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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 646)...

    I recently saw a show on the Discovery Channel that attempted to explore the life of a tribal society (though for the life of me I cannot remember their name). In that group, young women are married off by their fathers to men they have never met. The young women are guarded day and night (and this reminded me of the tale of the adulterous wife in one of your books, but in this case the women are not loosely guarded, they are FIERCELY guarded), and many young women choose to take their lives since they are not capable of flight as an alternative to marrying the men they have been assigned to... I have mixed feelings here... How can I hold true to a "there is no one right way for a people to live" philosophy while still regreting that here is a society that unnecessarily sheds life because of one of the rules of its culture. Taker culture says that they should not do this... How can I say that it is "OK because it is THEIR culture" without sounding like some sort of monster?

    ...and the response:

    Assuming this is an aboriginal tribe, it's thousands of years old. People don't live in a way that makes them unhappy for thousands of years. In a tribal setting, there's no way to compel people to continue a practice they hate. In other words, though living in this tribe might make YOU unhappy, evidently it doesn't make THEM unhappy. In any case, in the example you give, the TRIBE doesn't shed the unwilling bride's life, she sheds her own. You ask how you can say it's okay for this tribe to conduct their affairs this way. I have to reply: Who asked you to say whether it's okay? As a member of the most murderous society in human history, do you really feel competent to stand in judgment over every other society in the world?


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