[Top of page] A society expects from all its members an adherence to its own norms and values.According to the degree to which they do so adhere, people are judged acceptable or not acceptable in that society.Although there are many demographic and cultural subgroupings of the Eastern peoples-even the Arab may be an agricultural peasant, a nomad of the desert, a seafarer of the Persian Gulf, a sophisticated urbanite, a university student-the ideal of maintaining face has a universality among them, so that a general analysis of the concept will be pertinent, with minor variations, to all.Yet it should be borne in mind that, since cultural groups consist of individual men, there will be individual deviations from the generalizations drawn in the following discussion.Blame, fault, or error accruing to an Arab personally brings his immediate fall from social grace and a loss of dignity or face.
An Arab hearing this story not only fails to see the moral beauty of such behavior but wonders why anyone would ever compromise his integrity by admitting thus his guilt.
If lack of guilt gives social dignity, the Arab must maintain his guiltless appearance at all costs.
Facts and circumstances can combine in many different ways to reflect unfavorably upon any man, but the Arab cannot afford to allow accrued facts or logic to impute any flaw or guilt to him personally.
In an oil company installation near the Persian Gulf, an American linguist in the training department, after drafting some exercises to be used in instructing American employees in spoken Arabic, gave them to three bilingual Saudi Arabs working for him to check for syntactic and orthographic correctness before publication.
The drafts were all tacitly okayed, returned without change; but after they had been published several glaring errors in the work were discovered.