In the Charlie Chaplin film "The Great Dictator," Benito Mussolini arrives for a visit with Adolf Hitler. The Fuehrer has meticulously planned everything. He sits on a high chair, having prepared a low seat for Il Duce. Mussolini feels that a low chair humiliates the national honor of his country. So he gets up and moves over to Hitler's desk, on which he sits.
Later on, the two leaders go to a barbershop for a shave. Hitler elevates his chair, Mussolini elevates his. Hitler moves higher, Mussolini follows suit, and so on, until they reach the ceiling. Everything for the sake of national honor.
This is how the shtick goes: You seat your guest in a low chair or a seat that is not comfortable, to humiliate him, to impair his concentration or to soften his resolve. The U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright used to complain about the armchair in which Syrian president Hafez Assad would seat her. "Pay attention," Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon crowed at the photographers, as if he had not offered the Turkish ambassador a low couch this week, but rather the torture stool that is employed by the Shin Bet security service - and perhaps the Turkish secret police, as well.
Numerous wars, perhaps even most of them, broke out not due to clashes of real interests, but because of all manner of violations of the "national honor" of peoples or states, or above all, of their leaders. One could also posit that the more a country becomes decayed, corrupt or close to its final appearance on history's stage, the more conscious it is of upholding its "national honor."
Is there anyone who does not seek honor? Type the word kavod into the Hebrew Google search engine and you get 5 million hits, including the following: "Hummus without tahini is like praying without intent (that is, like a body without a soul). Nevertheless, the tahini is almost always left aside, forgotten and humbled - so let's give it a little kavod, for a change."
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