in question pay little or no tax to society and their? Similarly, do executives
of development agencies, faced with the discrepancies between their salaries
and those of the people they claim to assist, ask themselves questions? What
of the consultants benefitting from some three quarters of technical assistance
to developing countries? [more]
What legitimacy can Members of the European Parliament claim, given the unchecked
level of their own perks that they continue to .protect? [more].
As a legitimate focus of conspiracy theorists, how is the honourability of elite
initiatives of world leaders to be assessed: the Club
of Rome? the Bilderberg
Group? the Trilateral Commission?
the Davos Forum? the G8?
Terrorists are deemed to be impossible partners in any dialogue, thus encouraging
them to express themselves otherwise. Those who righteously refuse such dialogue
have now been wrong-footed by their own atrocities (Abu Ghraib, etc), dubious
allegiances (proxy torturers, rendition,
etc), and lies -- to the point that they themselves are no longer viable partners
in any honourable dialogue. How can those who claim the honour of seeking to
spread democracy and the "untamed
fire of freedom" deliberately ally themselves with despots known to
boil their critics alive and to fire on unarmed citizens? (cf Jonathan Freedland.
our sonofabitch. The Guardian, 18 May 2005). How can they
knowingly and openly shelter those charged with airline terrorism whilst assiduously
pursuing others for lesser crimes? [more]
Is it to be assumed in a democracy that those elected to the highest office
are the most honourable in the land? Do the highest honours indeed go to those
who can cheat without being found out? What to make of a Tony Blair whose key
theme for his newly elected governement in 2005 is "reform and respect"
and "fostering a culture of respect" -- at a time when he has lost the respect
of society he governs? [more
Madeleine Bunting (Threats,
fear and control, The Guardian, 23 May 2005) provides a valuable
comparison of the "respect" currently valued by politicians with that
valued "on the street". Commentators remark on the curious fact that
it has only been the politician most universally "loathed" by colleagues
and journalists, George Galloway, that has had the courage to speak out face-to-face
against the manipulation of the Iraq situation by the USA (Galloway
vs. The US Senate, 2005).
It is easily forgotten that a major driving force for Arabs sympathetic to
al-Qaida is a sense of humiliation that could be understood as the converse
of any sense of honour. Robert Fisk (The Independent, 17 October 2001)
It's intriguing to read the full text of what bin Laden demanded in his post-World
Trade Centre attack video tape. He said in Arabic, in a section largely excised
in English translations, that "our [Muslim] nation has undergone more than
80 years of this humiliation..." [more]
Such resentment is recognized as the root of terrorism by Mahdi
à l'ère du méga-impérialisme, 2003) and others (cf Human
Dignity and Humiliation Studies: Breaking the cycle of humiliation). Elmandjra
Westerners do not know that there is no equivalent in Arabic for the word
"humiliation". The Arabic terms Ihtiqaar and dhul apply
only to a person in the sense that the he or she feels self-humiliation; one
may drop to one's knees before someone who is stronger. However, the true
meaning of humiliation in Arabic does not apply to the person who suffers
humiliation as much as it applies to the person whose intention is to humiliate
another. [more |
The theme has been developed from an historical perspective, including Christian
martyrdom, by Farhad Khosrokhavar (Suicide Bombers, 2005) -- as reviewed
by Madeleine Bunting (Honour
and Martyrdom, Guardian, 14 May 2005):
Elements of all these precedents can be traced in the research done on motivations
of suicide bombers in Palestine, Chechnya and al-Qaida and probably now those
in Iraq. A sense of humiliation and the need to avenge honour on the part
of their faith and/or people (or a potent combination of both as in Iraq)
is emphasised by Khosrokhavar. He also picks up on how hating the world (because
of the experience of injustice and oppression) leads to a longing for death
- a rejection of this world's vale of tears.
These are concepts which are very difficult for westerners living largely
comfortable lives to grasp. Honour is meaningless to us; we have replaced
it with a preoccupation with status and self-fulfilment. We dimly grasp self-sacrifice
but only apply the concept to our raising of children. Meanwhile, nothing
can trump our dedication to the good life of consumer capitalism, and certainly
not any system of abstract beliefs. Not having experienced the desperation
of oppression, we have little purchase on the extremism it might engender.
Meanwhile, we have medicalised rather than politicised the condition of hating
the world and longing for death. The gulf in understanding yawns wide.
There is increasing concern that the condition of the global economy, and notably
that of the USA, is perhaps best recognized as a "bubble
economy" susceptible to collapse [more].
The term "global bubble" is now used in this context (cf Bubble
Trouble, 2005; Nat Weinstein, The Global Bubble Grows, 1999).
This suggests a different understanding of "sustainability" -- as
"keeping the bubble up" -- ironically contemporary with worldwide
preoccupation with remedial products for erectile dysfunction. Might it not
also be the case that there is an unsuspected intimate relationship between
sustaining economic value and sustaining ethical values? Is it possible that
there is a need for recognition of a phenomenon best described as a "bubble
ethic"? This is sustained to no small degree by assumptions about honour
expressed through token institutional concerns for human rights -- increasingly
shown since 9/11 to be a sham, despite expectations that the Geneva conventions
would be "honoured". Should efforts towards sustaining any "global
ethic" be examined in the light of the bubble-like nature of current approaches
Whilst "value bubble" is a common expression in relation to financial,
equity, property and other markets (cf Erik Ogard, When
Value No Longer is Value, 2005), the term "ethical bubble"
has already been used by Jim Hoggett and Mike Nahane (Ethical
Investment: deconstructing the myth, 2002):
If there is such uncertainty about the nature and performance of ethical
funds, why do they continue to grow? The answer appears to be twofold. First,
promoters of ethical funds are many and expert and ethically challenged when
it comes to providing facts and performance. Second, investors may receive
a 'psychic income' from apparently doing good. One suspects, however, that
as investors become aware that the ethical bubble has burst, the psychic rewards
will be overwhelmed by the desire for hard returns.
Given that security is increasingly perceived as the most fundamental value,
it is not surprising that there is now a preoccupation with "security bubbles",
notably with respect to information systems and physical protection. A radical
new initiative for a "worldwide
security envelope" has been proposed in 2005 by the US Minister for
Homeland Security in order to speed "trusted people" and shipments
across checkpoints and boundaries. This is matched by EU proposals regarding
facilities for "trusted economic operators", such as business travellers
In science fiction terms, this could be caricatured as providing "security
wormholes" as tunnels through the risky chaos of a complex society -- restricted
to the honourably titled of course.
This initiative in favour of the Nomenklatura could be seen as a precursor
of a new apartheid-style institutionalization of privilege -- with its accompanying
"pass system". It is to be expected that the Nameless, necessarily
deprived of this facility, will indeed be largely distinguished by race and
class. Presumably the technology required for the "security bubble"
will also enable each individual to be surrounded by a personal "communication
bubble" -- perhaps to be termed a "Potemkin bubble". This would
ensure their exposure to "good news" and reinforce their sense of
honour -- filtering out any information about the shadowy world of the Nameless
and their condition (cf Globalization
within a Global Potemkin Society, 2000). As part of this strategy,
and in addition to control over telephone communications worldwide, the USA
has also explicitly stated its intention to "control the internet"
Despite much mutual honouring to sustain mutual credibility -- effectively
"talking themselves up" -- is leadership by the titled Nomenklatura
of the world now inherently dishonourable? Or, at least, unable to demonstrate
its own honourability unequivocally? Under such circumstances, institutions
(or their leaders) with power to distort the truth -- to mislead -- have no
power to prove that they are telling the truth. How is such leadership to respond
to the untitled Nameless multitudes, who are now obliged to evoke a sense of
honour otherwise? (cf Spontaneous
Initiation of Armageddon -- a heartfelt response to systemic negligence,
It could be argued that the integrative cognitive insights, essential to viable
interdisciplinary and interfaith responses, are a requisite for humanity to
respond to the global challenges it now faces. The argument here is that these
derive from an intrinsic form of honour that effectively transcends perspectives
of lower dimensionality and engages participatively with higher levels of understanding.
These might bear some relationship to the flow
experience and to the kind of understanding associated with infinite game-playing.
It is this attitude which would provide the necessary response to complex dynamics
in dealing with strategic dilemmas (cf Sustainability
through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas: in the light of the coherence and
visual form of the Mandelbrot set, 2005)
Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo. Guantanamo: "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". Oberon Books, 2005 [review]
Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (CIMEL) and the International Centre
for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS). Annotated Bibliography
on Crimes of Honour. 2001 [text]
Michael Davis. The Honor System. Perspectives on the Professions,
Vol. 14, No. 2, January 1995 [text]
Gregory J. Dierker. Core Values: a history of values-relatedminitiatives in
the Air Force ( A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
in Logistics Management, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 1997) [text]
K G Denhardt. Unearthing the Moral Foundations of Public Administration: Honour,
Benevolence, and Justice. In: Bowman, J S (Ed.), Ethical Frontiers in Public
Management. Seeking New Strategies for Resolving Ethical Dilemmas. San Francisco,
Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. Melancholy Reunion: a report from the future on the
collapse of civil-military relations in the United States. USAF Institute for
National Security Studies, US Air Force Academy, Colorado (INSS Occasional Paper
11), 1996 [text]
Ellen Deborah Ellis.The Honor System Re-examined. Perspectives on the Professions,
Vol. 14, No. 2, January 1995 [text]
Mahdi Elmandjra. Humiliation à l'ère du méga-impérialisme. Casablanca, Annajah
Al Jadida, 2003
- Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge. Verso,
- Three Dialogues on Knowledge and Beyond Reason (festschrift edited by Gonzalo
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