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Douglas Modig

tisdag 13 mars 2012

Honor related violence in Sweden



Aggression and brutality implemented by sheer physical or mental force is a human fundamental characteristic which we have painstakingly been trained to deny, to combat ethically or religiously and to consciously disregard as a major force of human survival. We seem intent on peace promoting efforts on a global scale and denounce violence as an anomalistic behavioral irrationality which can and must be pacified at all costs.

The remnants of peaceful bartering and coexistence in a bountiful habitat seems genetically to be maintained in a collective memory of conditions contrary to contemporary conditions and, in reality, an irrational ideal where resources are scare and people too many.

Violence, helàs, is brutally apparent at all levels, conscious or subconscious, from a mega plan to the individual micro cosmos in all hitherto known societies. Most apparent or hidden structures (Levy Strauss) that control the socio economical and behavioral patterns of any given society, be it stratified, egalitarian or anarchistic, are strictly governed by determining agents in relation to the access to the basic means for survival and reproduction (biologically, socially, symbolically).

 The violent original battle over the means of production and reproduction which scattered the homo sapiens, and the homo erectus, from the forested mountain slopes of Ethiopia by the Aris, the primate presently regarded as our earliest human ancestors, spreading to the savannas of Kenya and Ethiopia and to the the still ongoing mass migrations, which, in different patterns and substance, rely on and are governed by the ultimate agent of survival, the selfish gene, (R.Dawkins) recently acknowledged by genetic state of the art science as being the optimal survival kit in human maximization, individual or collective accumulation.

Violence, in this context, is rational, disregarding our understanding of the term, and a hard act to swallow in a world, which for tens of thousands of years simultaneously have developed strategies for diplomacy, agreements and peace promoting intermarriages in order not to become extinct.

It is intensely annoying when altruism, benevolence and empathy, the socio emotional codes of cooperation and compassion, are explained by a selfish gene, but there we are; we depend on the charity of others or to offer part of our individual surplus in order to find order in a chaotic and ever changing world and the selfish gene promotes kindness and amiability because we need it to survive. We are not alone. All species rely on the gene with the disagreeable label.

Having said this, I find it important to underline that selfishness, egotism, greed and violence may be of major importance as genetically inherited determinants of survival and that the biological disposition cannot be understood from a moralistic or ethical point of view because it does not correspond to the idea of a right and a wrong.

If we do not understand the mechanisms of violence and aggression we cannot deal with it. The survival of the fittest is not that farfetched. Somehow, it doesn´t have to be the most brutal, nor the strongest. Social skills and empathy will take you far. Survival is not depending on violence solely but on flexibility and sociability when it is needed…

The knowledge is far from new: “Love Thy Next as Thou love Thyself”, is a biblical command, easy to ignore or reject because our living conditions often leave little room for divine idealism.

The earliest social contracts were those between mankind and cosmos. The symbols left to posterity on tortoise shells or the walls of caves were statements in order to ensure stability and fertility,and in addition meant as important messages for the coming generations to appease forces stronger than man. Art and decorative beauty, as we perceive it, were present even in the pre human species who decorated the skeletons of their diseased relatives with flowers, an image that tears my eyes but nevertheless is true.. Their is no logical explanation except for grief and a desire to honor and to show affection.

Art or expression,obviously, is a fundamental representation of man´s existential brooding and a need to communicate, not only with other humans, but with the presumed metaphysical forces governing human life.

In any given habitat there, soon or later, whether in an arid and poor environment or a sumptuous one, will occur a shortage of the means of production due to population growth and overpopulation on a smaller and a greater scale and the battle over the resources develop.

No human being, no matter what social organization, will willingly give up her life for others to survive, except in extremely rare cases, probably because of scientifically speaking, some kind of personal disorder or a mother´s instinct to save her offspring.


Anthropologically we separate guilt oriented societies from shame oriented. Guilt can only be absolved by divine intervention or by accepting secular punishments, whereas shame can be compensated for by ceremonial rituals in order to reestablish a balance with the supernatural, as often is the case in the egalitarian hunter and gatherer societies. Sacrifice, be it of products or human beings, is globally spread and exist where we live whether we see it or refuse to acknowledge it.

Sacrifice isa fundamental ceremony to appease furious celestial or natural forces and continued even in the contemporary era, although we would never admit to it. Magical thinking does not halt at the tender age of seven. It alters in patterns of modes of rationalizing but is a steady companion until we leave this life. New Year promises are recognition of personal shortcomings we wish to get rid of and by doing giving the promise on a magically charged day, changing the course of fate to a happy and illustrious one.

Shame in a stratified society works on various levels: Without going into details a stratified society seems to globally develop a cosmology reflecting the different classes and their status by turning to bigger and lesser gods and, at the stage, which is regarded as the most developed, to a sole and omnipotent God.

The laws of necessity, such as a pattern of social interaction tolerated in a group or an extended family unit, will be canonized and regarded as Divine Order.  By deviating from the social code of the clan, family or kinsmen, you will jeopardize the survival of the whole group and by their calling upon the gods or God you will be punished by extinction or expulsion.

In animistic, animatistic and polytheistic cultural ceremonies to appease the djinns, spirits or the gods and to recover balance with the supernatural, sacrifying and/or acts of violence must be executed even within your socio emotional and interrelated group. The violence has a profound meaning and a rationality which is based on survival strategies. In a cosmos where the stratified society has developed a hierarchy it is maintained by violent force and oppression can be merciless at the expense of the submissive population strata.

Empires, without knowledge of each others, were built on forced labor and slavery on a massive scale. No one in his right mind would willingly leave his livelihood, family and habitat to work himself to death in order to build magnificent structures glorifying worldly rulers with divine pretexts in remote places and, maybe only for a second, we may reflect upon why Europe suddenly started to prosper. Cleverness?  Superior intelligence?

May I point to the fact that the Incas had a general pension system inherited from earlier Latin American cultures such as the Muisca, Nazca, Chimur and Valdivia? We have stepped back approximately in time to some 7.000 years B.C. The regional or local empires were built on slavery and violence. Europe rapidly internalized the system and prospered whereas the Latin American City States and Empires collapsed.

Now we are facing a USA with a deficit of 90% of their annual budget, meaning that they virtually do not own their own country, nor her assets. The domination of the Old World is facing violence and regression while Asia is on the rise.

Nomadism and Transhumance based on a constant battle with competitors over the basic means of survival such as food, pastures and water trigger off violent attacks on adversaries and become institutionalized and the embryo of a modern warfare conditions, which are born out of necessity.

The survival strategies, however, also demand peaceful interactions with suitable alien conglomerates in order to reproduce biologically and to avoid extinction by incest and to form alliances of defense and collaboration. The woman comes into focus as the means of value, the “currency” or the exchange value, to guarantee stability in terms of intermarriage and interrelated genetic pools.

The fierce control over female sexuality thus has it´s roots in biological and social “commerce” and survival strategies. The male, furthermore, must be absolutely sure that he is the genitor, the biological father of the offspring, or the idea of alliances fall flat. The woman must remain a virgin until she is legally married. The strictness of these criteria is never negotiable in any pre urban society and the heritage still rules the mindset on a global scale even in the post-industrial societies.

Cliterodoctomy is a brutal mesure to ensure the clan that the woman will not go astray and have sexual relations on her own initiative, since this will diminish any sexual attempt not sanctioned by her clan.

The mutilation of the clitoris and suturing the vagina is a custom, primarily among nomads, which dates back long before any of the world wide religions spread over the globe.

To deviate from patterns of control and to improvise on your own will have fierce consequences. In monotheistic cultures, pre-Lutheran, any form of anomalistic behavior would be interpreted as a crime against God, generating shame by losing your face and honor on a collective scale versus the surrounding world and has to be balanced by regulating the relation to the Almighty for the public to see.

The capital punishment, that is the killing of a woman gone astray or a homosexual son, is a concrete act to show God and the public that the relation to God has been reestablished and balanced, thus extinguishing the shame and to compensate and restore the lost honor.

Taking into regard the rational actions of violence, whether competing over scarce resources of the means of reproduction in a poor habitat or eliminating anomalistic individuals of a collective, violence has a meaning per se.

Bearing this in mindit will not be regarded as a crime, quite the opposite, and is encouraged by an extended family, a father and a mother, siblings or a clan as the only correct thing to do in order to survive socially and avoid a perpetual stigma in the eyes of God and the public. 

Functional violence (Radcliff Brown 1962) cannot easily be morally objected to or exterminated without changing millennia old mindsets as promptly requested by highly stratified societies, often host countries to immigrants with honor related normative set of rules. It must be underlined that honor normative societies have been existing long before the debut of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and that the mindset is present in all three religions. This, however, is of little importance to the victims.

Structural violence, such as a prevailing ideology that find it perfectly rational to accept that public employees take over much of the upbringing of the children and the care of the elderly separated from their children, is subtle and works in many forms. We are as blind to these phenomenon´s as the collective oriented people are horrified by it. The adaptation to the industrial society split up the extended family and developed a small movable production unit, the nuclear family, consisting of parents and children, to be easily transported to where the industrial agents were in necessity of labor force.

Most of us seem to believe that the nuclear family is the “normal” interrelated organization and the effective backbone of contemporary post modern society without reflecting on the fact that this family set up has been a norm in a relatively small part of the world during a second of man´s history. Structural violence, obliging us to abandon the social and emotional network and support of relatives, and relying on a public sector is even regarded as an important step forward in an evolutionary aspect but, to be sincere, a step into what…?

It has been noted that immigrants in a historic and a contemporary perspective tend to potentiate their traditional mindset in order to bring order in a chaotic new world, where their skills and normative values are being disregarded and often criminalized. The polarization between the native population and the newcomers generates violence by exactly the same survival instincts as the fighting over the control over an oasis or a rich pasture in the desert lands of Arabia. It is not uncommon that religious or ideological norms become paramount and strengthened in exile to a fundamentalist degree which is unacceptable in the individual oriented host society, where personal initiative and self fulfillment are words of honor.

The shock and disbelief when the amputated immigrant family, separated from the native extended family, suddenly must take the entire responsibility of parenthood without the relatives or the whole village to assist, is being disobeyed and rebelled against by the children, can often only be compensated for by stern traditional sanctions, while the compatriots are busy studying every detail of their behavior. Shame and the loss of honor by losing control of the children´s followed by a change in the social behavior may even be more stigmatizing in a foreign environment with a community of fellow countrymen struggling to maintain some kind of identity and sanity by enforcing their original normative system.

This exposé is not a statement, nor a plea for acceptance of violence. But it is obvious that the mechanisms of violence, individual or on a mega plan, must be understood in a social darwinist, historical and contemporary social context or we stand without any means to combat it. Keep your enemy close, and enemies will always be there, so that you understand the motivation and maybe can contribute to solve a conflict including violence on the rise. It is no easy task. Mankind has not succeeded so far.

Well. The latter conclusion is no axiom. My close friend, Driton Rama, his mate Genc Uka and the mentor, Tyko Granberger, have been successfully innovative to set things a bit more straight in Sweden. The honor related violence, causing the death of several teenager girls and one boy, all killed by their own brothers ,has raised hell in our country.

The tension between the ethnic groups embracing capital punishment for wayward children and the native majority has risen to degree so that refugees are regarded as medieval, intellectually and evolutionary retarded enemies and potential terrorists. After decades of reasonable tolerance and good will the Swedes are disgusted with the succession of callous executions within a family group.

The oldest son often is called by convention and arcaic norms to restore the relation to God  by revolting brutality. Once, however, you begin to see the guilt ridden sons as victims as well, something can be done. The team of the “Your Brother” project has effectively proved that the overbearing responsibility on the shoulders of the eldest brother can and must be stopped.

By excellent counselling methods the trio with authentic street credibility has made a heavy impact on the youngsters and gradually earning the confidence of the older generation as well.

Murder, whether by divine law, or not, is not an option in Sweden. No extenuating circumstances are accepted even if the assassin is a minor of age, or older. Severe measures and sanctions are imposed. Children should never fall victim to severe sanctions. Prevention is better than cure. With all due respect for the Freedom of Religious expression, honor related violence, will not be regarded as a right. Ever. The issue is not negotiable.

None of the four religions (including the syncretist Kurdish creed) implementing honor related violence are free to ignore the Commandment “ Thou shall not kill “. 

Not even Abraham obeyed the Divine order to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Mercy obviously is stronger than “rationality”.

Douglas Modig  2012


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