I was in another Nigerian chat room about a month ago and I raised the issue of honor and its value or lack thereof in the context of present day Nigeria and world. The discussion basically rolled between this very interesting guy, whom I will call Emma and I. Below is how the chat session progressed:
Me: Imagine this, it is early in the era of the Roman empire and you are a Roman general captured by the Carthagenians. Your captors send you as an emissary to negotiate peace for them on terms that are not favorable for your people. They (your captors) also make you give your word that if your people refused the terms they proposed, you would return to them and pay with your life. What would you do?
Emma: I’ll go back home happily and gather the whole might of the Roman legion, then return and wipe those dumb bastards off the face of the earth.
Ik: <thumbs-up smiley> On point
Emma: Na so na. E be like where you catch big fish, come tell am to enter back water go bring the smaller ones come back.
Me: What if your emperor is not interested in fighting the Carthagenians. He is okay with the way things are so long as they don’t attack Rome. Then, what would you do?
Emma: Then I’d just return to Rome and tell the emperor their terms, after which I’ll retire to my house and warm up my bed with my wife whom I must have missed so much from being at war with dumb catarrh-plagued dudes.
Me: Lol. Whatever happened to honor?
Emma: Which dirty honor? Bros, honor holds with fellow countrymen, not barbarians.
Me: No guys seriously, check am well oh. There used to be a time when a man’s word was as precious to him as his penis. What changed?
Emma: There are two things I value more than my life and I don’t break them for anyone: my word and my balls – Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino in Scarface)
Me: Great quote! See my point?
Emma: Well bro, life above all else. I follow Scarface, but it’s only when I give that word freely. In such a case, my word would come before my life. But not when I’m under duress or forced to give my word against my own volition.
Me: I hear you, bro. But when honor was golden, a man’s word was as blind as Thermes to terms and conditions. It was just what it was – a man’s word. If you can’t do it, don’t give your word, simple!
Emma: Mhmm. In 33 stratagems of war, this story was told of a Chinese general who passed a law that the owner of any animal which trespassed the state orchard would be beheaded. For years, the law thrived and one day, the general’s stupid donkey strayed into the orchard. And the stupider man surrendered himself to be beheaded. Funny enough, the law was repealed after his death and he was quickly forgotten.
Me: Hmmm…so if you were the general, you would have exempted yourself from the law?
Emma: Omo, I no fit enact that kain mumu law ni!
And on it went…
I recently watched an old movie titled ‘It could happen to you’, about a cop who keeps a promise by giving a two million dollar tip to a waitress. The cop was played by Nicholas Cage; on his way back from purchasing a lottery ticket, he is served by a waitress who is having such a bad day that he feels bad for her. When he gets his bill, he realizes he has just enough money to pay for the cups of coffee he and his partner drank, and he so badly wants to leave this harried lady a tip. On a very – reckless, if I may add – whim, he promises her to return the next day with either double of the tip or half of his earnings if he wins the lottery for which he just bought a ticket. She of course laughs him off, but he repeats his promise and leaves. It turns out that this cop wins the lottery that night, for a sum of four million dollars; he is stumped by the incredulity of his situation; his wife is much more than stumped, she is livid. I mean, two-milla worth of ‘keep-the-change’ to a total stranger, who wouldn’t be?!
Anyhow long story cut short, cop turns up at the diner the next day and asks the waitress to choose one out of the options he promised. She is in a better mood than from the day before so she elects to go with the option which she feels will give him an easy way out – he couldn’t have just won the lottery, could he? And cop gives her two million dollars. His explanation – A promise is a promise, I gave my word.
Granted, these situations are a bit primordial but still, I wonder, what is the present worth of a man’s word? And by man, I mean men and women? Or perhaps it remains an exclusively male trait – one of the few surviving attributes on which the quintessential woman does not want equal rights with men? Does This Thing Called Honor still exist, and how does it rate on the scale of value?
So let me know what you think; and while you are at it, ponder on these words of Mark Twain,
“Honor is an even harder master than the law”