Honour killing is an emotionally fuelled sacrosanct ideal, and is meant to define human ethos, ethics, conduct, sensibilities and sensitivities.
To understand honour killing, as opposed to honourable death, heterosexual men have to attend gay bars on their own, get friendly with the patrons, accept their advances, agree to accompany them to a private party where several of the person’s associates are present, then be physically overwhelmed when he refuses to engage in one-on-one sex, then be brutally – and against his wishes – repeatedly anally and orally raped.
Now, how many of you men are prepared to go through the rest of your life reliving your powerlessness over the incident and believe that you have the ability to detach yourself, forgive the perpetrators, and even forget the entire episode.
Now, let us open another thought-window…
You are lying anaesthetised on an operating table. The incision begins. To your horror, you feel each and every cut. But you’re unable to move or physically register an objection to the continuing cut of the knife. Can’t imagine how that might feel? Ask somebody to stab you repeatedly with a pin in various parts of your body – as the pin punctures your skin, remain passive and totally unresponsive.
Can you do that?
Now, let’s add another layer to this, specifically, the Asian and European mindscapes.
Until the mid c.20th, the concept of Judgement Day and the idea of life after death were realities. As personal wealth increased among the European grassroots, these cherished centuries old ideals along with that of an all-seeing judgemental God dissipated; and life was theorised and lived as if it were all about the here-and-now, and that after death came nothing.
This mindscape is the ground-zero of modern psychology. And it is based on the experience of American GIs in Vietnam. During that war the American soldiers on one hand were happily ensconced in their helicopters engaged in shooting defenceless people on the ground; on the other hand, when at the receiving end of firepower they experienced fear of death in terms of a fear of no return.
Where did this reimagining of death emerge from?
The live-for-now attitude was forged in the challenge to such unwritten social rules as respect for elders. Rebel Without A Cause was accepted not as mere silver screen entertainment but as the motto, the cornerstone, the edict, the demigod of a new society. Children were rent asunder from the multi-generational living mode, away from the guidance and interaction of their grandparents. They were brought up by people who were child-adults themselves and who had zero experience in child-rearing, and who now no longer had the stability and vision of their own parents’ experience to lean on.
Parents adopted a radical modernity, granting unfettered freedom to their children; and the latter, once set free, set about defining their own parameters. Freedom engaged sexual revolution in the 1960s, and chucked out the foundations of the European psyche whereby socially-inept and sexually-frustrated religious practitioners chastised their flock for success in these arenas. Sexual freedom did away with the wrath of God, and focused on the here and now, on the belief that you only live once and ought therefore to live it to the full.
This ‘new thinking’ rewrote psychology, adjusting and readjusting Freudianism. At its core was the near-death experience of American GIs, whose fear was turned into a euphoria about this one and only life and was then rammed down the throats of a new generation – not only in America but globally. One vogue came to replace another; one idiotic idea displaced another – freedom wrapped in fear became the psychology of the day.
Opposing this psychology is the one cherished by nearly all non-Europeans as an absolute truth. It is that one’s actions here and now are like a bank account in which passive, caring, humane behaviour accumulates positive points which are then bartered for an easier, healthier, wealthier, trouble-free human cycle next time around.
Within this non-European mindscape there is more emphasis on life lived within extant social parameters, these latter being the arbiter of retribution, punishment and boon for one’s actions that will be the net characteristic of one’s next life – unless your actions are so heinous that your next lives will follow the life-pattern and template of animals rather than humans.
This mindscape is based on Buddhaji, who detailed the journey of his ‘life’ from human form into various plant and animal forms, and eventually into human form again – the accumulated experience of which allowed him the attainment of enlightenment. Since others of Buddhaji’s level have described similar journeys, this template of existence is embedded in the non-European psyche as an absolute.
Within this journey, various hierarchical realities exist; there are no black and white life-patterns, all is interlinked and interwoven. The higher levels correspond to social and ethical behaviour, the lower ones to shame and failure of discipline individually or among one’s family.
A soldier who follows orders is honoured. A soldier who disobeys orders brings shame on his regiment. This shame is not dishonour – both are as different from one another as the truth is to a lie, as sunlight is to moonlight.
Shame is shame. It stands on its own merit.
So, where does honour killing fit into all this? Well, it emerges from, and belongs to, yet another mindscape altogether.
Very few people in the world experience the reality-emotion of living death – that space where you are alive inasmuch as the body continues to function, but you are intellectually and rationally dead; where you are clinically alive but psychically dead. To experience living death is to be a walking corpse.
In living death all that registers in one’s mind is that an aberration of correctness has taken place; and that if left unchecked it will reproduce that aberration, unless and until the anomaly is reset. Assuming that you will take birth as maybe the third but definitely the fourth generation of the same lineage and family means that the original aberration – the state of functioning outside accepted social parameters – will pursue you into that lifetime.
You then have to ask yourself the very serious question of whether you want to be born as an ostracised member of your community, generations along, and where nobody wants to deal with you or marry you or be connected with your family.
The reality of such isolation, coupled with being a living corpse, is what compels the act of what I call resetting the anomaly. Hence, honour killing.
I should state here that I have deeply personal problems with this reaction. My deeply ingrained Sikh mysticism and ethos lead me to reject the notion that the anomaly leading to the aberration of correctness is the fault of the woman involved.
In this world of male dominance a woman – even in the European world – is answerable to the man in her life. It is the man who chases the woman of his desire; the man who is the aggressor and pursuer, refusing to accept the woman’s rejection (which normally she withholds for the sake of a peaceful life), and coercing her into an act which when it comes into the open light of society creates the state of living corpse – usually in the woman’s father.
This living corpse state and mentality has no remedy. Time does not heal the pain; it is so deep, so thorough, that words cannot explain it. As an old-fashioned Sikh I am adamant that if you must kill the woman who has been compromised and coerced, then the man responsible must first be killed by his own family. If they refuse, then there can be no basis for killing the woman either.
But the question remains, how easy is it to relive, again and again, the horror of being violently gang-raped?
Imagine that the rape lasts several hours, includes physical beatings beyond any measurable threshold, and is committed on a public stage with your local neighbours taking part in your humiliation. How do you live in society, being mocked and verbally humiliated on a daily basis by all and sundry?
If you had an opportunity to kill the protagonist(s), would you really let them off the hook?
Folks, there is no such thing as honour killing.
A living corpse has neither a sense of honour or shame.
So, to those of you who are among the heterosexual men I addressed at the beginning, I now ask: where do you stand on the inappropriately termed honour killing?