Honor: A History

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Encounter Books, 2006 - History - 381 pages
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The suicide bombings carried out in London in 2005 by British Muslims revealed an alarming network of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers. Under the noses of British intelligence, London became the European hub for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamist terror and extremism - so much so that it has been mockingly dubbed Londonistan. In this ground-breaking book, Melanie Phillips pieces together the story of how Londonistan developed as a result of the collapse of British self-confidence and national identity and its resulting paralysis by multiculturalism and appeasement. The result is an ugly climate in Britain of irrationality and defeatism, which now threatens to undermine the alliance with America and imperil the defence of the free world.

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This book is scholarly, but not at the level a highly-technical, peer-reviewed academic text a college professor would write. This makes the book very fast-paced and readable if you are, like me, a fan of the "pop history" genre. It organizes primary source research of other historians into something to be consumed by a person who, although well-educated, has not made the subject matter their life's work.
Honor develops a very important thesis that needs to be entertained by anyone interested in international politics and diplomacy: that Western societies are organized around such deeply-entrenched moral principles, that we are nearly incapable of understanding the motivating factors of people living in cultures not borne of the Christian tradition. Bowman introduces the reader to several fascinating concepts that I, for one, had not before considered in a meaningful way. A prime example would be the "honor group". That the people whose respect and esteem we seek are largely a personal decision that is highly influenced by the concepts of honor with which we were raised.
The controversy that surrounds this book, some of which you can read above, stands as some of the best evidence in support of Bowman's thesis. For example, Bowman points out the degree to which the skill of deception is esteemed in many non-western cultures, much like a Westerner might esteem a good salesman. This observation is only pejorative if you approach deception/lying like a Westerner: that it is nearly universally morally wrong. The book is replete with similar observations that a member of the subject culture would not find offensive at all. Only a Westerner could see many of these observations as casting dispersion.
Another controversial idea toward which Bowman's evidence leads you is the uncomfortable truth that women being treated as anything other than property or second-class citizens is the strict purview of cultures born of the West, or cultures recently conquered by the West (Japan). There's no denying Bowman's right-leaning politics shine through in Honor. The book will leave right-leaning people pumping their fist and begging for more. For the left-leaning among us, the book is designed to lead you to conclusions you'll have no interest in drawing. However, it will very legitimately introduce you to many concepts that none of us Westerners, right or left, have had the occasion to give very much thought. For that purpose alone, a more liberal person would enjoy examining Bowman rare topics and coming to conclusions likely different from Bowman's. Personally, Honor stands as one of my two or three favorite non-fiction books I have ever read. I cannot recommend it enough.


The Two Kinds of Honor
The Islamic Honor Culture and the West
The Origins of the Western

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