Friday, 5 April 2013
Honour and Face.
Whenever I end up watching a Hollywood representation of Oriental cultures, mostly for the purpose of enrichmentation and diversifcamation, there seems to be quite an undue emphasis placed on the concept of "honour" in these cultures, a monolithic ideal that's as presistent throughout the mythical land of Chinjapkorea as much as a lot of the culture of the grand imaginary land of Amerieurope appears to be promoted by the Cathedral.
Interestingly, the way honour is presented is always in line with the western concept of the term: steadfastness, loyalty to one's in-group, righteousness and uprighteousness - with practically the only difference I've actually witnessed being perhaps a side dish of filial piety, and that's pretty rare as well. Whether this is because honour is such a universal concept to the point where it's virtually unaffected by cultural pressures, or whether the Cathedral just wants to be lazy and appeal to their audience without needing them to think, I'm not quite sure.
The other kind of honour which is never quite discussed is known as "face", or in Mandarin, "面子". I don't think there's an appropriate synonym in English that truly captures the essence of the idea, much like there isn't a English word that captures the idea of Schadenfreude. The closest I can probably describe it as is a combination of social shaming and street cred that stretches beyond the self to encompass not just your immediate nuclear family, but your extended one as well. Your kid does poorly on a test, you've lost face in front of the whole of society, not just your kid.
The basic concept behind the idea of face is that no one is truly independent. So long as you're not some wandering vagabond, so long as you're out in public you don't just represent yourself, but everyone you are related to as well. Your family, your clan, any groups or associations you may formally belong to, your friends, everyone. If you do something that causes your in-group to lose face, then you can expect to face some degree of shunning from said in-group.
So it can be seen that while the traditional western concept of honour applies more to the individual, the concept of face applies more to the group. It's been mentioned by Cappy Cap that social shaming is by far one of the easiest and most humane of enforcing social standards of conduct compared to the alternatives, and face went and took that a little further. Can it be destructive? Well, sure, almost anything can. I've personally known people who unnecessarily escalated a stupid slight into a full-blown fistfight because they felt the need to save face for their in-groups (in this case, different squadrons).
But the flipside of face is that since you don't want anyone in your in-group to make a fool of themselves in front of the rest of the world, you take the time to nurture and develop them as people. The parent with a failing kid, with a little bit of determination, experimentation, reflection and temperance, can in all likelihood help turn the kid's grades around. Members of a squadron keep each other in line so as not to lose out; I've heard of folks in the army mentioning their medics would dispense free condoms before overseas training in Thailand just to make sure no one in their company went ahead and suffered a STD - and word of these things do get around, especially if you've a disgustingly loose-tongued MO.
When people know each other and come to view themselves as being in an in-group, they tend to uplift each other. Taken to a societal level, you end up with the Chinese phenomena of "guanxi", 关系, which in a more moderate form is akin to the western saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know." It's a reason why a lot of small-time people can find it hard to break into Chinese markets.
Which again, is one of the reasons the atomisation of people irks me so much, the watering-down of actual relationships into a mess of Facebook, texting and impersonality. If you don't care about other people or have connections with them, you're much less likely to both restrain yourself or want to help them better themselves. This should be common sense, really, but there seems to be an awful lack of it going around. Well, in the absence of this, who is going to step in? The state, of course, with its good old club-over-the-head welfare of the robbing Peter to pay Paul sort that neither uplifts nor grows spirit or dignity. Good old Moldbug's Solution B.
We don't help each other any more, so who's going to help? The state.
We don't educate each other any more, so who's going to educate us? The state.
We don't restrain each other any more, so who's going to restrain us? The state.
All for our own good, of course.