How to Deal with Honor-Shame Dynamics: With Dignity, Refuse Proleptic Dhimmitude

[apologies for not posting this months ago.]

In response to my article in MEQ on Edward Said and honor-shame dynamics, one reader wrote in:

I thought Landes’ article pushed an important point on honor and shame.  If one takes it to be true, then the way to solve some of the problems would be to send over lots of therapists.  I know it sounds crazy but I am thinking perhaps there is something to it? 

There is a brief response in MEQ (which I can no longer find). The longer response I post below:

From the perspective of those committed to primary honor-shame codes, therapists represent the forces of an effeminate culture designed to castrate them and kill their triumphalist religion. So that’s not going to work. (It is common among Jihadis to believe that the Jews have castrated the Christian West, and now plan to do so to them.)

But good therapy is better in the doing than in formal introspection, and if progressives were serious about their values, they’d be helping Arabs to grapple with this authoritarian strain in their culture, to become more capable of handling criticism and introspecting. Hopefully, the Arab world will eventually produce a school of their own therapists who can help the process of harnessing (rather than castrating) the testosteronic impulses of their long-dominant primary honor codes.

At its core, I think this is about peer pressure – who determines what’s honorable? Anthony Appiah has an excellent meditation on the problem: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, in which he treats four case studies where a society/culture changed its code: what had previously been considered honorable (slave-holding, dueling, foot-binding, and honor-killing) shifted to shameful according to the new dominant “honor group.”

From this perspective, the Muslim and Arab world have yet to undergo a passage from zero-sum, triumphalist rule-or-be-ruled, primary honor codes, to ones more tolerant of “others” – of free infidels, or independent women, in particular. (The only failed moral revolution in Appiah’s book was the shift from honorable honor-killings to shameful shame-murders in Pakistan.)

This is above all a cultural issue (exactly not, as many try to insist, a racial one); and until we learn to think about this from the perspective of the triumphalist Muslims, we cannot understand what we face. And once we do, we discover a whole range of areas where we can assert pressure, because their great weakness is now their great strength – their amazingly “thin skin.”

Right now, instead, the West (especially its “liberals”) do everything they can to avoid “shaming” the Muslim world, and so avoid pointing this out: if one brings up “honor-killings” as a symptom of a particularly regressive honor-shame culture, liberals will almost instinctively insist they have nothing to do with Islam. And while it’s true that some (few) other cultures also approve of – even insist on – killing women for the sake of family honor, it is most prominent in Islamic societies, and closely related to issues like the burka. Liberals think they’re being generous by sparing Islam criticism. Triumphalist Muslims see these same liberals as good dhimmi leaders who make sure their community does not “insult” Islam.

BDS’ opposes “normalizing” events because, they claim, the Israelis have done such terrible, unforgivable things to the Palestinians with their apartheid, colonial imperialism, that normalizing relations would be to internalize subservience: “No peace without justice.”

On one level, this claim is classic “pot-calling-the-kettle-black” – Arab Muslim colonialism and apartheid have dominated the Middle East for almost a millennium and a half, and the subservience they claim to fear and resent is a pale shadow of the subservience they have imposed (dhimmitude), and they they’d like to impose once again.

This is not about principles but about a very primitive notion of justice as revenge. We can’t normalize with the Israelis, they are saying, because we still haven’t taken vengeance for the way they humiliate us. In effect, the Arab Muslim world looks to the West and says, “support the most primitive, scapegoating instincts of my culture,” and Western progressives, thinking it’s just Israel they’re sacrificing (and that Israel probably deserves it), say, yes.

Not surprising that progressive circles are particularly dysfunctional in working for Palestinian “rights. For every dozen Palestinian “civil-society” organizations, how many are there that do not focus on Israeli misdeeds, how many that do not spend their resources assembling arsenals of icons of hatred and fake news, all in service of the Califater cogwar?

The argument against normalization, from a progressive perspective, is absurd. It’s precisely within these normalizing relations that neighboring peoples work out a livable peace for both peoples. Only someone who buys into a puerile morality tale in which the Israelis are evil oppressors and the Palestinians innocent victims could entertain such drivel. Non-normalization in fact has nothing to do with morality or fairness, it’s job is to oppose the creation of peace; and it demands that people who say they’re working for peace side with the warmongers, publically. Which till now, they do.

Pressure should be put on the Palestinians to prepare themselves for statehood. Outsiders, especially progressives, should be asking them politely but firmly to pursue normalizing, peaceful, relations, with the Israelis, to develop with their neighbors, friendly forms of Islam, a religiosity that does not feel that the only way to prove itself true, is by dominating the infidel. Opposing normalization is, nilly-willy, pushing for war. And the war promoted is exactly the kind of war that the modern world renounced, especially after the Shoah: an honor-shame conflict that demands vengeance (like the Trojan war, rather than a need to keep honorable commitments), that readily sheds blood to clean a blackened face and rise to glory.

Western diplomats in the UN repeatedly bow to the Muslim voting block’s demands, especially when it comes to Palestine. Muslim nations regularly use world bodies to bully people with their “sensitivities” – e.g., Palestinian irredentism, or when they scream Islamophobia and want to criminalize criticism of Islam. Till now, Westerners have tried to buy them off (e.g., Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia). The fact that no country has an embassy in Jerusalem is testimony to the international consensus that, where Israel is concerned, best to be proleptic dhimmi and not p*ss off triumphalist Muslims.

But it has backfired: Instead, the triumphalists’ contempt for infidels grows with every appeasement of their bullying demands to be “respected” (i.e., Orientalism‘s demand). From the perspective of a triumphalist Muslim, it’s just further proof that the infidel fears and will submit to them. So instead of buying them off by sparing them criticism, we whet their appetite for aggression. All non-Muslim states, the West in the lead, should use diplomacy to communicate to the Islamic Organization of Islamic Conference (56 Muslim nations), that infidels will not cooperate in their own subjection. Maybe form a larger Organization of Kufar Conference (OKC), that systematically frustrates their efforts to impose through their voting block issues that relate to proleptic dhimmitude.

Obviously there are economic issues that make any abrupt change in messaging (as is warranted and demanded) unwise; but even well-chosen minor issues can send important messages about reciprocal respect.

In an infidel world that merely yields, that gradually, proleptically, accepts the yoke of the Califate, any thinking Muslim is susceptible to the call of a triumphalist millennial voice that tells them, this is the time, this generation will see Islam finally fulfill its disrupted destiny, and spread its realm of submission to all the world.

It is in the interest of every infidel on the planet, and of every genuinely moderate Muslim – every humane person – to challenge this testosteronic, patriarchal, violent, vengeful, misogynistic, dynamic in the Muslim, especially in the Arab world. Right now our reigning paradigm is “don’t upset/offend them,” and the results encourage their worst instincts. If instead, we were to pick certain key issues – like shame-murders, or irredentism on Israel – and make them a source of embarrassment for Muslims, instead of insisting the Islam has nothing to do with them, a different dynamic might come into play.

In this cognitive war, until now, the Caliphaters have it all over the Progressives: We do not use our strengths (gained in renouncing primary honor-shame), while they turn their greatest weakness (their thin skin, their oneidophobia [fear of public shame, disgrace]) into a weapon. They literally lead with their glass chin, and we pull back in horror at the thought that we might break it. This is proleptic dhimmitude, and precisely not the behavior of free men at a time like this.

The job of the dhimmi leaders historically, has been to assure that their people do not insult the Muslims and bring on retaliation. Hence dhimmi leaders jump far more readily on their own critics of Islam, than on the far more disturbing behavior of those Muslims their people (have the nerve to) criticize. That makes sense when, as in Dar al Islam, Muslims hold the reins of power. It’s also what current PC practice calls for: great respect for the sensitivities of Muslims. It’s part of the proleptic’s code, the new prime directive of the 21st century: “Don’t piss them off.”

Of course, to explore this, would mean a change in the conversation. But it would definitely promote progressive values by asking for a genuine progressivism among Palestinians, not victimization narratives that fuel bloody irredentism here and on campuses around the world. The Left, rather than enabling this behavior, should be encouraging them instead to move forward. Since 2000, that avenue has been blocked, much to everyone’s damage… well, everyone’s damage but the Caliphaters, their armed wing, the Jihadis, and their key allies in Da’wa, the proleptic dhimmi leaders who present themselves as generous and high-minded, and hide their cowardice behind “speaking truth to power” by trashing the great enemy of triumphalist Islam, Israel.

One Response to How to Deal with Honor-Shame Dynamics: With Dignity, Refuse Proleptic Dhimmitude

  1. mgoldberg says:

    “In THE HONOR CODE Appiah analyzes these four examples to illustrate how traditional beliefs about honor came to be in sharp contrast with evolving views of morality. In each case, arguments against the practices were well known long before they were given up, but knowledge alone wasn’t enough. “Honor” killing has not been completely eliminated, but for each of the other practices Appiah details how the development of an expanded, less insular world view or “honor world” changed cultural beliefs and overthrew these long held customs. With this book Appiah is hoping to help spark modern moral revolutions.

    But it can’t succeed since it’s based on non muslim cultures and religons, where the real changes were made.
    None of these cultures had the ‘prophet’ who’s words and deeds cannot be changed, not even be examined by non muslims. The cultural revolution we’ve had for 100yrs is that of granting the muslim world the rights and privileges that we in the west have earned with much work, struggle, difficulty and it was due to our judeo christian theologic foundations, and notions of democracy, that we were able to develop understandings consistent with change, and individual rights. The Islamic world has devolved into it’s foundational belief system, it’s cultures have eroded the values the west placed upon them, and which they now use to devalue the very western cultures and religions that gave them this sense of freedom and statehood. Now we have the foundational Islam, that is not merely ISSIS, but all observant Islam, that is enamored of it’s duties to a Caliphate, to challenging all other societies to accept them, as muslim cultures without changing at all, but insisting rather, that all western and other cultures change and accept Islamic values.
    Without discussing Jihad, which is merely ‘observant’ Islam, and it’s destruction upon all others, as it is so commanded, without ending the ‘progressive’ attachment to western guilt which has ony two categories, the vcitims and the victimizers, and which doesn’t but despise it’s own culture, and religions, we cannot grasp the notions of individual liberty, states rights, and will be constantly attacked by Jihadists, and the left that despise
    western culture, in favor of global victimhood but that really desires a tyranny of a world governernment. And the Jihadists will be supporting them, and vice versa.

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