Dead by honor
A furious comment after reading that link's content: It seems that honor is a matter of MEN owning women! when is this crazy construct from stupidity going to end...? Why do we women have to put up with such imbecility? If men were murdered by women in the degree that honour murders happen, millions of women would be killed to protect men.
But in this male world, these murderers will stay alive after killing women "by honour". Civility only goes as far as it crashes with male interest....
Previously, honour figured largely as a guiding principle of society, functioning as part of a code of honour for a gentleman and often coming to expression in the practice of duelling. One's honour, that of one's wife, of one's (blood-)family or of one's beloved formed an all-important issue: the archetypal "man of honour" remained ever alert for any insult, actual or suspected: for either would impugn his honour.
The concept of honour appears to have declined in importance in the modern secular West. Popular stereotypes would have it surviving more definitively in alleged "hot-blooded" Mediterranean cultures (Italian, Arab, Iberian...) or in more "gentlemanly" societies (like the "Old South" of Dixie). Feudal or other agrarian societies, focused upon land use and land ownership, may tend to honour "honour" more than do deracinated industrial societies. Traces of the importance attached to honour linger in the military (officers may conduct a court of honour) and in organisations with military echoes, such as Scouting.
"Honour" in the case of females is frequently related, historically, to sexuality: preservation of "honour" equated primarily to maintenance of virginity, or at least to preservation of exclusive monogamy. One can speculate that feminism has changed some linguistic usage in this respect.
Cultures of honour and cultures of law
One can contrast cultures of honour with cultures of law. From the viewpoint of anthropology, cultures of honour typically appear among nomadic peoples and herdsmen who carry their most valuable property with them and risk having it stolen, without having recourse to law enforcement or government. In this situation, inspiring fear forms a better strategy than promoting friendship; and cultivating a reputation for swift and disproportionate revengeMontesquieu to Steven Pinker have remarked upon the mindset needed for a culture of honour. increases the safety of one's person and property. Thinkers ranging from
Cultures of honour therefore appear amongst Bedouins, Scottish and English herdsmen of the Border country, and many similar peoples, who have little allegiance to a national government; among cowboys, frontiersmen, and ranchers of the American West, where official law-enforcement often remained out of reach, as is famously celebrated in Westerns; among the plantation culture of the American South, and among aristocrats, who enjoy hereditaryprivileges that put them beyond the reach of codes of law. Cultures of honour also flourish in criminal underworlds and gangs, whose members carry large amounts of cash and contraband and cannot complain to the law if it is stolen.
Once a culture of honour exists, it is difficult for its members to make the transition to a culture of law; this requires that people become willing to back down and refuse to immediately retaliate, and from the viewpoint of the culture of honour, this tends to appear to be an unwise act reflecting weakness.
Conceptions of honour vary widely between cultures; in some cultures, honour killings of (usually female) members of one's own family are considered justified if they have "defiled the family's honour" by marrying against one's wishes, or even by being the victims of rape. These honour killings are generally seen in the West as a way of men using the culture of honour to control female sexuality.
In contemporary international relations, the concept of "credibility" resembles that of honour, as when the credibility of a state or of an alliance appears to be at stake, and honour-bound politicians call for drastic measures.
For a similar concept with many connotations opposite to honour, see shame.
- "To the King, one must give his possessions and his life; but honour is a possession of soul, and the soul is only God's". Pedro Crespo in Pedro Calderón de la Barca's The Mayor of Zalamea, 1st day.
- "... Honour ... remains awake in us like a last lamp in a temple that has been laid to waste." — Alfred de Vigny, Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835).
- "... during the time that the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts honour, loyalty, etc. were dominant, during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts freedom, equality, etc." — Marx and Engels, The German Ideology.
- "We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." — C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
- "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die..." — William Goldman, The Princess Bride
- "To die with honour, when one can no longer live with honour." — Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly
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