Friday, April 14, 2006

Common Values in Iraq

Today’s Utah Statesman carried an article "Life is better for Iraqis" on the opinion page by Jared Johnson USU Student/Soldier. I find that his articles offer an interesting insight into what we are doing in Iraq and some of the politics behind it all. I realize that it is his perspective and that his is not the only perspective on the issue.

His article today had to do with the question of whether the Iraqi people are better off since we showed up. My understanding of Bok’s Common Values is that Hussein showed disregard for minimum common values with his human rights violations. The West has liberated them from Hussein, helped establish a new government and helping to rebuild the country. We do all of this with as much respect for the Iraqis, their religion, etc. as we can. But still, how many of our Western maximalist values are we forcing onto them? Is it all a good thing? Jensen thinks so. I think so. Does that make it perfectly right just because we think so? After all we are only evaluating the situation from the viewpoint of our own maximalist values.

There is much gray area between true common values and maximalist values. Yes, it is hard to draw that line between them.

A closing comment comes from Hagar the Horrible. If this link does not work, do a search for Hagar’s cartoon of April 6, 2006:

Hagar the Horrible


Nancy Williams said...

But still, how many of our Western maximalist values are we forcing onto them? Is it all a good thing?

The key words here -- and I think we utter them unconsciously but that doesn't make them any less damning -- is forcing onto them.

Is forcing our values on another person or culture a good thing? Will it lead to common values and peace? Do we ever, personally, enjoy being coerced or forced to do something?

I mean, I can't think of a single example when it does, but maybe you can help me out here.

smokey said...

Not on a worldwide scale, but how about a simple example of school uniforms? Most students oppose them because of the loss of individuality and, of course, who wants to be forced to dress or act a certain way? I believe that the proponents of school uniforms can cite several good reasons for having that policy. Uniforms put all students on a socially level playing field. Clothing cannot be used as identification for gangs, clicks, or social status, reducing many problems associated with them. It gives the student comfort of fitting in without breaking their parents’ budget buying expensive designer clothes. A student does not excel in academics, sports, or arts, because of their unique clothing. This appears to me to provide way more benefits than problems to that society.

On a larger scale, are there international laws, based on minimalist values – regarding conduction of international business and human rights? These are sometimes forced onto a society for their own good. It looks like the problem here is just what we have been discussing: who is to make the rules and enforce them? Now I have circled back around on myself – back to the original example of Western society liberating and helping the Iraqis gain a better quality of life.

Maybe with more iterations of thinking we will understand better, but in the end, establishing true common values and expecting all societies and their leadership to willingly follow them is an impossibility, but a goal that is still worthy of our effort.

Nancy Williams said...

I hear what you're saying, Smokey, about the larger social benefits that accrue to things such as school dress codes -- to take your first example -- but let's think about this.

American kids are required by law to go to school -- they have no choice in the matter. In fact, maybe THAT is an excellent example of forcing society's values on people! Education is required because education is a VALUE of our society.

In the West we see an educated citizenry as something of great value. It's easy to defend. But from watching The Killing Fields, we know educated people were at the gravest risk in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge took power. And in Schindler's List we saw the only value a Jew had to the Nazis was as a workhorse or a whore. Education meant nothing.

smokey said...

Certainly, education, information, and knowledge are critical for a society to be free. I recall reading some years ago about the reconstruction of Japan after WWII. Among the first things that the US did in Japan was to create an industry building radios.

Two things were to be achieved by manufacturing radios. It gave the people much needed jobs, but more importantly, the radios were for use by the Japanese, not for export. With a radio in every home, the people would become informed and aware of news and information to help them make proper national decisions and thus become protected from tyrannic leadership.

Look what their society has done with information and knowledge.