The West. The civilized and cultural west. We are the leaders of the world. We have good moral values, and we want to share them.
We do that. There’s no denying. We are taught in history about the white man’s burden in the 1800’s during imperialism. That never went away. Even though we are a more ‘free’ world, and we have come a long way with our freedoms from civil rights movements and world wars, we impose it through the white curtains of freedom of speech.
I will never forget my lesson in Philosophy class a few years back. We were talking about moral actions, and our teacher asked us a question: “Is it morally OK to stone a woman to death if she cheated on her husband? Knowing that this penalty has been around in their culture for hundreds of years, and the woman definitely knew what she was getting into.”
The general answer was, “No.” Almost the entire class said it was horrible and that the woman shouldn’t suffer like that. I raised my hand.
“No. I don’t find it wrong. It is exactly like the death penalty in America, maybe not in the same way, but that country’s ‘Justice System’ is taking someone’s life into their own hands and giving the person the ultimate penalty. Yet, the subject of death penalty in America or some other western country will cut the opinions in half .”
… But whats the difference?
And some guy asked me, “So you support the Jihad movement?”
By now, I had not even made a statement if I supported death penalties. I personally am not in favor of it. I don’t think an eye for an eye is always the best choice or that a woman should be sentenced to death for cheating on her husband. I understand that the example of the question will cause some anger because it is about a woman, and in our society a woman cheating is not cause for the death penalty. My opinion was immediately linked to Jihad, because I would question the ‘obvious’ answer. Someone might now think: “How can you even question it?”
I’m not angry or sad that I was raised in Finland – a modern and ‘liberal’ country in Europe where equality is not an issue, and we are very strong on our freedom of speech, but our moral raising is unquestionable. It’s a Christian country where the Ten Commandments are known by heart and even being atheist, I agree with some of them. Of course, I wouldn’t kill anyone without a reason or want to steal from others, but I’m sure we can all agree that there are some general moral rules around the world.
However what we westerners tend to do is point our finger; we point our finger to cultures that do things differently. We do it sometimes for the right reasons – for freedom of speech or helping a country reach democracy – but we also get into other people’s business for selfish reasons because we believe we are in the right.
One of the best examples is Muslim women who choose to cover up. Not all of them are forced into it; that is how their society works, and they choose to follow their culture. Yes, some of them have been forced into it, but the social media paints a very black and white image of reality. There is a good article about the misconceptions we have on women who dress in hijabs/burqas/abayas/niqabs.
“The male American politicians waging war on Afghanistan were the most bizarre example. It seems that one of the excuses they came up with to start bombing an already decimated country was to free women from the horrible confinement of the burqa. Suddenly, craggy old white men who never heard the word feminist became inordinately concerned with the rights of women halfway across the world, insisting this cruel injustice be put to an end.”
People must remember to take a step back, leave their comfort-zone and question things that feel very clear to them. Think about it, there is a person on this planet who is exactly opposite to you in every way. If you feel comfortable going around braless (which is totally cool, totally rocking that style at the moment) and in short shorts, then there is a person who feels more comfortable being covered up.
I can remember plenty of times in heated debates with people in a bar where I have completely forgotten that I can’t make everyone agree with me. People, including world leaders, forget the line between suggestion and imposing a thought, which, at the end of the day, is no different on the White Man’s Burden of the 1800’s.