Instead, I actually thought it was pretty unremarkable. Like many people I talked to, I thought his lecture was unfocused, and it was hard to find his thesis among long-winded, sensationalized explanations of foot-binding in China or female genital cutting. Maybe he was just expressing ideas so complex that I couldn't wrap my head around them, or maybe he had a hard time distilling his ideas into just forty minutes of content. Either way, he seemed to take a long, twisting path to get to the pretty simple idea that we have to work with different cultures' views of honor in order to negotiate common values.
What I kept thinking about was the gender dynamics going on in his speech. He spoke at length about issues relating to the violent oppression of women, and how we can use ideas of honor and cultural sensitivity to get through to people and convince them to change their ways. Now, I'm all for ending violence against women, but at the same time, I see another side of the concept of "honor" emerging– that of male chivalry or egotism. It's true, a great many cultures view personal respect as a form of honoring someone, but many cultures, western and non-western alike, have also found honor in war, imperialism, and shooting someone to death for making fun of you. All of these activities are culturally male roles, which is why I think of this type of honor as more of a male-savior complex in this age of increasing gender equality, and it can lead to an inflated sense of responsibility and entitlement among the Honorable men in change.
"Whenever hot wars are necessary these days, we conduct them in the backyards of the world with the old technologies" -McLuhan, 138
So while working within the honor code of a certain culture may certainly lead to great progress– and believe me, anything we can do to end these harmful practices is great– it is important to ask whether this other form of honor is influencing our views of who is in the right.
"Did you happen to meet any soldiers, my dear, as you came through the woods?"
In conclusion, I'd like to add that I know nothing and have absolutely no authority or evidence to back these claims, and you should never listen to anything I say ever. Thank you and good night.
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