This morning I posted what I meant to be a humorous piece on officious do-gooders in the culture telling boys they can’t have toy guns. The sad part is that this phenomenon is only a small aspect of the Unmanning of America that is one of the central campaigns of the Progressive Left. This campaign is supported by highly dubious psychology that poses as the latest “research” in mental health. Case in point: today HealthDay released an article with the ominous title “For Men, ‘Culture of Honor’ Can Be Deadly.” The title alone speaks volumes, but let’s dive down into the text.
Psychologists blame risk-taking that frequently leads to violent deaths on the culture of honor. That culture is more manifest in the Southern and Western parts of the country. According to the psychologists interviewed, the culture of honor is historical (i.e. not the result of nature) and comes principally from Ulster Scots who were herders. The herders were forced to combat invaders with swift retribution. Here are the two telling quotations from the various psychologists interviewed. “In modern times, ‘if you stand the risk of losing your livelihood easily and the state is not around to protect you, you are going to develop this kind of culture of honor.’” And, “Simply becoming aware of the phenomenon might help reduce the behavior, Brown noted. Even though it can become ‘part of your programming,’ he said, ‘we have a will, we have a choice.’”
Here are several of the wrong things about this piece, although I am sure ricochet readers will come up with even more. First, the psychologists reject nature out of hand as a cause of behavior. Men don’t engage in risky behavior; men from Ulster do. Second, these folks are pretty ignorant of history. What is the society in the past in which men did not engage in risky behavior or want to protect their honor? Urban Renaissance Italy is said to have invented plastic surgery because so many young men got into duels (they used swords in those days—as in the Shakespeare plays). Third, if the real purpose of the article is to cut down on young men doing stupid things and often killing themselves or others (drunk driving, bar fights, street gangs), by all means we’re for it. But neither risk-taking nor honor is the enemy. In fact, a large part of Western philosophy, politics, and moral culture has been the effort to teach men how to take risk prudently and to achieve true honor (as in “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred”) rather than the cheap and false honor of the adolescent or the madding crowd.
But we know that this is not what the psychologists are after. A careful parsing of the sentences shows us that they brand risk-taking and honor as wholly optional courses of action for men that are best done away with in our modern society. And why do we know this? What is the one thing they do not bring up about the “honor states”? That is precisely where we are recruiting the better portion of our military. The South and West are both over-represented in the U. S. Armed Forces. HealthDay has nothing to say about other manifestations of honor and does not even make the connection. If the supposed caretakers of our mental health conveniently forget that honor is still necessary in the modern world, then they can prescribe how to make other “choices.”
Why is a flimsy report like this important—that appears one day on the MSN search page and is gone the next? Such so-called research makes its way into the schools and families (or what is left of them) and even the churches and boardrooms of the nation and gradually erodes the individual’s honor, enterprise, spirit of adventure, and appetite for risk. When Tocqueville came to America, he was impressed by the astonishing number of bankruptcies. It was a healthy sign, he thought. The bankrupt of today is the company builder of tomorrow.
To put it in another perspective, when shall we see the headline reading, “The Culture of Honor Both Builds and Protects the Nation”?