Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Culture of False Honor

Jews must be special. Israelis must be really special. They alone are being criticized, by friend and foe alike, for defending themselves against Islamist terrorism.

The world knows that Hamas has spent years and a fortune building terror tunnels to murder Israelis. And yet, too many people are crying out against Israeli military action… because people are getting hurt.

Muslims the world over are rising up to defend the honor of their culture. It’s not merely that the humiliation is unbearable—a billion Muslims being made to look backward by a small Jewish nation—but that too many Muslims do not know how to deal with shame.

A culture that prescribes the death penalty for a teenage girl who is caught holding hands with her boyfriend has no sense of decency or dignity. If it believes that the act restores honor they have no sense of honor.

To solve the problem the world should make clear that these actions are unacceptable, a disgrace. Only further humiliation will teach the right lesson.

The best way to restore honor is to act honorably and decently. And that begins with protecting and providing for your children… not killing them.

David Gutmann, writing about this subject in Front Page Magazine gets it wrong too. He says that Arab cultures are suffering because they have a culture of honor/shame.

Let’s stipulate that a shame culture, about which I have written much, is characterized by the practice of good manners, ethical behavior, mutual respect and dignity. A shame culture is designed to allow people to deal with shame and humiliation without becoming extremely violent. It is characterized by the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s errors and to correct them.

When Adam and Eve discovered shame they discovered that they had done wrong in the Garden of Eden. They did not blame someone else for their own failing.

Which I why I thought it a good sign that the King of Saudi Arabia denounced Hamas for damaging the image of Islam in the world.

The most important shame culture in the Middle East is Israel, not Gaza. Which culture shows the most respect for its citizens and the citizens of other countries and other religions?

The alternative to a shame culture is a guilt culture. While a shame culture ostracizes, a guilt culture murders and mutilates. Which best describes the efforts of Hamas to murder Jews and to allow its own citizens to be killed in order to gain some good PR?

If the only source of your pride is killing Jews you have no pride and no honor. If you spend all of your resources building tunnels to invade Israel and kill Jews, to the detriment of your children, your pride is false pride and your honor is false honor.

This morning Bret Stephens compared the reporting on the Israeli incursion into Gaza—whose purpose is purely self-defense—with the reports on the Pakistani military’s offensive against terrorist groups in its tribal regions.

Here Stephens summarizes the content of a Washington Post report on the fighting in Pakistan:

Underground tunnels, explosives factories, weeks of airstrikes, artillery bombardment, mass displacement of civilians—leaving aside the probability that this is the first that you've heard of any of this, does it ring a familiar bell? If so, maybe the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the various self-described antiwar groups that marched near the White House on Saturday to protest Israel's military campaign in Gaza can organize another big rally outside the Pakistani embassy. No more U.S. aid to Islamabad! Boycott Pakistani products! Divest from Pakistani companies!

It’s not just CAIR, of course. How many American Jews have been whining about the terrible things that the Israeli military is doing? How many of them have been trying to prevent the IDF from completing its mission on the grounds that it was making Israel look bad in the eyes of world public opinion? How many of them noticed that they themselves are feeding the Islamist propaganda machine, making Hamas look good by making Israel look bad?

The Western intelligentsia, Jewish and otherwise, is really trying to cover the shame of Hamas. Above all else, it fears the wrath of Muslims because it knows, if only intuitively that in a culture of false pride and false honor the only way to look good is to make your opponent look bad. These intellectuals believe that they occupy the moral high ground… even if that entails helping to improve the image of a fanatical group that abhors everything it believes in. They don't know that occupying the moral high ground makes you a target.

Last week the media was aflame with attacks on Israel. It was filled with images of suffering Palestinians. It had nothing to say about the Muslim-on-Muslim violence that is engulfing other parts of the world.

Stephens sums it up:

In Iraq, some 1,600 people were killed in the month of July. "I am concerned about the rising number of casualties in Iraq, particularly among the civilian population," U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the AFP. "Children and women are most vulnerable."

Note the verb. Not outraged or appalled, merely concerned.

In Syria, more than 1,800 people have been killed in just the last 10 days. On Monday, the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights reported the deaths of "at least 130 people, including seven children and 10 women," at the hands of forces loyal to Bashar Assad.

As for the State Department, its only Syria-related press release from Monday was an announcement that it was funding a project to "document the current condition of cultural heritage sites in Syria and assess the future restoration, preservation, and protection needs for those sites."

In Libya, roughly 200 people were killed last month in artillery and rocket clashes between rival militias. Another 22 were killed over the weekend as Islamist groups attacked Tripoli's airport.

A joint statement by the governments of France, Italy, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. noted only that "we strongly condemn the ongoing violence across the country . . . which jeopardizes the continuation of a peaceful transition and severely affects the life of the Libyan people."

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has turned its fury on Muslims who try to fight back against the jihadist group. Nearly 3,000 people have been killed so far this year, and another 500,000 have been made refugees. A spokesperson for the U.N.'s Mr. Ban issued a statement in his name, condemning Boko's attacks.

All this is happening and no one much cares. Muslims killing Muslims… no problem.

The intellectuals who are attacking Israel or are pleading with Israelis to make nice to Hamas, to negotiate in good faith are simply afraid. They are afraid that Muslim rage, a rage that knows no honor or decency, will soon come home. They believe that the best way to prevent it is to appease Hamas. They have not understood that by undermining Israel they are undermining the values that they hold dear.


Ares Olympus said...

David Gutmann's article is from 2003?

Myself, I can't judge Arab or Muslim culture's shame/honor basis, or not, or whether the actions of Hamas are representative of the wider culture.

You might consider the American South is more of a Shame/honor society compared to the Protestant North's Guilt society. At least that generalization might be something we can discuss with some personal knowledge.

Does anyone talk about that? Let's see, here's an article:
The cultural anthropologist Paul G. Hiebert has written: "Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one."

I don't know if that definition agrees or not, but, I do wonder about what LOOKS LIKE irrationality in southern politics, and wonder about the "humiliation" from the Civil War, ending in segregation, and from the 1960's resistance to Civil Rights to break segregation, and I understand the anger against the federal government's interference in local politics.

And the abortion debate also perhaps could be judged from this divide, one side content to judge abortion as an issue of personal conscience (guilt society?), and another side that sees it as a moral position (shame society?)

Anyway, if these divides exist within our country, who can say what divides exist in the Muslim and Arab cultures which are surely at least as diverse as we are.

Hamas's tactics and is a monstrosity to be sure, and one that is perhaps fed by politics as culture.

Its so easy to judge, and righteous to judge violence, and you wonder how it escalated, and each side is somehow convinced of its own list of grievances and tactics.

I don't even know anything where Jews fit as a shame/honor or guilt society?

Lastly, "false honor" is a troublesome claim to me, at least judging the sincerity of another culture's pain and response seems to be dangerous.

If there's false honor in the Muslims of Hamas, perhaps there's equal false honor in the Jews of Israel? You might as well say "trauma" creates false honor in everyone trying to find meaning in their pain, but at least it would be admitting there's a hidden need unmet, and a psychopathic persona who has dehumanized someone else to justify what can never be justified.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Apparently, you haven't read either of the two books I have written about this topic.

Ares Olympus said...

Alas, no Stuart, I haven't read your books, and I know I show off my ignorance at every step. I understand that must be frustrating to you, desiring knowledgeable feedback. I do search your blog archives.

Sam L. said...

"They have not understood that by undermining Israel they are undermining the values that they hold dear." Being Progressives, they don't care.

Ares Olympus said...

Good news, "Saving Face: America and the Politics of Shame" is selling used on Amazon for $0.01+$3.99 shipping, so I made my order today, 8 more copies still online!

It's a strange world we live in, but somehow the economics of book selling makes sense. Maybe they're just trying to raise their "positive review" status? Even my local thrift store charges $1 for hardcopies, unless you get lucky on half price Tuesdays.


Anonymous said...

Ares, have you published a book?

It's a strange world we live in, where those who are not in the arena criticize those who place themselves there by choice, and expose themselves to insult and idiocy.


Stuart, I'll purchase a full-price copy of "Saving Face," if you have any on hand. You know where to reach me. Send an address where I should send the (full price) check.

Good grief, Ares. How small.


Dennis said...

There is nothing strange about the world we live in.

"In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh , had this to say about the fall of The Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover That they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

Tyler went on to suggest that democracies tended to go through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage."
"Sir John Glubb's essay on the "Fate of Empires" also follows a similar track, where the length of a prominent nation is about 10 generations from his study of Empires over the last 3000 years. Here is brief summary:
"(d) The stages of the rise and fall of great
nations seem to be:
The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
The Age of Conquests
The Age of Commerce
The Age of Affluence
The Age of Intellect
The Age of Decadence.
(e) Decadence is marked by:
An influx of foreigners
The Welfare State
A weakening of religion."

Note the similarities. We seem incapable of learning from the past which makes us destined to repeat the errors of the past.
People do not change only the technology available to them does. There is nothing that is strange about it other than our ability to keep putting people who want power and control over us. We are our worst enemy .

Dennis said...

By the by, I forgot to give attribution to instapundit site for the two quotes. ...to keep putting people who want power and control over us...into positions of authority.

Could not agree more.