I was asked a very interesting question in response to my analogy yesterday.
The question I asked involved visiting a remote tribe and being offered their highest honor: to kill the child of one of the high up members of the tribe. For context you can read yesterday’s blog!
Anyway, in my head there were two options: kill the child as would be respectful or refuse to and therefore offend the tribe. I was asked about a third option: saving the child. Would you refuse to kill the child and then “save” it?
I wouldn’t save the child. I wouldn’t kill it either because I couldn’t bring myself to kill anything (unless it was my life on the line, I am a selfish human that way).
Some people might consider it cruel of me not to “save” this child but it falls in line with my beliefs about morals (or lack thereof). I guess I would have to call myself a relativist in this case. I don’t believe in an overall right and wrong that all of humanity should follow. If another culture believes it is right to kill the child as a sacrifice it is not my place to come and tell them that it is “wrong”. Yes, I couldn’t do it, and it goes against my beliefs, but so does raising and killing animals for food and I don’t go around admonishing and lecturing those who do.
We have an obligation to follow the laws of our society so as to maintain a functional society, but that doesn’t mean those laws are objectively right. It doesn’t even mean they are subjectively right. The same way that you (as a woman) don’t want your rights infringed upon by someone who believes that women shouldn’t leave the house, we shouldn’t infringe on another’s right to do what they believe.
I understand that my view has some inherent contradictions with the way in which many people are fighting to “save” women from a life of subjugation in certain countries. If I were to be consistent I would have to step back from any fights outside of my own culture and society, and frankly I tend to because I find myself highly conflicted over what is the right way to behave.
I remember watching women’s groups fight to get the burka or even the hijab banned because it was “oppressive” for women. Many of the women wearing this clothing came back and said that they wanted to wear it, and that they viewed women’s revealing clothes as oppressive. This is the sort of problem I feel occurs frequently. We are too wrapped up in our own desires and beliefs that we forget that other people’s views may severely differ from ours. Just because I believe it is wrong to kill the child doesn’t mean that others don’t disagree, it also doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Who am I to impose my beliefs on others?
It’s difficult because there are things that I feel are “wrong” that I want to be changed (“oppression” of women, FGM, homosexuality being viewed as “wrong”, etc) but I just don’t don’t feel like it’s my place to impose my beliefs on others. If the situation were reversed and the countries who believed in “oppressing” women were the super powers and we in the minority allowed women to vote, learn, drive, etc I wouldn’t want the countries in power stepping in to “save” us from our mistakes.
What do you think? Are there inherent rights and wrongs? Do we have a place to “fix” other cultures?