I think it's saying something that the first line talks about the youngest children, what the youngest children know. Therefore, honor is something patterned after what the youngest children know and do, and using it as an excuse to have a fight is, well, childish. How about adults? What do adults know and do? Is there a reason why adults tell children not to fight, send them to their rooms, put them in time out? If you are so enamored of honor, then honor killings by the mob and by fathers of chlidren who "disgrace" them must seem perfectly natural. One of the hallmarks of being an adult is learning to rein in childish impulses to hit somebody, which honor discourages. Honor is such a ridiculous idea that it should be expunged from the vocabulary, let alone have it dictate policy. ----- Original Message ----- From: Lawrence Helm To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Sent: 5/9/2006 10:29:30 AM Subject: [lit-ideas] Honor: A History A lurker recommended the book Honor: a History by James Bowman to me. He provided an excerpt from the book, presumably because it pertains to some of the things we have been discussing recently. Here is the publisher?s site: http://www.encounterbooks.com/books/hohi/hohi.html Here is a review from National Review: http://www.nrbookservice.com/products/BookPage.asp?prod_cd=c6925 Note to Irene: Everything below the line was written by Bowman, not me. Lawrence "You can't expect, when you get somebody, that they won't get you back." It struck me as a neat summing-up of one of the earliest lessons we all learn--so early that most of us have no memory of a time when we have not known it - which is also the basis of what used to be called "honor." - The youngest children know without having the concept explained to them what it means to lose face, to be contemptible in the eyes of their coevals, and will risk almost any displeasure or punishment from the adults in authority over them, rather than submit to such humiliation. This is honor at its most basic. And so deep-seated is the response that it's almost impossible to imagine its replacement by some more benign principle of social interactions, either for individuals or for nations. In spite of the worthy efforts of our educators in "conflict avoidance" and "peace studies," the idea of a peaceful society built on such utopian models has proved to be as elusive as ever. It would almost seem as if that most basic form of honor, that foundational social reflex to let others know one is not to be trifled with, is something that we must live with. Yet such a thought has become, over the last two or three generations, almost literally unthinkable. Ever since "the war to end wars" in 1914-1918, the utopian and pathological explanation of human conflict--that it has diagnosable causes in some personal, social or political illness and will end with the cure of that illness and thus the removal of those causes--has been taken for granted not only by the most progressive thinkers but increasingly by ordinary people. Some people engaged in "peace studies" have even invented a word, "bellicist," to describe those who still believe in this reflexive, hitting-back kind of honor as it applies to nations. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not any such ideology as "bellicism" actually exists, part from the reality of actual warfare, we can see that the coinage is meant to imply that pacifism is always a real alternative. If wars are the product of "bellicist" assumptions, then not-war will be the product of pacifist assumptions. It is utopian logic that has been with us for a very long time now, and even those who do not consider themselves pacifists have been aught to think of peace as the natural condition of mankind just as health is the natural condition of the body. War, in this view, is an aberration whose causes are always knowable and avoidable by sufficiently perspicacious statecraft. Of course there has never been a time when there have not been wars or preparations for war, but politicians of both left and right in American and elsewhere in the West have at least been forced to act as if they believed in the utopian view--which means that any wars they may choose to fight will have to be gone into more or less hypocritically. On the left, failure to avoid conflict is taken as ipso facto evidence of political and diplomatic failure. On the right, as the war in Iraq has taught us, even the most conservative presidents, even when they are faced with an attack on their own country, must seek immediate, obvious and prophylactic reasons to justify any resort to arms. When America and its allies went to war in Iraq, it seems never to have occurred to anybody, conservative or liberal, pro-war or anti-war, that such a move could be, let alone should be, justified in terms of national honor. To that primitive way of thinking (if anyone had admitted to engaging in it), it would have been necessary to do something to show the Arab enemies of America and the West that they couldn't expect , when they got us, we wouldn't get them--and anyone remotely connected with them--back. Indeed, the more remote the better. Those who complained that the Iraq War did nothing to punish al-Qaeda for the September 11 attacks o n the United States were missing the point, as those schooled in old ideas of honor would have seen it. Precisely because Saddam Hussein's connections with al-Qaeda were as tenuous as they were, it would have made sense to those in primitive honor cultures to make an example of him, and so warn others who might be vulnerable to American arms and who were tempted to support terrorists, albeit slight and secretly, that they shouldn't even think about it.