This is a post I’ve been struggling with for some time now, because it does not paint me in a particularly positive light. The Good Book tells us that we are all sinners, but pride being what it is, it is often difficult to admit this to our fellow men. Nonetheless, the things which ail me also afflict many men in America today. If you’ve been following The Declination for awhile, you know I am of the firm opinion Western Culture suffers from a cultural disease which has eroded its strength and sapped its greatness.
The name of this disease is dishonor. Symptoms include a tendency to lie, an unnaturally strong predilection for envy, and an obsession with materialistic consumerism bordering on the insane. I have commented frequently on the latter two items, but today I am here to discuss the former: dishonesty.
Even Machiavelli tells us that lying should be done but rarely, and only when it is greatly to the advantage of the prince. A reputation for dishonesty will ruin a man eventually, no matter how great the short-term gains are. Beyond the practical concerns, lying is a violation of honor, a transgression against the bonds that hold civilization together. If I cannot trust you to keep your word, how can we bargain, how can we come to civilized agreements instead of butchering one another? Honesty is the cornerstone of Honor, and Honor is a fundamental requirement for being a Man.
Today, the lies are so common in society that everyone, Left or Right, expects their leaders to lie to them. Salesmen are known to be liars, everybody knows the prices posted for everything from Cable TV to Cellphone plans are bogus. Several years ago, the power steering pump on my car froze up. The locked pulley caused the whole engine to screech as the belt pulled along it. The car was still under powertrain warranty. I took the car in and the service manager laughed and said “oh, that’s not covered.” What use is a powertrain warranty if a car with a malfunctioning powertrain is not covered? I asked him what was covered. The answer was pretty much nothing. If I cracked the physical engine block, maybe they would cover that.
The warranty was a lie. My tenant routinely attempted to excuse herself from paying rent on time with a series of lies so transparent, nobody could possibly believe them. She knew this and lied anyway. Nobody was being fooled. There wasn’t even a practical utility in lying, because if the aim was to conceal the truth it categorically failed. None of this matters. Social Justice Warriors lie about being raped. Nobody cares. Some people actively laugh at the notion of being honest as outdated and stupid.
They fail to understand that the only thing holding the violent, darker natures of man at bay was a compact dating back to the earliest days of civilization. It was honor and an agreement to deal honestly with their fellow men, to avoid killing one another over petty matters best solved with a handshake and an exchange of goodwill.
If you’ve followed the so-called “Knockout Game” you see that the perpetrators gain nothing from the exchange except a moment of gleeful violence. They purposely choose the most helpless of targets, women, old men, children. Islamic terrorists are similar. They intentionally target the weak and avoid the strong, breaking the civilized compact governing such affairs. Animals do this. The wolf targets the weakest of the herd, and eats thusly. Men are supposed to be greater than animals.
Frank Herbert, in Dune explains further the difference between man and animal:
I hold at your neck the gom jabbar,” she said. “The gom jabbar, the high-handed enemy. It’s a needle with a drop of poison on its tip.
“A duke’s son must know about poisons,” she said. “It’s the way of our times, eh? Musky, to be poisoned in your drink. Aumas, to be poisoned in your food. The quick ones and the slow ones and the ones in between. Here’s a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals.”
A dry finger touched his neck and he stilled the involuntary urge to leap away.
“Good,” she said. “You pass the first test. Now, here’s the way of the rest of it: If you withdraw your hand from the box you die. This is the only rule. Keep your hand in the box and live. Withdraw it and die.”
“You will feel pain in this hand within the box. Pain. But! Withdraw the hand and I’ll touch your neck with my gom jabbar—the death so swift it’s like the fall of the headsman’s axe. Withdraw your hand and the gom jabbar takes you. Understand?”
What’s in the box?
A man chooses to take pain instead of succumbing to instinct. At the root of this, is what masculinity means, what honesty means and why honor is so important. Instinct tells a person to take the short term gain, to take the pleasure of today over the greater rewards tomorrow. It is short time-preference. It is the lie that feels good but nobody believes. It is putting off to tomorrow what should be done for today. It is taking on that debt with no care for tomorrow.
It is avoiding the immediate pain, even if the consequences for doing so are infinitely greater down the road. This is the civilizational Gom Jabbar, held at the neck of Western civilization.
I have lied. I have done wrong and carried my share of dishonor. I have thought myself wise when I was a fool. I have been less of a man and more of an animal than I ought to. Our society encourages fools, celebrates liars, promotes short-term thinking, and rewards the dishonorable. So I am not alone in having succumbed to the disease.
But no more. I am a Man, not an animal. So are you. When the comfortable lie enters your mind, when the urge to borrow tomorrow to serve today comes, remember to keep your hand in the box and soldier on.
The Gom Jabbar is at your necks, and it will take you otherwise, as it will take all the liars and fools in the end. Because they are animals, not Men.