…Perhaps he didn’t say this. It is bad enough that it is so easy to believe that he did.
If you adhere to an honor code, you’ll not only respond with respect to those who keep it, you’ll respond with contempt to those who don’t. So, if you yourself meet the standards, you’ll have self-respect; and if you yourself fall short, you will have contempt for yourself, which is shame. If someone doesn’t feel shame when they fail (or, at least, when they fail badly) that shows they don’t adhere to the code. We say that they are shameless.
Looking at honor killing, a practice that is older than Islam and still pervasive in large parts of Africa and Asia, we should remember that these other ancient customs that seemed immense and enduring and immovable burned, in the end, like flash paper.
…People at home draw the attention of their countrymen to the way an honor practice harms their national reputation abroad. The strategy requires careful application because it can produce a defensive nationalist backlash, in which the practice under criticism is taken up and defended with renewed vigor precisely because uncomprehending foreigners have declared themselves against it. That is one reason why it is important that the contributions of outsiders should not be uncomprehending. … In the struggle against honor killing, Islam is an ally.
There are important differences between dignity, understood this way, and other forms of honor; but the two have something important in common. If you fail to act in a way consistent with your dignity, people will rightly cease to respect you. You do not have to earn your human dignity–you do not have to do anything special to get it. But if you fail to live up to your humanity, you can lose it.
What they knew for sure was what they were against: treating people badly merely because they were not born into the nobility, looking down your nose at the common people. The ideal of equality in modern times begins, in short, with the thought that there are certain things that are not a proper basis for treating people unequally, and only gradually moves on to identify some things that are.
This sense of one’s own country as an actor in a wider world of other nations is one of the central psychological underpinnings of modern nationalism. And it is why the nation’s honor can be mobilized to motivate its citizens.
Over the centuries, retired literati, returning home, created a local gentry diffused across the empire. The gentry saw knowledge of the classics, skill in poetry and essay writing, calligraphy and painting, as attributes of the men of their class. If the sword defined the English gentleman in the eighteenth century, here was a gentry whose ideal for millennia was the pen–or rather, the calligraphy brush.
And he objects that, in distinguishing the man of honor from the man of virtue–in recognizing a normative system of honor distinct from morality–the honor code allows “debauchees” and “spendthrifts” to keep their place in a society that should repudiate them.
of Hume on the brand of honor supporting/upheld by dueling
Pride is shame’s opposite, and you might think that it is, therefore, the right response to one’s own honorable behavior. But pride seems especially apt when you have done something out of the ordinary; and an honorable person will often think that what he has done is simply what he had to do. If you are truly honorable, you may be no more inclined to be proud of living up to your standards than you are to be pleased with yourself for breathing. Honor can consist in taking the code for granted.