Jan 7, 2010

The Culture Of Honor

I love to read and I am ALWAYS reading something.  I usually have a serious business/self help/Jesus book going and always have a romance novel of some sort.  Now before everyone goes and gives me crap about my romance novels, I love them.  They take me away from all the heavy stuff in the world and I find them highly entertaining, besides I have a fantastic grasp on historical facts from a vast array of settings.  So in fact, they are educational (hehehe).

My latest serious read was Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.  A truly enlightening and entertaining study of the factors around successful people, not just their work ethic, but their cultural heritage, where they were born, when they were born, and a host of other unique sets of circumstances that made these people successful.  One of the areas he discusses is cultural heritage and how it is carried down through the generations.  Using clinical research studies and various writings Gladwell puts together some very convincing commentary on people and societies.  One that rang true with me was the culture of honor.

The Culture of Honor is prevalent in the South.  Only in the South is, "He needed killin'" a viable defense.  Researchers found that this went across generations and socio-economic back grounds.  I will explain:

After the Jacobite uprising in 1845 (and I know hundreds of details about this because of my romance novels) the Highland Scottish clans were destroyed.  The last civil war in the UK brought about one of the bloodiest battles of all time in the fields of Northern Scotland in a place called Culloden.  The British had enough of the troublesome Highlanders and slaughtered them on the battlefield and then starved them to death for about 20 years afterward.  It was a crime to play a bag pipe or wear a plaid, the men were gone, the clan chiefs or lairds were gone, their whole structure of life was gone.  Many immigrated to America and they settled in the South with large portions of them choosing the familiar landscape and climate of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, they brought with them their culture.

Cultures develop in large measure through the work the people do.  Since the Highlands are not ideal farming ground, these folks were herdsmen.  A herdsman has to be vigilant to protect his livelihood.  The theft of his animals can profoundly effect his families ability to survive and must be protected at all costs.  A weak man will loose his herd and thus his living, his social status, and his manhood.  A man in this culture must be ready to respond with force any perceived attack on his person.   .

Gladwell explains that the cultural heritage of these people is evident in Southern Society today.  The University of Michigan conducted a study of how men would react to an insult.  It did not take long for them to figure out the one word that would get men riled up quickly, asshole.  The experiment involved asking men to fill out a questionnaire and take it down a narrow hall to student that was collecting them.  Another student would block the way and bump into them, while walking away the student would call the test subject an asshole.  Measuring heart rate, blood pressure, testosterone, and cortisol levels the researchers could determine the Southerners without looking at their questionnaires!  These were well to do kids who were attending an out of state university, these were not Hillbilly Hatfields and McCoys (who of course also were of Scotch-Irish descent and steeped in a culture of honor).  These students were furious and ready to fight.  Conversely, the Northern Students did not have the same reaction.  Some even showed lowered blood pressure and heart rates as if they were purposely calming themselves in an effort to blow it off.

Gladwell also tells a story of a murder trial of an old man from the South.  He lived next to a filling station and the town hoodlums would loiter there and give him grief.  One day the old man blasted three of them with his shot gun, killing two.  The judge was astounded when the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.  When asked later, one of the jury commented that the old man wouldn't have been much of a man if he hadn't killed those punks, he HAD to do it.

I keep having visions of the Tarleton Twins from Gone With The Wind whooping and hollering about going to war.  I believe the best example in recent years is from the Honorable Senator from Georgia, Mr. Zell Miller and his fiery exchange with the pinko commie bloated blow hard, Chris Matthews after Miller's address at the GOP Convention.  Senator Miller, a lifelong Democrat gave the Keynote address at the 2004 GOP Convention.