by Steno Sari — Isn’t it true that dishonest people take advantage of honest people? Therefore, what advantage does an honest person (from the Latin honestus, 'honoured', a derivative of honos, 'honour') have in a world where dishonesty prevails?
First of all, it must be said that a society based on deceit and lies does not function well and the whole community suffers because dishonesty often leads to social disintegration and the devaluation of ethical and moral values. Honesty is a noble predisposition of the human soul, an inner quality that manifests itself in loyalty, uprightness and sincerity. It relates to many aspects of life and influences it in different ways. The honest person respects others in the open, the dishonest person lives in the shadow and has no regard or esteem for others. An honest person pursues the truth with an open mind and tries to communicate it clearly and transparently. In contrast, the dishonest person cheats and communicates in an ambiguous and devious manner and sometimes deceives shamelessly, without restraint. Moreover, honest people have a sense of honour, are trustworthy, can be relied upon, are crystal clear and keep their promises. This is why it can be said that honesty is a fundamental ethical value for civilised society, while dishonesty breeds fear and mistrust, and fosters social decline.
To tell the truth, almost everyone pays lip service to honesty and says they appreciate honesty.
At least until the opportunity arises to be smart and get away with it. Why is it so difficult to be honest? The economic crisis or the lack of a stable job provide an alibi for many desperate people who thus feel justified in stealing and cheating. This attitude is so widespread that, when the prospect of cheating economic benefits comes up, many do not even consider being honest because to be honest, in certain contexts, one must have strong moral fibre and great courage. To be honest, many cheat with half-truths to the extent that it allows them to continue to consider themselves 'reasonably' honest people despite being dangerous braggarts who overestimate their abilities.
And what about intellectual honesty? Today there is a gigantic need for information. Good information, to defend ourselves against fake-news and those who spread them, must be honest and transparent. But how many in the media admit mistakes and do mea culpa? Yet admitting wrongdoing is essential to be credible, especially today as technology makes lying much more accessible. That is why intellectual honesty also implies promoting a culture of taking responsibility, without reticence, promoting truth and paying more attention to solving problems, whatever the cost.
"An honest soul does not conform to those who do wrong', the dramatist Publilio Siro wrote, and one is never wrong in being intellectually honest and doing the right thing: it gives great freedom of speech, without hypocrisy.
Article appeared in Libero on 27 november 2022 and republished with the author's permission