A couple of days ago I wrote about my somewhat relativistic view of right and wrong. I am uncomfortable at the idea of “saving” or “fixing” problems in another culture because I can’t know who am I to say that my way is right. The way we behave now with regards to women’s rights (and people’s rights in general) feels similar to the crusades in many ways and it makes me uncomfortable.
Now I hear your outrage. “It’s different” you say, “there are people being oppressed, killed, sold for slavery” etc. I hear you, and I find these things abhorrent. I can’t stand the idea of pulling a 9 year old girl out of school and marrying her to a 50 year old man in order to pay off my debts. However, how do I know I’m right?
I’m serious. We are all so adamant about our views: Christianity is truth, Islam is truth, religion is false. Whatever our views, we believe them with fervor. My belief that marrying off a 9 year old is bad is just as strong as some peoples’ beliefs that it is normal. My belief that women and men should be allowed to work and be treated equally in the workplace is just as strong as the beliefs of people who think that women should not work at all and should be at home raising children. How do we know who is right?
It is self-evident; we all believe that our beliefs are the right ones otherwise they wouldn’t really be our beliefs.
This post could go round in circles for a very long time. But the basic point is this: these things that we are fighting for in other countries and cultures, (fighting to end FGM, to free women from oppression, to end child workers, and so many other things) are based on our own moral codes, our beliefs, and our culture. How is what we are doing any different from the Christian missionaries who went into Africa and tried to convert all the “savages” to the “right” faith? How do we know that our beliefs are any more right than the beliefs of others?