Honor Society

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Postby BenODen » Wed Jun 21, 2006 5:18 pm

I think the two statements most striking to me in the Robert Tracinski *ig posted were the ones describing the core of the two societies:

Of ours:
"Implicitly, we recognize that the proper business of life is not sacrifice but achievement. This is the actual code by which most Americans live."

Of theirs:
"The Palestinians show us a society based on sacrifice in its purest, most fanatical form. It is a society built around a single moral model: the suicide bomber, who is lionized on billboards, on television, in popular songs."

I think describing ours as a society of Acheivment is spot on. Our "Heros" are men and women who have reached the pinnacle of acheivement in their fields. Buisness, Sports, Music, perhaps even Religion for some. Our heros have done something that is bigger and better than those that came before them. More money, more innovative, best/most successful athelete, most influential religious figure. Egg me if you must, but this doesn't seem totally sane to me. Not everyone can be at the pinnicle, so the competition will leave quite a bit of blood of conquered competitors around.

Now, is his analysis of the Palestinian culture correct? I'm not so sure. Do they truely look up to only their marytrs? I think I disagree with his assessment of the sanity of their position though. If you had been happy in your home land, and gotten completely expelled by a nation that had just been created by fiat 20 years earlier, would even Americans just roll over and forget about it? It seems that that is the inspiration to all their suffering. Just how many would be suicidally apposed to any two state solution, no matter what the boundaries? Very hard to say how the rubber would meet the road there. Israel has been trying to grind down the Palestinian's will to insist on a one state solution, now there are some 2 state palestinians, but they continue to insist that Israel has no grounds for its agression and that every act must be avenged, ignoring that the 1 state solution party of Palestinians have been egging Israel on to violence. How wrong was it for Israel to expell all the Palestinians? It doesn't seem right, but I'm not well versed in their actions from '47 to '67... I wonder if the momentum of insisting on your land back after almost 40 years is possible to overcome without some sudden event.. If the people do look up to sacrifice as much as he claims, there could well be a feeling of Betraying those that scrificed before them if they were to give up on the ideal that those before them sacrificed for... To say it's quite messy is a major understatement... It's a big mess, but this seems more like a singlemindedness to acheive a goal at all costs rather than a culture of either honor or self-sacrifice for sacrifice's sake.
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Postby GreatCarouser » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:43 pm

How about honor(at least in the sense these posts use it)= loyalty to principle(s)?

I will sometimes waste a little thought time imagining the challenge the first leader who extended true 'mercy' to a defeated enemy must have faced in making that decision...

How those two connect? Amazing what happens when you rub two synapses together....
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Postby bignaf » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:17 pm

Artagel wrote: How wrong was it for Israel to expell all the Palestinians? It doesn't seem right, but I'm not well versed in their actions from '47 to '67... .


Most of the Israeli fighting groups of the time didn't expel Arabs. Which explains why there are many Arabs still living in Israel's pre '67 areas. many of the others fled of their own free volition, assuming the Israelis would kill all arabs under their control, as the Arabs did to the Jews they could kill (except for those the British stopped them from killing). some fringe Jewish grops did somewhat emulated the Arabs (lehi). this got lots of notoriety.
Now on to the Jewish refugees. I bet you never heard about them. about a million Jews who fled Muslim countries because of harsh discriminatory laws and rampant killing by the populace and government. why haven't you heard about them? because Israel took care of them. The arab countries sent loads of money to the palestinians various leaders, for one purpose only. to rebuild, and resettle the Palestinian refugees? no. To kill Jews, and get Israel off the map. So is Israel responsible for the Palestinian refugees? Israel took care of the Jewsih refugees from Arab countries; the Arab countries, with much vaster resources should have done the same.
Last edited by bignaf on Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Shapley » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:30 pm

When you talk about 'face', you're talking about personal honour. But when you talk about an honour society, you're talking about a society that conforms to some code of honour. That is what I am addressing.
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Postby BenODen » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:49 pm

I've heard the tale of fleeing Palestinians both ways. But that's almost here nor there...

The Palestinians that are hell bent on there being no Israel, also have a very strong sense that home is not where they are now. But it seems that the destruction of Israel is the primary goal, probably pre-existing, and pointing at 'occupied lands' and attrocities and injustices is an attempt to demonize Israel. Sometimes I see their point, but reading about the '48, '53, '67 and 73 war, the Arabs are responsable for stirring up Israel. I suppose there is reason to disagree with repartitioning of land by fiat when the arab lands did side with the Allies in WW II. This is a confilict with deep deep roots, at least 100 years if not 1400 years ago. In any case, in the present it seems like there's some in Palestine that admit that it's worth letting Israel exist for the right to peace and a land of their own, but they have gripes about just where the border will be. On the other hand, it also seems that there are those who want to be rid of Israel and have that singular goal. How do you get the moderate sides of Israel and Palestine together to make peace when the more radical elements are doing whatever they can to make sure this doesn't happen? Baaah, I've no clue.

The point on refugees is interesting, though it seems like to leave would be to give up claim on their territory. I see your point that the Palestinians are caught in the middle between funding for the opposing sides, but they do sacrifice and put up with the Israeli atacks and the policians that won't focus on humanitarian aims to get the goal of their own homeland. To what extent is this the politican's goal, and to what extent the People's goal? Well, put it this way, there's no shortage of Suicide Bombers, so it's at least a visable minority. I find it hard to believe that if they were focused on leaving their territory for the safety of Egypt or Jordan that it wouldn't happen eventually. Tieing back into the thread topic, I'm still not sure I see the basis of an honor society in all this...
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Postby GreatCarouser » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:09 am

This link gets into some of the relatively recent history of the area. If you find the site 'biased' you will certainly find many points to base a search for more 'balanced' point of view here.
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Postby barfle » Thu Jun 22, 2006 11:40 am

Wow has this thread meandered in the last 24 hours!

To Shap, I recall a saying that there are two kinds of people: those who divide people into groups, and those who don't.

On the concept of morality, I've been doing a bit of digging and introspection trying to figure out exactly what that means, and why the details differ so much around the world.

We are an evolved species, surviving because we have the will to be competitive for scarce resources, necessary for the survival of the species, such as food and sex. So we are inherently selfish and egotistic.

But, along the way, we discovered the value of cooperation. We could gang up on the bear and kill it before it killed each of us, one at a time. So it became important to forgo some of our innate selfishness for the good of the group, and when the group succeeds, so do its members.

So we are conflicted - on the one hand, we want for ourselves, but on the other hand, we want for the group. When we take for ourselves at the expense of the group, that tends to be described as "immoral."

There are people who feel they have some sort of divine revelation as to what is right and what is wrong, and they tend to preach these revelations often enough that they get people to believe them. This morality is, in my view, artificial, with no benefit to either the individual or the society.

As far as honor is concerned, we tend to honor those who have sacrificed some of their individual satisfaction for the benefit of the group. And if that group identifies with a deity, martyrdom is about as much of a sacrifice as one can make.
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:22 pm

I think what Tracinski misses is that self-sacrifice is only considered honourable when it serves a greater good. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is condemned as suicide. The greatest good that a man can do is to lay down his life for a friend. But to lay down his life for the sake of laying it down is laziness and waste.

Perhaps it is our inability to understand what 'greater good' is achieved when a suicide bomber blows up innocent people. The spread of Islam is apparently not advanced by the killings. If the goal is, as is often reported, twenty nine (or however many are offered) virgins in the afterlife, then the goal is selfish and dishonourable. Suicide bombers were used in Vietnam, but they targeted soldiers as part of the war effort, and thus were honourable, as were Kamikaze Pilots and others who volunteered for suicide missions. If the Kamikaze Pilots had been targeting school buses and shopping plazas, they would have been despised by enemy and ally alike. The term 'terrorist' did not apply to them, because they contributed to the war effort.

Note that I did not say 'if they struck school buses and shopping plazas', but rather 'if the 'targeted' them. That is an important distinction in war. Collateral damage, while regrettable, is a part of the cost of war. It is important to note that the World Trade Center towers were not a military target, the Pentagon was. Thus there is a difference between the targets chosen. However, the choice of using an airliner full of civilians as the weapon of attack made both equally dishonourable.

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Postby BenODen » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:25 pm

Yah, drifting! But I think the insight that there is 'Face' honor and Rule following honor is what's dragging us adrift.

BigJon, which meaning of honor did you have in mind? I'm thinking Face honor...

Barfle. Be careful there, someone might call you an anarchist! Both societal and religious constructs end up being morals. It's not just "Don't cheat on your wife" or "don't marry your gay brother." The religious morals include things so basic as "Don't steal things from your neighbor" and "Don't kill your neighbor" and "You have got to work (contribute to society) to have others contribute to your well being" (i.e. Work to get money so you can buy things you can't make yourself) There are many valuable morals/rules. There may be some that annoy you, but I dont' relish the downfall of society at all, which is what would happen if you threw out *all* common values...
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Postby BenODen » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:32 pm

Well, that's a western definition of honorable, Shapley. To some with sufficient desporation, "whatever it takes" is honorable. The number of deaths they woud be able to incurr on the Millitary would not be sufficient to cause that much heartache, but if they're able to dihearten the whole society, they may be able to turn the people against their government, to force the government to give in to the Militants demands. That is their hope I suspect. And if that is the only hope to get their way, it is seen as honorable by at least some of the palestinians in that it will one day bring about the greater good, or that it is revenge for the collateral damage or for killing off their heros...
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:32 pm

Barfle: RE:
There are people who feel they have some sort of divine revelation as to what is right and what is wrong, and they tend to preach these revelations often enough that they get people to believe them. This morality is, in my view, artificial, with no benefit to either the individual or the society.


I would disagree here. It is worth noting that such people exist in nearly all cultures, indicating to me that either 1 ) They do have divine revelations regarding right or wrong, ot 2 ) their preachings are a benefit to either the individual or to society.

In most cultures, such priest/preacher/profits are elevated to a higher status than the common man. This is a clear benefit to the individual. In many religious orders, however, such elevation is rejected by the priest/preacher/prophet, who chooses to live a spartan lifestyle and encourage the monies/efforts that would be expended on their behalf to be expended towards community betterment, as defined by the priest/preacher/prophet. Whether this betterment is divinely inspired or not, such efforts clearly benefit the community as a whole, as the morality of the priest/preacher/prophet inspires the establishment of laws, codes of sanitation, rules of daily conduct, and a work ethic. I would say these things, whether divinely inspired or not, contribute to the good of the society.

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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:48 pm

Artagel wrote:Well, that's a western definition of honorable, Shapley.


I don't think it is. The Japanese have a very clear definition of 'honour' and 'face', and a loss of either can result in taking one's life, as an honourable death. Roman soldiers would 'fall on their sword' in a similar fashion. Chinese literature tells us of Warriors who have taken their own lives rather than face dishonour. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no literature, Western or otherwise, that celebrates the slaughter of innocents as an honourable tradition.

I believe the concept of 'honour' to be universal. I believe that comes from our common ancestry. I will agree that a society that does not respect honour, that allows the dishonourable to dwell, unchastised, in their midst, is a society that will fall into dishonour as a society. Are we, as a society, there, yet? I cannot say.

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Postby barfle » Thu Jun 22, 2006 1:45 pm

Artagel wrote: Barfle. Be careful there, someone might call you an anarchist! Both societal and religious constructs end up being morals. It's not just "Don't cheat on your wife" or "don't marry your gay brother." The religious morals include things so basic as "Don't steal things from your neighbor" and "Don't kill your neighbor" and "You have got to work (contribute to society) to have others contribute to your well being" (i.e. Work to get money so you can buy things you can't make yourself) There are many valuable morals/rules. There may be some that annoy you, but I dont' relish the downfall of society at all, which is what would happen if you threw out *all* common values...

I'm certainly not an anarchist, although I do feel that people, once they realize the value in cooperation, will be civil and moral without a secular authority.

The secular morals I referred to, without being specific, clearly would include prohibition of theft and murder, although in certain circumstances theft and killing could be justified - which means there is no black or white when it comes to right and wrong.

The religious morals I referred to are probably more along the lines of "victimless crimes" - things like drug use and prostitution, which, in themselves, don't harm anyone except the participants.

If you read what I wrote, you will see that I certainly do not advocate the downfall of society. I explicitly noted advantages to cooperation, so please don't accuse me of such things.
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Postby barfle » Thu Jun 22, 2006 1:48 pm

Shapley wrote: I would disagree here. It is worth noting that such people exist in nearly all cultures, indicating to me that either 1 ) They do have divine revelations regarding right or wrong, ot 2 ) their preachings are a benefit to either the individual or to society.

Or that they've convinced the people that not believing them will have eternal detrimental consequences.
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Postby BigJon@Work » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:05 pm

Artagel wrote: Yah, drifting! But I think the insight that there is 'Face' honor and Rule following honor is what's dragging us adrift.

BigJon, which meaning of honor did you have in mind? I'm thinking Face honor...

I don't really know, because I don't understand the concept enough to differentiate the definitions. The main article on Islamic honor cultures I was reading used the words saving face, so in that context, it is about face.

I seriously don't mind the drift, because I am learning from it.
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:09 pm

Or that they've convinced the people that not believing them will have eternal detrimental consequences.


My argument would be that they would do this for one of the two reasons I listed.

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Postby BigJon@Work » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:11 pm

Shapley wrote:I believe the concept of 'honour' to be universal. I believe that comes from our common ancestry. I will agree that a society that does not respect honour, that allows the dishonourable to dwell, unchastised, in their midst, is a society that will fall into dishonour as a society. Are we, as a society, there, yet? I cannot say.

OK, give me your definition of honor so I can wrap my western mind around it.
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Postby BenODen » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:20 pm

Ok, you're right, it's not an east versus west thing. I was thinking more of Western thought, but it's better to frame it as traditionalist vs non-traditional, or even Modern honor, vs historic honor, since back in history weren't at all picky about who we killed, cf the Crusades.

Honor still seems like a societal construct, even if it's a concept that all societies have. Unfortunately two or more different Islam societies or groups have redefined honor for their own uses. Anything that could possibly sway the world into giving them their way they say is honorable. From the perspective of this war on Terror and the Palestinan Israeli conflict we are stuck in the middle. They claim the right to kill whatever civilians they want, yet get very indignant if any of their civilians are harmed. I don't know that I understand that part of it. Seems like uneven rules to me! In any case, I strongly disagree that the application of the concept of honor is uniform across civilizations. Now, that there is this concept of honor, doing right by the rules for the cause, that is uniform, sure, but clashing concepts of honor make big problems.

I'm not saying you want the downfall of society Barfle. I'll just say it's mighty hard to seporate secular from religious values. Do not kill and do not steal are included in many many religions. Also, there are no victimless crimes. My choices effect somebody else, many other people, no matter what they are. Drugs: by buying drugs I choose to support whoever is peddling the wares and it counts a a vote for their way of life, which definitely violates multiple 'secular' values. Legalize these drugs, and it just changes the cost.. The cost to society is loss of productivity, loss of health, in addition to the likely isolation from society which is a slide towards ignoring laws... Prostitution? It's a service that offers 'no consequence sex' but it effects existing relationships.. The John's family becomes the victim either by being caught, or by being less committed to the family. It's true we can't pass laws to deal with all destructive activities, but if people don't see their destructive behaviors in this day and age, it really does beg the question "WHEN?". I blame guys for most of the Divorce issues, but they're not alone, and it's hard to argue that children aren't effected by divorce. It's hard to be both a protector and a Provider at the same time... I know, I know, I won't win this argument, but there are certainly a lot of questions in my mind about this 'victimless crime' designation for anything that doesn't leave someone hurt, robbed or dead...
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:22 pm

Right or wrong, I've always veiwed 'face' as being an Eastern concept, at least as far as using the terminology. I suppose this dates to the old war movies, where a Japanese officer would comment that he had 'lost face before the Emporer' as a result of the loss of a campaign. Clearly the idea, if not the term, is much older than that. Greek and Roman commanders would fall on their sword rather than face the Emporer under disgrace. The Captain goes down with his ship, and the military field commanders prefers to die alongside his men rather than go home defeated.

I don't believe a society can lose face, as 'face' is personal honour. I've never heard the term applied in a collective sense. On the other hand, I've read accounts of sailors who describe the inhabitants of one land or another as being 'honourable' or dishonourable'. These were, of course, Western sailors. Their barometer for measuring honour would undoubtedly gauge it according to their own sense of honour. It is, I suppose, entirely possible that many of those 'dishonourable' societies were quite honourable when measured against a different barometer.

For some reason I am now reminded of tan's descriptions of Cambodian life. By her description, there seems to be an inordinate amount of dishonourable characters in the neighborhood she dwells in. Yet I doubt very seriously if she would considered the society as a whole dishonourable. By what barometer should we measure it?

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Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:38 pm

Ben and BigJon,

The universal honour I speak of, and should have been more explicit about, is personal honour, i.e., shame. From the day that Adam and Eve first realized they were naked, mankind has been blessed or cursed with a sense of shame. Like the Yin and Yang, without shame, there would be not honour, and without honour, no shame. By discovering shame, Adam and Eve discovered honour. (Okay Barfle, it matters not whether it was discovered by Adam and Eve or by some nameless offspring of an ape that first chose to walk upright and attempt to articulate thought...someone discovered that unique trait of the human - the ability [and the need] to blush.)

Societal honour is a collective sense of honour and of shame. It is not shameful, in some societies, to go naked before the tribe. Yet these societies typically have occasions for which they dress, and it is shameful for them to appear at such functions naked. In some societies there is no private ownership, all things are the possession of the collective society. To take more than is needed is shameful to them. Individuals may lose face by continuously acting in a shameful manner, or by acting shamefully once on a grande scale. A society does not become dishonourable unless it begins to accept shameful behaviour. This would relate to the 'broken window' theory of societal decay.

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