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Arcane
618832.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:43 am Reply with quote

I think you've read my argument as 2 + 2 and come up with 5, exnihilo.

There is no pre-conception; just the fact that the women were, at the time, virtual prisoners as many other women were also, and not some kind of early emancipated women, which I felt was being implying.

 
exnihilo
618841.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:52 am Reply with quote

That's what I thought you were saying. And I said that by the standards of the time they were indeed emancipated. Certainly more so than other women. But we appear to be using today as the absolute measure of freedom, judging everything by that, and finding it wanting - which is the absolute antithesis of a considered study of history. And, I might add, the single greatest obstacle encountered by teachers of history: a flat refusal to accept, or understand, that things were not always as they are now and a dogged inability to apply relevant context to historical judgements. Somewhere along the educational line people are being hopelessly let down and not being given the critical tools to actually understand history.

 
Jenny
619045.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:01 pm Reply with quote

The problem with that viewpoint, exnihilo, is that tout comprendre is not necessarily tout pardonner. We can understand that that is how it was then, and that men at the time may have seen it as a kind of respect, but we need to keep clear in our mind that actually, by modern standards, it was repressive rather than respectful. If we don't keep this distinction clear, as I see it, then we risk the slippage of rights that people have fought long and hard to obtain, which is why I made the comparison I originally did with civil rights for black people.

The fact that some slave-owners were kindly and treated their workers well, and that some slaves probably lived more comfortable lives in slavery than other people did in freedom, doesn't make slavery right - doesn't make it right then, doesn't make it right now.

 
suze
619047.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:03 pm Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
A flat refusal to accept, or understand, that things were not always as they are now and a dogged inability to apply relevant context to historical judgements. Somewhere along the educational line people are being hopelessly let down and not being given the critical tools to actually understand history.


This is not a problem faced only by teachers of History!

Unfortunate as you (and, to a large extent, I) may find it, modern thinking does seem to be along the lines of "Thing X is these days considered bad in the Western world*. Therefore, it has always been bad and any society which does or did Thing X is or was bad."

And it's this sort of thinking which means that I have to deal with people who believe that Chaucer was a rapist (although actually, that notion does have some legs), that Lewis Carroll was a "pedophile" (this one may perhaps have a couple of toes, but nothing that comes especially close to being described as a "leg"), or that Jane Austen was pro-slavery. (This one is just daft - she mentions slavery tangentially in Mansfield Park, and because that mention is not condemnatory, she "must" therefore have been in favour.)

Only thing is, while I'm quite happy to denounce some (not all) so-called political correctness, there are potentially times when the desire to continue to have a job takes priority!


* Sometimes, this has to be amended to "Western world other than the USA".

 
Jenny
619050.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:08 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:


Unfortunate as you (and, to a large extent, I) may find it, modern thinking does seem to be along the lines of "Thing X is these days considered bad in the Western world*. Therefore, it has always been bad and any society which does or did Thing X is or was bad."



I don't think it's as simple as that suze. We can certainly read the past with the understanding that they did things differently there, but attitudes hang on for a long time culturally, and I think if we don't keep it clear in our own minds what is and isn't acceptable, then we make moral evolution a much longer and harder process. There are still people now who think that black people are inferior to whites, that women are lesser beings than men etc etc.

 
suze
619072.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:14 pm Reply with quote

Oh, there certainly are. And there are people who think the opposite of both of those as well (Robert Mugabe and Valerie Solanas, for instance).

And this is the problem. Of course I think that the opinions I hold are "correct". And just because a lot of my opinions happen to be quite widely held in the modern Western world, that does not of itself mean that I am right and that Hendrik Verwoerd was wrong (on apartheid), that the Taliban are wrong (on almost everything), or that George W Bush is wrong (on, in this instance, capital punishment).

After all, it's not now considered appropriate in Britain to argue that Christianity is "right" and that Islam or atheism are "wrong". (Yes, I know that to some extent this is seen as appropriate in parts of the USA, and so it was in Britain until not very long ago.)

So actually, do we have any real basis upon which to argue that apartheid, or sex discrimination, or capital punishment are and were unequivocally "wrong"?

If I were hired to teach in Texas, I'd soon find myself unhired if I tried to argue against capital punishment - and the good people there don't think that the rest of the Western world has morally evolved in getting rid of it.

Which is kind of why I think there has to be some element of "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" (L P Hartley, 1953). But in Britain at least, the PC brigade really doesn't encourage it.

 
Davini994
619078.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:25 pm Reply with quote

For me it's a bit of a stronger statement than that. If women didn't have western style freedom, it's less amazing because no-one, apart from the odd king or ruler, did. Are we expecting one segment of society to be treated by today's standards when the others aren't?

 
exnihilo
619080.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:28 pm Reply with quote

Indeed, so to say, for example, that an ambitious woman could exercise influence by rising in the Sultan's favour in the harem is not wildly different to saying that an ambitious man could exercise influence by rising in the Sultan's favour in the civil service. Neither one of them was ever going to be Sultan though.

 
Jenny
619113.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:57 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
So actually, do we have any real basis upon which to argue that apartheid, or sex discrimination, or capital punishment are and were unequivocally "wrong"?


On another thread we're talking about Roman Polanski.

There are some countries even now where the age of consent is such that for a 40 year-old man to have intercourse with a 13 year-old girl would be within the bounds of legality.. Because that is so, do we then have a moral right to condemn Roman Polanski's actions and insist that he serve his sentence? I would say that we do.


Last edited by Jenny on Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:46 am; edited 1 time in total

 
exnihilo
619122.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:05 pm Reply with quote

Some civilized European countries at that. (Duff link, btw, you dropped the m of com.)

In his case my condemnation would be more about the method than her age. In general terms, I'm pretty relaxed about "under age" sex if both parties are fully consenting and would tend to prefer they were judged on a case by case basis rather than an arbitary line.

What, though, does the fact that Spain has an age of consent of 13 tell us about them as a society? That they're all paedophiles? Ought we not, then, by the lights of our society to condemn the whole country and impose some kind of sanctions?

 
Ian Dunn
619128.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:11 pm Reply with quote

I think that Britain is a bit harsh in terms of the age of consent. I know that some countries (including some US states) are lenient in terms of the law.

For example, if the age of consent was 16, and a 15-year-old had sex with an 17-year-old, the law may allow it as there is only a small age difference.

 
CB27
619164.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 4:03 pm Reply with quote

It doesn't matter if our age of consent is 16 and another country it is 76, if someone has sex with someone under 76 in that country we can't deny that they broke the law there. We can perhaps defend that the person was either ignorant of the law and even appeal to that country to reconsider it's law, but it's still a crime.

However, if that person is a citizen of our country and is back here, the likely situation is that we won't extradite them because in our laws he should not be punished for that crime and the punishment he receives now is a sort of "sanction" in that he can't go to that country any more without facing imprisonment, and he'll probably be unable to travel to a few other countries which might have other extradition agreements.

The argument given by some that in the past the Swiss didn't know he was in Switzerland, nor the US intelligence, is a very weak one IMO. I think the US has had to continue to issue warrants because it would be embarrassing and damaging to withdraw it, and I think it's been easy for them and the Swiss to ignore Polanski. This whole episode seems to be a really amateurish attempt by someone in Switzerland to negotiate with the US over Economic laws and I can't help wondering if the US wish they didn't have this headache to deal with.

 
suze
619188.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:03 pm Reply with quote

Ian Dunn wrote:
For example, if the age of consent was 16, and a 15-year-old had sex with an 17-year-old, the law may allow it as there is only a small age difference.


Ian, you're quite right in saying that English law doesn't in so many words say that the "close in age" factor can be taken into account. (BTW, Scottish law does, sort of.)

But in practice, it's highly unlikely that a 16 year old boy found to be having sex with a 15 year old girl would find himself in court. If the girl were my daughter, I'm sure I'd give her a bit of a lecture, but I wouldn't be calling the cops.

CB27 wrote:
I can't help wondering if the US wish they didn't have this headache to deal with.


There is a way that it could make things so that it doesn't. The girl with whom he had unlawful sex - by now 45 and married with children - has asked to withdraw her complaint against Polanski, basically because after 32 years she's sick of the whole thing. But as yet, the American courts haven't allowed her to do that.

 
suze
619189.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:06 pm Reply with quote

Anyways, we have another thread for Roman Polanski, so if I may I'll come back to the more general topic.

I entirely understand Jenny's contention that we have the right to say "Mr P did a bad thing", even though the thing he did is not illegal in (for instance) Spain. I do have some difficulty with applying that thinking universally though.

A classic case to consider is capital punishment. Personally, I'm very much opposed to it, and I know that Jenny is as well - but a majority of the states in her adopted home country continue to use it.

Now, if I in Britain were deliberately to inject someone with a series of drugs with the intention that this would cause that person's death, then I could expect to be charged with murder. Do we in abolitionist countries have the right to regard anyone who plays a part in the performance of capital punishment as a murderer?

Jenny's contention would presumably be that the answer to this is "yes", and it's a position for which I have a certain amount of sympathy - but at the same time I do have some difficulty with it.

Case in point - Arnold Schwarzenegger, who possesses both American and Austrian citizenship. As Governator, he has been responsible for three executions (after the legal processes have been exhausted, he must sign a warrant before an execution can take place, and he does have the power to refuse to do so - but hasn't exercised that power).

Does this make him a triple murderer? Some in Austria have sought to argue for "yes", and for that reason it's understood that Arnie has been advised to avoid going there for fear of arrest. But if Austria actually tried to arrest him - or to seek his extradition while he was in a third country, since he cannot be extradited from the USA because he's a citizen - there'd be a major league international incident.

 
Jenny
619431.  Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:49 am Reply with quote

In some countries, forms of slavery are still legal. Does this mean that if a slave escapes to this country and the government of the other country demands the slave back, we should return him or her?

 

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