My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: VII. Cultural Differences–Honor and Aggression

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: VII. Cultural Differences–Honor and Aggression

Let us consider cultural differences as regarding face and facework. Before doing so, we need to be aware that there are also individual differences, since individuals vary in the extent to which they endorse or reject a culture’s ideals. As regarding honor, face and dignity, only when we take into account both culture and individual factors we can meaningfully interpret behavior (Leung & Cohen, 2011). Findings from one study on students, asking how they would act in certain imaginary situations, showed that U.S. Americans report on more direct, competitive and hostile ways to protect their face than Syrians. Syrians tended more to cooperation and ritualistic actions to save face. The American facework strategies corresponded to individualistic, weak power distance, masculine and low uncertainty avoidance cultural dimensions while the Syrian way corresponded to collectivistic, high-power distance, moderately masculine and high uncertainty avoidance. As for communication with Arabs, it was suggested that the first rule is not to make them lose face, e.g. be less direct – and thus less offensive – in communication. Furthermore, it was suggested that Americans be aware of the importance for Syrians of social rituals and of nonverbal communication (Merkin & Ramadan, 2010). A study on four different cultures concluded that despite the cultural differences as regarding face and facework, the association between face concern and facework is consistent over cultures (Oetzel et al., 2008).

I will now discuss more specifically the studies on honor. Honor was defined in many ways, the simplest definition being “reputation”. Cultures of honor are common in places where there is a lack of resources, where the benefit of crime outweighs the risks, and where law enforcement is lacking. In cultures of honor, a man’s reputation is key to his economic survival, and men want to be seen as strong and powerful. In these cultures, violence in response to an insult, in order to protect one’s home and property or socialize children was found to be acceptable, and ideas about gender and masculinity were found to be related to acts of violence (Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). Honor was also found to be related to risk-taking, presumably because the latter provides social proof of strength and fearlessness (Barnes et al., 2011). However, adherence to honor codes may as well result in acts of heroism and generosity. It was suggested that one cannot understand these acts and the rituals that surround them without comprehension of the socio-cultural meaning systems that they spring from (Cohen et al., 1998).


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Daniel WeishutDaniel J.N. Weishut, born in the Netherlands but living in Jerusalem, is a professional with a diverse background. He holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and an MBA in Integrative Business Administration, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology from the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has about thirty years of experience in consultation and therapy with a wide variety of clients and issues, more than twenty years of practice in group facilitation, and over fifteen years of know-how in governance and management in various organizations.Daniel Weishut offers his services as a "Partner on the Way", while taking a world-view that people are diverse but equal. He works with a variety of clients, but his special interest is in work with those who have found themselves persecuted or otherwise in conflict with their social environment, because of their culture, identity or belief system. For example: migrants, expats, refugees, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, pacifists, and individuals from religious, cultural or sexual minorities. Daniel Weishut is a social activist and in this capacity he volunteers as Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, as Member of the Membership Appeals Committee of Amnesty International and as forensic expert for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He also is involved in raising awareness about the situation of Bedouins around Jerusalem; awareness which led among others to the writing of his dissertation "My friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: Challenges and opportunities in intercultural friendship".

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