“Honor-Shame” Paradigm and the “carbecues” of Gothenburg Sweden.

13 August, 2018, Gothenburg, Falkenburg, Trollhattan, Malmo: Up to 100 cars were torched or vandalized by masked youths in the migrant “no-go” areas of those Swedish cities, in what has been referred to as “carbecues”. 

Who do we turn to for guidance in these absurd times? Clearly not our mainstream political leaders. The same goes for mainstream journalists, academics and ultra ecumenical religious leaders. But amongst all the froth they produce, assuring us that we are all the same and we can all get along if we just make a bit of effort, one dissenting message from a religious man to the inhabitants of Europe stands out as starkly realistic. That man is Amel Shimoun Nona, exiled Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul:

“Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home”. 

Two competing paradigms attempt to explain cultures that appear to Americans to act irrationally, namely most of those in the Middle East. The one I favor is called the “honor-shame” (HS) paradigm, the other is, for want of a better description, the politically correct/post colonial (PC) paradigm. I am borrowing these explanations from Augeanstables.com. because they make more sense than anything I have read.

The HS identifies Arab political culture as an example of “traditional” or “pre-civil society” culture. In what are known as “prime-divider societies”, the elite monopolize power, wealth, education, and the public sphere, while the masses live in poverty. In these societies the prevailing political axiom runs: “rule or be ruled.” The dominant alpha males (warriors, big men) set the rules of honor-shame and determine when and how often a man can legitimately shed the blood of another for his own honor. The zero-sum logic that dominated Arab political culture towards Israel from the start, developed into a negative-sum approach after the Israelis defeated the Arabs in their “wars of honor.” The resulting attitude became ‘if we lose, then they must lose as well, even if it worsens our own conditions’. From its first century (7th-8th century CE), political Islam divided the world into two categories: Dar al Islam (the abode of peace where Islam rules) and Dar al Harb (the abode of war, “the sword”). Islam believes that the entire world will eventually convert and Dar al Islam will reign supreme. Additionally, once Islam conquers a territory, that land cannot revert to Dar al Harb. Over the last twenty years this apocalyptic Jihad has spread in Muslim communities around the world. With the help of the internet, “local” jihad has merged with anti-Western sentiment, spread through both Shi-ite Islam (Khoumeini’s Iran, Hizbollah) and Sunni Islam (Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban, al-Qaeda). Movements depicting Israel and the West as the deadly enemy of Islam have arisen even in the West. 

If in the 18th century, progressive thought emphasized equality before the law (democracy), and in the 19th, it emphasized equality of goods and services (socialism, communism), in the 20th century it emphasized equality of cultures. This development, the PC paradigm, came on the wings of a wave of exceptional self-criticism in which avant-garde thinkers questioned some of the most basic and often unconscious elements of their own culture and sought to renounce patterns, values, and deeds that they felt were immoral. Respect for other cultures, especially ones that earlier Westerners had found “primitive” and “superstitious” became a major engine of cultural thought. Based on the principle that we cannot understand “others” without empathy, and cannot empathize without restraining our tendency to impose our own mentality on others, especially in making value judgments. The Sixties and the New Left shifted attention from classic radical concerns about domestic equality towards the international arena, arguing that the prosperity of the West came from plundering the Third World, and capitalism just represented a more sophisticated cultural version of imperialism that did not need to use brute force most of the time.

So when gangs of “refugees” (or at least those from neighborhoods identified as
“migrant no-go areas”) who were given a safe home in countries like Sweden start rampaging and destroying property in their new homes, it seems to qualify as “irrational behavior”, or does it? Considering the cultures that they come from, both the HS and PC paradigms try to bring a perspective to the irrationality. As I said, I subscribe to the HS paradigm. Regardless of what you believe, the question still remains: If your country is going to offer a home to refugees, what behaviors will you expect?