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The Quest for Honor

时间:2005-05-24 16:00来源:互联网 提供网友:chirie   字体: [ ]

By Zlatica Hoke
The concept of honor varies from one culture to another. It has also changed over time. Social scientists say understanding what honor means in other cultures is an essential part of effective global communication.
A social science experiment conducted by the University of Michigan a few years ago included directing a verbal insult at male students from the south and the north of the United States. "We find huge differences in the way our southern and northern students respond to that," says Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan.
"First, the attitude towards this on the part of the northern students is: 'What's your problem?' They don't get upset about it. The southerners immediately look angry if you code their expressions. It's not: 'What's your problem?' It's: 'You and I have got a relationship now.'"
And that relationship often includes retaliation1 on the part of the student who feels insulted. The social consequences of this type of response are far-reaching. Statistics show that small-town murder rates among friends, lovers and acquaintances are three times higher in the South than in the New England and Midwestern states. Professor Nisbett attribute the violence to the South's unique concept of "honor" - most likely imported by swashbuckling English cavaliers in the 17th century.
Professor Nisbett believes it was reinforced some 100 years later by immigrants from the Irish and Scottish borderlands, traditional livestock-herding communities: "Any culture where the care of animals is the basis of your livelihood2 has a tradition of macho (physically assertive) men. And the reason for that, we think, is because if I don't make it clear that I am a tough guy and you better stay away from anything that is mine -- my home, my honor, my animals -- you are a dead man."
Professor Nisbett says similar notions of honor prevail in many Mediterranean3 and Middle Eastern countries. History professor Bertram Wyatt-Brown, author of the book "Southern Honor," agrees. He says the ancient codes of honor that prize martial4 valor5, family loyalty6 and male dominance remain powerful in rural societies all over the world.
"Almost every society that has very few cities and has a rural background and economy and very few institutions that you can depend upon -- institutions of law in particular, of ordinary justice -- resorts to this family-based code in which the head of household is the giver of truth. All must obey his commands and he must obey the commands of the whole community."
Professor Wyatt-Brown says people in these societies are expected to observe traditional conventions very strictly7. Family lineage is very important: "If you were in an honor society, the first question you'd be asked as a stranger is: to whom do you belong? And if you don't have a family connection, they are going to be very suspicious because (they would think): how can we judge who the stranger is?"
Professor Wyatt-Brown contends that in modern western cultures, especially in large cities, personal achievements are more important than family ties: "So you are a physician, or a clergyman, or a businessman even, and they don't ask you, 'To whom do you belong,' but 'What do you do for a living?'"
Still, says Professor Hyatt-Brown, westerners typically value personal integrity, honesty and other moral virtues8 more than a person's social status. Insults, encroachments on personal property and other perceived injuries are, for the most part, dealt with in a court of law.
In honor societies, by contrast, people are more likely to resort to personal vengeance9, often, says Professor Wyatt-Brown, in the form of bloody10 retribution. Seeking legal help and or pursuing negotiations11 with one's adversary12 may be perceived as a sign of weakness and therefore a cause for shame, and a loss of social status. The whole family, sometimes an entire society, is obliged to respond to reclaim13 the honor of the insulted member.
"There's always revenge and then revenge on top of the retribution and it goes on and on, as it does in Palestine and Israel," says Professor Wyatt-Brown, adding that many Arabs are angry at the west because they believe it has exposed their political and military weaknesses.
Loss of territories to Israel and perceived attacks on Islamic culture also insult Arabs' honor. So their hunger for vengeance is strong. And social scientists say this feeling is likely to persist until Arabs can regain14 their dignity and a sense of control over their lives. The West can help by learning to understand and, more importantly, to show respect for these powerful and enduring notions of honor.
For focus, I'm Zlatica Hoke.

concept 观念,概念
vary from 不同
verbal 口头的
psychologist 心理学家
acquaintance 相识,熟人
swashbuckling 持强凌弱的
cavalier 武士
borderland 边界地方
macho 男子气的
Mediterranean 地中海
martial 战争的,尚武的
valor 英勇,勇猛
dominance 优势,统治
lineage 血统,世系
clergyman 牧师,教士
encroachment 侵犯
vengeance 复仇,报仇
retribution 报偿


1 retaliation PWwxD     
  • retaliation against UN workers 对联合国工作人员的报复
  • He never said a single word in retaliation. 他从未说过一句反击的话。 来自《简明英汉词典》
2 livelihood sppzWF     
  • Appropriate arrangements will be made for their work and livelihood.他们的工作和生活会得到妥善安排。
  • My father gained a bare livelihood of family by his own hands.父亲靠自己的双手勉强维持家计。
3 Mediterranean ezuzT     
  • The houses are Mediterranean in character.这些房子都属地中海风格。
  • Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.直布罗陀是地中海的要冲。
4 martial bBbx7     
  • The sound of martial music is always inspiring.军乐声总是鼓舞人心的。
  • The officer was convicted of desertion at a court martial.这名军官在军事法庭上被判犯了擅离职守罪。
5 valor Titwk     
  • Fortitude is distinct from valor.坚韧不拔有别于勇猛。
  • Frequently banality is the better parts of valor.老生常谈往往比大胆打破常规更为人称道。
6 loyalty gA9xu     
  • She told him the truth from a sense of loyalty.她告诉他真相是出于忠诚。
  • His loyalty to his friends was never in doubt.他对朋友的一片忠心从来没受到怀疑。
7 strictly GtNwe     
  • His doctor is dieting him strictly.他的医生严格规定他的饮食。
  • The guests were seated strictly in order of precedence.客人严格按照地位高低就座。
8 virtues cd5228c842b227ac02d36dd986c5cd53     
美德( virtue的名词复数 ); 德行; 优点; 长处
  • Doctors often extol the virtues of eating less fat. 医生常常宣扬少吃脂肪的好处。
  • She delivered a homily on the virtues of family life. 她进行了一场家庭生活美德方面的说教。
9 vengeance wL6zs     
  • He swore vengeance against the men who murdered his father.他发誓要向那些杀害他父亲的人报仇。
  • For years he brooded vengeance.多年来他一直在盘算报仇。
10 bloody kWHza     
  • He got a bloody nose in the fight.他在打斗中被打得鼻子流血。
  • He is a bloody fool.他是一个十足的笨蛋。
11 negotiations af4b5f3e98e178dd3c4bac64b625ecd0     
协商( negotiation的名词复数 ); 谈判; 完成(难事); 通过
  • negotiations for a durable peace 为持久和平而进行的谈判
  • Negotiations have failed to establish any middle ground. 谈判未能达成任何妥协。
12 adversary mxrzt     
  • He saw her as his main adversary within the company.他将她视为公司中主要的对手。
  • They will do anything to undermine their adversary's reputation.他们会不择手段地去损害对手的名誉。
13 reclaim NUWxp     
  • I have tried to reclaim my money without success.我没能把钱取回来。
  • You must present this ticket when you reclaim your luggage.当你要取回行李时,必须出示这张票子。
14 regain YkYzPd     
  • He is making a bid to regain his World No.1 ranking.他正为重登世界排名第一位而努力。
  • The government is desperate to regain credibility with the public.政府急于重新获取公众的信任。
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