Does honesty really matter?

A RADIO host in Bacolod asked the equivalent of “honesty” in Hiligaynon. He tried a few words and gave up although what he mentioned were actually synonyms that describe the virtue of honesty. He seemed disappointed as if “honesty” is not in our vocabulary and we are not naturally honest. Or maybe our ancestors did not have to coin the word because it is already in our nature but poisoned by modernism, relativism and materialism.

However, while there is no literal translation he could recall at that instance there are many words in our language that are akin to honesty or are just as valid and emphatic. In fact, they are more colorful and down to earth.Tapat is a Hiligaynon and Tagalog word that best translates to the English and even the origin of the word “honest.”

Honesty comes from the Latin word, honestus which refers to persons or acts that are honorable, respectable, commendable and upright or beyond question. It means to be true to one’s word, to be correct in one’s behavior; not to lie, to cheat or defraud, but to be truthful and trustworthy. The word therefore has a wide range of meanings that boils down to the delimitations of a capricious human behavior.

Local elected officials are all fond of putting the word “honorable” before their names but we know they are the exact opposites. Judges insist, under pain of indirect contempt, that they be addressed “Your Honor” but we know better that there are those who sit in judgment who are far from being worthy of the title.

The word “honesty” came into focus last week when top political figures quarreled over it. One said many voters do not bother about honesty during the elections while another suggested that dishonest people should not run for office. Our problem is that most politicians do not bother about being honest during the elections. As I wrote yesterday about the illegal and immoral means being justified for a perceived good, most politicians do resort to dishonest means to get elected.

Indeed, should honesty be considered in the choice of candidates? Quickly we can say, “of course” and that goes without saying. In fact, honesty should be a vital criterion in our choice. Dishonesty is a curse upon the people; a nation that condones or ignores moral values is a nation that is headed for perdition. Most, if not all our ills are rooted on the dishonesty of our leaders, and with that, the dishonesty of our voters.

A comment in a recent book about the dominance of materialism in our society hit the issue right on the head. She said, “When the majority of citizens think it’s OK to steal from others, if done through government, we are in real trouble.”

There is a disastrous belief that if the theft does not involve our property, that is not our concern and thus many tend to overlook the cheating. Worse, when people, especially our leaders, ignore and even defend the plunder of the public treasury because they needed or shared in the loot, no matter how small, then we are in grave trouble.

Corruption in almost all levels of government has reached epidemic proportions because of the failure of those agencies to prosecute dishonesty. Corruption cases gather dusts in their dockets but leaders with unclean hands cannot demand action.

This epidemic is contagious. One of the proofs is a list of voters that politicians buy each election year. Public funds, the fruit of corruption are used to pay them in cash, feed them and transport them. We shall deal with this tomorrow-in “Deep City.”

Dishonesty is a weakness that human nature “is heir to” but we strive for honesty because the sanity of family and society depends on trust that others will comply with the rules. Without honesty, humanity will sink into chaos. If we lose our confidence in the honesty in commercial and business enterprises, our entire economy will collapse.

Similarly, without honesty in government, the burden of taxation will drain the public capacity and eventually bankrupt the nation. Corruption would force government into borrowings not only to prop up the government’s ability to continue operation but to fatten the pockets of corrupt officials and the nation falls into a debt trap.

Undoubtedly, honesty is vital in our choice of candidates.

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