Friday, September 29, 2006

Honor-Shame Culture

Here's a good elucidation of what Honor-Shame culture is and how it operates in humans in general and the Muslim world in particular, from Augean Stables.

Some salient points:

Shame-oriented societies and guilt-oriented societies differ primarily in where the locus of "badness" lies. In guilt-oriented cultures, such as the modern West, if you have done something bad, you should be ashamed regardless of whether your bad deed is known. In shame-oriented cultures, you're bad only when others think you're bad. If you commited the bad act but were not caught, you're OK; if you didn't commit the bad act but people think you did, you're shamed.

"[T]he desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved.

"Additionally, it may be impossible for an individual to even admit to himself that he is guilty (even when he is) particularly when everyone else considers him to be guilty because of the shame involved. As long as others remain convinced he is innocent, the individuals does not experience either guilt or shame. A great deal of effort therefore goes into making sure that others are convinced of your innocence (even if you are guilty)." --Dr. Sanity

"The Arab world is suffering a crisis of humiliation. Their armies are routed not only by Americans, but also by tiny, Jewish Israel; and as Arthur Koestler once remarked, the Arab world has not, in the last 500 years or so, produced much besides rugs, dirty postcards, elaborations on the belly-dance esthetic (and, of course, some innovative terrorist practices). They have no science to speak of, no art, hardly any industry save oil, very little literature, and portentous music which consists largely of lugubrious songs celebrating the slaughter of Jews." -- David Gutmann

"Besides sharpening their sense of inferiority relative to the West, modernization threatens to bring about the liberation of women (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). I say 'threatens,' because the self-esteem of Arab males is in large part predicated on the inferior position of their women. The Arab nations have for the most part lost their slaves and dhimmis, the subject peoples onto whose persons the stigmata of shame could be downloaded. But anyone who has spent time among them knows that Arab males have not lost their psychological need for social and sexual inferiors. In the absence of slaves and captive peoples, Arab women are elected for the special role of the inferior who, by definition, lacks honor. Arab men eradicate shame and bolster their shaky self-esteem by imposing the shameful qualities of the dhimmi, submission and passivity, upon women. Trailing a humbled woman behind them, Arab men can walk the walk of the true macho man." -- Gutmann

"In regard to military history, the Arab's preference for guerrilla over conventional war reflects a long tradition, one that began in antiquity, with the Bedouin raiders. Their way of war -- brilliantly described by T.E. Lawrence in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom –- is based on hit-and-run forays by camel-mounted Bedouin who appear suddenly out of the desert, tear up an unsuspecting enemy camp, and then disappear back into the waste, carrying 'honorable' loot: thoroughbred horses, camels and women." -- Gutmann

"The traditional Bedouin created a nearly pure 'Shame' culture, whose goal was to avoid humiliation, and to acquire sharraf -- honor. Thus, the goal of the Bedouin raid is not to finally win a war, for such inter-tribal conflict is part of the honorable way of life, and should never really end. The essential goals of the raid are to take wealth –- not only in goods, but also in honor -- and to impose shame on the enemy. Any opponent worth fighting is by definition honorable, and pieces of his honor can be ripped from him in a successful raid, to be replaced by figments of the attacker's shame. The successful attacker has 'exported' some personal shame to the enemy, and the enemy's lost honor has been added to the raider's store." -- Gutmann

In other words, one can interpret the 9-11 attacks as a way to humiliate the US and to bolster Islamic honor. Seen in context with the fall of the Soviet Union and the jihadis' claim to have caused it (see previous post), waging a war, even a losing war, against the Great Satan or the Little Satan, is sufficient to claim lost honor as long as your opponent loses something. Which is why Hezbollah claimed victory against the Israelis, even though Hezbollah lost more people. They drew blood, which is enough.

And how is this sense of shame instilled in every member of a culture? Simple: you humiliate your children by physically and psychologically abusing them, which, as it turns out is the default condition of human society, not the exception. Robert Godwin explores the primordial urge to abuse and even sacrifice children, and how the story of Abraham and Isaac represents the break with that abhorrent practice in this post from last July.

However, having said all that, I can't help but notice that the current jihad is about much more than stealing tidbits of honor from the West, here a little and there a little. Surely, there is some of that going on. But there's more to it: there's an element of the rawest ambition present, a desire not to draw blood from your enemy, but to fully dominate or, failing that, to annihilate him. Is this merely a desire to restore honor? Or is this the same ambition that has fueled tyrants' dreams from Alexander to Ghengis Khan to Hitler?

I'm guessing the latter is predominant, but you can't underestimate the Muslim Shame dynamic in its ability to animate, recruit, and mobilize individuals whose Shame at being outdone by the infidel must be expunged at any cost.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Taliban--Part 1

I've been reading the book Taliban by Ahmed Rashid, copyright 2000, and it has been an extremely enlightening experience. Because it was written before September 11, 2001, and before the 2000 elections, when the Great Rift between Left and Right began to emerge, I figure that Rashid was not terribly interested in pushing a particular agenda or spinning the story for any Larger Cause. As far as I can tell, he's just cataloging the events and people who contributed to the phenomenon called the Taliban and its ties to international Islamic terrorism, before terrorism became front-page news.

On the other hand, much of what he says confirms my suspicions about how this all started, so maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear. Except that my suspicions have been and still are that this whole business is extremely complicated, with multitudes of players, each with their own agendas and their own methods, and overlapping layers of historical influences, geography, religious beliefs, cultures, tribes, and even weather.

This detailed picture of Afghanistan in the 1980s through 2000 stands in breathtaking contrast to the oversimplified world view in which the US is the ├╝ber-oppressor, throwing its weight around with impunity while the rest of the world cowers in fear, and gee, look, some of them finally got the 'nads to fight back. Huh. Maybe we should let these righteous underdogs win, eh? I mean, we deserve it for being such bullies.

Hardly. The role the US played was at times very miniscule indeed, while at other times we were working actively in the region's best interests (and ours, too, natch), but the Law of Unintended Consequences came back and bit us hard in the anatomy.

But not for the reasons the Left imagines. Not for the reasons Chutch and his chicken-hatted fans dream about nights.

Check it out: back in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The US policy of resisting Soviet aggression on the one hand while avoiding all-out war with the USSR itself (a tricky balancing act, for those of us old enough to remember) led us to recruit Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, men who already had fighting on their minds, to join their Muslim brethren in Afghanistan to resist the Soviets, for whom the Muslim world had no love.

They were trained and armed--largely by Saudi Intelligence, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ISI--then turned loose in that rugged terrain, and the Muslims drove the Soviets back. That was a total rush for the Muslims. They beat the freakin' Soviets, man. Not a shabby job. And shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union fell.

What most people don't seem to know is that while we Americans credit Ronald Reagan for that fall--or at the very least recognize that the Soviet edifice collapsed under its own rotten, corrupt weight--the Mujaheddin believed that they caused it. Says Rashid:

Most of these radicals speculated that if the Afghan jihad had defeated one superpower, the Soviet Union, could they not also defeat the other superpower, the US and their [the jihadis] own regimes? The logic of this argument was based on the simple premise that the Afghan jihad alone had brought the Soviet state to its knees. The multiple internal reasons which led to the collapse of the Soviet system, of which the jihad was only one, were conveniently ignored. So while the USA saw the collapse of the Soviet state as the failure of the communist system, many Muslims saw it solely as a victory for Islam. For militants this belief was inspiring and deeply evocative of the Muslim sweep across the world in the seventh and eighth centuries. A new Islamic Ummah, they argued, could be forged by the sacrifices and blood of a new generation of martyrs and more such victories.

One of those jihadis was Osama bin Laden. More on that later.

The upshot of this particular incident being that they weren't reacting to bullying by the US but rather to a desire to install a Caliphate. And if the US is in the way, then the US has to go. Our behavior towards them isn't even a factor.

You might wonder why on earth the US would risk bringing together a bunch of radicals and giving them weapons. Isn't that like giving toddlers pneumatic staple guns and then being startled at the results?

Said Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor, "What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

Which goes to prove the old adage that every war sets up the conditions for the next war. I remember being flabberghasted when I heard that during WWII, we were allied with the Soviet Union. Weren't they the bad guys, too?

Well, yeah, but they also had tanks and they could beat Hitler. Which they did. And afterwards we had them to deal with.

So how about we not ally with any wackos to fight the jihadis, mmmkay?

UPDATE: Here's a short piece by Rashid in the WaPo, which was characterized by Michelle Malkin as a "worthless piece of jihadi apologism." I guess she means the part where he says that Brits need to look to the poverty and other bad social conditions of their Muslim population. But it didn't seem overly apologetic to me...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Karl Rove outwits the sinistrosphere with both arms tied behind his back

So some fool leaks one apparently damning snippet of the NIE report, which suggests that our operations in Iraq are creating more terrorists. The sinistrosphere and their pals in the MSM go wild, so in "retaliation," Bush declassifies the report. Which was released in April, BTW.

And it turns out that the NIE report says pretty much the opposite of what the leaker leaked, which calls for the sinistrosphere and the MSM to eat crow. (They never will, but we can always hope, no?)

In other words, they're pwn3d. One reader tells Glenn Reynolds that Karl Rove must have set it up, leaking a tidbit that the lefties were sure to snatch up, then releasing the whole report to make them look like a bunch of opportunistic fools.

Quoth Glenn:

I don't really think that Karl Rove is smart enough to have set this up. But, really, with the opposition he faces, he doesn't have to be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In which I make it to the Big Time

Ace gave me a whole thread to myself. I'm positively gob-smacked.

Of course, that didn't increase my readership, but then, that was never the point, was it?

Friday, September 15, 2006


Here's to the world's best fake liberal on the blogosphere, Witheld, who, with many others, is guest-blogging over at Protein Wisdom while Jeff moves into a new house.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Must-See TV

I wasn't going to bump the memorial post (see below) until after September 11th, but I found this:

James Lileks put together a video on the original September 11th, made from what he recorded off TV and some home video of that day. Poignant. Heart-rending.

And hard to believe that so many people can see it and cheer. A pox upon them. A pox upon them and their houses.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In Memory of Lawrence Don Kim (d. September 11, 2001)

Lawrence Don Kim was born on November 22, 1970. He was from Blue Bell, PA (just outside Philadelphia), rated as one of the "100 Best Places to Live in the United States" by Money magazine.

On September 11, he drove to work, arriving between 7:30am and 8:00am at the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It was his second day of work at Marsh & McLennan, which was located on the 96th floor. He was a Senior Manager of Information Technology for this insurance agency.

At 8:46am, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north side of the North Tower, between the 93rd and 99th floors. Evidence suggests that all three of the building's stairwells became impassable from the 92nd floor up. Lawrence would have either been killed by the impact or trapped alive until the building's collapse.

Friends remember Lawrence—Larry—as a man with a strong appetite for life. In his quest for knowledge, he taught himself German so that he could read Freud in the original language. He also owned several versions of Martin Heidegger's Being and Time and could quote from Goethe's Faust.

His appetite for food included favorites such as donuts, wine, NYC vendor hot dogs, his sister's pancakes, and General Tso's chicken, which he would cook for his father.

His appetite for life was manifest in his love for pop music such as Celine Dion and the movie Philadelphia, which he watched two dozen times.

His appetite for work earned him a reputation as a workaholic. At a former place of employment, Time Warner in Tampa, security guards became alarmed because his car was parked in the same place for eight straight days while he worked on a project.

"Larry was an angel to his family and friends here on earth; he now watches over us from above. We will always remember his smiling face and that wonderful personality that could melt even the coldest of hearts. It's been a year since Larry was taken from us so suddenly along with so many other good, honest people, but the pain still lingers and it will stay. Minor relief comes only in knowing that we now have a guardian angel. I was blessed in having such a caring, generous friend, even though our time was too short. We miss and love you Larry." — Marci Wolfe

Square from United in Memory™: The 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt

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This post is part of 2,996, a tribute to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.