Well, I actually mean to say that we must be careful in viewing other
cultures through our moral veil. It can lead to misunderstanding
with sometimes drastic results. For one, we can convince ourselves
that the immoral swine do not deserve to live, and therefore genocide's
not such a bad thing. I do believe in an aboslute morality. But the
distinctions can be rather fine.
Regarding Wayne Crotts' post:
>Now let me see if this is the gist of what you are saying. A culture
can be moral and upstanding:
>even if its norms demand human sacrifices to its dieties;
Actually, I have no problem with this if those sacrifices are
chosen from those who know and accept this possibility, or if
it is an accepted method of capital punishment, where the criminal
knew of the penalty before choosing to commit the crime. But
I'm a bit old-fashioned. That should not be meant to be read
that I would go out and sacrifice someone, simply that I feel
it goes under a more relativistic heading. My personal views
center around the "victim's" choice either explicit or implicit.
The problem, of course, lies in when is the victim's choice real,
if it's shaped by society? So I admit it's a muddle. And certainly
by placing such restraints, I could be construed as judging another
society. I may think that it is wrong for the Iranians to require
the limited choice of death by fire, death by stoning, or death
by being flung from a high precipice for homosexuality. I'm not
sure, however, that I should dictate what is moral to them. I
can refuse to deal with a culture because I do not agree with
them, and if enough people did that there might be some change.
But ultimately I think that the change must come from within the
culture to be lasting, just as I think revolutions don't stick without
some long-term tinkering with society, too. Now, if I was
asked to help someone escape a sentence for something I felt they
should not suffer, I would, as the impetus from them. They must
make a choice.
>or if the norm is that living wives would want to be with deceased
husbands, burning them alive at the hubby's funeral;
This is a case for one dictation from above which did work, as the
British government ruled it illegal. But it continued for some time,
and I think it ultimately worked only because the morality of the
culture changed, especially as Indians were educated in Western
mentality. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. It
seems it might have been a costly pay-off, although much of the
core philosophy remains. But frankly I don't like people playing
games with entire countries. It seems hubristic, and a violation
of some more universal Truths.
>or if the cultural norm is wife-beating, then the practice is ok;
>or getting a little closer to home for this writer, that slavery of
blacks was an ok thing because the norm of American society in the
1800's stated the black was subhuman and should only exist as a
servant of the white man.
Again, I think that these represent entrenched practices which
can only be changed from within the society, and perhaps best through
the cooperation of those who feel it is wrong, and those who have
been wronged. It takes a courageous few who ARE PART of society but
DO NOT share the beliefs to change them. That indicates that the practices,
while widespread, were never univerally accepted as right within the
culture, and neither of these were in ours. As long as there is dissent,
there is room for change, and while we may look at the South as immoral
because of the institution of black slavery, we should not characterise
all Southerners as accepting or defending that institution. And, I
believe that it would be difficult to change without the support or
leadership of those who were part of the institution. If white
abolitionists had been the only architects of emacipation, then it
would have been just another example of people playing with others'
fates. If women never came forward and told of beating and rape within
marriage, and how it devastated their lives, then the practice would
still be unexamined and unchanged.
>I only suggest that if we are going to make all norms ok, we are
walking very dangerous ground.
I should have clarified that it was not a belief in the supremecy of
relativistic morality that led to my post, but rather that we need
to be very careful when drawing those lines about cultures we may not
understand throughly, especially those no longer extant, who cannot
answer accusations. But then, all moral issues can be like walking on
sharpened glass. I'm sorry if I gave any other impression.
Elisabeth Eilir Rowan
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