Culture of Honor

It has been a while since my last entry. There was much to write about but I simply didn’t have the opportunity. Perhaps I should say something now since my meeting was canceled. Actually, I was supposed to be at a dinner with the university officials but due to this important meeting, I had declined the invitation. And now, due to the cancellation, I have some free time.

Anyway, I’m currently reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell again. The title is “Outliers”. It is an interesting book which should be read slowly, allowing some time for reflections. It requires active reading and thinking, contrary to the likes of my favorite thrillers by Ludlum, Forsyth or Grisham. Those books may spoil your  sight-seeing holidays, as once you start opening the pages, you’d find it difficult to stop.

One of the topic discussed in Outliers is the “culture of honor”. The author wrote about  the similarities of the  community at the lowlands of Scotland, the northern countries of England and Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky. They embraced something that is called “culture of honor” that tends to have routes in areas where fertile land is scarce, perhaps like Libya and Yemen. In the story at Harlan Kentucky, two big families were killing one another. The same thing happened at other places. In some cases, it become enmity between clans, tribal wars. In those places, fighting was not for economic gains, as Gladwell puts it. It was for honor. Or perhaps not really honor, rather it was pride that they were protecting.

What is happening in Libya today has that ingredient. Protests developed into larger protests that are now turning into civil war, with some tribal flavors. Looking from one angle, it is pro-democracy vs dictatorships, looking from another, it is the east vs the west, looking yet from another angle, it is Ghadafi protecting his family pride. He is not willing to stand down or  back off. “I’m going to be a martyr” was what he said on a live televised speech. He even mentioned story of the sacrifices of his uncle, father and family members. He is simply proud of his clan. Now, that is a feature that may not be prevalent in some places, but for countries like Libya and Yemen, it is very important.

I have to admit that I’ve a special feelings towards Libyans.  It was the Libyans who have helped us to remain on the straight path, guiding us  away from being astray when we were young in America. God will surely reward them and I wish them luck in their current struggle and may Allah guide them all.

BAck to the  culture of honor, do we have such cultures in Malaysia? I think it is a yes, but it is being adopted in other forms. We used to have similar “culture of honor”, at least in the old days. Wherever you go, if you have your kampung folk around – whether they are directly related to you or not –  you are not alone. If anybody tried to harm you, they’ll surely give you a hand. And the same thing will happen in reciprocal.  Somebody calling your father with a bad name is enough to have him ended up with one or two missing teeth. That was the culture that we used to have. Right or wrong, the clan prevails. Is it good or is it bad? I’ll leave it up to you to think about.

As people become too materialistic, they also turned individualistic. An old lady may be found dead in her bedroom without anybody noticing, less for the pungent smell resulting from body decay. Two boys had a fight, only later to find out that they were second cousins to each other. Some of us do not even know our immediate neighbors. mmm… that’s a true individualistic world isn’t it.

Lets change it. Greet your neighbor as you meet them. After all, as the prophet said it, “a smile is a sadaqah (alms)”.


About Dr. AA

I am an educator, professional trainer, safety consultant, researcher, social worker, outdoor enthusiast, and a thinker.
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2 Responses to Culture of Honor

  1. BB Nyakuma says:

    Gladwell’s book “Outliers” is a magnus opus in my opinion. One of the concepts explored in the book that I really liked was the “10,000 hour rule”. Since reading it, I have bought many more copies, four actually, which I have given to friends as gifts due to the impression it left on me. His book “What The Dog Saw” is also a very good book, perhaps you can read it too.

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