Friday, November 19, 2004

Articulating why moral relativism is wrong.

With the help of my brilliant Women's Studies professor Ayse Agis, I'm now able to put into words what I find so obnoxious about moral relativism and cultural relativism: in short, it's smug and patronizing.

The premise of moral relativism, as I understand it, states that each culture's values are legitimate because moral standards are not absolute or universal. Thus it is not one culture's place to unfavorably judge the values of another culture.

A lovely example to use when critiquing this position is the infamous burka Muslim women are instructed to wear based on some interpretations of the hijab (Islamic dress code) in the Qur'an. (A lot of anti-female guidlines in Islam are rhetorically protected by American moral relativists, but let's keep it simple.) According to the doctine outlined above, we bra-burning American women should not look down on the hijab because, well, that's just the way Islam works.

This attitude de-historicizes and exoticizes Islam, and absolves Muslims of blame for violence against women because they simply don't have the ability to think beyond their mysogenistic culture. (It's like when a little kid says a bad word; it's okay because he just doesn't know any better.) Distant and strange cultures are not held accountable to our rules. Forcing a woman to hide her hair or face as a clear symbol of her inferiority is acceptable because, even though I would never allow myself to be subjugated in that way, her culture is incapable of thinking differently.

No moral relativist would articulate their argument this way, obviously. The claim would go that there simply aren't universal morals. I agree to an extent. Things like legal drinking age, tax rates, agricultural policy...yeah, not gonna claim that there's one right way. But why is it so terrible to say that not letting women vote in wrong? How difficult is it to admit that cutting up a girl's genitals to prevent her from ever enjoying sex is just bad? I'm even going so far as to say that state-sanctioned executions are flatout-wrong, too (hey, I don't like certain parts of American culture, either). Though no one particular value seems to be universally applicable, the concept of empathy must at some point be recognized as present in each of us. No empathetic person should accept violence as a prominant feature in daily life.

Like I said, there are innumerable ways in which American culture sucks balls, as well. Aging hippie douchebag leftist moral relativists (or AHDLMRs, as I like to call them) don't seem to have a problem judging their own stupid country. Death penalty, economic imperialism, environmental destruction, nutritional irresponsibility; it's all bad. I like to think that I'm an equal opportunity judger. And I've got a lot of judgement in my heart.

I think we can all agree on one thing, though: GO BEARS!


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