Monday, March 03, 2008

Sometimes, cultural intolerance is a good thing

Having just finished listening to Jim Dale's wonderful reading of the Harry Potter books again, we're taking a Potter break, and currently are listening to Dale's reading of Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. (It's an understatement to say that Dale is very good at this.) Yesterday, we heard the scene in which Fogg and Passepartout rescue the widow from her husband's funeral pyre. That's the hook upon which I'm hanging my posting of the following quote, which I've seen in a few places recently, and which I enjoy on a couple of levels.

The source that I'm using is The Administration of the East India Company: A history of Indian Progress by John William Kaye, published in 1853. At a time and in a place where men believed that not all cultures were equally worthy, and were willing to defend their own.
"[Sir Charles Napier] also," says Sir William Napier, "put down the practice of Suttee, which, however was rare in Scinde, by a process extremely characteristic. For judging the real cause of these immolations to be the profits derived by the priests, and hearing of an intended burning, he made it known that he would stop the sacrifice. The priests said it was a religious rite which must not be meddled with, that all nations had customs which should be respected and this was a very sacred one. The general, affecting to be struck with the argument, replied, 'Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom. Prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." "No Suttee," adds the historian, "took place then or afterwards."

Let me just say that I love that approach to that problem...

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