Saturday, November 29, 2008

Inigo Montoya's Lessons in Honor

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I have watched The Princess Bride so many times that I have lost count. Originally I watched it because my sister had a thing for it, so at Christmas we would watch The Princess Bride and Dr. Zhivago. I categorically refuse to watch Dr. Zhivago anymore - don't get me wrong, it's a great movie but seeing it twenty times wastes too much Kleenex and kills too many trees. I suppose I could just let the tears run down my face but then my clothes get wet. Or watch naked, but we won't go there.

Buttercup and her prince charming, Wesley, the Dread Pirate Roberts, fight against the evil Prince Humperdinck, his dastardly minions, huge rats, the fire swamp, the Pit of Despair and the prince's nefarious plot to kill Buttercup on their wedding night. Buttercup has despaired of ever seeing Wesley again and has agreed to wed the prince, not knowing he plans to kill her in order to accuse a neighboring kingdom of murdering his bride and thus justifying a war. A lust for power. Although, what guy in his right mind would kill the lovely Buttercup? Obviously not in his right mind. Must remember that.

Although Buttercup, Wesley and Humperdinck (sounds kinda crude doesn't it) are vastly entertaining, I find the character of Inigo Montoya the most engaging. Mandy Patinkin was so cute is the eighties. And he makes a lovable hero, avenging his father's death at the hands (or digits) of the too-many-fingered minion of Humperdinck. Stopping at nothing to fulfill his pledge to his dead father. He is driven by passion, by justice and by the child he once was who adored his father. He is driven by his sense of honor, a word that seems to have no or little meaning in society anymore except in the most negative sense (ie. so called honor killings, disgusting). I'm also not suggesting that vengeance is a good idea because that leads to a vicious cycle of reprisals and more destruction.

Honor is a code of ethics one lives by. Honor is having personal integrity about who you are and the actions you take. Honor is about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Honor is having a standard and not abandoning it just because it is inconvenient.

There is not enough honor in the world today. It seems to be dog eat dog, with little concern given to what is right or honorable. Todays children need to learn about honor and personal integrity but not many people bother to teach their kids this. Do the parents have no personal integrity themselves? No, I don't necessarily think so. I think parents are so busy trying to make things work financially that they throw money and things at their kids to substitute for time with their children. Understandable, in a way, but not so understandable in another.

The school system does not set a child's moral compass. That is the job of the guardian or parent of the child. I know that in most families, both people have to work. That is a simple reality in our world. Those who can afford and want to have one parent at home are fortunate. But that doesn't mean that one can abandon a child to the school system, X-box, iPod or the Gap for Kids and hope they learn what they need to know. Parents must take an active role in shaping their child. I'm not talking about programming any child down to the last iota of brain cell. I'm not talking about smothering a child with endless rules and regulations. Kids need to be kids. But parents need to be parents.

Parents need to instill in their children a personal code of conduct, a personal code of honor. A realization that everyone is a part of a larger society that must work together to succeed as a whole. That keeping your word means something. Your word is your bond. This all sounds old-fashioned to some, but if you can't rely on people not to lie to you, not to cheat you, not to try to steal from you, then you end up with the society we have today--severely dysfunctional and driven by greed. Just look at the current economic crisis. Caused by the greed of the few to infect the entire world with financial malaise.

We need more Inigo Montoyas in our world and fewer politicians.

I'll get down from my soapbox now.

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