Wednesday August 15, 2018

Honor Killers know their action is shameful

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Kwame Anthony Appiah
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Jaipur: The British-born Ghanaian philosopher, cultural, political and moral theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah asserted that phenomenon like “honor killings” are resorted by those who are morally weak and the motivation for it is shame rather than guilt.

Honor and morality can oppose each other, and the former can lead people into committing despicable acts like “honor killings” despite them knowing their actions are morally wrong and should not be done, he says.

“Honor and morality are different systems that can conflict in cases like of honor killings… Honor draws people to do something they know is morally wrong and they ought not to do but this does not stop them,” he said at a session titled “The Honor Code” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday evening.

“Guilt is moral and shame stems from honor,” he said, adding that the sense of shame can be given to someone, not guilt.

Appiah, who holds a position at the New York University’s philosophy department and school of law and has authored “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” which deals majorly with three changes — the end of the practice of foot-binding in China, the slavery trade and duelling in England — that came through moral shifts, says he had studied the issue and came to conclusion that honor was a matter of a system, based on local norms of how respect is assigned, and the right of respect is addressed through identity, which can be of family, caste, nation, religion or gender.

“Identity is what you are supposed to be doing.. You are supposed to confirm to the norms,” he said, adding morality is what holds you responsible and honor is something other people have a stake in.

On his typology of revolutions, Appiah contended that revolutions, in the classic sense entailing a big change in a small time, related to political revolutions of which the French Revolution is the ‘obvious’ stereotype but moral and lifestyle revolutions were different, insofar they had different time frames, and entail at least 20 to 25 years, or a generational gap, example attitude in the US for gay marriage.

The difference is that lifestyle revolutions encompass new ideas, a big change in morality and have significance in daily life, while the moral kind, such as on equality for women and abolition of slavery, have arguments already in place, so the issue is not about changing of minds but the big change comes when habits change, he said.

Leading Indian cultural and literary theorist Homi K Bhabha, who had initiated the discussion, contended that honour, especially in the case of “honor” killings, was linked to authority, and a sense of humiliation was important for both shame and honor, the latter being an ambivalent response to the issue of shame. He also contended that sex was a problematic area in this connection.

Appiah said it was a question of privacy that linked to sex. “Everyone knows what the others are doing. What is constrained by shame is visibility,” he said, stressing shame is connected to visibility and there is loss of respect through exposure, and thus shame.

Holding of laws were needed against issues like “honor killings” and racial discrimination, he however stressed that the law and the state were important factors here but not the determinants and a moral change was imperative.(Vikas Datta,IANS)

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China Will Get an ‘Understanding India’ Programme To Facilitate Cultural Exchange

"We would like to demystify the idea of India through this programme."

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India, China
PM Modi meets Xi Jinping, wikimedia commons

India plans to launch an “Understanding India” programme in China to “demystify” the country and create a better understanding of it.

Despite being immediate neighbours, India and China lack people-to-people contact and cultural exchange.

Indian Council of Cultural Relations President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who was in Beijing to attend the World Congress of Philosophy, said that by watching Bollywood and reading websites one can know India only superficially.

India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping here.
Representational Image, wikimedia commons

“India cannot be understood by simply reading books and visiting websites. India is an experience,” Sahasrabuddhe said.

“In most big countries like China, we are trying to have some kind of ‘Understanding India’ programme which will be a structural programme.”

The Rajya Sabha MP said that India was a “riddle” to the people outside because of its diversity and coexistence of masses despite the economic disparity in the country.

“We would like to demystify the idea of India through this programme,” Sahasrabuddhe added.

He also said the Indian cultural centres across the world that don’t have any name will be named after Indian monk Swami Vivekananda.

India, China
India is an experience

The cultural centre at the Indian Embassy in Beijing was named after the spiritual leader on Tuesday.

Also Read: Indian Art Forms in International Festivals Through Sands of Culture Series

“We respect everybody. There are Nehru centres; there are Mahatma Gandhi centres; there are Tagore centres but there are centres that did not have any names… so we thought it was fit to name all those under Swami Vivekananda because he symbolizes Indian culture in a multiple ways. He is an inspirational hero,” said Sahasrabuddhe.

There are 37 Indian cultural centres in the world. (IANS)