Sunday, August 16, 2009

On cultural relativism at The Standard

On cultural relativism at The Standard

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2 comments:

William said...

All yje Way from New Zealand some ver interesting commentary on cultural relativism once again: "The door is now opened for a needed debate on cultural relativism (a concept now largely discredited in the social sciences). A few of my thoughts on this:

Should a person’s culture come into account when determining a sentence? If ignorance of the law is no excuse, why should ascribing to a different set of values be relevant? That’s not to say we should be blind to the differences in expectations and practices among our various cultures. We should be moving away from the model of imposing an Anglo monoculture. The values of different cultures should go into defining the law in the first place but they cannot be an excuse for not obeying it.
Could it really be argued that the convicted were behaving appropriately within the bounds of Maori culture anyway? Or were they just using culture as a fig-leaf?

At what point is a cultural practice, even if carried out according to the rules of that culture, abhorrent to the values of modern New Zea land? We shouldn’t ban things merely because we don’t like them in our culture (cf the wowserism by the Herald today about the Tongan New Zea-lander killing his dog humanely and eating it, I don’t see why that should be seen as something that ought be be stopped merely because I don’t wouldn’t do it, anymore than I would want Jews and Muslims trying to stop me being allowed to eat pork) but there are values that transcend cultures and there are things that can’t be excused merely because they are OK in a certain culture."

I respond like this, the author, is in awe of a very light sentence the result of a death that occurred because of an exorcism ritual and I quote"a traditional Maori exorcism led to the light sentences. And it seems to have been particularly because it was Maori spirituality that was involved (the death during an ‘exorcism’ of a Korean woman by a Korean Christian preacher led to him getting jail time). That’s, of course, the conclusion that most people have drawn, including Trevor Mallard, whose comments on Red Alert were picked up in the HoS today.

Trev might have been playing closer to constitutional convention if he hadn’t commented but in cases that go extremely against public expectations of justice, it is appropriate for MP's to speak out and they have done so in the past. "

In this case the notion of cultural relativism DID result in a lighter sentence for the perpetrator of the death of the young woman who died during the practicing of the ritual. The New Zealander who reports in this article cannot understand how this can happen. Similar cases had resulted in much stricter sentences of jail time! Similar instances have occurred in the United States courthouses which I am sure we will discuss in other posts. I invite comments on this article I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

William

William

William said...

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