Years ago, I read in an Efraim Karsh book something to the effect that the Arab honor culture is actually a shame culture. That is, in America, honor is a personal standard, one by which we measure ourselves. Arab honor, however, is a public face one presents to the world. If something goes wrong, shame kicks in, and it is that shame that leads to so-called “honor killings.”
Japan is also a shame/honor culture, one in which a loss of honor is manifested by public shame, rather than private embarrassment.
What’s interesting is the way in which the two different cultures react to what the Japanese so elegantly call a “loss of face.” The Japanese person whose honor has been lost to a public shaming dispatches himself. He quits his job or, if he’s a hidebound (or masochistic) traditionalist, he commits seppuku (aka hara kiri). In any event, he expunges the shameful loss of honor by expunging himself.
In the Arab culture, however, the Arab person whose honor has been lost to a public shaming dispatches the one who destroyed his honor. That is, he expunges the shameful loss of honor by expunging someone else, be it his wife, his daughter, his daughter’s boyfriend, a corporation, or a country.
I don’t have any conclusions to draw from this. It’s just something I was thinking about when I was discussing the two cultures with a friend.Email This Post To A Friend
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