Honor Society

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Honor Society

Postby BigJon@Work » Tue Jun 20, 2006 6:20 pm

I’ve been doing some web-based research on independent topics and three of them spiraled around to how the modern US mind can’t understand a society based on honor and the loss of honor. The studies were on ancient Jewish culture, Japanese culture and Islamic influenced culture.

I must admit I need some help here. To me honor is one of the more nebulous terms as I was not raised in an honor culture and I don’t know what the term even really means. From the outside, it looks like an honor culture is a society of unwritten rules and multiple inscrutable paths to mortally insulting someone. The rules vary by family and clan and you can never know them without having grown up in them. I read that the military branches are the closest thing we have to an honor culture in the USA.

How does an honor society work? If you grew up in one, how does and outsider come to understand the rules and function in that society. Does the inability and inexperience of the typical US citizens in honor cultures really make us unable to negotiate with many worldwide societies to mutually beneficial agreements? The premise of the one report I was reading was that the US’s ham-fisted treatment of the Islamic-based honor culture in Iraq is the primary reason for the protracted and bitter struggle from within.
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Postby bignaf » Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:31 pm

I'm not so sure about ancient Jewish culture being an honor society. but maybe I didn't understand your definition. (though the "unwritten rules" part, doesn't seem to apply - while ancient Jews loved rules, they loved writing even more :D). I can probably help if you have specific questions.
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Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:57 pm

I'm not sure that a true honour-based society exists, except perhaps among what we would consider primitive cultures such as the Aluets, the Mayas, or the dwellers of the rainforests of New Guinea and South America. The term calls to mind the knights of old, with their code of Chivalry, and yet the tales of that era are full of betrayals and dishonour. Similarly, stories of Arabia are full of dishonour and betrayal.

Having a code does not necessarily mean that society obeys it. I would say that a culture that obeys its codes, written or unwritten, would be honourable. Few of them do.

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Postby barfle » Wed Jun 21, 2006 8:27 am

There's a short story by Jack London titled Lost Face. It's the story of how a chief of a tribe got fooled rather badly by a prisoner of his, and how that caused him to lose "face" with the members of his tribe. It takes about fifteen minutes to read, at most, and although it's a bit gory in places, I think it at least illustrates what BigJon is questioning.

Shap, although you note that few cultures obey their own codes, I believe you will find a human history full of examples of people treating outsiders far different than they do insiders. Not that treatment of insiders is fully consistent, because we are human with all the foibles that entails, but we tend to have far greater loyalty to members of our own group than we do to those outside our group.
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Postby Shapley » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:11 am

Barfle,

RE: Insiders

Perhaps this is true, but I think that, as the group gets larger, the insiders begin to gather into sub-groups, and then treat members of other sub-groups as outsiders, even though they are all members of the same originial honour group. I guess an example would be the Sunnis and Shiites as sub-groups of the Islamic group. However, you don't have to go that broad of a scale to see pattern. In the Military, the various branches treat each of the other branches as outsiders. Within the Navy, we seperated the crew into "Airdales" and "Blackshoes", defining the difference between aircrewmen and ship's company (The aircrewmen were not a regular component of the ship. They were came on board with the aircraft when deploying, and were dropped off at the end of the deployment. The ship's company were permanent crewmembers, serving aboard in port and at sea.)

Further division of the ship's company existing, seperating those who worked below decks from those above. The engineering gang was seperate from the supply people, etc. The Army and the Air Force have similar sub-groups, usually divided along work-related lines. I should also point out that West-Coast sailors looked upon East-Coast sailors as inferior.

It seems to be the natural order of humanity to divide itself into groups. There is, I'm sure, some sort of honour code within the groups, but the code seems to more of a guideline. :D

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Postby BenODen » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:34 am

From what I've observed about Societal Honor, it seems like the premise is flawed. The premise seems to be this:

"If you do all the right things, you can be seen as perfect and invulnerable to being tricked, or insulted."

Any act that contradicts that assumption is assumed to be an affront to that person's honor and the person who contradicts that assumption must pay for the loss of stature or the person affronted must purge his dishonor in whatever way is available. It seems like this is a manipulative system. I can not point out your flaws because you will either demand restitution or you will kill yourself and leave the guilt on me...
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Postby BigJon@Work » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:13 am

Hi, Benito, did you grow up in an honor culture? I'm looking for someone who has lived both the honor culture and the US culture to explain their honor culture to me. For perspective, to my eye the US culture is built on the myth of the rugged individualist, which ends up being egalitarian in practice .
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Postby BenODen » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:21 am

Nope, didn't grow up in one.. I'm as white as they come. I just have made observations about it.. Though, some of my observations come from movies, and those should just be thrown out..

... It's funny how hard it is to keep movies straight from reality sometimes. Someone should do a study on that! Pick some topic that is well known and also has had lots of movies with errors and ask questions about the information that has the errors and see how many times the movie error comes up and how many times the real facts come out... Heck, could be expanded to TV and Ad and Governmental misinformation as well...
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Postby BigJon@Work » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:24 am

For those of you who have been in the military, particularly the Marines, how was the concept of honor drilled into you? What were you taught about it. It seems to be a word that the Marines like to use in their advertising.
http://parents.marines.com/page/Honorable-Path.jsp
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Postby piqaboo » Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:37 pm

Honor means different things in different contexts. "Face" or "status" seems to be words that work better for americans trying to understand these societies, as we have our own definitions of honor relating to morality rather than to manners, etiquette and societal norms.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:13 pm

Piq, I think you should think again. I think you're being western-centric.
and what is morality?
obviously no offense intended.
Last edited by bignaf on Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:15 pm

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/06/the_suicide_bomb_morality.html
this might be found relevant. I disagree with it, but it's a good point.
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Postby BigJon@Work » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:23 pm

That's a little over the top, but he is licking around the edges of what I am driving towards.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:45 pm

definitely over the top
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Postby piqaboo » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:49 pm

'naf, I didnt express it well. I dont mean that 'face' etc dont include morality in them, but that they also include a lot more that we in the US dont include under the umbrella 'honor'.

So, I think that a (small) part of US inability to understand these cultures is use of the word 'honor', which leads us down a path Shap followed above, rather than in the direction more implied by 'face'. I also agree with someone above who differentiated between our focus on individuals vs focussing on someones place within a society being the purpose of that person being part of the inability to comprehend.

And by 'understanding', I dont mean intellectually, I mean getting it in the gut. I can comprehend that if this, then that in such a society but no part of me really 'gets' (groks) why that leads to vendetta or suicide.

I'm sure (as mentioned above) that this difference does contribute to our failure to communicate successfully internationally in some areas. We dont get tribal politics/honor/face - it just dont make sense to us.
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:58 pm

oh, OK. I like that better. that's conveys a lrger picture. it still highly debatble, since you're just using the word "morality," which means different things to different people, and -- according to that article -- might mean to you something other than you think it means. but yeah, that's very philosophical, and most people don't have definitions of it either.
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Postby piqaboo » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:00 pm

Oh man, he is so going to go to hell for writing that! He makes some good points.

Time to see if the library has Ayn Rand. Been ages and ages since I read thru her works. Can someone remind me how to pronounce her name? All I can remember is that I have it wrong....
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:04 pm

yeah, it's too hedonsitic for me. i can't stand Ayn Rand. I think it's pronounced "in." I can send you a copy of Fountainhead by mail. I don't need it... :twisted:
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Postby piqaboo » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:05 pm

'naf, but my society (for wrong or right), does not expect me to commit suicide if I dishonor myself. Instead, it prefers to recompense itself via the courts. So when we speak here of honor, we miss out that whole society implication of face.
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Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Wed Jun 21, 2006 4:25 pm

I usually prounounce Ayn as "Ann". She hasn't ever complained... :roll: I read her stuff years and years and years ago; I recall some philosophical truths, and some hideous gaps in her world view. Too much preaching, too many agonized protagonists (I like my characters to have a sense of humor) and so forth. I'd loan you a book, but I've apparently rid myself of all the detritus of the '60s. I can loan you a whole bunch of Kathy Reichs books.

The whole "honor" thing gets real slippery. There are too many social definitions, all using the same word, and they don't all mean the same thing. One definition holds each individual responsible for absolute personal integrity and correct action; another just means that you should stab anybody who points out that you're behaving badly.
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