by Hank Martin
Thomas Jefferson would be proud.
Jefferson’s brainchild, the University of Virginia, is the nation’s top party school, according to Playboy Magazine. UVA ranked above all the others in Playboy’s three quality indices: sex life, nightlife, and sporting life. The magazine took “America’s top 100 colleges” and ranked them across 900 data points in the three categories, and UVA came out on top. “The Cavaliers place an uninspiring 16th in sports but more than made up for it in nightlife and sex, finishing number three and number two, respectively,” says Playboy. “According to our math, two plus three equals one. Party on!”
– Seth Cline U.S. News & World Report
Less than half of UVA students would report an honor offense after witnessing another student lying, cheating, or stealing. The Cavalier Daily reports that the University’s Honor Committee conducted a poll sampling more than 1,700 students. Of the survey respondents, three quarters indicated that they support the honor system. The poll found that one issue students have with reporting an honor offense is concern it is not a serious enough violation. The Committee says they hope the survey will help them address the issues surrounding honor offenses.
I am hoping that Mr. Cline was being tongue-in-cheek with his comment regarding Mr. Jefferson’s pride in his brainchild. Because in actuality, I would imagine that had there been seismic indicators near the grave, they would have no doubt recorded the tremors of Mr. Jefferson spinning in it. Is there really any wonder as to why and how our society is in the dire circumstances it now finds itself in? What possible hope is there for any citizen when the controlling force of their lives, government, is unable to discern simple and basic malfeasance? Mr. Jefferson’s University is one of many factories that are supposed to produce leaders of tomorrow. Leaders who will one day assume the reins of power in all aspects of cultural, social, economic and governmental institutions. How remarkable it is then, that we are producing a class of individuals who possess neither the fortitude to do what is right, nor the ability to discern what warrants enforcement. Yet, that would explain much. The key part to honor is having respect for others and for yourself—the two must act together because without both you have nothing. I strongly believe that reputation is hard to gain and easily lost. In losing one’s honor you also cheat the world around you and those in it.
The Playboy ranking is indicative of society. For years, we have devalued the notion of hard work, self-discipline, and respect for the Judeo-Christian beliefs upon which this nation was founded. These two reports alone prove that this devaluation has been successful. Our society is now full of those whose mantra has been “If it feels good, do it.” Playboy’s report indicates that Mr. Jefferson’s campus is actively “doing it.” The student body may not be able to comprehend a lack of integrity, nor have enough of the same within themselves to report it. But they are having a good time while they are here. The notions of “Boys will be boys” or “It’s just youth” can no longer mask the tear in society that the lack of honor produces. Sex and partying, not so bad right? Really? Let’s think about that one. Bernie Madoff is not the only thief whose lack of honor contributed to our current economic disaster. He’s just the one that has made the headlines. Remember the smaller news reports regarding the senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission who spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system? I wonder if these individuals had been better able to discern and execute honor, would they have been in a position to prevent our current economic crisis? Countless examples of politicians, financiers, doctors, lawyers, police and teachers, all abusing their positions abound in the realm of recent history. When we separate ourselves from the most basic of principals, trust, we turn living in a society to simply existing.
Without trust, our nation as it was founded, designed and until recently, functioned simply cannot continue. Without a citizenry in possession of a sense of personal moral authority and an ability to react to a healthy conscience, the oil in the machinery of society is absent. The friction created in its absence is to be expected. As laughable as it may sound these days, I can remember when all one needed to close a deal was a handshake. In my youth, I observed deals made that way by my grand-fathers and my father. I used to conduct business in this manner myself, (stressing the use of the past tense). Now, we can no longer trust the other party we’re involved with, to do the right thing. This lack of trust is the catalyst for the explosion in the need of lawyers and also for the exponential growth in government. These make for a cynical people, and a cynical people are unable to live together in a brotherhood of man as God intended.
As small a words as they are, “honor” and “trust” are critical. Consider the magnitude of their place in our daily lives. At breakfast, we have to trust that the manufacturer of our food has high quality-control protocols. We have to trust that those employees charged with enforcing them are honorable enough to do so. The government official whose duty it is to be the last line of defense needs inspectors above reproach. They need trusted inspectors, whose honor makes them unable to be tempted by bribery or any other vice which may be offered to them. The same trust needs to be held regarding the car we drive, the roads and bridges we drive on, the buildings we enter when we get to work, the dining establishments patronize, etc., etc. How much more so when the trust between a married couple is counted upon when turning off the bed lamp each night. When one considers the minutia of our lives, one can see the impact of honor and trust on our lives. We also see the negative impact in its absence.
The Honor Code study indicates that ¾ of those surveyed were supportive of an Honor Code policy, yet less than half would actually make a report of anyone lying, cheating, or stealing. Edmund Burke is often credited with the axiom: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.” Given the atmosphere of today, I would amend that axiom to say “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, and lacking the wisdom to know the difference.” Until we return to the notion of raising young men with the integrity and characteristics once inculcated into them by the Bible, their fathers, and organizations like The Boy Scouts, rather than continuing the ridicule of the same, we shall regretfully find a culture that parties itself into oblivion. I wonder, would we know oblivion if we saw it?