Traditional societies (by which we mean strictly functional societies) are always honor societies, throughout known history and geography. In such an arrangement, all individuals are represented by a sort of score, which starts at zero (or perhaps epsilon) once they are born and then increments from there. Being the son of someone with a high score yields some points ; completing a hajj yields some points ; obtaining a college degree yields some points ; standing your ground in battle yields some points and so on. These achievements are usually fixed in oral memory via titles, such as the courtesy title of an individual who did the right thing by being born to a notable, or the Hagi title prefixing the name of someone who undertook a certain pilgrimage, or the Dr., PhD. etcetera title suffixing the name of someone who completed a certain academic course.
In honor societies the position of the individual as well as his treatment by others is strictly a relation of his fame score, which is the point of Rochester's
Look to the bottom of his vast design wherein man's wisdom, power, and glory join: the good he acts, the ill he does endure, 'tis all from fear, to make himself secure. Merely for safety, after fame we thirst, for all men would be cowards if they durst.
It is generally misunderstood by superficial contemporary "students" of times past that priviledge affixed to title. This notion is false : the title marked for memory the substance of the bearer's score, which score modulated also the behaviour of the other members of society. This is why Lord Bacon could not be convicted even if he recognized his act, hand and heart ; and why the judges wouldn't even believe the truth prima facie - his fame score, not his titles provided him immunity from such common a charge. It wouldn't have protected him from treason, like it did not protect sir Thomas More, even though
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man's laws, not God's– and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.
We may notice that the saint is significantly wiser than the entire boatload of thankyouforyourleadersheeps over in Washington DC, but wisdom is not germane. Society works the way it works.
Respect societies (a concept which exactly maps on contemporary, which is to say dysfunctional, societies) reverse the principle : everyone is presumed to start with the same score, equal to the highest score attainable, and then perhaps conserve it, or most of it - if they don't manage to lose some through misdeeds in life. This handily explains the contemporaneous fixation on youth as well as its clearly pathological excesses ; it plainly makes sense of the absent ambition and absent achievement in contemporaries ; it even unwinds the bizarre lingo they use - evidently it'd all be about respect for human rights and women's rights and the environment and biodiversity and cultural diversity and whatnotity.
The transition from functional to dysfunctional occurs on the following mechanism :
mircea_popescu Dog1 who are you again ?
Dog1 just a traveller
asciilifeform lemme guess, vex is back
mircea_popescu !!down Dog1
mircea_popescu come back as a useful something.
asciilifeform assumed that it was trinque's drinking mate or such
mircea_popescu was it ?
trinque I never heard of him
mircea_popescu not in #eulora ?
mircea_popescu trinque that's kinda the thing, everyone tends to assume such things because why risk offending friend of lord.
mircea_popescu prolly should be standing policy to actually announce such situations.
What happens is that from an individual fitness perspective, it is a better policy to err on the side of overvaluing an unknown's score rather than undervaluing it. The risk of undervaluing is that you may end up in hot water (with their powerful patron, with a duel summons, with who knows what even), whereas the selfish benefit is at best absent (if not outright the satisfaction of vanity - a sin). The risk of overvaluing is not perceived (because what do I personally care that some untalented crackwhore goes around thinking she herself sings ?) whereas the benefits are clear - if you guessed right you get whatever benefit of having broken the hard riddle, and if you guessed wrong you'll get another poltroon orbiter. As far as the individual himself is concerned, his selfish best interest is to always overvalue, which is how idiocies like "how to make friends and influence people" or US televised elections get started.
The foregoing notwithstanding, from a group fitness perspective undervaluing is mildly beneficial on aggregate, as it promotes a slighty overtoned, slightly overactive population hell bent on proving itself. Overvaluing on the other hand is nothing short of a death sentence, in a myriad ways from self-indulgent obesity and consumerism all the way to intellectual sterility. If you wonder why one Arab "terrorist" is worth ten Western "men", the answer's in there. If you wonder why "uneducated" Western men are better than "educated" Western men, the answer's also there.
This is what is meant by disaster of commons : when the group interest goes one way, but the individual interest lies the other way, the invisible hand spells disaster rather than prosperity. A population of selfish individuals, each selfishly optimizing his behaviour for his own selfish interest will rend functional society into its dysfunctional modern equivalent in a matter of a few generations - and in the process squander all the wealth and value accumulated over hundreds of previous generations.
This is exactly what happened, and this is how the Western World went from A to B.