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Relativism and Morality

In: Social Issues

Submitted By MrMcMillan912
Words 1100
Pages 5
Relativism and Morality
9/12/2012
SOC/120

The study of ethics can shed new light on old motifs in society. In "Some Moral Minima," Lenn Goodman offers discourse on several areas, each with multiple sub-topics. While some are subject matter for the nightly news, others are generally discussed with a hushed tone in American society. I find Mr. Goodman's paper to be well-written and, in general, quite in line with my perspective on these subjects. Additionally, he offers information as a means to create discussion, rather than judgment.
At the top of Mr. Goodman's list are the topics of genocide, famine, and germ warfare, and their intentional application on various peoples. Genocide seeks "to destroy a race, culture, a linguistic or ethnic identity, even a class," (Goodman, L., 2010, pg. 2) operating successfully through fear, intimidation, and violence. The Armenian Genocide, in which many of my ancestors perished, is a perfect example of attempting to destroy an ethnic identity. Through the employment of "deportation, expropriation, torture, massacre, and starvation," the Turkish government attempted genocide upon the entire Armenian population between the years of 1915 and 1923. This all occurred thirty-three years prior to the adoption of the UN Genocide Convention, but still received worldwide condemnation as a "crime against humanity" (http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocidefaq.html), Leaders seeking to wipe out an entire population as a means of control is not new to the history of the world. Famine was wrought on the people of the Ukraine by Stalin in 1933. From halting the collection of the census at the Famine's inception, to the hoarding of large "state reserves" in spite of the starvation of the population, this horrific example of genocide took the lives of millions of Ukrainian people in the name of power (http://faminegenocide.com/resources/facts.html). Germ warfare has been in use for hundreds of years, even in the development of our own country. Small-pox infected blankets were given to the Native Americans by the colonists in an attempt to severely reduce their population (Nowak, 2010, Sec. 8.2). Even in recent memory, the United States experienced an extended scare with the bio-toxin Anthrax, causing Americans to worry every time they opened their mail. These forms of control, brutality, and murder are inherently wrong in the minds of most. In Goodman's closing words, he defines genocide as "a denial of our common humanity" (2010, pg. 6).
Slavery, polygamy, and incest are next on the agenda for discussion. In America, slavery is generally equated with the African Americans mistreated and sold leading up to our Civil War. Goodman reminds us that up to potentially four million human beings are bought and sold each year; about 50,000 transported into the United States (2010, pg. 4). This is a perfect example of this author bringing a subject to the forefront for reconsideration and discussion. Tension always accompanies any discussions that cross the line considered sexual deviance. Performing a Google search on polygamy in the U.S. inevitably brings up multiple articles about Utah and its Mormon population. Since the majority of Americans are either intentional or forced Christians, the concept of polygamy is completely taboo. Goodman uses many terms in regards to the women of polygamous marriage: sufferers, acquisitions, victims. I am not certain if I fully agree with the author in this situation. In some ways, I feel the women are capable of free thinking and can decide for themselves if this is an appropriate relationship and a healthy representation of relationships to their children. However, I also feel that it is a culture/cult that can cause women to make decisions unlike those made without the culture present. Incest is an enormous taboo in most cultures. From a Utilitarian orientation, consensual incest could be seen as potentially victimless. Even so, Goodman brings up the highly valid point that the continual crossing of blood lines is known to cause multiple birth defects (2010, pg. 5). These particular subjects are incredibly horrific to me, reinforcing my agreement with the author.
The term "rape" evokes incredible emotions in most of Western civilization. Many times, rape is called a crime of hate or power, rather than of sex. In some respects, I agree with this concept. Unfortunately, rape is used as a means of coercion in war (Goodman, 2010, pg. 6). There are few people in general society today that are affected, either personally or through a friend or family member, by this hateful act. Ask any American-raised female about a rape and she will most likely shudder at the mere mention of the act. A. Oba's 2008 article in Global Jurist, which was an eye-opening required read of my previous course, offers multiple views of what I previously thought of as an absolute atrocity. Looking at this concept culturally, I can understand women undergoing this procedure to be a part of a something greater than them. Offering the idea that our Western lifestyle colors our view, skewing our ability to be rational, Oba gives readers enough to consider an insider's viewpoint. Still, outside of a cultural standpoint, it is not something I would condone, as it seems part of a larger agenda propagating gender inequality. In that respect, I can agree with Mr. Goodman.
I would have little argument with Lenn Goodman and his touch points. The topics range from the average news story to subjects not to be discussed in open circles. I believe his publication offers important considerations for the average person. The universal moral requirements covered in his article are poignant, continually important, and generally in the best interest of mankind.

References:
Abdulmumini A. Oba (2008) “Female Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights or Cultural Imperialism?,” Global Jurist: Vol. 8: Iss. 3 (Frontiers), Article 8.
Armenian National Institute. (2011). Frequently Asked Questions about the Armenian Genocide. Retrieved from http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocidefaq.html
Famine-Genocide in Ukraine 1932 - 1933. (2008). Facts about the 1933 Famine-Genocide in Soviet Occupied Ukraine. Retrieved from http://faminegenocide.com/resources/facts.html
Goodman, L. E., (2010). Some Moral Minima. The Good Society, 19(1), 87-94.
Nowak, B., Laird, P., (2010). Cultural Anthropology (Ashford University ed.) San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education Inc.
Oba, A. (2008). Female Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights or Cultural Imperialism. Global Jurist. 8 (3). (Frontier). Article 8. Retrieved from http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/17983762/1273979883/name/femalecircuncisao.pdf
PBS. (2010). The Iranian Hostage Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/carter-hostage-crisis/

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