Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Locus of Control


A Danish psychologist who has worked with young criminals for many years, offers some observations on the cultural differences between Westerners (those raised in a culturally Christian millieu) and Muslims.

Aggression: or, why do the shrieking Islams on TV all look mildly idiotic, no matter how threatening they are? Why do we instinctively ridicule them? Why has this man become a figure of fun on blogs across the 'sphere?

In the eyes of most Westerners it looks immature and childish when people try to use threatening behavior, to mark their dislikes...

To us, aggressive behavior is a clear sign of weakness.
It is a sign of not being in control of oneself and lacking ability to handle a situation.


The Islamic expression of “holy anger” is therefore completely contradictory to any Western understanding. Those two words in the same sentence sound contradictory to us. The terror-threatening and violent reaction of Muslims to the Danish Mohammed cartoons showing their prophet as a man willing to use violence to spread his message, is seen from our Western eyes as ironic. Muslims’ aggressive reaction to a picture showing their prophet as aggressive, completely confirms the truth of the statement made by Kurt Westergaard in his satiric drawing.

Expressions of anger and threats are probably the quickest way to lose one’s face in Western culture. In discussions, those who lose their temper have automatically lost, and I guess most people have observed the feeling of shame and loss of social status following expressions of aggression at one’s work place or at home. In the Muslim culture, aggressive behavior, especially threats, are generally seen to be accepted, and even expected as a way of handling conflicts and social discrepancies.

If a Muslim does not respond in a threatening way to insults or social irritation, he... is seen as weak, as someone who cannot be depended upon and loses face.

In the eyes of most Westerners it looks immature and childish when people try to use threatening behavior, to mark their dislikes.

Who's in control?
There is another strong difference between the people of Western and Muslim cultures; their locus of control. Locus of control is a psychological term describing whether people experience their life influenced mainly, by internal or external factors. It is clear from a psychological point of view that Westerners feel that their lives are mainly influenced by inner forces – ourselves.


Our phone books have columns of addresses for psychologists, coaches and therapists. All these things are aimed at helping us to help ourselves create the life that we want. Some might argue that all this introspectiveness is too much and that just doing what is useful for oneself and others here-and-now would be more constructive, but this is how our culture is.

All these things do not exist in Muslim culture and countries.


If we are raised in a culture where we learn that “…I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” as William Ernest Henley wrote in his famous poem Invictus in 1875; we will, in case of personal problems, look at ourselves and ask: “…What did I do wrong?” and “…What can I do to change the situation?” People who have been taught throughout their entire lives that outer rules and traditions are more important than individual freedom and self reflection, will ask: “Who did this to me?” and “Who has to do something for me?”

Thus, the locus of control is central to the individual’s understanding of freedom and responsibility. Even though our Christian based societies may, in certain situations, give too much emphasis on feelings of guilt; it also strengthens the individual’s sense of being able to take responsibility for, and change one’s own life.

In societies shaped under Islamic and Qu’ranic influence there may be fewer feelings of guilt and thus, more freedom to demand the surroundings to adapt to one’s own wishes
and desires. This may include demands to wear Islamic costumes which can result in more Muslim demands for Islamization of our Western societies, but it is also a powerful source of victim mentality and leads to endless demands on one’s surroundings. In a very concrete way this cultural tendency, shows itself in therapy, as a lack of remorse.

The standard answer from violent Muslims was always: “…It is his own fault that I beat him up. He provoked me.” Such excuses show that people experience their own reactions as caused by external factors and not by their own emotions, motivation and free will. Even though one’s own feelings, when experiencing an insult, can be moderated by one’s own point of view, this kind of self reflection does not happen to the same degree among Muslims as it does among Westerners.

It only takes one person to beat up another: the guy who is doing the hitting. It also only takes one person to feel insulted. Being beaten and feeling insulted are thus strictly different social events. The latter depends on ones self, while the former is solely caused by outer circumstances. Unfortunately, this fact is not considered in Muslim culture and apparently also not by the supporters of laws on hate speech, racism and defamation.

So, you're saying they're a culture entirely composed of sulky, spoiled six year-olds.

Six year-olds with guns.

He concludes with a rather important observation, and a question.

If integration just consists of learning the language and finding a job, it is not so difficult. But if integration also includes developing mental habits of equally respecting non-Muslims it is simply impossible for most Muslims. They see themselves as special, will always try to live together, create their own Muslim/Islamic parallel societies, feel separated and have less respect towards non-Muslims. True integration doesn’t have to, necessarily, imply religious conversion. However, for Muslims it certainly presupposes cultural conversion. Clearly, very few Muslims have the will, social freedom and strength of personality to go through such a psychologically demanding process.

So, this is THE question. Will integration of Muslims happen, satisfactorily, to the extent necessary? If you think yes, then on what basis do you make the assumption? If no, then what will you expect the consequences to be?



anothertwocents said...

Hillary, I have learned that one should always be wary of taking psychologists and their musings at face value.

First of all, there were Western, European-based, Christian societies in which violence and aggression was quite common, such as Texas and California 150 years ago, where a man's only friend was his six-shooter.

Secondly, it's worth remembering that not only do these Muslims come from relatively backward countries, but they generally are NOT the sort of people who have a reasonably good life in their home country, and hence a motivation to stay put, but the sort of people who subsist at the bottom, and hence have fewer reasons not to want to leave. If you'd transfer the slums of Bucarest to the poorer parts of London or Copenhagen, you'd run into exactly the same sort of riffraff. Whether contracepting and then importing riff raff is a good idea is another - and timely - question.

And it should be said that the same blasé attitude towards violence colours Spanish and Latin American culture to this day; I think of the Generalisimo who shot a soldier in his tercio who complained about his grub in the head, as Preston mentions in his biography.

I have known Arabs of the upper class, Christian and Muslim, and generally been highly impressed by their erudition and manners, which put those of most Europeans to shame.

Having spent a good decade as a White Christian living in the Middle East, I cannot say that I find these theories to reflect my observations, on the contrary.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

In Latin culture in general, in fact. I was making mental comparisons with Italians as I was reading this man's observations. There are more than one would really care to live with.

anothertwocents said...

You're very perceptive; at the time of the Crusades, Arab culture was the preeminent culture in Southern Italy. Sicily, in fact, was ruled by the Arabs from 800 to 1060 AD, and administered by Arabs working for European monarchs for much longer. Frederick II, the German Holy Roman Emperor whose reign ended Norman rule in Sicily, conducted business at his court in Palermo in Arabic, preferring it to German and French. A most brilliant man, he founded Thomas Aquinas' alma mater.

To this day, Milanese of polite society will - when amongst themselves - describe the denizens of Sicily and parts north up to Rome, as "Arabs," in the same way Britons might use "Wogs" or "swine."


HJW said...

"Wogs" was never as nasty a term as "swine". English single-syllable racial epithets are very common, but are never used in a really vituperative way. English people really just don't think in terms of mean insults the way many Continentals do. It's a common misunderstanding.

In fact, "wog" was an acronym, established by the British foreign service in India and other places in the Empire. It stands for "Worthy Oriental Gentleman" and was put in place when the up and ups in the foreign service insisted that the new term be used after complaints that British administrators were using unpleasant terms for the natives. Of course, as with all such bureaucratic fiats it was deservedly ridiculed and shortened to WOG, which was then adopted as the nickname of Indians and other "orientals" under Imperial rule. So it was, in its origin, actually more a fingers-up to the poncy gits who were running the foreign service.

HJW said...

Wiki notes, quite interestingly, that

in 1949 ... a parliamentary debate concerning the Burmese, a Wigg shouted at the Tory benches, "The Honourable Gentleman and his friends think they are all 'wogs'. Indeed, the Right Honourable Member for Woodford [i.e. Winston Churchill] thinks that the 'wogs' begin at Calais". Wigg's coinage, sometimes paraphrased as "Wogs start at the Channel" or "Wogs start at Dover", is used to characterise a stodgy Europhobic viewpoint, and more generally the view that Britain (more so England) is inherently separate from and superior to the Continent.