I have no idea why the idea bubbled up, other than my wondering how, exactly, one would define “caddish” behavior in modern terms. Those of us who have read books written during Victorian times, or patterned off of those, recognize a cad when we see one in action. “Sleezy” doesn’t work, because caddish behavior did not necessarily imply that the man’s manner was unctuous, slimy, and somewhat dirty. There’s a sense of disrespect at a fundamental level by the cad for his cad’s victim, and an unwillingness to accept responsibility. Like another famous definition, those who read/imprinted on Victorian-era books “know it when I see it.”
Which then led me to thinking about honor, and the different kinds of honor. One is primarily external, and often involves group behavior. The other is far more internal and individual. They are not exclusive, and a person can have both kinds of honor. The blog post below, by a clinical psychiatrist who used to blog as Dr. Sanity, has a very nice “matrix” of the two kinds.
Dr. Sanity used the terms “guilt culture and shame culture.” I’ve also seen the “shame culture” described as “primal honor,” the honor of the code duello, and the Southern Cult of Honor (see the book Honor and the Old South by Bertram Wyatt-Brown). Shame-based codes of honor focus on “how do others see me?” If an action will make others view you poorly, you don’t do it. If no one knows? Not so much of a problem. So if your daughter flirting with a boy from outside your social group makes you look weak, you punish her, because others will talk. If you steal from your employer and no one notices, then it’s not a problem (as long as you are not caught, of course.)
Guilt culture is more internalized. You conduct is between you and . . . Your deity, your personal moral standards, whatever you use as a guide. Even if no one knows, you still will, and so you act or keep from acting. Some sociologists and psychologists say that internalized honor is a more “advanced” behavior than is external honor. I don’t know enough to argue one way or another. And it is often a continuum, depending on the individual, the culture, and the situation.
In a very, very broad sense, shame culture is found in Asia and Islamic cultures, while guilt culture is found in Jewish and Christian cultures. I say very, very broad, because once you start picking at things, you can easily find shame culture in Christian societies, especially those that came from the old Roman Empire (Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Balkans, and thence Latin America).
But not always. Self-control in the sense of not “losing one’s cool” and showing dramatic anger is associated with guilt culture, but then think about the scene in the Godfather when the (impulsive, stupid, and soon to be deceased) character barges in on the main character as the main character is dining. They are both Sicilians. Same culture. But the viewer knows who is in control – not the guy shouting and waving his hands.
Over the decades I picked up on the guilt-culture concept of honor. It probably suits my personality better, although which came first is something that could be argued for hours, probably. This led to some awkward moments over the years, and some rewarding moments. Today, having a strong sense of internalized honor is sometimes denigrated as stuck-up, repressed, good-goody, “too devout” [your guess is as good as mine on that one. I didn’t feel like staying around to ask questions about her personal systematic theology], and in some circles “too white.” I went to a college with an iron-clad honor code, and watched a few people get expelled for honor code violations. It wasn’t pretty. We all knew the rules, and the vast majority of us agreed to live by those rules because them made life better for us as a group. No one could say that they didn’t know the penalties for lying, cheating, or theft.
You don’t hear the word used much anymore. Honor of any kind seems to be out of favor in the mass media, where “authenticity” and “cultural relativism” and “follow your happiness” are more important than not hurting one’s fellow man. I remember the “if it feels good, do it” phase in pop-culture. That hasn’t worked so well, looking back over the last decades. There are problems with either kind of honor, some that affect the individual, some that affect society. I’d prefer to live in a guilt-culture than a shame-culture. That’s how I try to operate. Self-control, acting properly when no one else is around . . .
Just ignore the chocolate in my desk drawer. It is only for emergencies. And besides, I can stop any time. 😉