No excuse

Can moral or cultural relativism somehow excuse the sickening, unfathomable story that Conrad relates (in a post from a few days ago that I just discovered)? Can we simply say, “Their culture is different from ours? We have to accept that this is how they treat women”? Sorry, I can’t.

In short, brothers rape and impregnate their sister, the mother insists her daghter kill herself to maintain the “family honor,” she refuses, the mother then murders her own daughter herself. (But my words can’t do it justice; read the post.)

Is speaking out against this sort of thing a sign of ignorance, of simplistic thinking? Does it betray a lack of cultural understanding and empathy? I can’t believe that. Simplistic as it may sound, evil is evil, and while I may not be able to formally define it, I definitely know it when I see it.

Stories like this leave me incensed, and also rather hopeless. It will take generations to change this sort of fundamentalist mentality, this hard-wired irrationalism. Maybe it will take forever. I don’t have the magic answer. I do know that these people are treating women worse than animals, and it is hard for me to feel sympathy for them. I consider myself a liberal, but when I see liberals take up their cause I feel absolutely sick.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

omg this has to be so deep rooted that even new policies can not change it.

November 21, 2003 @ 1:29 am | Comment

There with you. Women used to have thier foot bound in China too. Who spoke against it? Female white missionaries.

The western world was equally misogynistic in thier own way through history and it’s a feminist perspective and the women who fought for thier rights that allowed the changes to happen. I mean if we take the logical conclusion to “Cultural Relativism” then the US should still have slaves, the Australia should still not allow non-white immigration, and the UK should still not allow women to vote, etc, etc.

It’s really a paradigm change rather than a “West” vs “East” or Culture and Tradition VS Western Cultural Imperialism.

People who refuse to change hide behind culture to do thier acts, (but will happily buy a TV, or use a phone) because it allows them to maintain the power structure where by they benefit.

Nobody should question their believes in basic human rights, because it comes of simplistic or insensitive.

People who behave badly towards others are the ones who are.


November 21, 2003 @ 1:48 am | Comment

I also want to challenge the idea of “Deep Rootedness” doesn’t it imply some people of a certain or different race or culture are incapable of having logical thought?

It has every thing to do with education and allowing people to see a different way to life. Some people just have not had a chance to even have a choice of thier behaviours because culture is the only social structural and behavioual mode they know. But it’s not innate.


November 21, 2003 @ 1:51 am | Comment

PS if you want to explore this issue further, this book is a good start.

Anna Tsing was a professor of mine, and one of her true passions was exploring the intersection of human rights and cultural relativism.

In the Realm of the Diamond Queen


November 21, 2003 @ 2:07 am | Comment

Does Cultural Relativism Excuse Inhuman Treatment to Human Beings?

November 21, 2003 @ 2:36 am | Comment

Thanks for those links. This is a subject very close to my heart.

November 21, 2003 @ 8:07 am | Comment

Disclosure: The book is a little DRY and wordy. But its interesting anyway. It’s the intersection about land rights, feminism and marginalization. I dunno. It’s all the stuff I love, even if it’s hard going. It was a pretty semial piece of work when it came out.

I think there might be something a little easier going for the exact topic at hand. Just it was the first thing I could think of coz Anna Tsing taught me a lot about that stuff.

Get back to you, if something comes to mind. It’s just not on the top of my head at the moment.

And thank you for reminding me to write the love letter to West Hollywood. I meant to do it, but forgot, so at least I got it down,


November 21, 2003 @ 11:27 am | Comment

cultural snobbery

Conrad writes about a Palestinian mother murdering her own daughter who had become pregnant through incest with her siblings, in order to preserve family honour here. He ends off with: Watchout for your brothers, Fatima, or Mommy may be visiting…

November 23, 2003 @ 8:08 pm | Comment

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