On My Honor
The Burden of Having Principles
Presentation to the Hunter Education Camp, Boy Scout Camp Gorham, New Mexico
September 16, 2016
Presentation As Given
This event is sponsored by four virtuous organizations; The New Mexico Division of Wildlife; the International Hunter Education Association, USA, the Boy Scouts of America and the , Safari Club Foundation.
I am grateful to each of these organizations for contributing to this worthy event.
A brief background about me:
· Lecture on ethics and rhetoric and persuasion
· Writer for hunting and shooting magazines
· Lecturer: SCI, DSC, IHEA-USA conferences, IHEA-USA Master Education programs
· A hunter and shooter
I brought for each person here, as a gift, copies of my book, The Good, The Bad and the Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values
Please visit my websites: www.kidsethicsbook.com and Facebook.com/michaelsabbeth and
www.thehonorablehunter.com and Facebook.com/thehonorablehunter
And something a little off topic: tell me what you think but I found it a little deflating to drive on the road into this camp and to see a huge sign that said “Dead End”. I don’t consider this camp a dead end. Kind of funny.
I will talk about scouting and hunting.
Since this is a boy scout camp, I will use the scout oath and scout law as models for addressing the roll of honor in hunter education and in being ethical honorable hunters.
But before I address honor, I share a few stories with you.
1. Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico: I attended Philmont Scout Ranch more than half a century ago. I didn’t have the money to buy a neckerchief and a patch. Thirty-five years later I took my daughter, Elise, to Taos, New Mexico on a school trip. I saw I was close to Philmont and visited it. I bought the neckerchief and the patch. I finally got them.
2. Kudu Hunt in S Africa with Marcus Lettrell: I shot a dominant bull past its prime. I told the professional hunter: That’s me! I could go on his wall! And one of his Navy Seal pals: tattoo: Honor Above All
3. Lady who worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife; wearing her uniform; went shopping; a man approached her and verbally attacked her: You are a murderer. She told me: Michael, I didn’t know how to respond! And consider, she had been working in the industry for twenty years; she and her husband had been hunters for twenty years. And she didn’t know what to say! She didn’t know how to defend hunting.
I will try to give you some words and arguments to help you defend and advance hunting.
First: A question to class: have any of you been confronted or insulted because you like hunting or because you have hunted?
Answer: no one raised a hand
The title of my talk is On My Honor:
Some of you are in scouting, so some of you, likely, are familiar with the phrase On My Honor.
Here is the Scout Oath:
Boy Scout Oath or Promise
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
A Scout is:
I confide I have a little trouble with obedience… the greatest cruelty has been done through obedience… obedience to evil is evil…
- and Reverent.
Trustworthy is a matter of honor. Brave is a matter of honor.
Boy Scout Motto
Be Prepared! Preparation is a matter of honor.
Here is the historical foundation of honor in the creation of this country:
Declaration of Independence
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, .And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Sacred honor… who speaks of honor these days? What politicians live their lives consistent with honor, sacred or otherwise, and noble character?
The full title of my talk is: On My Honor: The Burden of Having Principles
I ask the audience: why might having principles be a burden?
Audience Answer: “Because if you have honor that means you try to act honorably and that means you might fail.”
The Scout Oath says: On my honor I will do my best. Question: how do you know if you are doing your best?
You have standards; you have measurements; you compare good, better, best; right from wrong; good from evil.
You become a person of judgment.
I share a few words from some first graders spoken in my first ethics classes in 1990:
I ask: Why be honorable?
First grade student: It makes life go easier.
Another student: Yeah, and then your parents don’t have to hire lawyers!
I say: Has there ever been a profession more misunderstood?
So, why do I talk about honor?
Because you are young hunter education students and young hunters. You are drenched in a commitment to honor. Because you are hunters, and thus live in an environment that demands the highest honor.
Why should you be honorable?
Because animals die. It is a matter of life and death.
The honorable hunter must show:
· honor to the game you seek,
· honor to the land,
· honor to the hunting culture, and
· honor to yourselves.
Honor is the pervasive unifying theme, the unifying force in your universe for everything you do.
My friend, Mark Duda, research firm, Responsive Management, is perhaps the finest researcher of data and opinions in the world of hunting and shooting. He talks about the attitudes toward hunting… vs attitudes toward hunters. Generally, people have a higher regard for hunting than they do for hunters.
Much of the public does not have a high regard for hunters…they break the laws, drink alcohol, take drugs, take irresponsible shots that have high probability of wounding.
I state emphatically, these opinions may be based on thin air.. pure bias and ignorance.. but we have to deal with them… and that means, as a practical matter, hunters have to be highly honorable.
Let’s talk about words for a moment. Mark Duda’s research shows that words are important. Words influence the public support for hunting.
Trophy hunting is a phrase people do not like.
No one knows what trophy hunting means but nevertheless many people tend not to like that phrase and therefore tend not to like hunting. They think trophy hunting means an abuse of hunting, but they can’t describe why.
Here is the important point: vague phrases can be used effectively to manipulate a person and an argument. A vague phrase can mean whatever the listener wants it to mean. It’s like speaking in code language. Vague language can be used to intimidate, abuse and, more importantly, to silence someone. This is a key concept.
Example: Attacker: I’m against trophy hunting.
Reply: What do you mean?
Attacker: killing beautiful animals
Reply: What if the animal is not beautiful.
Attacker: all animals are beautiful.
Reply: so trophy hunting means all hunting?
Reply: so what are you talking about?
Attacker: just if you intend it to be a trophy
Killing versus Harvesting: Lessons to be learned
Here is another duo of words that lead to arguments and disagreements within the hunting community: Killing versus Harvesting.
I have had heated arguments with many hunter education instructors about the selection and rejection of one of these words over another.
I prefer the word ‘killing.’ That is what we do. We kill animals. Gorgeous, beautiful animals. That’s what hunting is, in large part.
I ask the class if anyone sees a difference between the two words. One lady answered, “Using the word ‘harvesting’ is like you are trying to avoid what is true.”
That was a very good answer. The word ‘harvesting’ does, in my opinion, deny reality. It makes us say something that is not true.
Another student said: “It’s like the anti-hunter is telling us what words we cannot use.”
That student made a brilliant point: the opponent is controlling the language. We can go back to the writing and thinking of George Orwell:
He who controls the language controls the argument, and he who controls the argument will win the argument.
Harvesting historically refers to food production: harvesting wheat, milo, corn soybeans and so forth.
Referring to killing as harvesting does, in my opinion, do something that dishonors the animal: using harvesting creates a moral equivalence between killing an animal and cutting down some corn.
Also, using the word ‘harvesting’ makes hunters that use that word and deny or try the reality of killing by using a euphemism, a word that does not seem as harsh and brutal, makes the person who uses the word ‘harvesting’ vulnerable to attacks by anti-hunters that the hunter refuses to admit what the hunter actually in reality does. It makes the hunter look like a fraud; and worse, it makes the hunter look like he or she has no confidence in the morality of what the hunter is doing. It’s as if the hunter is refusing to admit what it does. And it’s a good argument by the anti-hunters. The word harvesting makes hunters seem weak; makes hunters seem as if they have no confidence in the value of what they are doing and thus that they are trying to hide what they are doing.
Words can indicate confidence and they can indicate the lack of confidence.
Words matter. Confidence matters. Like the expression from Osama Bin Ladn, the 9-11 Mastermind, “people prefer a strong horse to a weak horse.”
Words can make you look strong or they can make you look weak.
Back to honor: Honor is you. What you have; what you do not have
Honor sets standards
If you have standards, you have to live up to them. And living up to high moral standards is not easy.
So you see, Honor is not easy
Must work on it every day. Like your heart beating blood into your body, if it stops, you no longer exist.
Lots of people don’t like standards; they resent them. Human nature being what it is, the dishonorable resent the honorable; the stupid resent the smart; the coward resents the morally strong person; the ignorant resents the informed person. It always was and it will always be.
--doing good is not easy. Anyone who tells a child, any person, really, that doing good is easy; that being honorable is easy, weakens that person. Nothing is easy. Nothing worth accomplishing is easy.
Honor is complex; made of many ingredients, blended like a perfectly made veal stock. Sometimes you don’t know all of the qualities—courage, intellect, emotional maturity, patience, dedication, willing to act alone, and so forth.
Difficult to earn; easy to lose. Once lost, honor, your character, your reputation, your credibility, like the beautiful but fragile mountain flowers, may take years to recover, if ever.
If you have no standards, you can never fail; if you have no honor, you can never be disappointed with yourself.
You have self-selected to live according to a code of honor. You will have challenges, therefore, that people indifferent to honor will never have.
Ask the audience: what is the most important part of honor?
Audience Answer: knowing right from wrong.
Exactly: the honorable person must know right from wrong. Knowing right from wrong requires making judgments. Making judgments requires skills:
· having information
· knowing the value of the information
· knowing if you need more information
· drawing conclusions from the information you have
· figuring out consequences that will result from the information
· having the moral courage to do what is right
Making moral judgments is not easy. But making moral judgments is the foundation of honor.
The person who cannot distinguish good from evil is morally worthless.
But there is another level to honor: a more difficult level.. much more difficult level: once you know what is right, you have a moral obligation to do what is right.
That’s the scout oath: do your best; that is how an honorable hunter behaves.
Knowing isn’t enough. Caring isn’t enough. Compassion isn’t enough. You must do. The honorable person is honorable because he or she ACTS honorably.
Noble thoughts without noble action are cheap self-indulgent sentiments.
To be honorable means you seek what is better,
Remember your oath: On my honor I will do my best……
That means you must have a method to measure what is best… good, better, best.
You have criteria; you have standards; you have measurements
You want better everywhere in every part of your life: better schools, better government, better politicians, and most important, a better self. The honorable person strives to be better.
Now, in our culture, where honor often has as much substance as smoke at a campfire, good, better, best hardly exist. In many cases, the culture argues that the better does not exist. And, and here’s a key point, if you suggest that something IS better than something else, you are called the vilest names; you are condemned, you are alienated, you are shut up.
You are told not to make judgments. But here’s the strangest point: telling someone that making a judgment is wrong IS A JUDGMENT!!!!!!
Everything is equal; everything must be respected; no one’s values are better than any other person’s values; no culture, no matter have vicious, is better or worse than any other culture.
And here’s a point lots of people don’t want to admit: If you believe that all opinions are equal, then you believe that your opinion is not better than anyone else’s, including your opinion that all opinions are equal!!!!
If you hold that opinion, you have just admitted to the world that your opinion has no special value.
You are admitting to the world that people who disagree with you have opinions that are equal to and as good as yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What do you think of that?
Is this making any sense?
Audience nods ‘yes.’
Indeed, achievement is condemned. Accomplishment and excellence are condemned. Sacrifice and forbearance are condemned. Not only condemned: they are denied:
It’s popular these days to say you should not be judgmental. Being non-judgmental, the culture demanded, was a moral duty. Judging became immoral. Judging became evil.
Of course, this is all idiocy. Everyone knows it. No one lives their lives that way. If you are in a car crash, bleeding all over, do you ask to go to a delicatessen? No. You ask to go to a hospital.
But Judging and discriminating are the highest moral duties; they separate us from the primal ooze.
If you judge, if you discriminate, then, well horrible things could be unearthed. Judging and discriminating might show you are a bigot. A racist. I homophobe. An islamophobe. A sexist. I can’t even keep track of all the phobes.
And here is a key point: the non-judgmental person must… must… become an enemy of liberty, because liberty—individual freedom—all that which is good, right, successful—because liberty enables some people to be better than others and some people to be worse than others.
A person who does not judge becomes an enemy of everything a scout and an honorable hunter believes. Everything they stand for: doing their best; being moral; being ethical.
Here is a powerful example of what I mean;
In every school I have been in, posters preaching Tolerance line the walls. Tolerance is considered one of the highest virtues.
What does tolerant mean? Think about it. It doesn’t mean much. Tolerance doesn’t determine honor or what is good or better or worse? It just means you put up with something. You endure.
Tolerance is a treacherous idea. It can mean whatever a person wants it to mean.
Eli Wiesel: a survivor of Auschwitz, among the most evil places in the history of the world, said:
Tolerance always favors the aggressor, never the victim.
Tolerance becomes indifference and then tolerance becomes aiding and abetting.
Tolerance is not a virtue… not offending someone is not a virtue… some things should not be tolerated; and some people should be offended. Multiculturalism and respecting other cultures: what is the moral basis for that? Aspects of some cultures should not be respected… And consider this: respecting others, tolerating others who do not respect or tolerate you is not a virtue; it is suicide.
Should you tolerate a hunter that abandons a wounded animal?
Should you tolerate a hunter that is intoxicated and can’t shoot accurately?
Should you tolerate a hunter that kills animals illegally?
Of course not.
Here’s my point: to be honorable, you must be a thinker, and not just any kind of thinker: you must be a moral thinker.
Back to non-judgmental:
Of course, no mention is made that judging might indicate you have wisdom, prudence, compassion, decency and moral courage.
None of those virtues are even considered.
So all this non-judgmental tolerance talk is just so much empty blabbing.
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5:
Loss of Confidence: The Ultimate Defeat
But there is yet another level; another layer of the issue of non judging. And it is a vile layer; a pernicious layer: it is that the attacks erode confidence of what is right and good.
That is the worst aspect: a loss of confidence in the values and actions that made this country great; that made this country the destination that people swarm to get into.
It is easy to get beaten down; intimidated.
. In the name of non-judgmentalism, we have the most vicious judging.
All of this leads to a subversion of what used to be known and admired as the American character.
Next, non judgmentalism is a judgment. That’s the irony. I judge that it is not good to judge.
Next, non-judgmental advances moral cowardice. Everything becomes an excuse to do nothing. Non-judgmentalism creates passive people.
There is no honor in not judging. It is the mindset of cowards.
What is one result when you lose confidence in your beliefs? In your values?
I ask the audience: Answer: You can get pushed around. You can get manipulated.
Telling you to be non-judgmental is applied selectively
But the most important insight to be learned by being non judgmental is that it is applied selectively. All tyranny, all bullying, all control, is done selectively. One group is favored; another group is not favored. One group benefits, one group gets hurt.
If you can learn that, particularly at your young ages, you will have learned a profound lesson that can usefully guide you your entire lives.
Individual liberty is the fertile soil for honor.
No doubt you have heard the phrase politically correct, in one form or another. Know this: political correctness is not about correctness. It is about politics, and politics is about power. Who wins and who loses; who gains and who gets deprives.
And know this also: whether one person disagrees with you or whether one hundred million people disagree with you has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are right or whether you are wrong; whether you have the more moral case or whether you do not. Morality is not a numbers game. It certainly is not a popularity contest.
Let’s talk about words for a moment.
We know it’s good to do good and bad to do bad that tells us nothing about choosing between goods when there are trade-offs or conflicts, weighing costs against benefits, comparing short-term attainments with long-term risks, or reckoning second-order effects.
You strive for wisdom… and wisdom is knowledge applied for a noble purpose
And so our principles of fairness, of honor, of valuing the truth… can be used against us and weaken us… what an irony!!
Being prepared for the hunt;
Long range shooting..
can you track your wounded animal
sighting in rifle..
selecting proper ammunition
standing up to peer pressure…
being able to correctly identify the animal for which you have a tag… male or female bear? Rooster or hen pheasant?
it’s all a matter of honor…
You have to be strong.
As Scouts and as hunters, self-discipline ranks among the highest virtues. Indeed, self discipline is the basis of all morality.
Here’s a great story.
Nilgai hunting in s texas… with friend Kevin.. he had a new rifle, a Verney-Carron .500 Nitro Express double side-by-side rifle. Gorgeous rifle. Kevin badly wanted to have a successful hunt. He stalked the nilgai, got to within 60 yards or so in thick brush. Kevin was bleeding from being slashed by catclaw thorns. He saw a large bull.. he raised the rifle.. but he didn’t take the shot because he did not know precisely the point of impact with the new rifle. He was unsure of his skill at that distance. Kevin was ethical, of course, but his ethics were the consequence of his honor.
You are honor bound to do your best all the time. Not just when you feel like it; not when it’s easy; not when it’s convenient. No. You do your best every moment of your life. Not just when no one is looking, such as turning in the lost wallet when no one sees you picking it up. No, it’s being brave, courageous, when the entire world is watching you. That’s when your character is tested.
You do your best: honor the animal, the land, the public trust and honor yourself.
Drunk friend story
Here’s an event that really tested me.
Will I stand up and do what’s right?
I had a party at my home. A friend got drunk and walked to his car to drive home. I made up my mind that he would not drive his car. Things got nasty. My feelings were hurt. Issues: what is a good friend? What kind of friend allows a drunk to drive a car? What kind of friend was my friend to me? Moral courage requires acting when many people are watching you. It’s more than returning a lost wallet which no one know you found.
We hunters are accused of being murderers.
We are accused of having no compassion for animals.
One arrogant person verbally attacked a friend of mine, a skilled hunter education instructor: “Do you realize how many beautiful animals there would be if you hunters didn’t kill them?”
“Yes,” he answered sharply. “There would be none!”
He’s right. And he knew how to argue back.
Do honorable hunters have compassion?
How do we know it? How do we judge it?
Here are two events that make profound points in favor of hunters.
Audience Discussion: How to analyze and evaluate arguments:
Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, who was recruiting opponents to protest the auction by the Dallas Safari Club of the black rhino hunt, asserted it was barbaric to hunt and kill an animal just because it was old and unable to reproduce.
We are thinkers in this room. So let us think. If Oxley thinks it is barbaric to kill an aged black rhino, what does she NOT think is barbaric?
Increased poaching: not barbaric;
Less food, dirty water, less habitat, more killing of younger animals: none of that is barbaric to Oxley
Gunnison, Colorado 2008:
About 2008, a brutal winter in the Gunnison area of Colorado. Elk and deer was dying from lack of food. Hunters and the Division of Wildlife were heroically trying to feed the animals. The hunters reached out to so-called pro animal groups for money and assistance. They were turned down.
Because saving the animals would only provide more animals for hunters to kill.
And the deaths were a consequence of natural forces.
Think about these rationalizations.
Are they logical?
Who has compassion? The hunters and the division of wildlife folks? Or the so-called pro animal groups who chose to have the animals die?
Their reason: why help hunters kill more animals. Analyze the argument: conclude: factually and morally bankrupt
For them, feeling good was more important than doing good.
Perhaps you are familiar with the Cecil the Lion episode. All the wrong lessons were learned
As a consequence, all the lion hunting bans and airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Walter Palmers.
In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or when the doer of a deed could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and come short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have tasted neither victory nor defeat. Teddy Roosevelt
What can bring us together?
Honor. On my honor. Honor can bring together people who should be brought together.
Judging people, as MLK nobly stated, by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.
My Mossberg 144 LS
One last story
I used that rifle to get my first merit badge.. marksmanship… on my way to Eagle Scout.. I loved shooting.. I remember as a little fellow my parents took me to the boardwalk in Far Rockaway and Coney Island on Long Island. I loved the shooting galleries. I remember going to Nathan’s at Coney Island and getting a huge hot dog, a large root beer and the best French fries on the planet… for 25 cents. Those are great memories. That was pure joy for me. Good times.
I remember evening I was inducted into Order of the Arrow. The scout master spoke these words:
No man is as tall as when he stoops to help a child.
I remember those words vividly. And that was perhaps 55 years ago. You folks were very young then, yes?
Treasure these days. And think of the volunteers that gave their time to you. They gave their time because they wanted to help you become better people. Remember that.
Make a better world:
Freedom is always one generation from extinction. Freedom and the love and value of liberty are not passed on genetically. They are passed on by instilling values which includes the value to fight for liberty. They are passed on by honor.
Here is a statement of profound insight by my friend, Alice Abrams:
“In life, as in dance, grace glides blistered feet.”
Think about that statement. Alice is saying that beauty and grace come from hard work. Remember, nothing worthwhile is easy.
We are living in difficult times… irrational times… where contradictions are welcomed… rewarded if they advance the causes of the powerful:
· Celebrities and other super rich tweet and text from their multimillion dollar private jets about the oppression and injustice in this country
· People of different nationalities wave the flags of and scream the virtues of the countries they never want to return to and vilify and attack this country that they never want to leave
· A superstar athlete who makes more money in one month than most Americans will make in their lifetimes refused to stand for the national anthem because of this country’s oppression and injustice
· Pampered lazy, stupid and bigoted university professors condemn this country for being racist, homophobic, islamophobic, sexist, colonial and other idiocies from the safety of their immunized privileged and highly paid positions
Lots of talk about following your heart. I have my doubts about the wisdom of that advice. Generally, the heart is not a good indicator of right and wrong. If you choose to follow your heart, you better have a virtuous heart.
We have read about chicken soup for the soul. That’s good as far as it goes, but it does not go very far. What you need more than chicken soup for the soul is tempered steel for the mind.. something you can count on; something that will hold an edge, something that gives direction, values, measurements to guide whether you are good, bad, right or wrong.
So, closing thoughts about honor.
--do not trade away your honor to get along… to be accepted, to be liked… if you do, you will have neither…. Recall the words of Winston Churchill regarding Neville Chamberlin negotiating with Hitler:
He traded his honor for peace and got neither.
Don’t trade on your honor. Never.
-honor is earned hour by hour, event by event, like the drip drip drip in a cave that builds up a strong solid stalagmite… .. getting into shape.. day by day.. tedious, painful, difficult… risk, error, failure, getting up… Rocky Balboa… not how hard you can hit but how hard a hit you can take and still get back up…
Self-discipline is the foundation of all morality
And you fight for that honor.. inch by inch, person by person, shot by shot, animal by animal, situation by situation, moment by moment, you fight for honor. And then you will have fulfilled the noble vision of your scout oath and of being an honorable hunter: you have done your best.
Look for beauty; fight for beauty and nobility; nurture the seeds of greatness within you… be a great child to your parents; a great contributor to your school, your community; Honor among all else…
Be a better person. It starts with you.
Want to make a better culture?
Be a better person.
Don’t lose confidence in your values. Your values are good and decent and virtuous.
Don’t let anyone shake your confidence in what is right. You examine; you make judgments; if necessary, you make changes and corrections.
Don’t worry about making mistakes or being wrong. You could devote your entire lives to making mistakes and you could not cause as much evil as many people in this world do in one hour.
Don’t let this conflicted culture defeat you.
Don’t work on the world so much. Work on your own character. Work on perfecting you own honor.
Your honor is you. Your honor dictates your future. You choose.
Your honor is sacred.