The dynamics of honor related violence

The Selfish Gene, active in all species is capable of agression and brutality in a seemingly "rational" context.
Killing your offspring may relieve social stigma and extermination.

Aggression and brutality by sheer physical or mental strength is a human fundamental characteristic which we have been trained to deny, to combat ethically and to consciously disregard as a major force of human survival when we seem intent on peace promoting efforts on a global scale and denounce violence as an anomalistic behavioural irrationality which can and must be pacified at all costs.

Violence, helàs, is brutally apparent at all levels, conscious or subconscious, at a mega plan and on an individual basis in all hitherto known societies. Most apparent or hidden structures Levy Strauss that control the pattern of any given society, be it stratified, egalitarian or anarchistic, are strictly governed by agents in relation to the access to the basic means for survival and reproduction biologically, socially,

The violent original battle of the means of production and reproduction which scattered the homo sapiens from the savannas of Kenya and Ethiopia and propelled the still ongoing mass migrations and which, in different patterns and substance, still relies on the ultimate agent of survival, the selfish gene, recently acknowledged by genetic state of the art science, as being the optimal survival kit in human maximization, individual or collective accumulation.

It is intensely annoying when altruism, benevolence and empathy is explained by a selfish gene, but there we are; we depend on the charity of others or to offer part of our individual surplus in order to find order in a chaotic and ever changing world and the selfish genes promotes kindness and amiability because we need it to survive.

In any given habitat there sooner or later, whether in an arid and poor environment or a sumptuous one, there will occur a shortage of the means of production due to overpopulation on a smaller and a greater scale and the battle over the resources will develop. No human being, no matter what social organization she is a member of, will willingly give up her life for others to survive, except in extremely rare cases, probably because of scientifically speaking, some kind of personal disorder.

Anthropologically we separate guilt-oriented societies from shame oriented. Guilt can only be absolved by divine intervention or by accepting secular punishments, whereas ceremonial rituals can compensate for shame in order to re-establish a balance with the supernatural, as often is the case in the egalitarian hunter and gatherer societies. Sacrifice, be it of products or humans, is globally spread and exist where we live whether we see it or refuse to acknowledge it. Shame in a stratified society works on various levels: Without going into details a stratified society seem to globally develop a cosmology reflecting the different classes and their status by turning to bigger and lesser gods and, at the stage, which is regarded as the most developed, to a sole and omnipotent God.

The laws of necessity, such as a pattern of social interaction tolerated in a group or extended family, will be canonized and taken as Divine Order. By deviating from the social code of the clan, family or kinsmen, you will jeopardize the survival of the whole group and by their calling upon the gods or God you will be punished by extinction or expulsion.

In animistic and polytheistic cultures ceremonies to appease the djinns, spirits or the gods and to recover balance with the supernatural, sacrificing and/or acts of violence must be executed within the group. The violence has a profound meaning and a rationality that is based on survival strategies.

In nomadism based a constant battle with competitors over basic means of survival such as food, pastures and water violent attacks on adversaries become institutionalized and the embryo of a warlike situation is born out of necessity. The survival strategies also demand peaceful interactions with suitable alien conglomerates in order to reproduce biologically and to avoid extinction by incest and to form alliances of defence and collaboration. The woman comes into focus as the means of value, the “currency" or the exchange value, to guarantee stability in terms of intermarriage and interrelated genetic pools.

The fierce control over female sexuality thus has its roots in biological and social “commerce" and survival strategies. The male, furthermore, must be absolutely sure that he is the genitor, the biological father of the offspring, or the idea of alliances fall flat. The woman must remain a virgin until she is legally married. The strictness of these criteria is never negotiable in any pre urban society and the heritage still rules the mindset on a global scale even in the post-industrial societies.

Cliterodoctomy is a brutal act to ensure the clan that the woman will not go astray and have sexual relations on her own initiative, since her sexual urge has drastically diminished. The amputation of the clitoris and suturing the vagina is a custom, primarily among nomads, which dates back long before any of the worldwide religions spread over the globe.

To deviate from patterns of control and to improvise on your own will have fierce consequences. In monotheistic cultures, pre-Lutheran, any form of anomalistic behaviour would be interpreted as a crime against God, generating shame and losing face and honour on a collective scale versus the surrounding world and has to be balanced by regulating the relation to the Almighty for the rest to see. The capital punishment, that is the killing of a woman gone astray or a homosexual son, is a concrete act to show God and the public that the relation to God has been re-established and balanced, thus extinguishing the shame and to recapitulate the lost honour.

Taking into regard the rational actions of violence, whether competing over scarce resources of the means of reproduction in a poor habitat or eliminating anomalistic individuals of a collective, violence has a meaning per se. It will not be regarded as a crime, quite the opposite, and is encouraged by an extended family, a father and a mother, siblings or a clan as the only correct thing to do in order to survive socially and avoid perpetual stigma in the eyes of God and the public. Functional violence Radcliff Brown 1962 cannot easily be moralized or exterminated without changing millennia old mindsets as promptly requested by highly stratified societies, often host countries to immigrants of honour related set of norms. It must be underlined that honour normative societies have existed long before the debut of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and that the mindset is present in all three religions. This, however, is of little importance for the victims.

Structural violence, such as a prevailing ideology that find it perfectly rational to accept that public employees take over much of the upbringing of the children and the care of the elderly separated from their children, is subtle and works in many forms. We are as blind to these phenomenon’s as the collective oriented people are horrified by it. The adaptation to the industrial society split up the extended family and developed a small movable production unit, the nuclear family, consisting of parents and children, to be easily transported to where the industrial agents were in necessity of labour force.

Most of us seem to believe that the nuclear family is the “normal" interrelated organization and the effective backbone of contemporary post modern society without reflecting on the fact that this family set up has been a norm in a relatively small part of the world during a second of man’s history. Structural violence, obliging us to abandon the social and emotional network and support of relatives, and relying on a public sector is even regarded as an important step forward in an evolutionary aspect but, to be sincere, a step into what…?

The chock and disbelief when the amputated immigrant family, separated from the native extended family, suddenly must take the responsibility of parenthood without the relatives or the whole village to assist, are being disobeyed and rebelled against by their children, can often only be compensated for by stern traditional sanctions, while the compatriots are busy studying every detail of their behaviour. Shame and the loss of honour by losing control of the children’s and especially the women’s and the daughter’s altered behaviour may even be potentated in a foreign environment with a community of fellow countrymen struggling to maintain some kind of identity and sanity by enforcing their original normative system.

This exposé is not a statement, nor a plea for acceptance of violence. But it is obvious that the mechanisms of violence, individual or on a mega plan, must be understood in a social Darwinist and contemporary social context or we stand without any means to combat it. Keep your enemy close, and enemies will always be there, so that you understand the motivation and maybe can contribute to solve a conflict including violence on the rise. It is no easy task. Mankind has not succeeded so far.

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Douglas Modig

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Publicerad: 24 feb 2011 12:54


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