Cultural Relativism Be Damned!

In Pakistan, according to various news reports, five women were buried alive last month in "honor killings." What was their offense? Three of the women wanted to marry men of their own choosing. The other two women had come to the defense of the first three. The Washington Post reports:

It is considered an insult in some conservative regions of Pakistan for women to have affairs or marry without consent, and rights groups say hundreds are killed by male relatives every year.

The killings - which apparently occurred after the women defied tribal elders and asked a civil court to marry at least three of them - was raised in Parliament on Friday, prompting a lawmaker from Baluchistan province to claim that "only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents the province where the women died, told the chamber on Saturday.

According to some anthropologists, cultural values are arbitrary, and therefore the values of one culture should not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior or persons outside that culture. Bull! Cultures that practice "honor killings" are barbaric. The wikipedia definition of barbarian sums it up well:

"Barbarian" is a pejorative term for an uncivilized person, either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos perceived as having an inferior level of civilization, or in an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, insensitive person whose behaviour is unacceptable in the society of the speaker. Barbarians are considered distinct from savages in that they are perceived as being willfully ignorant, choosing to preserve their way of life despite contact with more civilized societies....

Liberal societies, for all their faults, are morally superior and we should not be shy about saying so.

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  • Elemenope||

    Well, I agree, Ron, but then the question becomes, if an atrocity is going on and *we know it's wrong* (cause we are so civilized), are we then obligated to do anything about it?

    Or is it merely enough to be morally smug behind high walls and long seas?

  • SIV||

    How very ethnocentric of you Ron.
    The feminist defense of cultural relativism here is that it isn't the culture but the patriarchy.
    I have neither the time or inclination to see how they make that distinction.

    I do appreciate the reference to uni-linear cultural evolution.(and fully agree with your sentiments)

  • ||

    We'll get you "some anthropologists," if it's the last thing we do! Your straw-filled bodies will choke the rivers, as a warning to all those in the western intelligentsia who support allowing honor killings!

    All fucking zero of them. It ain't a libertarian news post if you don't get to jerk off over a left wing boogeyman

  • ||

    The way a culture treats its women is one of the better indicators of how shitty it is. There are other factors, but if you're burying women alive because they want to marry a guy they actually, you know, like; your culture has severe problems.

    Can we do anything about it? We can trade, and disapprove, and try and encourage liberalization.

  • ||

    Rather than throwing their money down the toilet of "public policy", the liberty-minded philanthropist would do well to finance the construction of as many Liberator 2.0's as possible, and drop them where they can do the most good. Those burqas are great for concealing even large weapons, and the Liberator is handheld. I imagine it wouldn't take too many Tom, Dick and Abduls dying of mysterious bullet wounds to dissuade your average, cowardly booboisie in these countries to think twice before fucking with women.

  • ||

    Are not the people investigating and prosecuting this case part of that culture as well?

    I'd hate American society to be judged by the Crips.

  • Hogan||

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/behind-the-veil-lives-a-thriving-muslim-sexuality/2008/08/29/1219516734637.html

    Naomi Wolf on the pleasures of chador... "Among healthy young men in the West, who grow up on pornography and sexual imagery on every street corner, reduced libido is a growing epidemic, so it is easy to imagine the power that sexuality can carry in a more modest culture. And it is worth understanding the positive experiences that women - and men - can have in cultures where sexuality is more conservatively directed."

  • ||

    are we then obligated to do anything about it?

    Unlimited visas for women and children under 5.

  • ||

    I think our claims of superiority over barbarians would carry more weight if we weren't so cozy with them.

  • ||

    Murder, clothing...you know. It's all the same thing.

    Awful lot getting smooshed together here.

  • YoungLib||

    Claiming moral superiority does not make it so, and don't try and hide WesternCaucasionWhiteMale Society behind "liberal".

  • Hogan||

    clothing, uniform codes for women enforced with violence... all the same thing. Awful lot getting all smooshied around. the wolf article isn't necessarily directly related. just posted it because it amused me.

  • ||

    To my thinking, "cultural relativism" means that one should judge the actions of an individual against the standards of that person's own culture, while remaining free to think that the culture itself sucks.

  • ||

    joe,

    The case ignited widespread protests last week after an opposition senator, Yasmeen Shah, accused the government of turning a blind eye to the killings and then trying to cover them up. She was interrupted by a Baluchistan senator, Israr Ullah Zehri, who defended honor killings as "our norms" and said they should "not be highlighted negatively."

    Name a Senator who defends the Crips.

    If you read the article, international NGOs had to embarrass Pakistan into investigating.

    This isn't about Islam; it's about backwards fucks not understanding the modernity has caught up with them.

  • Elemenope||

    The way a culture treats its women is one of the better indicators of how shitty it is.

    The four yardsticks are: women, children, prisoners, and readily-identifiable minorities.

    Basically, how a culture treats those who can't (or couldn't) do anything about their treatment.

  • Elemenope||

    This isn't about Islam; it's about backwards fucks not understanding the modernity has caught up with them.

    Somehow I imagine that subtlety will be wasted on the FOX News crowd.

  • ||

    We might be better, but they aren't our responsibility.

  • SIV||


    Name a Senator who defends the Crips.


    You are correct Sir. Maxine Waters is in the Congress.

  • ||

    Ele,

    So we not talk about the horrible things done in Islamic societies because some idiots use it to fuel bigotry? You stickin' with that hand?

  • ||

    SIV,

    I didn't say we were perfect. Mob rule distorts everything.

  • ||

    I've lived in 3 muslim nations and I warmly encourage any idiot young white women who worship the cult of the "other" to do the same. We'll have a rape-kit waiting for you when you get home.

    http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=762096

  • ||

    Are not the people investigating and prosecuting this case part of that culture as well?

    I'd hate American society to be judged by the Crips.


    "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents the province where the women died, told the chamber on Saturday.



    Heard any congresscritters defending the Crips lately?

  • ||

    some values are beyond culture; respect for human life and freedom from violent coercion of this type and degree are what my mom would call "human values" and are universal. these men are aptly called barbarians.

    it's one thing, actually, to object to people being allowed to freely marry - that's a cultural value. but the violence perpetrated against these women in retaliation simply violates their inalienable human rights. i dont agree at all with the very backwards concept of coerced marriage, but i wouldn't call it unacceptable (to me as an outsider) if the 'offending' women were banished or ostrasized, i.e. if in reality they had some choice to leave, some real way to avoid the coercion.

    btw (off-topic) i agree with the idea that women who wear the chador of their own free will are exercising a privacy right - an expression as valid as that of women dressing in a western fashion. i'm a young male from a very conservative (non-muslim) culture if that is relevant at all.

  • ||

    Actually, not even Maxine Waters, who called the LA Riots a "rebellion," defends the Crips.

    A anti-gang interview for you no video chumps.

  • Elemenope||

    So we not talk about the horrible things done in Islamic societies because some idiots use it to fuel bigotry? You stickin' with that hand?

    I'm really not sure how you got to here from what I said.

    All I was pointing out was that Islam tends not to be either the establishing or the driving force behind these hideous atrocities. Many of the cultures came pre-packaged with this shit, way back when they were all [pagans, infidels, Christians, Hindus]. Some predominantly Muslim countries lack these attitudes towards women, other very non-Muslim countries have it in spades.

    Of course that shouldn't mean we can't beat up Islamic culture for the stupid things it does tend to uphold and proliferate. I have no idea why you would think I would think it didn't.

  • Richard Upton Pickman||

    I'd like to second David a few posts up. Cultural Relativism is useful for understanding a culture/practice on its own terms and in relation to what it "does", functionally, for a society.

    It can totally still suck, and we can say so. Some Anthropologists would agree.

  • ||

    SugarFree,

    The case ignited widespread protests last week... What's that tell you?

    "International NGOs" who also included people from that same society.

    It is about "backwards fucks," but there are backwards fucks in our society.

    Honor killings of cheating wives were specifically authorized under the law in South American countries into the 20th century. Which "society" does that make barbaric?

    Every society had backwards fucks, patriarchy, and violence. I'd expect libertarians to be more concerned with individuals than sweeping statements about groups.

  • Loupeznik||

    Elemenope,

    "are we then obligated to do anything about it?"

    Ask yourself if YOU are willing to risk your life and fortune to save someone else a world away and you will have your answer.

    I would love it if all the wars that we commit to required individual specific voluteers. Sort of like how this country started.

  • Elemenope||

    respect for human life and freedom from violent coercion of this type and degree are what my mom would call "human values" and are universal. these men are aptly called barbarians.

    Isn't that a direct contradiction? That is, if they were "universal" values, wouldn't the barbarians have them as well?

  • shecky||

    This is an uncharacteristically weak post from Bailey. Claiming moral superiority is fine. But also toothless unless you're willing to rectify the situation. But who really wants to go there, especially after the last several years? The best one can do is whine about the state of those ignorant fucks. It sucks to be in Pakistan. Is this really a revelation?

    Joe, Warren, Jack, and LMOP all make good points, too.

  • shecky||

    Does it matter if political leaders defend the Crips if they're being held up as an example of American values by those wishing to bash the USA?

  • ||

    Multicultural nonsense leads to crap like the Canadian HRC's. It is important to assert that some cultural values are garbage and need to be treated as such.

  • B||

    "Well, I agree, Ron, but then the question becomes, if an atrocity is going on and *we know it's wrong* (cause we are so civilized), are we then obligated to do anything about it?

    Or is it merely enough to be morally smug behind high walls and long seas?"

    And if we did do something about it, you would probably be amongst the first on this message board to bitch about the United States involving itself where it didn't belong.

  • ||

    Tribal Pakistani culture is evil, inferior and immoral. Not comapred with culture X, Y or Z, just plain evil, inferior and immoral.

  • B||

    "This is an uncharacteristically weak post from Bailey."

    So, given your reaction, I guess you would prefer if libertarians didn't condemn honor killings or any other similar acts of barbarity?

  • ||

    The problem "liberal" societies have is that they have raped, robbed, pillaged and murdered in far greater numbers, I would submit in EXPONENTIALLY greater numbers, than "lesser" cultures.

    Therefore, before minding the business of others, first end the income tax, the war on drugs, recall all troops now in foreign lands, end the military keynesianism, put a stop to the militarization of local police forces, stop incarcerating folks for challenging the lawfulness of the income tax, stop raiding and killing people in their homes and all other brutal, troglodytic activities associated with the socialist white anglo saxon protestant culture.

  • SIV||

  • ||

    libertymike, one can be critical of ones own culture and of others. The Reason folks are hardly silent on the nonsense in America. I'd like them to look abroad more often. We don't know how good we have it here.

  • New World Dan||

    I doubt the women who were murdered in so called "honor killings" felt that was part of their culture, morals, or values. Find me a woman who feels she should be killed for consensual behavior and I'll change my mind. At least with regards to her own death.

    are we then obligated to do anything about it?

    As I believe in freedom, I'm for absolutely open borders. Beyond that, I largely prefer to lead by example, though the US could certainly do a better job there. Certainly I give my own wife and daughter plenty of freedom, though they prefer to hold up the highest of double standards.

  • Fluffy||

    Isn't that a direct contradiction? That is, if they were "universal" values, wouldn't the barbarians have them as well?

    The word "value" is ambiguous here.

    It is often used to represent an arbitrary assertion of the good made by an individual will - "I value vanilla ice cream". This would mean that the barbarians could contradict any claim of universality just by asserting that they didn't value human life and liberty.

    OTOH, the word is often used in the sense of something that has objective value that does not require the assent of the individual will. Penicillin has the "value" of being able to cure certain diseases, whether barbarians believe in it or not. They can't eradicate the objective, though contextual, value of penicillin just by saying they prefer to bite the head off a chicken or something.

    So the sentence is a direct contradiction if life and liberty are the first variety of "value", but it's not a contradiction under the second.

  • ||

    joe,

    Show me where I condemned all of Pakistan or Islam. I pointed out a sitting Senator defended it. I pointed out that international pressure from NGOs had to be brought to get it out in the light. That protests were ignited is a good thing, but without that pressure it would have remained an unprosecuted local crime.

    Since you are having a low-reading comprehension day, let's parse my statement:

    This isn't about Islam;
    A flat declarative, and a semi-colon to indicate it's a whole sentence unto itself. Indicating that I was trying to say THIS ISN'T ABOUT ISLAM.

    it's about backwards fucks
    You know, the guys who buried five women alive. If you want to argue they aren't backwards fucks, give it a shot.

    not understanding
    You should grasp that part readily (or maybe not.)

    that modernity has caught up with them.
    Modernity: the NGOs, local human rights groups, national media, international media, people who think burying women alive is not a good idea

    All you read is what you want to read. Everyone shouldn't have to write at a 5th grade level for you to keep up.

  • ||

    I've lived in 3 muslim nations and I warmly encourage any idiot young white women who worship the cult of the "other" to do the same. We'll have a rape-kit waiting for you when you get home.

    Svend,

    Er, all of the "idiot young white women" I know (I presume you're referring to liberal women) decry the treatment of women in societies like Pakistan. The woman in the article you linked to was a journalist and a photographer. To be fair, those people -- at times -- are their own special brand of stupid, but I don't see how that reflects on young, white women. The only people I know of who worship "the cult of the other" are sociologists. Not "idiot young white women". Although I'm sure there is some overlap between those categories.

  • B||

    "All I was pointing out was that Islam tends not to be either the establishing or the driving force behind these hideous atrocities.'

    So the fact that honor killings of this type occur almost exclusively in majority-Islamic countries is a coincidence?

  • ||

    actually, it was sociology majors and "teachers" whom I was thinking of when I made that comment. Naive hippies doing naive things for naive reasons.

  • ||

    B-

    Yes, a libertarian should condemn honor killings. However, he should also resist the temptation to assert that the west is culturally superior as to do so would reveal that he is an ignorant fool.

  • ||

    What we need are godlike military powers so that we can enforce peace and morality across the world.

    Maybe we should just officially adopt a noninterference policy and tut-tut from a distance. Like the British used to do: "Damned shame, really. Damned shame."

  • Fluffy||

    BTW, Bailey is making a moral argument that really doesn't need making.

    If cultural relativism is true, and the values of a given culture can't be questioned, then we don't have to prove that honor killings are immoral.

    We can simply assert that one of the arbitrary but non-falsifiable values of our culture is that when someone commits an honor killing, we reserve the option to fuck them up good. If no culture's values can be questioned, you can't question our desire to mop the floor with honor killers.

    You could call this the "Napier Rebuttal".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_James_Napier

  • The Winecommonsewer||

    Speaking of cultural relativism and making a little progress.

    This boy's father filed charges against an Islamic teacher for whipping his son so badly that he cannot lie on his back. He took on the entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal's Islamic schools to be holy.

    I don't think any of us in America can imagine the kind of courage it took for this father to stand up for his son.

    Click my name for the story.

  • ||

    svend,

    The Reason folks are hardly silent on the nonsense in America. The Reason folks don't claim that, for example, the no-knock drug raids and dog killings are the only genuine expressions of American culture by which America and its citizens should be judged. Why, they go so far as to claim that their opposition to such things is just as, no ever more, genuinely American.

    It isn't the condemnation of these women's murders as barbaric that's the problem here.

  • Fluffy||

    Of course, it should go without saying that having the moral right to smite honor killers if we choose is not the same as having a moral obligation to cross the oceans to do so.

  • ||

    Wow, SugarFree, those hemorrhoids are really acting up today, huh?

    Why the fuck would I discuss something with you if you're going to behave like that?

    Kindly fuck off, child.

  • ||

    Claiming moral superiority is fine. But also toothless unless you're willing to rectify the situation.

    How many billions of dollars have we spent propping up our "secular" pal Musharraf? (We used to have another "secular" client somewhere in the Middle East, didn't we?)
    Has that helped, in the long run? Has it hurt?

    I don't know. And these so-called Honor Killings are grotesque and barbaric.

  • The Winecommonsewer||

    SIV,

    The amazing thing about Maxine Waters is that people treat her with respect. She's a player and a fixture in LA politics.

  • ||

    So the fact that honor killings of this type occur almost exclusively in majority-Islamic countries is a coincidence?

    Christianity and lynching in the United States south. Coincidence?

  • ||

    So the fact that honor killings of this type occur almost exclusively in majority-Islamic countries is not actually a fact.

    You read about it more, B, because there are a lot more "journalists" who have an ax to grind with Muslims than with Hindus (dowry murders), Catholics (South American honor killings), or sub-Saharan Africans.

  • ||

    How many thousands of were murdered by the US in the Kosovo war? How many hundreds of thousands have been killed by our "heroes" in Iraq and Afghanisttan? How many Vietnamese were slaughtetred by our "brave" men? How many Vietnamese children were incinerated by bombs dropped so heroically by the likes of Juan McCain?

    Are the above actions those of a superior culture?

  • ||

    Cultural relativity is a juvenile philosophy exercise, kind of like saying "I wonder if the color blue to you is the color blue to me?"

    One has to make a decision as to where one stands on basic, fundamental rights. Any culture that violates these rights (please, no nitpicking like "the US has the death penalty too!") in a systematic way is a shitty culture.

    Was that so hard?

  • Fluffy||

    The Reason folks are hardly silent on the nonsense in America. The Reason folks don't claim that, for example, the no-knock drug raids and dog killings are the only genuine expressions of American culture by which America and its citizens should be judged. Why, they go so far as to claim that their opposition to such things is just as, no ever more, genuinely American.

    It isn't the condemnation of these women's murders as barbaric that's the problem here.


    Joe:

    There is a school of thought that says that the semi-western elements of Pakistani society are the result of foreign domination and influence, and are therefore not organic to the culture in question, which is "authentically" represented by the tribal elders.

    I am not endorsing this view. But we should note that some variant or other of this type of thinking is present both in the tribal elders and their critics, as well as in the theoretical work that's being critiqued here.

  • Elemenope||

    And if we did do something about it, you would probably be amongst the first on this message board to bitch about the United States involving itself where it didn't belong.

    Please try to refrain from visiting your half-baked assumptions on my intentions.

    Thanks.

    We can simply assert that one of the arbitrary but non-falsifiable values of our culture is that when someone commits an honor killing, we reserve the option to fuck them up good. If no culture's values can be questioned, you can't question our desire to mop the floor with honor killers.

    Heh. Yes, cultural relativism is self-swallowingly stupid.

  • Seward||

    Ronald Bailey,

    The slipperiness of culture has been noted since the pre-Socratics. Then there is Montaigne and his stoves.

    BTW, which anthropologists are you referring to?

  • Seward||

    Elemenope,

    In order for a liberal society to function cultural relativism has to be a significant part of the mechanism by which that society runs. Otherwise you get people killing each other over whether that wafer is actually inhabited by the body of Christ or merely represents such.

  • Elemenope||

    Seward,

    Tolerance of the other is not the same as valuating them equal to oneself.

    I can tolerate the notion, for example, that Catholics will march around with their "don't kill fetal vegetables" signs and believe strongly that a piece of bread becomes flesh, and that flesh is actually *something you would want to put in your mouth*...

    ...but nothing forces me to think that those practices and beliefs are anything but silly. I am not required to say "the Catholic way is just as valid as my way" to refrain from doing bad things to Catholics.

    You see? There's a big difference.

  • ||

    Elemenope | September 3, 2008, 11:29am | #

    respect for human life and freedom from violent coercion of this type and degree are what my mom would call "human values" and are universal. these men are aptly called barbarians.

    Isn't that a direct contradiction? That is, if they were "universal" values, wouldn't the barbarians have them as well?



    Maybe you're right on that point. I guess what I'm trying to say is that some things are absolutely right or wrong, and that can be universally applied regardless of someone's culture (or lack of any culture). The aforementioned violent coercion falls into absolutely wrong, but things like social pressure for arranged marriages and headscarves are in a different category, where some relativism can be useful towards understanding.

  • ||

    joe,

    Yes, don't admit you read something wrong or tried to ascribe positions to me I don't hold. Call me a child and think you've made some profound point.

    You couldn't get on a 8th debate team.

  • Seward||

    Elemenope,

    Tolerance of the other is not the same as valuating them equal to oneself.

    Well, from what I have read on the subject that isn't what cultural relativism is about. I think you are getting more at moral relativism.

  • Elemenope||

    sv --

    On that point I agree. The trick always becomes identifying that which is universally applicable, culture-be-damned.

    I'd say the libertarian guess of "no initiation of force against a non-aggressor" is a better guess than most. But still a guess.

  • ||

    Fluffy,

    If we're talking about those unnamed "sociologists," none of them would make such an argument about "inauthentic" vs. "authentic" culture. It also seems incredibly convenient, for someone seeking to stoke a culture war, to claim that we can tell who is "westernized" because they oppose murder like this, and we can tell who would oppose murder like this on the basis of their being "westernized." It's just the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, backwards.

    "Western" society itself had similar honor killings and other barbaric atrocities for thousands of years. Those who opposed them were denounced by other members of their own society of being "inauthentic" or of betraying the defining principles of their culture. Was abolitionism any less "western" than plantation slavery?

  • ||

    Actually, SugarFree, I won statewide medals when I captained my debate team. But had somebody spoken to me like you did, I would have punched him in the mouth and walked out of the room.

    Hiding behind the internet, you don't have to worry about the first part, pussy, but I can still blow you off as beneath my notice.

  • ||

    wow, this is getting a bit out of hand, considering that we all seem to be on the same page here

  • ||

    Please link me to a quote by an anthropologist who actually thinks these chauvinistic murders are okay.

  • Team America||

    The Culture will change as soon as females become a scarce resource. Or it will cease to exist.

    Hooray for Evolution.

  • ||

    But had somebody spoken to me like you did, I would have punched him in the mouth and walked out of the room

    That's pretty rich coming from someone with an incredibly condescending attitude. Irony much, joe?

    Hiding behind the internet, you don't have to worry about the first part, pussy

    Oh god it's the internet tuff gai...ha ha ha...

  • ||

    Who asked you, and he started it.

  • ||

    Violence is the last refuge of the idiot. Congratulations, you're an idiot.

    You don't like being spoken to like a half-wit, here's a clue STOP FUCKING ACTING LIKE ONE. You love the snark sucker-punch but can't take you yourself. You've got us all figured out, don't you?

    You think I wouldn't say any of this to your face? Think I'm trying to be an internet tough guy when I'm not the one bandying about violence?

    Anyone else on this site think that?

  • ||

    The Culture will change as soon as females become a scarce resource. Or it will cease to exist.


    Hooray for Evolution.



    This still doesn't make me feel any better about innocent people being murdered by brutes.


    It's just really disturbing how Pakistani tribal men view their women: If I can't have you as my property, no one can. Bunch of psychos and crybabies.

  • ||

    How many thousands of were murdered by the US in the Kosovo war? How many hundreds of thousands have been killed by our "heroes" in Iraq and Afghanisttan? How many Vietnamese were slaughtetred by our "brave" men? How many Vietnamese children were incinerated by bombs dropped so heroically by the likes of Juan McCain?

    I suppose if you think "intent" counts for nothing, then by sheer numbers you would have a point.

    Of course, since reasonable people can disagree about the morality and propriety of these actions, your "argument" smacks of using a "numbers argument" to beat people about the head and shoulders.

    No reasonable person thinks that honor killings are morally justified. Lots of reasonable people think Afghanistan was justified.

  • Elemenope||

    joe --

    It would be hard to argue we live in the same culture today as that which perpetuated plantation slavery. And we would not hesitate to call that culture "inferior"...and we would be right to do so.

    The hang-up, here, seems to be on "Western" (whatever the fuck that is) culture. With enough definitional ambiguity, that word can mean almost anything, from the great scientific, technological, and liberty achievements of many societies, to the greatest barbarisms the world has ever known. It might be more useful to narrow down what we mean by "superior" to that which conforms to *specific* moral absolutes, rather than with a general cardinal direction on the compass rose.

  • Elemenope||

    You crazy kids! (Of whom I am pretty sure I am far younger than...) All you stop being whiners about who said what and who did what first.

    This *could* be an interesting discussion, you know.

  • ||

    "YoungLib wrote: Claiming moral superiority does not make it so, and don't try and hide WesternCaucasionWhiteMale Society behind "liberal"."

    Western liberal societies have brown people...some with vaginas. Trust! I am one of them. My life is better because I am out of my birthcountry and in the United States. Perhaps as a white privilaged male, you cannot fully understand the benefits that a liberal society allows us, as you have always had them. Yes, the US and Europe are culturally superior...and yes cultures that murder women because they dont want to marry someone are inferior. Dont let your worship of 'the other' and your white guilt skew your view. There is no moral relativity, unless you are of the majority and male. The any country is pretty ok for you.

  • Fluffy||

    Please link me to a quote by an anthropologist who actually thinks these chauvinistic murders are okay.

    If we're talking about those unnamed "sociologists," none of them would make such an argument about "inauthentic" vs. "authentic" culture.

    Levi-Strauss asserted that cross-cultural communication was not only impossible, it was undesirable and should be banned.

    He did so on the basis of the idea that contact with western concepts was corrupting authentic indigenous cultures and replacing them with inauthentic ones.

    A necessary corollary of this principle is that it is impossible to criticize the mores of another culture. Did he ever write the words "Honor killings are OK"? I do not know. The entire point here is to use the example of honor killings to falsify his work [and work dependent on or descended from his].

  • ||

    I'd like to point out, too, that the "tu quoque" arguments joe and libertymike are putting forward are fallacious (by definition!). Simply because Western civilizations have a *history* of doing these things does not mean that we have no "moral room" to condemn these things now.

    Can a Senator from say, Virginia or Georgia condemn barbaric attitudes even though his state, 150 (or 50, I guess...) years previously had the same attitudes? Of course he can! And he should do so, in the strongest terms possible.

  • ||

    Elemenope-

    I agree with you last postt.

    Don't you agree that those who make an assertion like "western culture is superior to Pakistani tribal culture," or "western culture is superior to all other cultures," deserve to have their rhetorical heads handed to them?

  • ||

    TAO-

    What did that senator from Virginia do about WACO? What did that senator from Virginia do about the Ryan Frederick case?

  • ||

    Yubi,

    YoungLib is a clown. Just think of it as extreme sarcasm performance art.

    Ele,

    Cultural relativism is so PHI 101. Strip all the fancy talk off of it and it simply becomes a false equivalency slap-fight. The simple question here is: "Has anything ever done by anyone here on this board disqualify them for criticizing the murders of five women?" Of course not. Everything else is cheap shots about "Western culture" and "look how nice I am to the Brown Folk." No one here is for honor-killing, but the tiresome "but America's done bad things too!" is actually what's off topic. It always is. Just as "America's never done anything bad!" is equally fallacious.

  • ||

    Re: Yubi | September 3, 2008, 12:31pm | #

    I declare threadwinner.

    Yubi, I'm glad that you're here as well.

  • ||

    TAO-

    How is my argument fallacious? Just because Joe appears to agree with parts of it? I guees that is what passes for logic these days.

  • Elemenope||

    TAO --

    "tu quoque" arguments in this context are only fallacious if it can be show that the reason for the mutual sin *Wasn't* one of necessity.

    I'm reminded here of China and India's reaction to the United States asking them to tamp down on greenhouse gas emissions. Their response was, in essence, "that's how you did it [industrial modernization], and that's how we're gonna do it". It's not a "tu quoque" fallacy if there can be a reasonable argument made that China and India could not efficiently achieve modernization but for undertaking the same actions that the US did when it industrialized.

    Now, I don't really believe that there is a necessary "woman abuse" period in the development of human society that every culture must go through to become more enlightened. But neither you nor I know for sure; perhaps it is this direct and prolonged experience with atrocity that encourages the cultural mutations necessary to like freedom, justice, equality, and all that other good stuff.

  • ||

    Sugar Free-

    No, no, no! If an American claims that his culture is superior to Pakistani tribal culture, by definition, he has opened the door to an examination of his so called superior culture.

  • Johnny Nowhere||

    In my senior year on the debate team, I won a gold medal for "Loudest Voice." I got silver for "Tightest Pants", and just missed bronze for "Best Hair."

    stupid hometown judge screwed me on that one.

  • ||

    Cheap shots at the west? Please define and identify.

  • ||

    Whatever, SugarFree, I'm going to continue the discussion with people better able to shed light, rather than heat, on the subject.

    Elemenope, TAO,

    My point in bringing up slavery wasn't a "But us, too" argument, but to point out that the western institutions of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and plantation slavery existed right alongside an equally western movement called Abolitionism. Which is authentic? Which is really western? Why, they both are. Every society has their right and their left - old forces that enforce old power dynamics of domination of one group by another, and a progressive impulse that works against them. I don't see any plausible reason why we should use the former and not the latter to define any culture.

    TAO, can you see the difference here between what I'm saying and what libertymike is saying? I'll note that your theoretical Senator from Georgia, while condemning slavery, would most certainly not condemn his state as a whole, or his society as a whole, or claim that only the racial attitudes of 1858 are "authentically" Southern, and the only authentically-Southern attitude. Nor would he accept the assertion that opposition to slavery and the advance of racial equality was foreign. In fact, he'd probably call anyone who made such an assertion an anti-Southern bigot.

    Fluffy,

    Levi-Strauss's ideas, while pioneering in the field, are quite dated. Not as much so as Phlogiston theory or bodily humors, but well out of date. It's not unusual for the first iteration of a novel way of looking at the world to be absolutist and simplistic - because they are usually reactions against an unquestioned absolutism in the other direction (in this case, the ethnocentric and racist assumption of western superiority). That's why anthropologists tend to talk about being "post-straussian."

  • ||

    No, no, no! If an American claims that his culture is superior to Pakistani tribal culture, by definition, he has opened the door to an examination of his so called superior culture.

    Yes, but your strictly numbers-based argument does not pass the laugh test.

    Also, you have to look at the culture in generalities and not snipe on individual problems and you *especially* should not bring up past history, because as has been lucidly explained, America is *not* its past culture. It is something else entirely.

    El - I agree with you to a limited extent, in that we frequently say that China and India have to disregard environmental concerns to even match our level of economic affluence.

    However (I think this is key), even reasonable people disagree about the extent of environmental regulations in our society. OTOH, some things are so offensive to liberal sensitivities that they should be condemned out-of-hand.

  • Urkobold™ ||

    INCOMPETENT FOOLS! I PLACED FIRST ON THE 'BATE TEAM AT MY HIGH SCHOOL. MY DETRACTORS CLAIMED IT WAS THE LOTION I WAS USING, BUT IT WAS ALL THE SKILL OF MY STROKE.

  • ||

    TAO and Sugar Free-

    The thread concerns the boast of Mr. Bailey that our liberal societies are morally superior and that we should be proud to say so. Ergo, statements of fact that tend to call such boasting into question are fair game. What part of that don't you get?

  • ||

    If an American claims that his culture is superior to Pakistani tribal culture, by definition, he has opened the door to an examination of his so called superior culture.

    I'm pretty sure I rejected superiority arguments, too. "Our culture is superior" is just as stupid as "All cultures are equal."

    The values we claim are superior, even if we don't live up to them all the time. That still gives us room you point out other people's faults on the basis of those abstract values. It doesn't matter if a tribe of backwards fucks thinks it's OK to kill five women. It doesn't matter if 3 billion backwards fucks think it's OK to kill one woman. It violates our values. We are not obligated to give a shit about theirs.

    Imposing our values are a different beast.

  • ||

    Nor would he accept the assertion that opposition to slavery and the advance of racial equality was foreign. In fact, he'd probably call anyone who made such an assertion an anti-Southern bigot.

    Yes, but in that context, that is because his society has internalized what *were* "foreign" ideas to his historical culture in 1858. The fact that his culture adapted in a superior fashion means that the "tu quoque" argument does not hold weight...we are not our history.

    However, current Pakistani culture has *not* shifted, and that's why we're justified in calling it "inferior".

  • Elemenope||

    joe, I'd say the one that is authentic is the one that ended up being embraced by the culture. Abolition won, slavers lost. Thus, abolitionism is properly understood as the "authentic" manifestation of the culture. If the battle had gone the other way--literally, if the society in so many words had chosen differently, through its votes and its bullets--then slavery *might have been* the authentic expression of the culture.

    One could certainly say that *before abolitionism existed*, slavery was the authentic American tradition. But societies are not frozen in amber, and how they choose to (re)make themselves changes with time.

  • fyodor||

    I'm late to this party, but I don't think declaring whose culture is superior to whose is really necessary to be able to unequivocably say that honor killings are fucked and that the law should prosecute perpetrators of such murder as it would any other murder. But of course how to do that is up to the Pakistanis.

  • ||

    Apparently there's a debate team that teaches you that pouting and running home is a way to win arguments.

    Interesting.

  • ||

    The thread concerns the boast of Mr. Bailey that our liberal societies are morally superior and that we should be proud to say so.

    As I said to you earlier, you're arguing strictly on a numbers argument, nor a morality one. Additionally, Western cultures are currently superior, and bringing up past history is the equivalent of a "well you did it in the past so I'ma gonna do it now". Our past mistakes do not justify the cultural relativism that you're parroting.

    Again, look at the two cultures...RIGHT NOW. Do you not see one as objectively *better* than the other?

    Finally, you completely disregard intent in your argument. Reasonable people can disagree if Afghanistan or Vietnam or whatever were and are justifiable. No person of decent civilization can call an honor killing justifiable.

  • ||

    Elemenope,

    That sounds like "might makes right."

    But societies are not frozen in amber There are differences over time within societies, yes. There are also differences across geography. Isn't "Pakistani tribal culture" vs. Islamabad culture basically the same thing as American culture in 1820 vs American culture in 1920?

  • ||

    TAO-

    I am not just making a numbers only argument. Did I not mention RYan Frederick? Did I not mention Waco? How about the thousands of folks who have been kidnapped, transported to some dungeon and tortured since 2001?

    The above three examples are today's America.

    I have to look at the cultures in generalities and not snipe about individual problems? Do you want to rethink that line of reasoning?

  • ||

    Apparently there's a debate team that teaches you that pouting and running home is a way to win arguments.

    Winning an argument isn't worth it, when it would require me to put with you when you're throwing one of your tantrums.

    I'm just blowing you off. Go ahead, crow about winning.

  • ||

    libertymike - you are making a numbers argument. You're looking at individual instances of injustice and extrapolating them to the entire American culture.

    Yes, a lot of things that we do offend my sensibilities and are manifestly unjust. That doesn't mean that we're not generally better on damn-near everything as compared to Pakistani tribal culture.

    Or do you think they tolerate drug use (Frederick), religious and societal withdrawal (Waco) and are *better* on issues of civil liberties than we are?

    Look, the very fact that there is a large section of society that is outraged by the American examples you cite proves superiority. I would be willing to bet that in the tribal areas of Pakistan the injustices you mention wouldn't even get a blink.

  • Elemenope||

    That sounds like "might makes right."

    No, you're confusing cultural dominance with morality. I'm saying *only* that whoever wins the fight in the culture gets to speak as an authetic representation of that culture. If the South won the American Civil War, then it is very likely that slavery would have remained an authentic expression of AMERICANISM to this day.

    This makes no judgments on whether slavery *itself* or abolitionism *itself* is right or wrong. It only bears on which one may call itself authentically *American*.

    You see?

  • ||

    TAO-

    Don't you get it? I am making a moral argument. The argument is don't be claiming that you have a superior culture when your culture is one that sees fit to murder hundreds of thousands of iraqi and afghanstani civilians. Not in the distant past-but today.

    As for intent, I guess its okay to kill hundreds of thousands if it is part of the "war on terror"? Drivel.

  • The Democratic Republican||

    Preach, Ron.

    The presence of moral wrongdoing in the world creates limited obligations for governments but greater obligations for individuals.

  • ||

    The truth is that America is a really nice place to live in. Everyone should thank God every day that they get to live here and not some place like Pakistan. Why is it so nice? One of the big reason is we do not have a significant portion of our society that thinks it is okay to burn someone to death over the sexuality. Yeah, we have some fucked up people and some crazies but thus far nothing like that. I don't think most people have any understanding just how lucky they are to be here and not there.

  • ||

    TAO-

    Yes. We have baseball. We have the NFL. We have, to some extent, babes in bikinis selling ice cream and beer. Of course, I would prefer to be in a place where those things are readily available and Pakistan is not one of those places.

    Good point about the level of dissent here. Of course, I would rather live in a place where dissent is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

  • fyodor||

    If the wrongness of an act were determined by whether cultural tradition allowed it or not, then it would matter whether a set of cultural traditions were a "good" set or not.

    When the wrongness of an act is determined by whether or not it violates that person's rights, then all the talk in the world about relative value of differing cultures becomes irrelevant.

    How to get a Pakistani tribesman to understand the notion that people have rights that must be respected unless and until they have violated someone else's rights, I sure don't know. But it probably doesn't start with telling him his entire culture is inferior to ours, a very broad-brushed and fairly useless generalization that addresses the issue at hand about as specifically as a nuclear bomb being used to take out some insurgents hiding in an attic.

  • TUC||

    Urkobold, I understand your achievement, but it pales in comparison to mine. You see, I reached the level of Master-debater. In fact, I graduated Manda Cum Louda from the Gergens School for the Blind.

  • fyodor||

    I don't think most people have any understanding just how lucky they are to be here and not there.

    The US and Pakistan are not the only two places people live in the world, y'know.

    Yeah, I know you know, but they way you talk about it, one wouldn't know.

  • ||


    As for intent, I guess its okay to kill hundreds of thousands if it is part of the "war on terror"? Drivel.


    Are a murderer and someone who commits homicide through self-defense morally equivalent?

    No.

    However, like I said, you don't have a "lock" on what is and is not moral in the case of the War. The tendency to believe that our worldviews are not only superior, but that this objectively means that others around us are immoral bastards is a dangerous one.

    In an attempt to parse this, look at the "reasonable person" standard. Can reasonable disagree about the morality of Afghanistan? Yes, yes they can. Can reasonable people disagree as to the morality of honor killings? No, no they cannot.

  • ||

    "How to get a Pakistani tribesman to understand the notion that people have rights that must be respected unless and until they have violated someone else's rights, I sure don't know."

    With open borders they could come here and then it really is a problem to solve. What do you do if enough people come here that think it is okay to burn your wife to death that they elect a few politicians and police chiefs? Turn the other way and pretend it is not happening like Europe has? Stomp down on it and get a civil insurection?

    This kind of thing goes on at an alarming rate in the UK. The UK can't figure out how to do it either.

  • ||

    To clarify: within a given liberal culture, it is permissible to disagree and realize that the other person may be making an honest error rather than advancing an evil idea with malevolent intentions.

  • ||

    I don't think most people have any understanding just how lucky they are to be here and not there.


    If only I didn't hear this fact used regularly as an excuse to stifle action against civil injustices occurring in the US, I would agree wholeheartedly. Provided that no one here is making that argument, then I completely agree.

    (It's just that I've seen disrespect for women or minorities dismissed because of that fact, and it's fallacious thinking. In that way it's almost presented more like a threat than a fact, and that is what I find disagreeable.)

  • ||

    TAO and others-

    Should we not be committed to excellence? If we are so committed, shouldn't we leave the "well, we are better than them and you should be lucky to live here" type stuff at the door? In other words, instead of hiding behind the "we are better" and criticizing those amongst us who point out the very real and very prodigious flaws of our culture, shouldn't we be big boys and acknowledge that we have sinned and fallen far short of the glory envisioned by Henry, Paine, Jefferson and Franklin?

  • fyodor||

    In an attempt to parse this, look at the "reasonable person" standard. Can reasonable disagree about the morality of Afghanistan? Yes, yes they can. Can reasonable people disagree as to the morality of honor killings? No, no they cannot.

    That seems to be a rather tautological argument.

    War is an inherent and inevitable paradox for any standard of moral behavior because the "self" being defended and the perpetrator being fought off are both generalized and abstracted to groups of people that mostly included people who are/were not involved in any initiation of force, although the loser may be subject to such, though not necessarily in more than an indirect manner. So you can always say that war murders. Unless you're a strict pacifist, it doesn't really make sense to call war murder, as horrible as it is. Maybe you can use the standard of an unjust war, but of course that's a whole 'nother can of worms....

  • ||

    "If only I didn't hear this fact used regularly as an excuse to stifle action against civil injustices occurring in the US, I would agree wholeheartedly. Provided that no one here is making that argument, then I completely agree."


    That goes both ways. Just because our society is not perfect does not mean that we can never say anything about another society no matter how vile. I hear that argument used a lot more than the one you give. Why is it that everytime someone does something vile in another country, the rethort is "yeah but we had slavery" or some such nonsense. One has nothing to do with the other. I don't care if we used to barbeque and eat people, that doesn't make people in Pakistan burning women to death any less revolting.

  • J||

    I've read anthropologists that argue things that could be interpreted as RB says, but in my anthro classes the professors treated what they said as sort of an eccentricity that should be forgiven but certainly not believed. YMMV, but I doubt there are many current ones that actually buy the idea that cultural relativism leads to actual moral relativism (objectively, I guess you would say) for things like murder

  • ||

    (It's just that I've seen disrespect for women or minorities dismissed because of that fact*


    *or a whole host of other injustices not limited to these groups, for that matter.

  • ||

    TAO-

    I don't think that reasonable people can differ on Iraq or Afghanistan. We taxed our own people at the threat of gunpoint and/or incarceration in order to raise money to give it to, mostly, rent seeking defense contractors to produce weapons of war to imoplement plans long on the shelf that have resulted in the deaths/murders of so many. I have a hard time calling that self defense.

  • ||

    If we are so committed, shouldn't we leave the "well, we are better than them and you should be lucky to live here" type stuff at the door?

    Even if I don't get "the A" in school doesn't mean I didn't do better than other students.

  • fyodor||

    (It's just that I've seen disrespect for women or minorities dismissed because of that fact, and it's fallacious thinking. In that way it's almost presented more like a threat than a fact, and that is what I find disagreeable.)

    To give some benefit of the doubt to the dismissers, I wonder if they come across that way because they think they're arguing with someone who is saying that such disrespect is a uniquely American phenomenon.

    If not, then they're just being turds.

  • ||

    TAO,

    You're looking at individual instances of injustice and extrapolating them to the entire American culture. Isn't anyone looking at this instance and drawing a conclusion about Pakistani culture doing the same thing?

    Elemenope,

    Gotcha. But at this point, Pakistan is more like America while slavery and abolitionism were still battling it out. In 1861, was slavery or abolitionism more authentically American? Much of our anti-slavery movement was informed by Europe.

    libertymike, "My culture" isn't murdering anyone in Iraq. A set of people with political power are doing that. Most of us oppose it.

    John,

    This kind of thing goes on at an alarming rate in the UK. The UK can't figure out how to do it either. And not at all, ever, in the history of the United States, despite having large numbers of immigrants from such wonderful places as Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Pakistan. We've seen what it looks like when people from such places come for form a majority of an American community; Dearborne. Here in America, the way it works is, the churches are different, the takeout places are different, and all the teenagers know the words to the P-Diddy song.

  • ||

    John-

    We still do have slavery. Ever hear of the income tax? What happens to those who openly challenge it? Ever hear of Ed and Elaine Brown? How about all of those languishing in jails just becuase they had the courage to tell uncle sam the communist to go fuck himself?

  • fyodor||

    Why is it that everytime someone does something vile in another country, the rethort is "yeah but we had slavery" or some such nonsense.

    Heh, my answer is the same. The rhetorter must think whoever is bringing up the vile thing done in another is doing so to show how fucked up the whole rest of the world is. Which is kinda what Ron did here. He didn't cite anyone defending the honor killings except someone from the area in question, who is basically using the language of cultural relativism to protect his own.

  • ||

    I don't care if we used to barbeque and eat people, that doesn't make people in Pakistan burning women to death any less revolting.

    True, John.

    What is much less certain is the assertion that revolting behavior like that is a consequence of their being Pakistanti/Muslim/non-western, instead of "like us."

    We didn't become any more western when we abandoned slavery, and highly-restrictive dress codes for women, and lynchings. All of those things had very, very deep roots within western society, and their abandonment was described by their adherents as the REJECTION of our cultural traditions.

    Liberalism is neither the sole property of the west, nor its defining characteristic.

  • ||

    According to some anthropologists, cultural values are arbitrary



    Most leftists will claim the same. Unless it's your own culture, in which case they will condemn it.

  • ||

    I think it depends on the provenance of Rights.

    If you believe that Rights come from the Individual's Moral Agency, you see this one way.

    If you believe that Rights are granted to individuals from their culture, then you see this another way.

    If you have the first view, you yell about how the moral agency of those five moral agents were violated in a spectacularly fucked up way.

    If you have the second view, the thing you notice is one culture pushing around a second culture when the first culture doesn't have a leg to stand on given that the first culture has been doing things for centuries, milennia, even, that are just as bad. So the members of the strong culture that pipe up need to receive a history lesson about how they, as members of their culture, have done similar and it's not right for them, as members of their culture, to judge the members of that other culture over there.

    Personally, I take the attitude that individuals are where Rights come from.

    And those women had their Rights violated.

    And that is fucked up.

    Even if people who looked like me but spoke a different language burned witches in Spain 300 years ago.

  • ||

    I don't think pointing out that people making fun of Hilary Clinton's pantsuits is not, in fact, the worst thing to happen to women in living memory is about excusing lingering inequities.

    It should serve, though, as a reminder that picking low-hanging fruit does nothing to further harvesting the rest of the tree. The yearning multiculturalism of some stripes of feminism does restrict criticism of "the other" for what is, or should be, violations of basic human rights. (I'm sure no one really wants the blizzard of feminist blogosphere posts that I could dig up to prove my thesis.)

    It's no better than the libertarian foaming at the mouth about the stop-light near his house, but never saying a peep about the militarization of the police in his town because he doesn't want his TV stolen.

  • ||

    "What is much less certain is the assertion that revolting behavior like that is a consequence of their being Pakistanti/Muslim/non-western, instead of "like us."

    Being Muslim doens't mean you have to burn your wife to death. They don't do this kind of crap in places like Turkey and Indonesia. Ultimately, we say there are universal human rights that need to be respected and are respected by all decent cultures Western and non-Western.

  • ||

    I keep seeing the assertion that there are "anthropologists," "liberals," "leftists," and whatnot why are saying that honor killings in Pakistan are OK, because of their culture.

    Quotes? Links? Not so much.

    A lot of people seem to have a political theory that leads them to conclude that there are all of these people defending honor killings. And yet, the liberals, anthropologists, and leftists don't seem to behave as predicted.

  • fyodor||

    John,

    You seem to be saying "out of sight, out of mind." It's nice FOR ME if honor killings remain in Pakistan, but that doesn't mean they don't still go on! And in fact, it occurs to me that the only way to reach these tribesman IS for them to integrate into larger societies that don't hold such barbaric views. Hell this could include their own country, where they're evidently a backwards minority. Probably the reason the problems you cite are a bigger problem in Europe than here is that integration into European societies is more difficult there, probably for a variety of reasons (more homogeneous societies, more economic rules leading to a static workforce that's more difficult to break into, etc.)

  • J||

    Brandybuck,

    Idunno what you mean when you say leftist. I've lived in MA all my life, went to public school, an okay ranking liberal arts college, and I've never met someone who would agree with that.

  • ||

    "And in fact, it occurs to me that the only way to reach these tribesman IS for them to integrate into larger societies that don't hold such barbaric views."

    Integrate is the key. But who says they want to integrate? Maybe they are perfectly happy burning their wives to death and think we are the ones that need to be integrated? If enough of them show up, they will be right.

  • J||

    I have read of people like that, true. I would imagine that a lot of post-modern deconstructionist sorts (who I have read of thinking like that) might be leftists, but most leftists are not like that.

  • Dale Innis||

    Damn, Jack beat me to the "anthropologists made of straw" comment. :P

  • J||

    Oh, I heard that most rightists hate blacks and jews by the way, though.

  • ||

    J,

    People who would stereotype and inaccurately ascribe views to people of different cultures in order to proclaim the superiority of their own society, are also going to do the same to people of different political philosophies. Often at the same time.

  • J||

    See? I can make absurd generalizations too. Hell, for all I know I might be capturing a larger sub-group (although I hope not).

  • ||

    At what point does a behavior become a view of a culture?

    For example, I could see that the 3 honor killings were not representative of the culture because, hey, we kill our wives in domestic disputes all the time.

    It's the killing of the two other chicks that makes me think that *THAT* is was kicks this up a notch, even though we killed our wife and child before committing suicide plenty of times.

  • Dale Innis||

    Oh, and I also wanted to mention that from "there exists an illiberal society that has a morally repugnant practice" you can't *actually* conclude that "liberal societies are morally superior". You need to go to a bit more work than that. :)

  • ||

    If not, then they're just being turds.


    Yeah, that's probably it. Lesser injustices are always contrasted with injustices like these as though to suggest that the lesser injustice is somehow invalidated simply because greater injustices exist. It's true that in the grand scheme, women in liberal countries have it much better than women in Pakistan or similarly oppressive areas, but that's no reason not to aim to eliminate injustice, bigotry, and disrespect even in its more minor forms, as far as I can tell. It just seems like equality is the more noble goal to strive for, not unharmed-but-discontented disaffection.


    While I'm verily willing to admit that there are far worse places to live in the world, I still don't understand why people incessantly hound feminists for pointing out that there are plenty of residents in the US who hold similarly disrespectful views towards women as a group. This is why a part of me will always remain stereotypically "liberal" despite a lot of my conservative leanings. In light of the fact of these greater injustices, the lesser injustices do seem trivialized, but they're not magically eliminated by virtue of worse injustices existing, either. Some people are just too dismissive of problems that other people have to deal with because they don't have to deal with those problems themselves and therefore don't perceive them to be real or legitimate. Trivializing those problems doesn't serve the purpose of treating other people well.

    Anyway, that was just a random aside. You may all resume incessant bickering now.

  • ||

    The yearning multiculturalism of some stripes of feminism does restrict criticism of "the other" for what is, or should be, violations of basic human rights. (I'm sure no one really wants the blizzard of feminist blogosphere posts that I could dig up to prove my thesis.)


    Actually, I'd love to see any evidence you have that such stripes of feminism (the ones that defend barbarism against women) exist.

    It's no better than the libertarian foaming at the mouth about the stop-light near his house, but never saying a peep about the militarization of the police in his town because he doesn't want his TV stolen.


    This is just nonsensical. Women can simultaneously protest the mistreatment of women in Pakistan as well as the more subtle negative portrayals of women in Western culture. They aren't mutually exclusive.

  • ||

    Jaybird-

    Yes, in my opinion, rights inhere to the individual. As such, there is no way to defend the murder of the five women. None of us are doing any such thing.

    However, just because one is an individualist, does not mean that one is estopped from raising the history issues with those that proclaim my culture is better.

  • ||

    According to some anthropologists, cultural values are arbitrary, and therefore the values of one culture should not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior or persons outside that culture....Liberal societies, for all their faults, are morally superior and we should not be shy about saying so.

    No anthropologist would ever describe a culture as "liberal." Liberal vs. illiberal is a tension that exists within societies, not between them.

    I like the Wikipedia distinction between "savage" and "barbarian" - the barbarian is willfully ignorant. In other words, he is making a choice. Ergo, his behavior is not culturally determined, and the other choice exists for him as well within his culture.

  • ||

    My culture is better.

    That is because the culture that existed in even as close as 1950 in America is not my culture.

    I'd even say that the culture that existed back in 1990 was not my culture (almost... but not quite).

    If "my culture" dates back milennia, I could see how someone might say that my culture has committed far, far more atrocities than the dudes who only killed five women.

    But, personally, I'd be embarassed to put my thumb on the scale to that degree while pretending that no one else might notice.

  • ||

    Jaybird-

    What is "your culture?" Is it the one that continues to incarcerate people for having or smoking a little dope? Is it one that routinely authorizes the routine home invasions of its people with death often resulting? Is it a culture that confiscates the property of its people at the thjreat of incarceration or gunpoint? That is not a good culture. In fact, it is one that sucks, as it is a culture that couldn't care less about individual freedom and the inherent rights of man.

  • ||

    "To know and yet not to do, is not to know."

  • ||

    While I am not thrilled about the amount of sanctimony that goes through my culture, as my culture is full of people who talk about "the rights of man" in conversations that begin with talking about men killing women for standing up for other women being killed, I will still say that my culture has significant increases from immigration without a whole lot of decreases from emmigration while their culture increases almost solely through the increases of fecundity...

    Due in part to how women are treated like property who do not get to choose stuff like husbands, or whether they can stand up for the very idea of someone else doing so without being killed for it.

  • Elemenope||

    With all due respect to the venerable and very much dead Wang Yangming, he reaches too far with that quote. Replace "know" with "believe", and I will begin to agree.

  • ||

    How about the thousands of bits spent defending the hijab?

    Or a Islamic Feminist site that wants to desperate highlight the difference between "arranged" and "forced" marriages

    OK, not human rights violations, but wheels spinning in the sand anyway. (I should not have used "human rights" OK, OK...)

    They aren't mutually exclusive.

    I didn't call it mutually exclusive, I called it lazy.

    "Oh God! I'm being oppressed by ads that came out decades before I was born!"

    Of course, to their credit, they aren't down with the criticism of Sarah Plain on her looks or preggo daughter.

  • ||

    Interestingly, if you try and post a message with more than five links in it, your message gets kicked back and, in my case, deleted from my web-browser. I had more links, but who really cares.

    Hrumph.

  • Elemenope||

    Hrumph.

    It's the Man keeping you down, Sugarless. You gotta fight through that shit.

  • ||

    Ele,

    I should write a book. Maybe call it My Struggle. That's catchy, dontcha think?

  • ............||

    if an atrocity is going on and *we know it's wrong* (cause we are so civilized), are we then obligated to do anything about it? Or is it merely enough to be morally smug behind high walls and long seas?

    Yes to the first question if it's Bosnia and a Democrat is president and no if it's Iraq and there's a Republican in office. Yes to the second question if you're a libertarian or a limousine liberal.

  • ||

    I don't see the point of all the links you shared, SugarFree. I think you just like to tease feminists. It's like you have a crush on Feministing, or something. That's ok. Nothing wrong with that. But it's the only plausible explanation for your obsession with Feministing, as far as I can tell. Don't worry, I won't tell them.

  • ||

    Gosh, is it really so hard to say that a culture that doesn't tolerate honor killings is superior to a culture that does?

    I guess the good news is that Pakistan may be taking the first halting steps to no longer tolerating honor killings, which is to be applauded. But, c'mon, there still are hundreds a year that go unprosecuted!

    I think much of this thread stands as confirmation of what I take to be Bailey's point - that cultural relativism (defined as a refusal to criticize the culture of "others" relative to your own) is alive, well, and morally obtuse.

  • Zerg||

    Well said Ron. Cultural relativism is bullshit.
    I write about this on my blog
    Hardcore Dynamic

  • Jennifer||

    John- We still do have slavery. Ever hear of the income tax?

    Grow the hell up, Libertymike. I'm also opposed to the income tax, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking it's identical to "slavery." If time travel's ever invented, try this: go back to an antebellum Southern plantation and tell the cotton-pickers, "Yeah, it sucks that you have the legal status of property and can be sold, tortured or killed at your master's whim, but you know what? When I earn money, I have to turn over a portion of my earnings to the state! That makes our situations practically identical. Seriously, dude: you may as well stay here on the plantation because if you traded places with me you'd see hardly any improvement at all."

  • Elemenope||

    R C Dean, while I agree with most of your point, I quibble on the notion of "most of the thread". So far, only two contributors advanced anything remotely close to a cultural relativist standpoint (joe, libertymike), and joe'z has been a mushy relativism at best.

  • Elemenope||

    and by "most of the thread" I meant "much of the thread".

    Ballz.

  • Jennifer||

    Try to say this when the overseer's watching, because otherwise, the cotton-picking slave will no doubt kick your whiny ass.

  • ||

    Or is it merely enough to be morally smug behind high walls and long seas?

    Is it surprising that now that Obama has a shot at the presidency that the left has started talking like Neocons?

  • ||

    Much of our anti-slavery movement was informed by Europe.

    And there goes joe again...making stuff up as he goes along.

  • Fluffy||

    Jennifer -

    You may be tired of people equating the income tax to slavery, but I'm tired of people who think that the only thing that meets the definition of "slavery" is an exact recreation of the experience of African slaves in the antebellum South.

    Lots of other societies have had slaves, you know. In many of them, the legal and social condition of the slave [or at least of some slaves] was vastly better than that of African slaves in the antebellum plantation economy - but it's beyond dispute that these persons were "slaves".

  • Fluffy||

    I keep seeing the assertion that there are "anthropologists," "liberals," "leftists," and whatnot why are saying that honor killings in Pakistan are OK, because of their culture.

    Are people asserting that?

    I would say that my assertion is that the world view of many members of those groups includes concepts which, if taken literally and applied consistently, would lead to the conclusion that honor killings in Pakistan are OK.

    The fact that anthropologists and leftists would deny that honor killings in Pakistan are OK [as they all would, I'm sure] speaks to the poverty of their concepts and their lack of consistency in applying them.

    You countered my mention of Levi-Strauss with the claim that his work is out of date, and that's true. But it's also foundational. In many ways, anthropology as a discipline is built around the idea of cultural relativism and it's very hard to extract the poison, even if people loudly proclaim themselves post-Straussians. The idea that it's possible to assume a privileged position from which one could objectively judge the morality of the actions of someone from another culture is simply anathema to the discipline. This detachment tends to not be very prominent when the subject is honor killings, but it's still there.

  • Zerg||

    We hear words like creative destruction, material-rationalism, malthusean crisis, and exploitation bandied about with no context and little critical thought. While these self labeled cultural critics deify non-western cultural beliefs like collectivism, magical thinking, and ludditism, they are oddly silent on polygamy, misygony, and inter-ethnic hate.

    Western culture dominates for a simple reason: Progress is dependent on novelty and it is clear that contemporary western culture produces the most novelty when compared to all other global cultural movements throughout human history. As a cultural movement, the west has driven novelty through laissez faire markets in which value (in the form of both tangible goods and intangible ideas) is freely exchanged, and through socioeconomic freedom to ensure a diversity in a set of free minds. Thus novel ideas and discoveries are developed and exchanged, ultimately creating the "fittest species" in the darwinian global marketplace of culture.

    However, in recent years the west has moved away from these values of free minds and free markets. The right attempts to impose judeo-christian values under the guise of western culture when it is really the rise of secularism and rational inquiry that has seperated the west from the rest. In this way the right threatens the freedom of minds. The left on the other hand threatens the free markets under the guise of social benefit, when really it is an embrace of free markets that has created the unprecedented wealth and "middle class" affluence first seen in the west. As the right makes its assault on the minds, the left attacks the market, threatening freedom and destroying our cultural potential for novelty and therefore dominance.

    We must return to our cultural values at once, or risk seeing our prosperity destroyed. The only way to do this is to once again embrace free minds and free markets and step out of the way of our collective destiny of accelerating consciousness.

  • ||

    and joe'z has been a mushy relativism at best.

    Dude, if it's not mushy, it's not really relativism.

    Which goes to Fluffy's point as well. Who are you to say how people who subscribe to a theory you reject are supposed to apply it? You're like "Suprkufr," saying that you know how REAL ISLAM is supposed to be, and all of those practicing Muslims who don't live lives at all similar to his dystopia aren't REAL MUSLIMS.

  • fyodor||

    So far, only two contributors advanced anything remotely close to a cultural relativist standpoint (joe, libertymike), and joe'z has been a mushy relativism at best.

    Do I count? I think it's dumb and pointless to compare entire cultures and declare one "superior" to the other, for a bunch of reasons (avalailable upon request).

    But I have no problem saying that honor killings are fucked and should be prosecuted as murder, whereever they take place and whatever the justifications given. Comparing cultures only distracts from the specificity and clarity of that point.

    So...cultural relativism? Whatcha think?

  • ||

    I think it's dumb and pointless to compare entire cultures and declare one "superior" to the other, for a bunch of reasons (avalailable upon request).

    We can easily determine which culture is superior and which is not. Which one has survived and which one has not?

    Cultural evolution is as much driven by survival of the fittest as natural evolution.

  • fyodor||

    I don't get it Zerg. Haven't all current cultures survived? Or else they wouldn't be here for us to be comparing them, no?

  • Fluffy||

    Which goes to Fluffy's point as well. Who are you to say how people who subscribe to a theory you reject are supposed to apply it?

    Apply it however you choose. But I get to judge you and I get to judge your theory accordingly.

    And here's my judgment:

    "Cultural relativism" is just one more of those arrows in the quiver of leftist critical theory that were never meant to be taken literally or consistently applied. It exists to provide a ready line of attack to employ against some shibboleth of Eurocentrism or other, to be immediately forgotten thereafter. It was invented so that leftists could say things like, "You can't say that one set of culture mores is better than another! What are you, some kind of colonialist?" But it isn't really supposed to go any farther than that.

  • Fluffy||

    BTW, I think I should also say that this is one of those times that the Randian hesitance to anthroporphizing conceptual or collective nouns comes in handy.

    In much the same way that "there is no such thing as society", it can be said that "there is no such thing as a culture".

    Perhaps we should not be surprised that we're having such difficulty determining how to go about morally evaluating a "culture", or how to determine if one culture is "better" or "worse" than another. Maybe it can't be done because there is no such thing as a culture - or, more precisely, the concept "culture" cannot be analyzed using systems of evaluation that can only properly be applied to individual men.

  • Elemenope||

    Fluffy,

    Do you really want to open up the "there is no such thing as a flock of birds" can of worms? Again?

  • Zerg||

    Fluffy, all current cultures have not "existed", they have evolved into being and will continue to evolve with certain relics living on.
    In a barbaric and tribal middle east, islamofascism is an effective means of unification for the purpose of cooperation -> in this case, the purpose of cooperating to rid their god forsaken desert (oily dessert?) of western influence.
    One of two things can happen: a) we break their will or continue to influence until they realize that this is not going to work
    b) back out and find their culture evolves in some direction

    i for one am looking forward to burkah fetish pornos hitting the intertubes.

  • ||

    All: Some of you have made the point that it was "individuals" not a "culture" that buried these women. However recall this quotation:

    "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents the province where the women died, told the chamber on Saturday.

    He was not defending individuals, but actually saying what they did was right.

    A common definition of tradition: A part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation; A commonly held system.

  • ||

    Liberalism is neither the sole property of the west, nor its defining characteristic.

    True enough, but I would point out that what we think of as liberalism (broadly defined) was created in the West, and nowhere else. To the extent it exists anywhere other than Western Europe and (North?) America, it is an import.

    C Dean, while I agree with most of your point, I quibble on the notion of "most of the thread".

    Quibble acknowledged. I was going by volume, not weight.

  • Fluffy||

    Do you really want to open up the "there is no such thing as a flock of birds" can of worms? Again?

    Again, and always.

    If I'm not sick of it by now, I never will be.

    And it's a nice Gordian knot solution to the various tangles of this thread.

    "Who is the culture? The honor killers, the tribal elders, or the parliamentarians who oppose them?" None of the above. No one is the culture, because there is no culture. There are only individual men, each of whom is responsible for his own acts.

    Ron retorts that the tribal elder made reference to his traditions in justifying these acts. But individual men still had to commit the acts, and when he defends those men he does so with his own mouth. The traditions are just poetry that goes through his mind as he does so.

  • ||

    Fluffy-

    Thank you. Perhaps it is time for Jennifer to grow the hell up. Slavery comes in many forms and any person who defines slavery only as a replica of the ante-bellum south is ignorant.

  • ||

    Jennifer -

    Grow the hell up! Grow some and inform the IRS that you will no longer "voluntarily" contribute. Do this openly and notoriously and make sure you send your letters certified and/or overnite to the IRS. Then, set up a website and spread the good news of tax resistance. Tell the folks that they do not have to give another dime of their hard earned money to government goons.

    Do you know what would ensue? If you do not think that we have slavery, go ahead and prove me wrong. Grow up and be a big girl.

  • ||

    Peaceful religion my ass.

  • ||

    Grow the hell up! Grow some and inform the IRS that you will no longer "voluntarily" contribute. Do this openly and notoriously and make sure you send your letters certified and/or overnite to the IRS. Then, set up a website and spread the good news of tax resistance. Tell the folks that they do not have to give another dime of their hard earned money to government goons.

    Do you know what would ensue? If you do not think that we have slavery, go ahead and prove me wrong. Grow up and be a big girl.


    The income tax is not remotely comparable to slavery, even if you include forms of slavery that existed in places and times before the ante-bellum south. Of course the income tax is not "voluntary" in the sense of being allowed to refrain from paying it. But you have no "owner" who can arbitrarily kill you, force you to work, prevent you from leaving to make a living elsewhere, etc.

    There are penalties, including jail time, for those who evade the income tax. But that is true for all taxes and all laws (including both just and unjust laws).

    Is there something about the income tax that you think sets it apart from other taxes as a form of "slavery"? Or do you think that all taxes are forms of slavery (and therefore nearly everyone on the planet is a slave)?

    Any definition of "slavery" that includes the income tax expands the concept beyond all usefulness.

  • Fluffy||

    The income tax is not remotely comparable to slavery, even if you include forms of slavery that existed in places and times before the ante-bellum south.

    Well, I consider peonage or serfdom to be a variant of slavery [an argument that is pretty easily supported by the early history of the institution in late antiquity]. If serfs were indeed a sort of slave, it becomes somewhat easier to see the connection to income taxation.

    Property taxes or excise taxes would be less analogous because the tax is tied to the object or transaction involved. The principle behind income taxes, however, is that X% of the individual person belongs to the state.

  • ||

    BG-

    No, you are wrong. Slavery is not limited to the enslavement of africans in the ante-bellum US.

    Your assertion that there is no owner who can kill you, force you to work or prevent you from making a living elsewhere with respect to the income tax regime is demonstrably false.

    First, the United States government has murdered folks who have refused to be enslaved. Ever hear of Gordon Kahl? Second, are you out of your mind suggesting that the income tax regime does not force people to work? Tell that to literally millions of families who are forced to have two and three paychecks in order to meet their income tax "obligations". There are literally thousands of families all across amerika who must have those second and third paychecks in order to pay ransom to the IRS for past income tax obligations-many times because the IRS has frozen the bank accounts of the "tax delinquents" and/or the gvt. garnishes a person's wages. Third, yes, the gvt. can prevent one from being able to accept certain jobs precisely because it has a lien on one's property and will garnish one's paycheck at the prospective employment as many companies will not hire folks with tax problems-that is the reality-maybe not in your stinkin socialist paradise, but, nonetheless the reality.

    Moreover, have you ever heard of interest and penalties? The vig that the IRS charges has always made the mob jealous-wiseguys have regarded this as a legalized loan sharking racket.

    So, the law commands one to fork over a third to a half or more of one's income and if one fails to do so the bill doubles every 3 and 1/2 years and you get to go to jail. You have your assets levied, your bank accounts cleaned out and you get government goons, with firepower far greater than any plantation owner ever had, barging through your doors and pointing guns at you demanding that you get down and submit. If that is not slavery, NOTHING IS.

  • ||

    JUST BECAUSE IT IS YOUR GRIEVANCE DOES NOT MAKE IT THE WORST GRIEVANCE. Two things can be bad. One can be worse. The enslavement of Southern blacks is worse than us having to pay taxes. Full stop. Think from another perspective. Would you rather be a black person living in Mississippi now, or in the 1800s. Would I rather be a woman now or in the 1950s? Or in Sierra Leone? As someone with minimal problems, having your money stolen is obviously very angering. But it is not the worst form of slavery. If you had told slaves they had to pay 1/3 and not 1/1 of their income, could choose their job, could live as (generally) free people...how many would have said "fuck that shit. its still slavery! 1/3 is too much!"

  • ||

    Well, I consider peonage or serfdom to be a variant of slavery [an argument that is pretty easily supported by the early history of the institution in late antiquity]. If serfs were indeed a sort of slave, it becomes somewhat easier to see the connection to income taxation.

    Property taxes or excise taxes would be less analogous because the tax is tied to the object or transaction involved. The principle behind income taxes, however, is that X% of the individual person belongs to the state.


    Serfs were tied to a particular fiefdom and were not free to seek a living elsewhere. The income tax does not say that "X% of the individual belongs to the state". It says X% of the individual's income belongs to he state. Income tax is also tied to a certain set of transactions - those in which one person gains income in excess of the minimum amount.

    There are two important ways that the income tax, is different from slavery (and serfdom).

    One is that it only limits your freedom to the extent that it takes some of you income. Serfs and slaves had their freedom of movement restricted and were often subject to other restrictions by virtue of that status.

    The other is that it doesn't preclude you from finding means of living that would leave you unaffected by the income tax system. You are allowed live as a subsistence farmer or hunter/gatherer and not pay income tax. You are allowed to work at a job that pays less than the minimum threshold to be charged income tax - and simply live with a really tight budget. You are allowed to move to a country that doesn't have an income tax. Serfs and slaves had no comparable options.

    liberymike,

    Gordon Kahl huh? That's who you're going with?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Kahl
    (Interested readers make sure to click through to the Posse Commitatus link in that article)

    No, it most certainly is not legal to execute someone for tax evasion (and the state did not do so). I don't know who started that shootout, but if it was the cop than he is guilty of murder and should be tried (though it may be hard to prove).

    As for families where two or more people have to work (instead of one) in order to maintain the same standard of living, the people in those situations have the option of not working and living with fewer luxuries. Unjust? Maybe. Slavery? No. If you are imagining a situation where members of a household are struggling to avoid starvation or freezing to death, then that family doesn't make enough to be charged income tax in the US. (In fact they may be eligible for a public assistance program funded, in part, by taxes. But that's another story.)

    It sounds like you consider all taxes, and perhaps some private acts of theft as well, forms of slavery. Sales taxes, excise taxes, and tariffs fall more heavily on the poor than a progressive income tax (barring some kind of rebate system or something); and are thus more likely to create a situation where some members of a household who would rather not work are under economic pressure to do so. And we can certainly imagine a situation where a private criminal steals a lot of money from a household, and a non-working member of that household responds to their new financial difficulties by getting a job.

    So, in your opinion, is almost everyone on the planet a slave? Should thieves be charged with the same crime as people who put a gun to your head and force you to do manual labor?

    If a private employer is unwilling to hire someone with tax problems, then it is the decision of the employer that is constraining the options of the person who wants that job but can't have it. The same goes for any other reason that an employer might refuse to hire someone. Some private employers are unwilling to hire someone with bad credit, but that does not mean a credit card company is enslaving people who don't pay their bills by reporting them to credit agencies.

    So, the law commands one to fork over a third to a half or more of one's income…….

    If you are paying half of your income in income tax, then some combination of the following is happening:

    1 - You live in the most heavily taxing State/City in the country and you make millions per year.
    2 - Whoever does your taxes is stealing from you.

    Did I miss the Radley Balko article where IRS agents executed a drug-bust style raid? I think the drug war is a lot more troubling, and less justifiable, than the income tax. I wouldn't go over the top (for example by comparing it to slavery). But there are a lot of derogatory things I will say about it when the appropriate thread comes up. The worst thing that can happen to you if you (repeatedly) evade the income tax and get caught is a few years in jail and bankruptcy. One could argue that it is unjust. But overall, the income tax would be at most a minor injustice compared to many other government policies - past and present.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Cultural relativity is a juvenile philosophy exercise, kind of like saying "I wonder if the color blue to you is the color blue to me?"

    So, then, this means that color and morality are both biologically determined aspects of the human psyche?

    Right and wrong are prewired?
    Good and evil are actually manifest in the world, or at least in the genetics of the human species?

    For what it is worth, there is a good case to be made that perceptual categories have "best prototypes" that are biologically determined. Whether there is a genetically determined "moral perception" is an open question, but certainly experimentally determinable.

    But like all perceptual categories, you will find that cultural traditions will determine the boundaries of the category...the prototype "evil act" will be agreed upon between cultures if it is prewired, but the specific case may or may not be seen as close enough to the prototype to be considered part of the category.

    So if we all agree that act X is evil, different cultural backgrounds may determine whether or not Y is enough like X to be called part of the same category of behavior.

  • ||

    BTW Jessica PWNED Liberty Mike a while back. Just wanted to get that out there.

  • ||

    BTW Jessica PWNED Liberty Mike a while back. Just wanted to get that out there.

    Do you mean *Jennifer* Pwned him?

  • ||

    argh! YES. woops. sorry.

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