Honor

The concept of honor comes up frequently in the Cat Among Dragon books, because the Azdhagi culture is a modified shame culture. Rada, through watching Col. Ingwe Adamski and a few others, practices a more internalized system of honor. This leads to some conflicts, including the one that caused her long facial scar. Today on Earth we are seeing a similar set of  conflicts, as the shame culture of the Middle East and Asia crashes against the internalized honor/guilt culture of the West. Why are people willing to kill over a cartoon? Because of a form of honor, tied into religion.

The psychiatrist who blogged as Dr. Sanity summed up the differences between what she termed a shame culture – many Asian traditions, certain forms of Islam, the traditions of the American colonies and Antebellum US South, and gangsta’ culture – and the internalized patterns of what she calls a guilt culture. Other authors refer to the shame culture as “primal honor,” the honor that is based on others’  perceptions of the individual, or “face.”  http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2005/08/shame-arab-psyche-and-islam.html

In a shame culture, everything depends on others’  perception of you. Your family’s behavior reflects back on you, improving your standing as a person who is strong and who meets or exceeds your culture’s standards, or they can disgrace you by breaking those norms. If your son is caught shoplifting, you might look bad because he got caught – not because he committed the crime per se. If your daughter or wife go out wearing less than is considered modest, you are less of a man because you couldn’t or wouldn’t enforce proper discipline and standards on them. If you steal from your employer and no one knows, hey, no worries. If you go back on a promise to an inferior or to an outsider, to someone who is in no position to make your failure known, who cares? Everything is external, depending on how you are seen to be.

In contrast, guilt culture is internalized. Judaism and Christianity and the behaviors associated with people living in a Judeo-Christian milieu (i.e. the West prior to the 1960s or so) are the two largest examples of guilt culture. Guilt culture is that little voice whispering “don’t do that” even there are no witnesses and no one will know. Guilt cultures emphasize individual responsibility, so if your daughter goes out in less clothes than the neighbors think proper, she’s going to have to take responsibility. If your adult son gets caught stealing from his boss, it is his fault and his responsibility, although you will probably suffer a sleepless night wondering if you could have done something differently. Guilt culture puts far less emphasis on how others perceive you, and more on your own sense of responsibility.  Shame cultures allow followers to place the blame on someone else, while guilt cultures emphasize personal responsibility.

This is part of why you never hear about Jews burning down movie theaters over the movie Noah, or threatening to bomb TV stations that aired The Red Tent. Christians protest things like “Piss Christ” but neither the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor the head of the Southern Baptist Convention are going to place a bounty on the head of the guy who made it or the museum curator who agreed to show it. In contrast, there is logic in attacking the offices of Charlie Hebdo, or trying to murder Lars Vilkes or Salman Rushdie, because  they made the perfect model of behavior look weak and damaged the prestige of all who follow Muhammad. Since Muhammad is not present to defend his honor in person, it is incumbent on his followers to do so, so that the religion he professed does not look bad.  At least according to that set of beliefs.

Rada Ni Drako lives in two sets of cultures – the shame culture of the Azdhagi and the guilt culture of her human associates. The Traders, too, have a form of shame culture, where everything is based on the status and conformation of the orders of the Elders Council. This explains in part why she is so hated. Rada is a living example that someone can not only disobey the Elders (her father) but prosper outside those strictures and commands (Rada). Her existence makes the Elders look weak. That she doesn’t go out of her way to advertise her ancestry, or to flaunt herself, is immaterial. Rakoji da Kavalle delenda est. 

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