In response to Deadron (#11)

I'm hoping we can have conversations that rise above responding only to the tiniest point we can find to disagree with, and then without perspective or adding information to the discussion.

If that's what you think I'm doing, I'll give up on having any sort of conversation with you. My point is that a lot of Americans are taking the stance that we should carpet bomb Afghanistan. I'm not saying this is the official response. I'm not saying anyone with a microphone or consultancy job is espousing this view. I'm not saying any policy makers are weighing this as an option. I am talking about people. People that I work with. People that I pass on the street. People who apparently don't get a very good view of me from behind and yell "Towelhead!" as they pass me in their cars (I wear a lot of hats).

Basically, my point is that your point is pointless. Yes, it is just the "man on the street" who is saying such things...but that "man on the street" is America in a way that CNN isn't.
In response to Deadron (#16)
Deadron wrote:
Nothing wrong with judging. I judge states that "circumsize" women or kill people for walking on the street with the "wrong" dress code to be wrong, and often to be evil.

The subtelty is to judge that while not assuming that everyone in that state is a perpetrator, recognizing that as abhorrent as something is there may be some historical background to understand about it if you want to eradicate it, and realizing that taking action may have unforeseen circumstances.

To go further, the lack of judging advocated in the last 20-30 years by some schools of thought would seem to further evil in the world. I've read transcripts of American students actually saying things like "We can't judge an Indian culture for brutally killing the wife after the husband dies. It's how their culture works, after all, and morality is relative to culture."

Yes!
I'm so sick of hearing this relative morality crap. The fact that a culture does not see something as wrong does not necessarily make it right, or acceptable.

Slavery was practiced throughout the world for thousands of years, and in places still is. In civilized society it has come to an end, basically because people stood up and said it was wrong to enslave another human being. Ironically the recent conference on "racism" in Durban was really just a stomping ground for people to blame the West for slavery--as if they invented it--and to jump all over Israel. Most of those nations demanding reparations from the US and other European countries (the countries that led the anti-slavery movement) were complicit in the slave trade themselves, and some still are. Point is, slavery is wrong.

Likewise your point on female genital mutilation is one I've been known to bring up when it comes to this relative morality thing. Countries that practice this don't do it for religious reasons (though they say otherwise), but because they oppress women. It's interesting that there's nothing in the Quran to dictate such a practice, but so-called fundamentalists do this anyway. (Incidentally, why do we call extremists "fundamentalists"? A true fundamentalist is someone who just wants to get back to basics and abandon dogma, i.e. a non-extremist. Anyone else see a semantic problem with that?)

Torture is still commonplace in many parts of the world. Somebody try to defend that in the name of relative morality.

This is not to say that nobody should do things differently than anyone else, or that we shouldn't tolerate worldviews even massively different from our own. But some things are just wrong all over and it's not bad to say so.

Lummox JR
In response to Deadron (#19)
I dunno...I think there are certain universal values that in some cases should possibly be imposed, or at least vigorously campaigned for in certain parts of the world. I'm somewhat in line with Jimmy Carter in thinking that human rights should play some role in how we deal with a country.

Well, as I said, I think that it is pretty fair to maintain some universal moral standards, and to work towards getting all nations (including ourselves) closer to those. Marriage has already been mentioned a couple times in this thread, so I'll go ahead and stick with that--here in the U.S., marriage tends to end up being accepted more and more as a temporary arrangement. Other cultures (such as India) view marriage as an undefiably holy bond and will keep a marriage together under all but the most extreme circumstances, often to the point of oppression. There are, of course, many inequalities present in most of these cultures' marriage practices, and I think we'd be fully justified in pressuring other countries to adopt more egalitarian practices.

What would be wrong, in my eyes, is taking a culture which views marriage as a fair and equal bond between a man and a woman with their unanimous consent, but still a largely undefiable bond, and then pressuring them to give up that idea--or them pressuring us to take it up. The U.S. is a very individualistic society, and while this outlook seems to work pretty well for us, that certainly doesn't make it the best. We've had to jump some pretty nasty human rights hurdles ourselves, and just because we cleared them earlier doesn't mean that other countries' general outlooks aren't valid. There's a lot of differences between our culture and others which aren't clearly right vs. wrong, things that don't unduly infringe on human well-being, dignity, or freedom. Maybe there is a clear-cut right or wrong on these issues; if there is, my money's that the "right" or "best" practice is usually something that no culture's arrived at yet. Until then, I say we ought to push towards bettering our respective cultures along universal scales rather than bickering about the (mostly) harmless details of each and which way's better.
In response to Deadron (#16)
It's easy to dismiss cultural relativism out of hand, but the fact is, it's a useful and necessary concept. The sort of absolute cultural relativism (absolute relativism), the doctrine that decries value judgements of any kind... has one place, and one place only: pure science. It's a doctrine of research, adopted in order to get the most accurate and factual information possible on other peoples and other cultures. Early anthropology papers were colored (one could emphasize that word) with the analyst's value judgements... no attempt was made to understand why the peoples under observation behaved the way they did, it was enough to know that they did, and were thus inferior.

"We can't judge an Indian culture for brutally killing the wife after the husband dies. It's how their culture works, after all, and morality is relative to culture."

Now, there is a difference between burning someone alive on a funeral pyre because that's what your culture and your religion and history has lead you to, and doing it because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. In the latter case, the individual should be condemned for his or her actions. In the former case, it would be the culture. Obviously, in neither case would it be a 100% black-and-white absolute that one was responsible and the other completely innocent... but you get the idea. You can still discuss the role of culture in widow immolation without abandoning the idea that it's wrong to burn someone alive.

Now, let's talk about the morality of a few other things. Divorce, as Leftley pointed out. Or the improper disposal of another person's toenail clippings. If you get a pedicure in the United States, they just throw those things out, where anyone who wants to root through potentially biohazardous waste can get their sorcerous little hands on them. If you were to make that mistake in another place, in another culture, you would've committed a grievous sin.

Can we just dismiss that as a silly superstition, say, "Your culture is stupid," and forget about the transgression? Of course we can. They'd have to be stupid, backwards, primitive people to even begin to consider the moral implications of handling toenail clipp--ACHOO--someone in the audience:"Gesundheit."--Thank you. I'm glad you bid God to bless me when I sneezed, or else my soul would've escaped through my nose.

Of course none of us really believe that, but still, the majority of Americans says "Bless you," in some way, whenever someone sneezes, and they feel uncomfortable or slighted if they sneeze and no one blesses them.

Now, perhaps the most important concept in the area of morality is the idea of absolutes. In order to arrive at moral absolutes, we must first realize that our morality is relative to our culture... and strip away anything from our morality that is only their as a result of our culture. It would be wrong for us to impose our sneezing taboos on our countries, for instance, as a basis for foreign aid... or our (obviously, this is a very general our) distaste for homosexuality. We don't insist, for instance, that the progressive nations of Europe remove homosexuals from their military forces before we'll accept them as allies. We should, however, insist that they not go around bayoneting citizens of their respective nation-states and looting the corpses for cigarette money, if such a thing were to come to pass. The former would be based on a cultural value, the latter on a moral one.
In response to LexyBitch (#23)
The former would be based on a cultural value, the latter on a moral one.

By what means does one determine whether a given value is merely cultural?
In response to LexyBitch (#23)
LexyBitch wrote:
ACHOO--someone in the audience:"Gesundheit."--Thank you. I'm glad you bid God to bless me when I sneezed, or else my soul would've escaped through my nose.

I apologize if you already got this, I couldn't tell from the post.

Gesundheit has nothing to do with God or with blessing. It simply means "health." I'm not sure if it's equally effective in keeping your soul from nasal escape, but I'm guessing as much.

In response to LexyBitch (#20)
LexyBitch wrote:
I'm hoping we can have conversations that rise above responding only to the tiniest point we can find to disagree with, and then without perspective or adding information to the discussion.

If that's what you think I'm doing, I'll give up on having any sort of conversation with you....I am talking about people. People that I work with. People that I pass on the street. People who apparently don't get a very good view of me from behind and yell "Towelhead!" as they pass me in their cars (I wear a lot of hats).

Well no you weren't talking about any of that, because you didn't mention any of that. You just made a hit and run comment that implied stupidity on my part ("Newsflash") and didn't in itself expand the conversation at all, after lots and lots of messages filled with detailed explanation. (And, you know, I was talking about the people I have talked to...people at work, on the street etc...it is possible to add your experiences without trying to invalidate mine.)

So all I'm saying is: Try to avoid one-liners and think about adding to the conversation in the way you elaborated above.

(I'm not innocent...I did a one-liner to LoW on the subject that was unfair given he had an in-depth post and I pulled the same thing.)

If you want to go after me for encouraging substantive conversation, whatever the point of view, there's nothing I can do about that.
In response to Skysaw (#25)
I didn't know exactly what it would be translated as, no... just that, from context, it would be a blessing or well-wishing of some sort. If I had known the literal meaning, I would've chosen a different phrase, to avoid the argument that the point of the blessing is to encourage the health of the apparently sick person. That's just a rationalization for a custom that sounds embarassingly outdated when expressed in so many words.

Also, for the record, I would like to state that Star Trek uses the exact same sound effect for doors sliding open as it does for hypo sprays being applied, and I intend to do something about that.
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