What is fair?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Teri, Oct 30, 2002.

  1. Teri Curious Registered Senior Member

    The other day I was travelling on a bus. The route of the bus travels through a predominantly Lebanese/Arabic neighbourhood, and at one stop a man and his son boarded the bus. Both the man and the boy were dressed in the fashion of the current suspect of the Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Bashir (sp?), i.e. the white long robe style outfit with the white ‘pillbox’ type headdress.

    It’s my nature to sometimes smile at a person who makes eye contact when passing me. Neither the boy nor the man did, but that’s not why I’m writing this. When the man got on the bus I felt both a sense of unease and fear. There was nothing in his mannerism to suggest I should be fearful of him; his face was stern, but most people walk around that way, so that was not a contributing factor. I sat there wondering whether he came from a background that treated women like second-class citizens. I wondered whether I would have smiled had he looked at me. I wondered whether he was as arrogant as his expression portrayed Lastly, I wondered whether he was a terrorist. I was judging this man solely on his appearance – was I being fair?

    It then reminded me of another incident that happened some time ago when I was travelling to work late on the train one morning. Two Muslim women, one young, one old, and an older teenage male (Middle Eastern looking) entered the same carriage. They sat within earshot, but even if they hadn’t, the male spoke loud enough for anyone in that carriage to hear. During the entire trip he was speaking to the young girl in the rudest manner I’ve ever witnessed. He was barking orders at her as to which train to catch home, what time she should be home, what was to be done when she got home and basically how to proceed through the day. She must have made eye contact with him at one stage because he threatened to slap her across the face if she did it again. His voice was raised because he wanted the rest of the people on the carriage to know ‘who was boss’. I knew this because from the corner of my eye, when he did threaten the girl, he glanced in my direction to make sure that I was listening. In this case also I felt fear. I did not look in his direction for that very reason. There was another woman who got off at a station earlier and when she passed me, we exchanged a look of horror and understanding of what we were both thinking. She shook her head and got off the train. I had to listen to his barrage for a few more stops. By the time he got off the train I hated him. Again, I wondered what would I have done had I been a male? Indeed, if I were a male, would I have even felt the same?

    Now when I see a gathering of males of Middle Eastern appearance - which is becoming fairly common where I live - I honestly feel a strong sense of fear. I know that this fear is leading to hatred. What worries me is that, as a peace loving person, imagine how the people who are not quite so peaceful are reacting.

    In the news lately there have been reports of a number of assaults on Muslim women – mainly pulling off their scarves, spitting at them and telling them to go back to their own country. I believe this current type of vilification stems from the convictions of the Lebanese gang rapists who chose their victims because they were Australian. The 55-year gaol term made the front pages of the news and it highlighted the problems between the races.

    September 11 shocked me as much as the next person, but I did not suffer personal loss of any kind. However, now, when I hear a low flying plane overhead, it’s the first thing that comes to mind. I cannot begin to comprehend the ramifications of that day for the victims and what they are enduring and will continue to endure.

    I’m just an everyday Jane Doe. I haven’t been touched by tragedy by any acts of terrorism. If I’m feeling these things, how is everyone else coping? Men will have different perspectives than the women. How do you all feel about this everyday kind of reminder? Is anyone else questioning himself or herself? I’d like to hear about what you think is a fair way to look at the problem, because I just don’t know anymore.
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  3. John MacNeil Registered Senior Member

    If you feel such fear, then how do you think the women and children in Iraq feel? The U.S. and Britain have been bombing their country ever since the Gulf War. And what do you think gives them the right to do that?

    Terrorism is not something that any society wishes to engage in for entertainment. If you want fear to go away, then you have to get rid of the cabals that are the ones who instigate that fear. By far the worst terrorists in the world are the U.S. corporate/government and their evil associates, most notably Israel. Why do you think many people in the world refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan"? Do you think they just made that up because they don't get the Simpsons on cable T.V.? If you are afraid to analyze the problem because you fear what you might find out, then you might as well get used to living in fear, because it is not going to go away as long as evil people rule the U.S. corporate/government.
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  5. Teri Curious Registered Senior Member


    I understand what you're saying, and, although I don't agree with your views on the U.S. government, I'm interested in your views on the people living in your own home town. I'm assuming - and correct me if I'm wrong - that you have at least some multicultural element in your local area.

    The current climate in world events has affected the way I co-exist with my multicultural neighbours, specifically, people who appear to be of Middle Eastern appearance. I'm not proud of this, in fact I frown upon myself for feeling this way. I don't overtly display any disdain for these people in my daily interactions, but the underlying fear and suspicion is something I can't deny. As I said, I'm not proud of this, but I'm being honest.

    I'm asking in general, does it worry or affect you at all?

    I know that if and when things settle down - and I sincerely hope that will eventually happen - I will revert to the way I felt before all these things started happening. In ordinary circumstances I am non-judgmental of any culture; mostly, I'm curious about people from other countries, and would love to sit and have a friendly chat with them - I haven't travelled to any great extent, and would like to hear about other countries from people who genuinely know - not from a travel brochure.

    In any case, I'm not looking for a debate, I'm only asking in general.

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  7. John MacNeil Registered Senior Member

    I live in Canada, Teri, where the whole country is multicultural, especially the cities. One thing you learn early is that people's character is determined by what is inside their minds, not by the color of their skin or the manner of their dress. Every person on the world is desirious of the same thing, a healthy, satisfying life. If those basic requirements are denied them by the corporate/governments which destroy democratic societies so that they can control them and maximize profits, then there will be destabilization and predjudice in the world. Picking a small population area and tryng to solve it's problems while exacerbating problems for the larger society is not progress. The larger injustices must be discontinued and rectified if the world society is to obtain peace and security.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    From my perspective, people are people. We share a common humanity. There are bad people and good people, and you really have to take each case on its merits and try not to prejudge.

    A Muslim person, or a Christian person, or a person from the Middle East, or a Chechnyan, or an American is just a person, like you or me in most of the ways which matter. It is dangerous to start saying things like "Muslims tend to be..." and prejudge people on that basis. You would not like other people to judge you that way, so why do it yourself?
  9. kmguru Staff Member

    Unforntunately, if you do not prejudge the situation, your life may be in danger. For example, if you are a female, dont travel new York subways after 9 PM kinda judgement. In this case the groups are called gangs that attack.

    Here in Alabama, gas stations have a separate process to collect the money after 6 PM. The company prejudged to that situation based on experience. In 30 years, I have never been offered a job where the boss would have been a certain race. The banks and insurance agencies prejudge you based on your demographics with full support of the government. They even go so far as saying if you did not have a stellar credit record, you are also a insurance risk meaning you can not drive a car well or that you wont be a good employee to a prospective employer.

    I think, prejudgement comes from repeated unpleasant or pleasant experience in a specific type of situation or demographic. Worst part is the governments support it.
  10. Teri Curious Registered Senior Member

    I completely understand what you are all saying to me, and indeed, your answers mirror my own feelings regarding cultural differences and racial vilification.

    I live and work in a multicultural society; my office has very few 'true blue' Aussies. Race is not an issue, and never has been; in fact, we sometimes tease each other's ethnicity when the opportunity arises and no one is offended - World cup time was a fun period around the office and I don't even like soccer! I hope you understand what I'm saying. I was born to Polish parents and when I do something stupid in the office, I'll either blame my blond hair or my 'Polak' background. We all just joke around and everyone understands one another. So please don't misunderstand my views on this topic. I would be writing the same thing as you have if we were talking in generalities.

    What I'm inquiring about is - have any of you have had any kind of direct, face-to-face incidents whereby the racial difference is a factor?

    I may not be conveying my point clearly enough, so I'll give you an example: The suburb where I live is in the middle of an area of Sydney where the racially motivated gang rapes of Australian women, property destruction aimed at Muslims, and gang warfare is occurring. Basically the area is more Lebanese than Vietnamese or Chinese or whatever. So when I write 'Middle Eastern appearance', it's because I'm not sure what country is applicable. Arabic is a general term to me, and it's the only way I know how to describe the ethnicity.

    Now, getting back to what I'm talking about - a couple of months ago I was walking home from the railway station alone in the middle of the afternoon, so there were very few people around and not much traffic on the road. A car travelling in the opposite direction to what I was walking veered to the other side of the road suddenly and appeared to be heading straight at me on the footpath. There were no other cars on the road, and they didn't come right over, they just wanted to have a giggle by trying to frighten me. I could hear them laughing as they steered back to the right side of the road and proceeded on. They didn't call out any names or do anything nasty - I know it was just a lark. Even so, my heart did skip a beat because it gave me a scare. So as I proceeded home of course the current racial climate came to mind. (Yes, you guessed it, the car had four males of middle eastern appearance on board).

    This is what I'm asking about. I know that there are good and bad people around in any situation. I know I shouldn't single out Lebanese/Arabic males. But given this incident, and the incidents I wrote about earlier, can you blame me for beginning to have problems with this culture?

    I have Lebanese friends. I have friends from a lot of different nationalities. But I can't help it. After the events of the last few months I am becoming racist. Or am I? I love my Lebanese friends, so how can I vilify the Lebanese race in general?

    Have any of you experienced any incidents? Have you needed to address this issue from personal experience? How do you all feel about this?

  11. John MacNeil Registered Senior Member

    This is the World Events forum, Teri. Perhaps you should have goofyfish transfer this thread to a humanist forum where individual cases are discussed on a regular basis.
  12. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

    Yep. I was waiting to see which way the conversation turned,
    and was away yesterday. It's not a great fit, but I think it's closer.
  13. Teri Curious Registered Senior Member

    Transfer away.

    Sorry Goofyfish, I didn't know where to put it originally myself, but since in my mind it has some connection to current events I took a punt. Thanks for the replies though. It's probably going to die a natural death before you move it anyway.
    See ya.

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