At a time like this,

when a gang-rape is ordered by local government to punish the brother of the victim for something he didn’t do and that wasn’t criminal or even wrong and that gets whitewashed by the highest national court (with the local council apparently not even indicted),  it’s important to say “Everyone’s culture is just as good as everyone else’s culture, in every way” over and over again, until you see the contextual advanced morality of the story and the men in it.  Get a sandwich and clear your schedule; it may take a while.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

12 thoughts on “At a time like this,”

  1. Michael, do you have something to say worth hearing?
    Did you get a ‘delinquency of hippie-bashing’ notice?

  2. toasters: ditto. Our Supreme Court just said it was okay for prosecutors to withhold evidence. You can dress it up and say it was about administrative liability, or what-all, but that’s what they did. They appear to have no shame.

  3. Horrific story, but I think you’re holding up a straw-man. Who’s saying that all cultures are equal?

  4. npm, I think it’s more complicated than that. I can imagine someone saying that no culture is objectively superior to any other, but also saying that this case is terrible. I’m not sure what the argument would be.

  5. Barry, I think you misunderstood the target. He was adopting the tone that a conservative critic expects to hear, in order to make fun of them. I’m unsold on the attempt, but I don’t think this was hippie punching.

  6. Yes, a straw man. Appealing to those who don’t find anything wrong with the “their culture” framing. Interestingly, this cognitive bias is largely what the “relativist” critique attacks. See: boob jobs.

  7. J. Michael Neal says:

    “Barry, I think you misunderstood the target. He was adopting the tone that a conservative critic expects to hear, in order to make fun of them. I’m unsold on the attempt, but I don’t think this was hippie punching.”

    If so, that song was sung pretty badly.

  8. The famous anthropologist and explorer Wifred Thesiger spent time on the Upper Nile with pretty unreconstructed Dinka and Nuer tribesmen. A the time, a favoured male ornament was a belt with pendant dried penises. It’s aid that somebody asked Thesiger whether he had remonstrated. He replied that it was none of his business how his friends treated their enemies.

    Thesiger approached the anthropologist’s weird ideal of ethical detachment. The attitude is so rare in the wild that I must agree with npm and Eli that Michael’s target is a straw man. The bigger one is hypocrisy: “they may be bastards, but they’re our bastards.”

    “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. Discuss. Can the fear of being hypocritical cripple righteous anger? I actually like it when the Chinese government say criticises the US human rights record; it’s setting up a good dynamic.

  9. The important thing to remember here is that whatever appalling thing the U.S. government does, there are people somewhere who do worse things.

  10. I have a problem with people and judgmental attitudes when time and circumstance make it impossible to experience the reality at the time.

    Example: Battle flag of the confederacy
    Example: Japanese internment, WW 2
    Example: Nagasaki & Hiroshima

    Most of the time there really are two sides to a story, such as the three examples above illustrate, but I don’t see any equivalency between them and the irrefutable evil of the Pakistan case. Crimes against humanity have no mitigating arguments, in my opinion.

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