August 21, 2003

Self disclpline

A while back, in a post on pirates, I noted that the buccaneers were fairly democratic -- captains were elected, as were quartermasters, who acted as a check on the captain. Patrick Pringle, in his work Jolly Roger: The Story of the Great Age of Piracy noted about them,

Honest service in the Navy or on merchant ships had made them loathe and dread authority, and if they gloried in anything it was their freedom from the fear of being flogged. They had no discipline, and therefore much self-discipline.

I think the last line is fairly instructive, and I was reminded of it when I read this piece in the Arab News:

Women alone or accompanied by their drivers in Saudi Arabia are almost always harassed wherever they go by men of all ages. The situation has become so pathetic that the term “open season” is an understatement. Even more perplexing is the fact that when women are walking with a Saudi man, no one dares to approach them in any way; the worst that will happen is a quick stolen glance. I admit I like it when one of my brothers agrees to take me somewhere, not because I could not defend myself if I had to, but because Riyadh suddenly becomes a much more peaceful place to walk in, with less savage behavior.

Looking at my brother as he walked next to me in the shopping mall, I wondered what it was about him that was so threatening. He is a regular teenager, tallish but without much muscle; my driver (with whom I’m constantly being harassed) is much taller and has a more threatening build. And that was when it hit me. It was not the physical build but the fact that he was a Saudi man. That is why more and more women require that their drivers wear the traditional thobe and ghoutra/shummagh: In other words, they make their own scarecrows.

The saddest part of all this is the realization that we are a nation with so little self-discipline that we need this and other types of scarecrows to make us behave. Why is that? What made us this way? Was it the way we were educated and raised? Have we been inadvertently taught that punishment is the only reason to be moral? And if there is no chance of being punished, then what? No boundaries?

One might argue that when you need a "Committee to Prevent Vice and Promote Virtue" to patrol the streets, administering floggings, chances are there's very little virtue to start with. But the lack of virtue is more likely a result of tyranny, rather than its cause.

Posted by Ideofact at August 21, 2003 11:52 PM
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