Saturday, October 23, 2004

How many of us still believe in honesty?

How many of us still believe in honesty?

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, October 23, 2004 12:02 AM

In the old days, a man’s word of honor was, in great part a measure of his value. When a man gave his word, he was expected to keep it.

My dad was such a man. I cannot remember him lying to me. Neither can I recall him ever breaking his promises. He was poor all his life, but when he died I was surprised to see the church jampacked with people, many of whom I had never met. They had come to pay their respects to a man who had little in his life. Still, the one thing they kept repeating to me was, “Your dad was an honest man.” What greater tribute can you give to someone at life’s end?

The great Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.” I wonder though how true that is for us today. We live in a society where trust is a rare commodity and men of honor are increasingly difficult to find.

There are countless security guards everywhere. High walls and locked doors are the norm. At the counters of shops, checkers check the cashier and then are checked by the guard. And we were all witnesses to the ballot counting in Congress during the last elections. The way accusations of cheating were flying back and forth, it was as if there was no honest man (woman) anywhere in sight. There was a clear message sent and it read: “We are all crooks here and we can’t trust one another. There is no honor in this hall. All of us are liars and manipulators. Victory will go to the quickest and the most skillful among us.”

It is so disheartening to live in a society where dishonesty is not only the norm, but where it is actually celebrated. Where the dishonest man who gets away with stealing and cheating is not sanctioned, but looked up to for beating the system and enriching himself.

It is a society where women remove their jewelry before boarding buses and jeepneys and pray that they get to their destination without incident. Where one is surprised if the cop or the government official does not ask for a bribe.

When a cab driver returns something forgotten, it is so rare that the story makes it way to the front pages. We are more shocked by honesty than by graft and corruption which we have learned to live with. We even aid and abet it when we get fed up with waiting or when it works to our advantage.

David Blunt said, “If you continue to do what’s right, what’s wrong and who’s wrong will eventually leave your life.” How many of us truly believe it? How many of us believe that old worn phrase, “Honesty is the best policy?” How many of us sincerely believe that right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it?

How many of us believe the words of Horace Greely who wrote, ”the darkest hour of any man’s life is when he sits down to plan how to get money without earning it.?”

The answer will make all the difference in the world for us a society.


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