Friday, February 17, 2006

We will follow ours

From an excellent speech by Keith Windschuttle, of which more tomorrow.

He recounts the story of Sir Charles Napier, the British Commander-in-chief in India from 1849 to 1851. In an agreement he made with local Hindu leaders, he promised that the British would not interfere with their way of life in any way. Except for suttee. They were upset. They didn't accuse him of cultural imperialism or of racism (lack of a modern education), but they did point out forcefully that this was an ancient and hallowed practice. He replied as follows.

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.
Do you think this attitude might be applicable to modern times? Notwithstanding the fact that he was undoubtedly a wicked, Western imperialist, and male to boot, might we not learn a little from his tolerance and the limits to his tolerance?

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