“Stand in the ashes of a trillion dead souls and ask the ghosts if honor matters. The silence is your answer.” — Javik (Mass Effect)
Humanity desires honor. We desire to be remembered, refusing to acknowledge that we are, in short, just a statistic. Something about esteem calls out to us — the recognition of greatness that comes from honor really resonates, whether through ego or through subconscious, within us all.
History is remembered by and for the victor. Those who win decide the path of humanity through societal advancement. Those who look back at battle with a sense of nostalgia — that nationalistic narcissism that brings victory — tend to be the mainstream historians. Those of the losing side don’t oftentimes get the credit they deserve in our modern day history classes.
We give medals to those who are victorious. We give power to those we believe deserve it. For example, if you’re an incredibly successful United States general…you’re probably going to become President (*cough* Grant *cough* Eisenhower *cough*) after your time is up. People ride on the success of fame to climb the ladder of success and become the victors of history. This honor is bestowed upon these types of people. We have “honor roll”, perhaps one of the most unimportant slabs of titling, in middle schools. On a sociological sense, we allow kids to grow up in a sort of Louis Althusser “training ground” to desire honor.
Thus, I get to my point: should honor represent history? Should we let this invisible sense of honor represent humanity?
If you look at ancient mythology, you’d see honor playing a major role in our primitive creations of storytelling. The mythology of the ancient and classical Greeks — wonderful storytellers and historians — describe dazzling deities and dangerous demigods, hideous monsters and heroic men.
The Greek myths had a basic foundation of having honor to see glory — a realm stretching far beyond the landscape of Earth to the golden palaces of natural gods on top of Mount Olympus. Those who had no glory or honor had no reason to meet the gods…thus, they would be cast down to the dismal underworld.
These myths definitely involved honor — with the Greek gods and goddesses having amazing powers of nature and essence and so-called demigods such as Heracles (Hercules under the Roman name) accomplishing heroic and astounding challenges in order to sit upon the thrones that oversee humanity itself. The desire to be remembered, the mere concept of this entertaining notion that a man with godly abilities would go through literal Hell and back to take his rightful HONOR, is heavy within our earliest history.
And of course, over time, these myths deeply resonated within European and Eurasian cultures, eventually spreading to the rest of the world. Evolving from a state of religious property to entertaining, dramatic stories, they’ve continued to state one thing over and over: honor. Many of these myths are remembered fondly today in pop culture — from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series to constant remakes of classical dramas and plays in high schools.
But, how can honor actually matter? What’s the point of actually having honor? We, as humans, are so subconsciously obsessed with an egotistical sense of glory that our history shows it time and time again.