Monday, May 16, 2011

What is Honor for a Warrior? Especially in a Collapse?

One of the major slams against the characters I write about is they have "no honor." I have been thinking about that and found I don't understand it. Honor, to me at least, is a code a person lives by. Since this post is in the context of a person trained and equipped to take lives, the emphasis of at least part of it will be on that.

The Honor Code itself, at least to me, has changed over time. It reflects the society as much as the religious beliefs of the people who practice it. I also believe it is an artificial construct, especially now.

Most of you know that honor, the core belief, has stayed the same throughout history. This is in the context of a tribal warrior, the only type of warrior until the rise of the nation state and the industrial age. Nationalism, and borders, are a recent invention. Chivalry, an invention that in my opinion was only given lip service, is something else entirely.

So what is "Honor?"

I believe it is simple. All who are not of your people, and that can be as small as a family group, are the enemy.

Those that are your people will be treated differently than the "Others." You have a code for your people and a code for the "Others." You can extend hospitality and small kindnesses but that is it.

Is killing quickly, and for what may seem trivial reasons the "Others", wrong? No. Not if they are armed and posing as warriors themselves. For if they choose to arm themselves than they should be expected to understand what that means.

There is no honor in killing people from afar. There is no honor in killing the unarmed. That is slaughter. That is murder. Wiping out a village from the air in a machine that was designed for just that is nothing but joining yourself with a machine. No one has value and all are targets.

Since the machines are the tools of those whose policies will bring the collapse why feel like you owe them? Why serve them? Their idea of honor is not respect for the person but rather for vague goals that enrich a few. I see no respect for others in the current concept of honor. A military formation today is a pseudo family and an attempt to manipulate by counterfeiting the warrior groups that existed for millennium.

In a post collapse scenario survival will be tribal. I doubt very seriously that in that context PTSD will be a problem. Why? Because what will be done for easily understandable reasons. We must stop these/this person because they will hurt people I care about if I don't. I am sorry, I may understand what is driving you, and I may respect your skills but my child will eat.


  1. My biggest complaint today is that most people have no honor, no principles by which they live by. They're mindless, godless empty suits waiting to be told what to do by the machine. The ever changing law is the only thing they know, if it is legal, it must be good. If it is illegal, it must be bad.

    You are on track with your characters. They operate by the rules for which humans have survived and succeeded for the vast majority of it's history. When the current false empire crumbles, the people that survive will the the ones who have a clear code of honor that allows for survival.

  2. Honor is your heart. It is not learned but taught. If you have not learned it by the time you take up a weapon. It's too late. And sometimes the honorable thing is not the right thing, like you said.

    Let's consider the amount of the current population that is on some kind of psychological drug like Prozac or something even more powerful like Ritalin. The number would be surprising I would guess. Take those drugs away and once their effects wear off throw in some stress of day to day survival like evading the mob that was just released form the local penitentiary, then let's define honor.

    Like you have said Nova, God help us if anything like AA ever comes to life.

    Jim in MO.

  3. It goes back many years, but guns allowed crappy death by distance. To quote a Highlander series episode:
    'I dont like this killing at a distance; I like to feel the axe in my hand, to look into my enemy's eyes before I strike'.

  4. I equate honor with integrity,doing what you say you will. Those who have questioned your concept of honor are likely the same people who think gardener's skill with a pistol is not believable. As far as firearms not being "manly",screw manly. I will use any tool available to protect the people I love and see no reason to take any unnecessary risks doing so. It is about survival,not looking pretty.

  5. gee, all this talk about MEN. Hmmm, let us all remember, there are no men without women.

    Firearms make it possible for WOMEN to defend their own "honor".

    I have a question --- Is it "honorable" for an old woman like me to survive through trickery, guile, and better weapons? Or, must I depend on some man to defend me?

    Isn't that just like calling 911, and having them come AFTER I'm dead?

  6. Hee hee.. Anon, I agree.

    Honor... Once we get to the point where canabalism is an accepted mode of survival, well I'm just not sure that honor means what some people want it to mean.

    I find your characters very honorable.

  7. "There is no honor in killing people from afar."

    I read that when you first posted it, and after waiting a day and rereading it I still cannot fathom why you would assert such an idiotic idea.

    The goal is to win. Part of winning is to continue to breathe. And if I can do so by removing a threat while they're 500 yards away, I'm going to do it, and to hell with your weird definition of "honor".

    Seriously Nova, what were you thinking?

  8. Peter,

    500 yards wasn't what I had in mind. I was thinking more like 12 miles while the operator sits in a chair pushing a button or a joystick.

  9. I think that making killing impersonal, especially using drones, has made it too easy for politicians.

  10. Not only does it make it too easy for politicians, it also adds to the "new ethos of 'toughness'.".

    I remember when being "tough" meant YOU could "take it" -- now, it seems to mean you can "dish it out".

    Isn't it strange? Today's "tough guy" might well have been called a "bully" years ago.

    As the old lady with better weapons (at least I hope so), I remember when being "manly" meant being able to stand up to those seen as more powerful, when it meant being strong AND gentle, avoiding violence when it wasn't necessary.

    Now, "manly" seems to be equated with some strange childish form of "macho", quick to take offense, quick to lash out, quick to attack -- but unable to withstand attack.

    Very strange.

  11. Nova:

    Well, that's different. I withdraw my objection completely.

    As for the Writer's Block: perhaps you're trying too hard? The Muse is fickle and capricious and She will speak through you when She wills it, not when you want.

  12. Integrity is more a code of ethics. Honor is more like standing out among others, that share your beliefs, for your beliefs. Keep in mind that honor does not cross political, religious, or social lines. Especially in times of battle. It is not unusual for one group of people to call someone honorable, when another group would define the same person as a monster. Think of suicide bombers as an example. The ones that do it for religious reasons are held in high regard by their piers, but others that see the killing of random people as pure evil.
    The group you are with defines the honor that they celebrate. The right or wrong aspect is purely in the eyes of the beholder. A single person can choose to decide what is honorable, but the outside influences have a serious impact on laying the groundwork for that decision. There are times when a person changes what they believe in and that can lead to a change on howmthey view their own honor or integrity. Sometimes with devastating results.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that honor is what you want it to be because you decide what it means to you. Opinions are like........

  13. Anon,


    "Now, "manly" seems to be equated with some strange childish form of "macho", quick to take offense, quick to lash out, quick to attack -- but unable to withstand attack."

    Well said.

  14. leper,

    You are right about what is right for one group is not right for another.

    Yet I still feel there is a "core" set of beliefs or code that crosses all cultural and religious lines.

  15. I think all wars should be settled by politicians fighting in arenas with poisoned weapons. That way, fewer wars would be fought, and everyone that lusted after the job would have a chance to die for the job, instead of sending our children to die.

  16. I think that those who say your characters have no honor are full of crap, Nova.

    There are numerous moments where Gardener gets pissed when he sees others acting "dishonorable". Gardener is not big on the exploitation of people. He may take lives without hesitation, but very rarely does he take lives of the "innocent" (or when he does, they are collateral damage).

    Max has plenty of honor, but it slips from time to time (especially when he is in his "firebug" mode).

    I think the characters without honor in the AA stories are pretty quickly dispatched from the series (usually at the hands of Gardener).

    Sure, if we're talking about Bushido or some other "Warrior's code", that history has on display for us, the AA characters dont have honor. But these historical "warrior codes" are romanticized and idealized notions of honor.

    Given the context, Gardener and his crew have honor in spades. What other group would you rather run with in the AA world?

  17. Thanks Clam,

    Yeah, I was puzzled by that too.

  18. I have been thinking about posting an article about being truly moral in a WROL situation. Honor essentially comes down to morality and morality is not arbitrary. Like our founders I believe that it is natural (part of a created order) and self-evident. The ten commandments are a reveal version of the natural moral law, but in a WROL or disaster situation their are nuances that to the natural law and the ten commandments that preppers and survivors should consider befor the SHTF.

    Essentially honor means you respect others, protect innocent life and be a man of your word. It means you don't:
    murder, rape, commit adultery, steal, lie, or envy.

    Honor does not mean you don't kill those who threaten your life (in a WROL theft is certainly a threat to your life and thus potentially a capital offence).

    Honor does not mean you don't take what others have left to rot or be stolen, it means you don't take what a man has put away to protect and feed his family.

    Honor does not mean obeying "authorities," or the law because by definition in a WROL the law has broken down and until it can provide real stability and protection for you and your family the law is just another weapon that may be leveled against you and yours.

    Honor does not mean giving away what you need or risking your neck for strangers but it does mean considering carefully what risks you can take in charity.

  19. If you do write it come back and post a link. I would like to read it.