[Foundation-l] Reply to Mark

Mark Williamson node.ue at gmail.com
Fri Feb 29 01:25:38 UTC 2008

You're assuming that - I am probably the biggest proponent of cultural
relativism on this list when it comes to anything, even polygamy,
cannibalism, female circumcision, and more - as long as nobody is
infringing upon anybody else's fundamental human right, that to life.

I am a believer in both cultural relativism and human rights. That's a
difficult balance to strike. But needless to say, while I think we
should certainly not be telling Egyptians how to live or even how to
run their government, I do not think we should be saying "It's okay
that they are infringing upon peoples' human rights because that is
part of their culture". Infringing upon human rights is not part of
any human culture.

My basis for this idea is the following: in every large human culture,
there are people who believe in the modern concept of human rights.
These people are not necessarily westernized, in fact they are often
entirely indigenous movements, such as some of those advocating an end
to forced female circumcision (= requiring consent of girls and women
to perform the ritual, something that is overlooked in certain
cultures where it is present). Many GLBT rights groups are partly
indigenous movements as well. In fact, the Conference of African
Lesbians met today in Mozambique.


On 28/02/2008, Nathan <nawrich at gmail.com> wrote:
> This thread should probably have a more appropriate title.
>  As others have eloquently said, Wikimedia is about free - as in freedom. The
>  choice of where to meet, as participants in Wikimedia projects, should
>  without doubt take this principle into account. If a significant portion of
>  our community will be unsafe at a particular Wikimania location, then the
>  location should be changed (or should not have been selected in the first
>  place). I don't know, personally, if this is the case in Egypt - although I
>  accept that many have expressed on this list that this is a fact.
>  I disagree with Mark's belief that no accomodation should be made to foreign
>  cultures when we visit - I think it is reasonable to accept that not all
>  cultures view things the same way, and that some degree of relativism is
>  required in this regard. That isn't the same thing as agreeing with these
>  cultural principles, its simply a matter of respect for traditions based on
>  a different history. This applies to instances of public behavior - e.g. the
>  veil requirement for women in Saudi Arabia. Private behavior is different,
>  but again it is reasonable to expect that accomodations must be made.
>  Safety, of course, is exempt from accommodation - no one can be expected to
>  participate in an event where their safety is compromised simply because of
>  who they are.
>  Having said the above, if a difficult and objectionable accommodation must
>  be made by many community members simply in order to participate in
>  Wikimania... I submit that the location selection was in error, and future
>  selections should settle on Wikimania locations that do not require many of
>  our colleagues to act in a way they find uncomfortable.
>  Nathan
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