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Power: the uninvited guest
Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009
So we’re sitting in the moral discernment conversation, and we’re talking about stem cells. And this pastor from Malawi made a comment that stunned me, as so often happens when I sit at table with people from the other side of the world:
“Sometimes moral decisions are imposed on us, and then we have to deal with them even if they are not ours.”
The context of his comment was that sometimes moral choices are made in more powerful parts of the world and then handed down in some kind of policy form to other countries – like many in Africa – which then are forced to wrestle with their aftermath.
The pastor gave the example of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being imposed upon African countries by the United States and Europe. On moral grounds, Zambia banned GMOs from entering the country. The reaction from wealthy countries – who were in the business of providing the genetically modified seeds and related pesticides – was to question Zambia’s morality of not feeding its own people.
I have heard before that the moral debates happening in powerful countries get imposed upon less powerful ones. That wasn’t news to me. And of course to some extent each of us, having come to a particular moral position, believes everyone else should follow it, too.
What struck me in this conversation, though, was the role of power, an uninvited (but ever-present) guest.
In our unbalanced, unfair world, we do not all have equal power even to define the moral questions before us. Some of us have more power to shape our destinies – and even the questions we ask about our lives – than others do.
When was the last time a moral question being debated in Malawi dictated the legislation taken up by our Congress?
Posted by Aimee Moiso