Sunday, November 02, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you believed your government was acting unethically -- or contrary to its own principles -- what would you do about it?

Here are a few hypothetical examples: If you were alive in Nazi Germany you would have done anything to stop the awful genocidal machine at the heart of the government, right? If you were alive in, say, 1850, and had the chance to stop slavery or to help the cause of abolitionists, you would do everything in your power to do so, wouldn't you? Or, to take some American examples from the 20th Century, if you knew there were clear injustices -- Jim Crow laws, forced sterilization of women deemed "unstable," policies that discriminate against and deny services to homosexuals -- you would clearly do everything in your power to stop those injustices, right?

In circumstances such as these, I would like to believe I would have taken a courageous stand against injustice, but I can't know for certain.

The hard question: What do you think you would have done?

The really hard question: What injustices do you see around you right now? What are you willing to do in response?

8 comments:

Adam said...

It's easy to say that you would have gone against the government in Nazi Germany, or stood up for slaves in the 19th century. Looking back on these events, we now know they were wrong. Though we need to think about if we were living in those times without the knowledge we posses today. What if you were a non-jewish man living during the Hollocaust. HOw would you know what is wrong and what is right? How would you interpret the extermination of the jewish population? And if you did understand that something was wrong or an injustice, would you stop it? During the Hollocaust, it was a dangerous risk to go against the Nazi government. As much as I want to say that I would have stood up for injustice, its too hard to decide. Is it worth jepordizing family members and the life you have to take a stand? Today, I feel like there are still injustices occuring and it is easier to take a stand against them. If you protested the government in 1930 in germany, you might be killed. In 2008, this is not so much the case. As we learn from our past, I think it is becoming easier and easier to stand up against injustices.

Leslie Co said...

I agree with Adam completely. My Great-grandfather immigrated from Germany to America for a new life. When I was in Germany this past summer, we visited Berlin and I saw all these things and heard all these stories about Nazi Germany. And I thought, "What would my grandfather done if he was here?" and the answer was easy: He would have been on Hitler's side. I mean yeah I can't know for sure, maybe he would have done something. But in those times, it was stay alive and be a Nazi, or go to a concentration camp and die. Hitler came into power because Germany was in PERILOUS TIMES, and Hitler promised food and money and work, what everyone needed. So naturally everyone thought that they should vote for Hitler because life with Hitler sounded amazing. There was no way to know what would happen.

I think its a very tough decision to make. The people who did stand up fro the cause are true heroes. They knew the consequences and still fought for what they believed in. I just wish I had that kind of courage. Maybe I do and I just don't know it yet. When the time comes, we'll see what I do.

Max Rice said...

I confidently believe that I would of stood up for the Jews in Germany and the slaves in America. Only because those injustices were so black and white. The Nazi's represented pure evil and I would have no problem going against pure evil. Now in days, especially in America, were surrounded with more gray areas. Like are abortion doctors evil, is stopping gays from getting married evil? But they're more issues outside my bubble that are examples pure evil. Like, the genocide in Darfur, and the Chinese censoring its people. Unfortuanately, I have done little to fight those injustices and its a real shame. But I do believe theyre is a differences between killing and letting die. Death is natural and will occur no matter what I do. But I am obliged to stop death if I have the immediate oppurtunity to. If someone is drowning near me I am obliged to jump in and save him, but if some one is drowning 500 miles away from me I have to be comfortable with the fact that it is ok to let him die. Then comes the question where do you draw the line on the amount of action you can take to fight injustice. Is it Morally permissible to kill one innocent person in order to save the lives of more innocent people? Franklin Roosevelt had the oppurtunity to bomb concentration camps that would cost the deaths of many innocent jews, who were on their way to being killed, but would save many more Jews in the process. Roosevelt decided not to bomb the camps, what would you guys do? But their is the other side. Do the ends justify the means? Lets say that they're four sick people, two need a kidney transplant, one a heart, and one a liver. Would it be alright to take the organs of one innocent guy to save the four people? Do the benefits of four lives overshadow the death of one? What is more important societal benefits or indivdual rights? Also how many lives would it take to save to risk your own? People tend care about the safety of themselves more than safety of strangers, now matter how many strangers, and thats why holocausts and genocides are still able to occur

maddie hilbrant said...

I think what Andrea was saying in class today was very true. You as one person cannot change something but together, a group of people can. I think that if i were living in Germany at the time in which the Holocaust occurred, I would have been terrified of Hitler to stop anything, however; today I think that if something similar to that were to ever happen, I would take action. There have been alot of different experiments done on Primetime ABC, where ABC will hire actors to stand in a park and treat someone unethically. For example, there was one experiment that they did where they put an older person in a wheelchair and had their caretaker abusing them and yelling at them. They did this in the middle of Central Park and only two or three people said stop. I think its very easy to be passive aggressive, especially in our society and its really sad, but something to think about.

Jillian F said...

I agree with Maddie. I think that as one person it is hard to make a difference, but as a group of people you can make a difference. I can not say what I would do if I were caught in a position where I was a bystander and could either sit on the side and watch or get involved. I don't think that I would know what I would do until the actual experience happened to me. I would like to think that I would jump in and stop it, whether it was during slavery or genocide, but I am not sire that I would feel safe putting myself in that kind of danger. I guess that if a situation came along where I was a bystander, we will see what I do.

Miles said...

We would like to think we would do something, but as humans, I find we hate to stray from the norm. It's hard to stop doing something when everyone else is doing it, even if it is terrible. I'm sure there were people during the holocaust that felt terrible about the things happening but didn't do anything because they felt they couldn't not conform. Sure there were and are people like Oskar Schindler, who saved over a thousand Jews, but the majority of society is like sheep. The point is, when faced with such tragedies, it takes a strong person to will themselves and others to stop movements such as these. And that's the thing, one person can’t stop an army or movement, it takes numbers to draw attention. It's easy to say we would have done something, but put yourself in a situation like the maltreatment of blacks in the mid 1900's. All your friends and you have been taught by your parents, peers and teachers that blacks are an inferior race, it’s not that easy to go against the grain and isolate yourself from your friends and family. Overall it is extremely hard for just one individual to make a difference. I'd love to think I would do something when presented the opportunity, but as a human being it's just so unpredictable.

Kimber said...

I have to admit that this subject, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” stirs up a lot of feelings and makes one ponder over what our actions might have been had we lived in another era. In terms of Hitler and Nazi Germany, I believe that I would have worked to help hide people being persecuted and that I would have tried to help them escape even if I risked my own life. Similarly, during the 1850s, I believe that I would have helped with the Underground Railroad. Previous comments about one person being ineffective in making change applies to being unable to battle an army; however, it ignores the small things that each of us can do that eventually add up to something positive. In today’s world, I may not be able to go to the Sudan and personally fight genocide in Darfur but I can continue to help raise money to help fight the atrocities there, as well as help raise awareness. I can encourage others such as our representative to support programs to fight violations of civil rights throughout the world. I have to take issue with Miles comment regarding being taught about inferior races; I have never heard any teacher, parent, or peer ever make a comment like that. It is my hope and belief that we have moved beyond such prejudice and bigotry.

Adam said...

Max, can you truly say that you would have put your life and others that are close to you at risk? As much as I want to say that I would have stood up, I can't. In this type of situation, it is only human to think of your own loved ones and yourself.