The 2011 Undergraduate Ethics Symposium: Personal Morality April 7-9, 2011
The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics Greencastle, Indiana
CONTENTS 4 PREFACE by Bob Steele, Director, The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics 6 KEYNOTE ADDRESS Listening to Annoying Voices by Robert Bottoms, President of Seabury-Western Seminary, President Emeritus of DePauw University SEMINAR SESSION ONE 12 Shared Respond(ability): Understanding Hate Crime from the Perspective of the Injured by Alison Bailey, Professor of Philosophy, Illinois State University 23 The Pursuit of Justification: Ethical Implications of Gene Therapy by Justin Baker, Loyola University 29 Ethics of Short-Term Medical Aid by Jennifer Behrens, DePauw University 37 Ethical Imperatives of Presidential Eulogia by Katie Lovett, Davidson College 47 Is Genetic Engineering Ethically Responsible? by Maura Metcalf-Kelly, William Jewell College 54 Spreading the Alarm: The Appeal and Importance of Secular Arguments Against Human Germline Enhancement by Steven Pet, Hamilton College 64 An Examination of the Issues and Ethics of Commercial Gestational Surrogacy by Elisabeth Schlaudt, Furman University 73 Addressing Ethical Concerns with the Process of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis by Taylor Wood, University of San Francisco 79 To Support Or Not To Support: The Issue of Cognitive Enhancement by Robert Zilinyi, Skidmore College
SEMINAR SESSION TWO 89 Personal Morality, Law and Ethics: The Case of the Dorm Room Dealer by A. Rafik Mohamed, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Clayton State University 98 Bottoms Up: Waiting Lists, Alcohol, and Causal Responsibility for Disease by Rahul Abhyankar, DePauw University 106 Multiple Moral Realities: A Rhetorical Battle Over Definition and Framing by Laine Baity, University of Colorado 114 Authorizing Neglect: A Critical Analysis of Newsweek Representation of African Americans with HIV/AIDS by Joss Greene, Scripps College 124 The Case Against West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining by Rachael Holley, Washington University in St. Louis 129 The Next Frontier in the AIDS Epidemic: Sexual Choice and Accountability between Both Sexes by Hilary Landfried, Gettysburg College 136 Moral Formation and Censorship: Determining the Christian Response to Violence in the Media by Alexis Lassus, St. Louis University 147 Who’s To Blame: Black People Or “The System”? by Alyson Watson, University of Alabama SEMINAR SESSION THREE 152 The Old Man and the Storm: A Documentarian’s Story and a Conversation with Bob Steele June Cross 157 Poems by Anna Bower, Furman University 160 90 Days (photos) by Jenna Buehler, DePauw University
163 faces of my spoken word: stories by a “queer woman of color” (poems) by Erica Granados De La Rosa, Loyola University 169 What Do You Want To Say (short play) by Joseph Fanelli, DePauw University 175 Once Upon A Time In China (short story) by Zheyi Liu, DePauw University APPENDICES 178 Appendix A – Seminar Participants and Works 181 Appendix B – Biographies of Visiting Scholars 183 Appendix C – Visiting Scholars and Symposium Organizers
he annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium is a significant event at The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University. In April 2011 we welcomed student scholars from across the country for our fourth annual Symposium. Our theme was ethics and personal morality. We also explored ethics issues related to the environment, business, medicine, media, race, gender and other important societal concerns. Over 70 students from 49 universities submitted essays, poems, photographs, plays and documentaries in response to our nationwide call for scholarly and creative work on ethics. A team of DePauw faculty members read and reviewed the theoretical papers, analytical essays and creative pieces. We selected two-dozen participants to attend the Symposium and asked each student scholar to present his or her essay or creative project in a series of workshops. It’s a pleasure to proudly present the work of these student scholars. Additionally, we offer thoughts from four visiting scholars who guided the students in the workshops and who also gave their own lectures at the Symposium. Each of the visiting scholars brought important and provocative ideas to our Symposium. Former DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms delivered the keynote address, “Listening to Annoying Voices.” Dr. Bottoms, who became President of Seabury-Western Seminary in January 2010, examined the multiple ways we all try to “figure out” the right things to do when we encounter moral challenges in our lives. Alison Bailey is a philosophy professor at Illinois State University where she also directs
the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Dr. Bailey’s lecture explored what she termed the “shared respond(ability)” of communities and citizens in the face of hate crimes. June Cross is an award-winning television and documentary producer. Her symposium presentation focused on her PBS Frontline Documentary The Old Man and the Storm that told the story of one New Orleans’ family struggling to recover in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A. Rafik Mohamed is a professor of sociology at Clayton State University whose presentation centered on his book Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class. Dr. Mohamed’s research probes the world of college drug dealers, exploring issues of deviance, race, and stratification in the US War on Drugs. I want to thank the DePauw faculty and staff whose expertise and commitment was instrumental in the review of papers and creative work. The readers and reviewers for the 2011 Symposium were Rich Cameron, John Caraher, Jason Fuller, Julie Hollowell, Darrell LaLone, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, Cindy O’Dell, Kerry Pannell, Martha Rainbolt, Sarah Ryan, Bruce Sanders and Chris White. I’m greatly appreciative of my colleagues on the staff of The Prindle Institute who were essential to the success of this year’s Symposium as well as the production of this website content and a companion brochure. Dr. Martha Rainbolt, senior professor of English and Prindle Institute Program Coordinator, has been an amazing guiding force for these Undergraduate Ethics Symposia 4
Charles and Anne Hillman, center, with the 2010-11 Hillman Interns. for four years. Her passion for working with the student scholars inspires all of us. Her leadership has been essential in the growth of the Symposium over these four years. Linda Clute, assistant director at the Prindle Institute, once again did excellent work in coordinating the logistics for the Symposium. Linda is a skilled and smart administrator who makes the Symposium experience special for all involved. Nicki Hewell, a veteran Prindle Institute intern and a 2011 DePauw graduate, worked diligently with Martha and Linda on the editing of the student scholarsâ€™ papers and the final production of both this website content and a companion brochure. We are fortunate to have Nicki continuing on with us this next year as a graduate fellow.
Finally, all of us involved in the Symposium thank Anne and Charles Hillman, DePauw graduates from the classes of 1951 and 1952, and long-time supporters of this University. The Hillmans financially support the Prindle Institute Intern Program and their additional generous gift made possible this fourth annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium and the publication of the proceedings. Thank you, Charles and Anne, for your support of this important Symposium and the student scholars. We look forward to the fifth annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium scheduled for April 2012. Robert M. Steele, Ph.D. Phyllis W. Nicholas Director of The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics Distinguished Professor of Journalism Ethics
Listening to Annoying Voices Robert Bottoms, President of Seabury-Western Seminary, President Emeritus of DePauw University
ob Steele invited me to speak tonight about how we make decisions, a discussion that will be revisited throughout the weekend. When Bob first asked me to talk about decision-making, I thought for a long time about the best way to approach the topic. After much reflection, I have decided that the best way to introduce the subject is through sharing several stories that we can talk about this weekend. The first story comes from a front-page article in The New York Times on March 24th. The article told the story of how in 2009 some of the top aids to Colonel Gaddafi called together 15 executives from global companies doing business in Libya. These executives were not asked, but told, that between them they would shell out the 1.5 billion dollars that Gaddafi’s country had to come up with for their role in the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Scotland terrorist attack and for their role in other terrorist attacks. Thus, to frame our discussion, I would like to ask you what you would have done had you been one of the 15 executives? Immediately most of us would say, “Well, I wouldn’t have anything to do with Gaddafi.” This is an emotional kind of reaction. However, some of our colleagues might say, “Well, if we do not pay, then we do not get to do business here. Is that fair to our stockholders?” Other people might respond by saying, “Well, it is not just our stockholders, it is those workers back in the Midwest who might lose their jobs if the company’s profits are reduced.” A second story. Recently, I have been taken with the courage of the 50 or so people
who were the first to go into the damaged nuclear plant in Japan. They literally risked their lives in order to save the lives of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people whom they had never seen before. If we had had that opportunity, would we have wanted to be one of those 50 or 52 people? Is there anything that we care so much about that we would be willing to risk our lives to make life better for people whose faces we may never see? What do you do when such voices highlight the different sides of an argument? In conversations with the students earlier, many responded, “We figure things out. We use our minds. We reason together and try to make the right decision.” Growing up in Alabama, we would say, “Well, we try to figure it out.” Yet some of the voices we hear during our decision-making processes become “annoying voices,” for they expose us to the tensions we subject ourselves to when we have important decisions to make. My goal for tonight is to establish how we ought to understand these “annoying voices.” Michael Sandel was on our campus early in my presidency. Sandel’s book Justice tells the following story about a petty officer named Luttrell. In 2005, Luttrell was leading three navy seals deep in Afghanistan. They believed they had an opportunity to capture one of Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand men. The seals were very careful. However, just before they reached the village of the person who they hoped to capture, they met two farmers and a fourteen-year-old boy who were tending their 6
Robert Bottoms goatherd. 100 goats. A fourteen-year-old boy. Two farmers. Unarmed civilians. So what were the seals going to do? Two of the soldiers said, “We have to kill them, including the little boy. They will tip off the Taliban as to where we are.” Luttrell, however, could not convince himself to do that, so the seals let the goat herders go. In a matter of hours, 800 enemy soldiers surrounded the seals. The three navy seals were killed, the U.S. helicopter that tried to rescue them was shot down, and sixteen other innocent Americans died. Luttrell said that was the worst decision that he had made in his entire professional career. And he did it on the basis of compassion. How do we make decisions? We use our minds – that is one voice. But isn’t it true that after we have reasoned through a problem we also want to feel good about our solution? This is what Joseph Badaracco calls the “sleep test” ethic – when we go to bed at night, we want to feel that we’ve done the right thing. Neuroscientists have begun to perform experiments using reasoning similar to the sleep test. After studying with Nobel Prize winning scientists, Jonah Lehrer concluded, in his book The Way We Decide, that humans are predisposed to want to feel “good” about our decisions rather than to be purely rational in our approach. Thus, he argues that, for generations, we have misunderstood the process by which humans make decisions. Historically we have believed that humans are rational people who make rational decisions. However, Lehrer argues that we are not designed to be rational.
Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia provides an illustration of how he believes our brains work. Haidt argues that it is an error to believe that our decisions are a product of our intellect. To illustrate, he shared the story of Julie and Mark. Julie and Mark are siblings vacationing in southern France. One night, after a delicious dinner and some wonderful wine, they decide to culminate their evening by having sex with one another. Julie is on birth control pills, but nonetheless Mark uses a condom. They both enjoy themselves during the act. At the end of the night, they discuss their behavior and conclude that it brought them closer together but that they probably should not do it again. So, in the discussion group, Professor Haidt asked, “Is there anything wrong with this?” Everyone said, “Yes! Absolutely wrong!” “What’s wrong?” he asked. “When siblings have sex, they could have children with genetic defects.” But, said Haidt, “Didn’t I tell you that she was on birth control pills and that he used a condom?” The group then responded by saying, “It will damage their relationship.” “Didn’t I tell you that they talked about it and decided that it brought them closer together?” said Haidt. Reason after reason was given and then dispensed with until, finally, someone in the group stood up and said, “It is just wrong to have sex with your sister.” Haidt agrees. He calls it “moral dumbfounding,” when we just know that 7
Assistant Director Linda Clute greets particpants something is wrong even though we cannot rationally explain why it is wrong (recounted in Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide). Not only do we “just know” some things are wrong, many neuroscientists argue that we are also hardwired to be sympathetic. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, studied the responses of people asked to help meet the needs of world hunger. In an experiment, he provided the participants with information such as pamphlets and statistics, including the statistic that 11 million people in Ethiopia are starving. Slovic then asked the participants how much money they would give. After their initial responses, the participants were then shown pictures – the faces – of some of the people who were starving. You can guess what happened. The participants were much more generous when they saw someone’s face (recounted in Lehrer, How We Decide). We are wired to be sympathetic. The last story that I will tell on this subject is about Harry Harlow, a psychologist who, in the 1950’s, performed several famous experiments with monkeys at the University of Wisconsin. One of his experiments followed six monkeys that were trained to pull various chains in order to receive food. One chain in particular provided them with a lot of food. They quickly learned to pull that chain. After the monkeys became accustomed to pulling the chain that gave them the greatest satisfaction, Harlow manipulated the experiment so that whenever the monkeys pulled the chain that gave them the greatest gratification, the sixth monkey was shocked.
When this happened, the sixth monkey would shriek from the pain. The remaining monkeys quickly learned to quit pulling the chain that gave them the most satisfaction. In fact, one of the monkeys almost starved out of a desire not to hurt another monkey (recounted in Lehrer, How We Decide). Some psychologists argue that humans experience similar reactions. It seems that emotion is a very important part of the decision-making process. So we have two voices: our rational voice and our emotional voice. Sometimes these voices tell us different things. Because of this tension, it is common for us to desire more help when we are trying to make decisions. In Sandel’s book, he reminds us that we do not have to approach such decisions alone. Instead, we can hold our dilemmas up to our communities for public debate. Moral reflection need not be a solitary pursuit. It can be a public conversation. One of the most winsome speakers that we have hosted at DePauw in the past few years was Parker Palmer. Parker came to DePauw several times to talk about the Quaker circle of trust and the importance of involving friends in one’s decision-making process. Such friends ask questions to ensure that we are giving proper weight to different moral concerns. Friends may not tell us what to do. But they can ask questions to help us examine all of the possibilities in a situation. It was at this point that I almost called Bob Steele to ask to speak about something less difficult, for the more I thought about it, the less I knew about how even I make 8
“Moral reflection is not a solitary pursuit but a public endeavor.”
decisions. It seems that we do use our intellect AND our emotions. It also seems that we should call upon our communities for their help. However, isn’t there some place in our decision making process for ideals? If we want reason to dialogue with emotion, if we want to hold our potential decisions up to the community, don’t we also want our ideals to come into play to inform decision-making? A couple years ago, Susan Neiman, the philosopher who directs the Einstein Forum in Berlin, wrote a book called Moral Clarity which calls for a rejuvenation of idealism in our culture. Idealism, she argues, gives us a way to make certain judgments – a way to say that some things are right and that some things are wrong. Idealists do not believe the world as it is exhausts all of the possibilities. Rather, they believe that the world can be better. And isn’t there some value in trying to think more about the way that the world ought to be? To think about the future and imagine it being different – better than it is currently? Imagine how things could be. This type of thinking could inform our decision-making. Another person who influenced the way I think about decisions is bell hooks. She has also visited DePauw several times, and it was during one of these visits that she said to me, “You know, we don’t talk about love very much anymore.” I thought about that. If we want to talk about an ideal, and there are many that we might model, it seems that we should address love, to talk about compassion. Another of my favorite writers is Karen Armstrong. She writes a lot about love and
compassion, and she does so from a religious context. I always hesitate to bring religion up because I can say, with a smile on my face, that God is having a really hard time these days. We have very aggressive atheists. We also have experienced flagrant problems with organized religion in the past few years. We have witnessed the scandals of child molestation by clergy; we have had public debates about some of the silliest things in the world, such as whether we should ordain gays to the priesthood; we have had vast displays of what I can only classify as ignorance on behalf of many Christians in discussions about our relationship with our Muslim friends after 9/11. All of this represents religion at its worst. However, religion at its best focuses on compassion and on love. It perhaps has some informative influence on the way that we make decisions, such as the virtue that, when making decisions, we should enter generously into another person’s point of view. To illustrate this point, Armstrong reminds us of the “Golden Rule” that some of us learned growing up. According to Armstrong, the idea is not unique to Christians. It actually goes back to 500 BC and the life of Confucius. When Confucius’ disciples asked him what they should practice everyday, he responded by saying, “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you” (Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life). Some people argue that we are just naturally selfish, that anything we do, even if it is a good thing, we do for a pay-off. However, religious traditions argue that compassion is 9
Robert Bottoms and The DePauw reporter as natural as sympathy, that compassion can be the fulfillment of human nature, and that we as human beings have the ability to set our egos aside. In fact, Armstrong argues that there is no doubt that, in the deepest recesses of our minds, we are all selfish. One of the primary reasons that we are all selfish is because parts of our brains are “old brains.” Such “old brains” were bequeathed to us over 500 million years ago from the reptiles; however, over the millennia, we have developed a “new brain” with a neo-cortex, the power of reason, and the ability to stand back from those primitive instincts. From this “new brain,” she asks us to adopt a certain level of “mindfulness.” But what does “mindfulness” mean? According to Armstrong, when making important decisions, being “mindful” requires us to take a step back and become aware of those “old brain” instincts, those selfish things. We can transcend these instincts by teaching our brains to react in different ways. We do not have to be selfish, but rather, through repetitive and disciplined action, we have the ability to construct new habits of thought and feeling. We can transcend that naturally selfish self. Therefore, if we want to be serious about compassion, perhaps we might act in accordance with the following Buddhist poem that Armstrong shares: Let all beings be happy! Weak or strong, of high, middle or low estate, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away, alive or still to be born – May they all be perfectly happy!
Let nobody lie to anybody or despise any single being anywhere. May nobody wish harm to any single creature out of anger or hatred! Let us cherish all creatures, as a mother her only child! May our loving thoughts fill the whole world above, below, across – without limit; our love will know no obstacles – a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred or enmity. Whether we are standing or walking, sitting or lying down, as long as we are awake we should cultivate this love in our heart. This is the noblest way of living. (Armstrong, Twelve Steps, 163) Thus, when making a decision, we will use reason and we will also, at times, be informed by emotion and at other times be corrected by the community. We might enhance this dialogue by also embracing ideals like compassion. But are there not other voices that inform our decisions? The last voice that I will mention is our desire to hear the voice of certainty. At the conclusion of our decisionmaking processes, don’t we also like to know that we are certainly doing the right thing? To me, this is the most annoying voice of all, 10
“If we want reason to dialogue with emotion, if we want to hold our ideals up to the community, don’t we also want our ideals to come into play to inform the kind of reasoning that we do.”
for if we can never be certain, how should we decide? Because we can never be certain, we must use our brains, be informed by emotion and open to community correction, hold steadfast to some of our ideals although they are constantly being questioned and examined, and, finally, strive to do what compassion requires while bearing in mind we will never know whether or not we are certainly correct. The last anecdote I want to share comes from Cornel West, someone who has had a significant influence on me. When I read Cornel West, my idealism truly comes alive. No one can deny that Cornel West is an intellectual. No one can say that he bases his conclusions solely on emotion, nor can they say that he denies correction by the community; nor can they even say that Cornel does not stand up for his ideals. So in closing, I would like to repeat the insight Cornel West shared in a talk that he gave at DePauw several years ago. In his speech, he stated simply, “It takes a lot of courage to interrogate yourself.” And so we have discovered that it truly does. Over the weekend, you will all be searching for an understanding of the ways in which we became so adjusted to injustice. We will search for answers through discussing hate crimes, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and racism, to mention a few. However, it will take courage to try and answer Cornel’s assertion. It takes courage to interrogate oneself. During this process of self-interrogation, we may be shaken and we may begin to believe that after all one idea may not be as good as another. We will be
torn by these “annoying voices,” and we may not simply rid ourselves of the annoying corrections. There are no simple answers. There is no certainty. I want to close tonight’s reflection by asking this: can we go through our lives considering the welfare of others to be just as important as our own welfare? This question is what the Golden Rule is about. It is a radical question, for it implies that we are all equal. And, if we are all equal, then not one of us is privileged over another. We want to be able to live so that we can sleep at night. We would like to be cared for by a community, be loved by a community, and even be corrected by a community. We would like to believe that the principle of compassion somehow is lived out in our lives. Therefore, let us join together to give up a little of ourselves so that others can have a lot. We must not be afraid of the processes that we go through in order to decide what is right and what is wrong. Rather, we must live with these tensions, these “annoying voices,” and we must hope that we are able to act out of compassion. WORKS CONSULTED Armstrong, Karen. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. NYC: Knopf, 2010. Lehrer, Jonah. The Way We Decide. Chicago: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. Neiman, Susan. Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists. NYC: Harcourt, 2008. Sandel, Michael, ed. Justice: A Reader. USA: Oxford University Press, 2007. 11
Shared Respond(ability): Uderstanding Hate Crime from the Perspective of the Injured Alison Bailey, Professor of Philosophy, Illinois State University
A PHILADELPHIA STORY n March 29, 1996 Bridget Ward trudged her family’s belongings into the row house she had just rented on the 2700 block of Eddington Street in Bridesburg, a suburb of Philadelphia. The move was a step up for the 32-year old African American single mother, who had been living in West Philadelphia and wanted a safer place to raise her two daughters. Bridesburg is a remote parochial suburb described by residents as one of “Philadelphia’s best-kept secrets.” Families, mostly of Polish descent, have lived there for generations. Children live around the corner from their parents, and houses are passed from one generation to the next. Bridesburg is a 99 percent white suburb in a city where Blacks make up 39 percent of the population. On the night of her move, Ward heard people marching down her street yelling “burn, motherfucker, burn!” She woke to find “Nigger Leave Now!” scrawled on her house, and ketchup splattered on her steps. Ward’s sister called the police. Within a few hours the press arrived to get the neighbor’s reactions. Most of the media focused on hostile neighbors who saw Ward as a threat to the safety they associated with the suburb where “everyone knew everyone else.” They feared that Bridesburg would “go down the toilet” like other neighborhoods when “people like Bridget” moved in. They expressed worries about their property values. Many residents blamed Bridget for the recent hostilities, telling the press: “She should have known
what to expect,” and “she should have talked to us instead of calling the press.” They held her responsible for the bad press the community was receiving. Other neighbors acted as silent onlookers and feared public criticism if they supported Ward. Only a small handful of residents supported Bridget’s family, offered assistance, and apologized for their neighbor’s ignorance. Two weeks later Ward received an anonymous letter saying, “We fire bombed the lady on Thompson Street and we’ll firebomb your house too. We’ll get your daughters…you better keep them inside.” The crimes against Ward were not unique to the Bridesburg area. An Arab family opening a pizza parlor in Bridesburg received similar treatment the summer earlier. And other African American families received threatening letters when they tried to move into white suburbs. In the end, the police protection, support from City Hall, local churches, the NAACP, and a few community members was not enough. On May 2nd, Bridget walked down her front steps, threw her hands up in the air and told the media “Yes, I’m going to move. Y’all got your neighborhood. You can have it!”
EVERYDAY UNDERSTANDINGS OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR HATE CRIMES: THE LIABILITY MODEL In a series of Philadelphia Daily News interviews, many Bridesburger residents pressed the police to “find those [individuals] responsible for the crimes against Bridget and make them accountable for their actions.” They told reporters that they were not racists, 12
Professor of Philosophy Jennifer Everett introducing Alison Bailey. that the crimes were done by a few bad apples, and that “the community [did not like] to be blamed as a whole for what happened.”1 The tenor of these responses is in keeping with most everyday understandings of how to assign responsibility for harm, or what Iris Marion Young calls the “liability model of moral responsibility.”2 On this model, “An individual (or a collective) is morally responsible for a harm when that individual’s actions produce harm through either an intentional act or through negligence and the individual’s act or omission plays a causal role (direct or proximate) in producing the harm.”3 The literature on moral responsibility has historically taken place at the level of the individual but has been extended to cover collectivities, such as neighborhoods, corporations, and aggregates of individuals. The liability model makes a number of presuppositions about how moral judgments are made in these cases. First, it supposes that a clean line can be drawn between the guilty and innocent parties, implying that blame can be neatly and accurately assigned. When neighborhoods, corporations, or aggregates of individuals are held morally responsible for a particular harm, they are treated as a single entity for the purposes of assigning blame, deciding punishment, and distributing compensation. Next, the liability model is primarily designed to assign moral responsibility to actions that have reached a terminus, that is, to incidents that are over and done with and are unlikely to recur. In addition, because this model is primarily
concerned with assigning blame, moral judgments are backward looking – that is, after the fact, from an evaluator’s perspective – and focus on redressing past wrongs rather than laying the groundwork for preventing future injustices. Finally, the liability model focuses narrowly on events and tends to ignore the role institutionalized racism and community attitudes play in fomenting violence. Now few people would disagree that the parties guilty of terrorizing the Ward family should be held accountable for their actions. The strength of the liability model is in its ability to redress harms simply and efficiently. But despite its immediate usefulness, liability models frame responsibility in ways that maintain the invisibility of the systemic nature of racism. This narrow focus is problematic for a few reasons. First, the model fails to explore what most feminists and critical race theorists understand as obvious differences between hate crimes and random crimes such as burglaries. The liability model overlooks the important fact that racially motivated violence has systemic and cultural backing. To fully address the harms resulting from crimes such as rape, gay bashing and racially motivated violence, an account of responsibility must look beyond the moral moment of that crime. These are not isolated events that are over and done with. If we understand racism, sexism and homophobia as complex systems of domination that are institutionally created, culturally nourished, and not irreducible to a few bad apples’ actions, then it makes sense to 13
“They feared that Bridesburg would ‘go down the toilet’ like other neighborhoods when ‘people like Bridget’ moved in.”
re-frame moral responsibility in ways that not only hold individual perpetrators responsible, but also take into account social practices such as red lining Philadelphia suburbs, white peoples’ fear that people of color will ruin one of Philadelphia’s best kept secrets, and Bridesburg’s historically white demographic. We need to consider how these variables increase the risks of racial violence.
unlike liability views, shared responsibility calls attention to the ways that group actions and attitudes produce harm. Here, the focus is on how each person, or community member, interacts with others, rather than how each person acts as an isolated agent.4 Finally, shared responsibility has two dimensions. Like the liability model, May acknowledges that assigning responsibility is backward looking and is concerned with the harms that perpetrators cause either intentionally or by acts of omission. Unlike the liability model, May also acknowledges that responsibility, like virtue, is forward-looking and should take into account the development of those character traits, attitudes, and dispositions – such as sensitivity, tolerance, patience, understanding, and kindness – that are needed to minimize future harm.5 In the backward-looking sense, the word “sharing” is synonymous with dividing, allotting, or parceling out. May wants to retain this sense of responsibility. But the most promising feature of his view is the forward-looking account of how individuals are responsible for those character-based attitudes and dispositions that increase the risks of community violence. This dimension differs from the liability model because it expands responsibility beyond actions and intentions to cover affective states. Some will find this move distressing because they may feel that holding people accountable for their character development or affective states stretches responsibility to the point of meaninglessness. Nevertheless, May’s insights are worth
LARRY MAY’S SHARED RESPONSIBILITY: Larry May’s account of shared responsibility offers a promising alternative. In his chapter, “Shared Responsibility and Racist Attitudes,” May extends accountability to include a shared moral responsibility for harms even when a person neither intends the harm nor is causally connected to it. May’s basic argument is that community members ought to conceive of their moral and political responsibilities as shared; that is, we should learn to see ourselves as being partially responsible for harms perpetuated by or occurring in the groups of which we are members. The cases he considers involve situations where it makes sense to divide responsibility unevenly among members of a group or community, rather than to hold individual perpetrators or groups entirely morally responsible. Shared responsibility does not depend on the existence of a cohesive group such as a corporation, an army, or a food cooperative. Shared responsibility treats groups as aggregates; that is, as collections of particular individuals grouped together. And, 14
Alison Bailey exploring. In some instances, he thinks that community members’ shared attitudes contribute to a climate that increases the risks of violence. He explains: In discussing harmful attitudes, I’m not interested in what may be described as mere thoughts. Attitudes are not mere cognitive states, but they are also affective states in which a person is, under normal circumstances, moved to behave in various ways as a result of having a particular attitude…. [Attitudes such as racism] can have an effect similar to that produced by a careless parent. Those who have racist attitudes…create a climate in which harm is more likely to occur.6 Bridesburgers exhibit insensitive attitudes when they say things like “I’m uncomfortable with them coming into my community and experimenting with my investment,” or “I know it’s against the law to refuse to rent to Black families, but if they get out, then that’s fine.” By maintaining a cultural climate that fears families of color, regards them with suspicion, and discourages them from moving to the community, Bridesburgers participate in something analogous to a joint venture that increases the likelihood that any minority family moving to the area will be greeted violently. Insofar as Bridesburgers make no effort to reduce the risks of violence by acknowledging and examining their attitudes, May thinks they demonstrate a kind of moral recklessness. So, understanding responsibility
as shared will encourage community members to develop an increased sensitivity to both their affective and non-affective contributions to community harms. The hope is that some may feel ashamed or tainted by their connections to the harm and seek to reconcile differences in the future. May suggests that blame, punishment, and shame for what has occurred may motivate community members to act differently in the future.7 The forwardlooking dimension of shared responsibility is a promising resource for thinking about cases like Bridesburg. Broadening responsibility to cover character traits and attitudes gives May’s account greater explanatory power. Yet I think that shared responsibility suffers from several shortcomings that weaken it as a resource for understanding the complexity of community responsibility for hate crimes. SHARED RESPOND(ABILITY): May rejects the liability model, but his account still buys into the conceptual framework of that model; that is, he retains the language, concepts, and questions generated by the literature on collective responsibility and its strong focus on isolating those who are blameworthy. This, in and of itself, is not unusual. Philosophical projects exploring traditional topics from new angles almost always inherit some conceptual baggage from earlier conversations, but that baggage is not without political consequences. The problem with shared responsibility is this: like the liability model, it has an asymmetrical character that focuses almost 15
“Members of privileged groups are reluctant to examine their character flaws by learning to see themselves through the eyes of the harmed.”
exclusively on the behaviors and attitudes of community members who contribute to community violence. When shared agency is defined in terms of one’s contributions to harm, then the anger, frustration, fears and concerns of those harmed – like the Ward family – are pushed to the background. If responsibility for racial violence is framed as a question of understanding how community members’ affective states and actions may have contributed to harming the Ward family by increasing the risk, then the focus is on white people’s actions and how they might take responsibility in ways that restore their status as “good white people.” When conversations are framed in ways that cast only contributors as responsible agents, then Bridget’s voice is difficult to hear. The conversation becomes one-sided: white Bridesburgers are in charge of assigning blame, and Ward is positioned as a bystander waiting for their decision. This troubles me: the “shared” in “shared responsibility for” hate crimes isolates white Bridesburgers from Ward. When it comes to exploring responsibility across racial difference, shared responsibility is just as non-interactive as liability views. By framing the conversation in terms of the connections among agent’s attitudes, actions and harms, shared responsibility obscures an important piece of the community dynamic. It foregrounds the moral agency of harm producers and harm contributors. Framing moral responsibility in this way focuses on white folks’ attitudes making it easy to explore the interactions between harm producers (e.g.
the vandals and letter writers) and the harm contributors (e.g. bystanders or bad attitude holders). This approach makes it difficult to explore the interactions between the harm contributors and those harmed. Bridget’s concerns are either obscured completely or made visible only through the observations and reactions of the harm contributors. Shared responsibility is motivated by and is in response to the sense of shame and taint that white Bridesburgers feel in the wake of the hate crimes, rather than from a genuine concern with the fear, frustration and anger that Ward and her family experience. The only affective states that enter into the equation are white Bridesbergers’ insensitivity to the racial dynamics of their community. When our motivation for preventing future harms is driven by shame, then the forward-looking dimension of shared responsibility is weak: it privileges white Bridesburgers’ self-focused concerns over any genuine concern for Bridget’s experiences. Claudia Card’s observations on oppression and responsibility get at the basic sticking point here: what it means to take responsibility varies with one’s social location. To understand this, Card asks us to consider “what emerges when we look forward and up, toward the future from the standpoint of those [like Bridget] struggling to put their lives together.”8 From this perspective, shared responsibility is complicated by the moral damage Bridget and others have sustained through the constant wear and tear of daily injustices. One reason May’s framework 16
makes it difficult to engage Bridget’s anger and fear is that – despite its forward-looking dimension – shared responsibility is conceived from a perspective that looks forward and down! Although May makes a clean epistemic shift away from what many philosophers refer to as the “view from nowhere,” there is still a sense in which the perspective beneath shared responsibility is privileged. It is constructed from the perspective of white Bridesburgers who may frame their understanding of responsibility from a privileged downward looking “here” which, as I will argue, is shaped by “feeling at home” in their suburb. The nature of the privileged “forward and down” moral perspective is best described in Maria Lugones’s “world”-travel vocabulary. Bridesburg counts as a world in this sense. When we “world”-travel we experience “being-at-ease” in social spaces populated by people who share our experiences and histories. We also share being “ill-at-ease” in worlds that construct us in ways we do not recognize. Bridget’s move to Bridesburg is a move to a world where she is ill at ease, where arrogant eyes construct her as a threat to property values. White Bridesburgers already inhabit a world in which they are at ease almost all of the time. Most moral agents construct their understanding of responsibility from the moral perspective of worlds in which they are at ease. This alone is not problematic. Difficulties arise when we insist that our definitions of concepts like responsibility, shame, or blameworthiness are not world dependent and can be easily extended to
cover the experiences of persons who, like Bridget, are ill-at-ease in the new community. Shared responsibility is “world” dependent: the moral point of view it encourages mirrors more closely the experiences of those who feel “at home” or “at ease” in the community. Two themes in May’s work suggest this. First, when we think about Bridesburg using the shared responsibility model, the agency, the affective states and actions of white contributors are foregrounded and resolutions are aimed partially at restoring White residents’ sense of goodness. Because outsiders, like Bridget, do not share responsibility for the ways they are constructed in worlds where they are ill-at-ease, Bridget only becomes visible through discussions of how white Bridesburgers can (in forward-looking ways) learn to understand the effects their affective states have on the actions of others. This focus on white people’s behavior makes Ward and her family the object of conversation rather than discussants in that conversation. This is not just another wrinkle in the old problem of how to divide responsibility; it raises important questions about who gets to speak and who gets to judge. Next, May’s account of how contributors ought to develop a moral sensitivity to the conditions that contribute to racial violence is uni-directional, non-interactive. Shared responsibility is “world”-dependent because it requires white Bridesburgers to be aware of how their affective states, prejudices, and understandings of Bridget work to increase risks of violence. The challenge 17
Alison Bailey here is not with cultivating sensitivity to harm per se; rather it is with May’s unidirectional description of the nature of this sensitivity; white community members are encouraged to keep tabs on how they see and make sense of the Ward family. However, shared responsibility has no provisions for encouraging whites to explore how Bridget might see them or how she might be angered by their self-focused efforts to fix things. “Responsibility,” Linda Bell reminds us, “extends to the way in which one is seen by others and to one’s being as an inert presence in the world.”9 But understanding responsibility in these terms requires a great deal of work. As Maria Lugones suggests, being in the foreground is important to white people’s being integrated and responsible decision makers. As she remarks, “Your sense of responsibility and decision making capacity are tied to being able to say exactly who it is that did what, and that person must be one and have a will in good working order. And you are very keen on seeing yourself as a decision maker, a responsible being: It gives you substance.”10 And members of privileged groups are reluctant to examine their character flaws by learning to see themselves through the eyes of the harmed. Sensitivity to Ward’s pain and anger requires more than examining your attitudes; it requires learning to see yourself as others see you. Now there is nothing about May’s view that would exclude him from developing a stronger interactive forward-looking view.
But his failure to consider the details of the interactions between harm contributors and those harmed suggests that the white Bridesburgers’ worlds are shaped by what Marilyn Frye might call a whitely “view from here.” The forward-and downward looking dimension of shared responsibility is, I think, restricted by Lugones’s earlier observation that whites desire to see ourselves as decision makers and our failure as decision makers to be keenly attentive to what our interactions might reveal. So, I think we need a sense of responsibility that both makes the voices of the harmed audible while considering the interactive nature of responsibility. SHARED RESPOND(ABILITY): AN ALTERNATIVE TO MAY’S VIEW Margaret Walker once observed that an “alternative [moral] epistemology…will not be one of individuals standing singly before the impersonal dicta of morality, but one of human beings connected in various ways and at various depths responding to each other by engaging together in a search for shareable interpretations of their responsibilities, and/ or bearable resolutions to their moral binds.”11 I want to preserve the participatory use of sharing that May highlights in his forwardlooking dimension of responsibility but in a way that avoids the non-interactive baggage he inherits from liability views. Following Walker’s call for us to “engag[e] together in a search for shareable interpretations of [our] responsibilities,” I’ve been thinking about how to re-conceptualize shared responsibility 18
“Questions of responsibility should be driven by more than the desire to accurately identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
in ways that avoid May’s forward and down perspective. Although I’m not prepared to offer a full-blown theory, I do have a few suggestions about the sorts of issues community members should consider when thinking about their “accountability for” and “responses to” community violence. I realize this is a difficult task since listening to what the harmed have to say is just what privileged groups have historically had difficulty doing. Questions of responsibility should be driven by more than the desire to accurately identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. They should entertain the possibility of bringing about “shareable interpretations and bearable resolutions to our moral binds.”12 We need an open-ended account of responsible action that constructs responsibility not only in terms of liability (certainly perpetrators should be brought to justice), but also with an eye toward how community members might respond to harm regardless of each member’s contributions. The concern that responsibility continues to be crafted as an ethics of liability and control is one reason why some feminists have traded the language of responsibility for one of responsiveness. I find it helpful to think about community responses to hate crimes in terms of shared respond(abilty), which asks us to consider accountability along non-causal, forward-looking lines. Shared respond(ability) emphasizes that community members must take a practical interest not only in determining how they respond to guilty parties, but also how they should respond to
those harmed. Understanding our responses requires being attentive to the worlds from which we make our moral judgments. It means being honest about the character of our communities and how local cultures shape our identities as moral agents. It means we have to leave the worlds in which we are comfortable and to ask: How does this community appear from Bridget’s perspective? How can we begin community dialogue on hate crimes in ways that center the voices of the harmed? How can white Bridesburgers learn to hear Bridget’s voice? How can we avoid white folks’ strong desire to move this painful conversation in the direction of restoring the image whites have of themselves as morally responsible good people who can bring about justice. Shared Respond(ability) has a strong forward-looking dimension that asks community members to resist the tendency to end conversations once perpetrators are caught, and, more importantly, to strategize ways of acting that not only bring about justice, but lay the groundwork for preventing future harms. Harriet Goldhor Lerhner captures the dimension I have in mind when she suggests that we set aside liability and collectively working toward “the ability to observe ourselves and others in interaction and to respond to a familiar situation in a new and different way.”13
“A week later six homes and a church displaying a menorah were vandalized, but the community redoubled their efforts, and soon, 10,000 homes displayed the menorah. The crimes stopped.”
SHARED RESPOND(ABILITY): NOT IN OUR TOWN ACTIONS IN BILLINGS, MONTANA The case of Billings, Montana illustrates Lerhner’s point. Billings is a town of about 84,000 residents bordering the Crow Indian Reservation in south central Montana. In the 1990s the town experienced a wave of hate crimes later attributed to Aryan Nation groups whose literature made it clear that they set out to racially purify the northwest by any means necessary. Their threats were followed by violent incidents. “Nuke Israel” posters appeared on the synagogue and Jewish gravesites were desecrated. Ku Klux Klan flyers were stuffed in local newspapers. A local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church was defaced, Dawn Fasthorse’s home was vandalized, and a brick was thrown through Tammy Schnitzer’s window where a Chanukah menorah was displayed. After the first few incidents, members of the Human Rights Commission and concerned citizens met to strategize responses. They decided that doing nothing was morally equivalent to creating an environment where racial and anti-Semitic violence would only escalate, so they encouraged all members of the community to visibly stand in support with those harmed. So that at every step of harassment and intimidation, more community support is manifest for those targeted. In a simple act of non-violent jujitsu – every act directed at a particular target elicited a stronger community support for that person or group. When skinheads showed up
at the AME church, citizens showed up at the church in record numbers the following week. When anti-Indian graffiti appeared on Dawn Fasthorse’s home, the local painter’s union volunteered to restore the home. When the Schnitzer family’s home was attacked, the Billings Gazette ran the story on the front page, printed full-page color menorah, and encouraged citizens to display it. A week later six homes and a church displaying the menorah were vandalized, but the community redoubled their efforts, and soon 10,000 homes displayed the menorah. The crimes stopped. Billings is more diverse than Bridesburg and perhaps this is why their response was more forward-looking and relational. I’m not suggesting that Billings’ shared response to the hate crimes should serve as a ready-made solution for responses in other communities. It will not. Instead, I offer it as a clear illustration of how one community came to understand how taking responsibility for hate crimes by moving beyond liability and toward responses that are both forward-looking, in the sense that they are aimed at preventing future harms; and, interactive, in the sense that the community acted with and not independently of those harmed. By directing their collective energy and resources into pro-active responses, instead of responses that seek to vilify and distancing residents from the perpetrators, they were able to work with those harmed in a way that sent a message to the perpetrators that their acts of violence would not be tolerated. 20
Billings, Montana. Photo: courtesy of Not In Our Town. Shared respond(ability), then, requires a more elastic view that ties action not only to individual contributions but also to community responses that creatively lay the groundwork for long-lasting social change. Shared respond(ability) does not ask white people to restore justice and order in the name of those harmed. It is shared in the sense that it invites participation from all corners of the community, and encourages everyone, but especially white folks, to respond to hate crimes with what Marilyn Frye calls “loving perception.” The loving perceiver does not see the other as a constant threat or as someone who is there to fulfill all of her desires. As Frye explains: “The loving eye knows the independence of the other…. It is the eye of one who knows that to know the seen, one must consult something other than
one’s own will and interests and fears and imagination. One must look and listen and check and question.”14 Liability models and shared responsibility don’t do this. Instead they privilege “getting things right” and “fixing harms” over looking, listening, checking and questioning. As a forward-looking view, shared respond(ability) positions community members as vulnerable subjects who are open to taking risks, making mistakes, and breaking old habits – even if this means that we may have to redirect our energies away from “finding the people who did this and punishing them,” and toward “responding to a familiar situation in a new and different way.” What if the Ward family had moved into a community with this understanding of responsibility as part of its community culture?
1. Myoung Oak Kim, “Bridesburg Don’t Smear Us,” Philadelphia Daily News, April 10, 1996, 6.
9. Linda Bell, Rethinking Ethics in the Midst of Violence: A Feminist Approach to Freedom (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993), 214.
2. Iris Marion Young, “Responsibility and Global Labor Justice,” Journal of Political Philosophy 12, no. 4 (2004): 368.
10. Maria C. Lugones, “On the Logic of Pluralist Feminism” in Pilgrimages/ Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalitions against Multiple Oppressions (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), 73.
3. Ibid. 4. Larry May, Sharing Responsibility (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 38.
11. Margaret Walker, “Moral Understanding: Alternative ‘Epistemology’ for Feminist Ethics,” Hypatia 4, no. 2 (1989): 20.
12. Ibid., 20.
6. Ibid., 46.
13. Harriet Goldhor Lerhner, The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 14.
7. Ibid., 38. 8. Claudia Card, The Unnatural Lottery: Character and Moral Luck (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 16.
14. Marilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1983), 75.
The Pursuit of Justification: Ethical Implications of Gene Therapy Justin Baker, Student, Loyola University Chicago
he field of genetic engineering contains a muddled mass of ethical dilemmas so vast it will take years to wade through all of them. However, one area of genetic engineering is particularly relevant to modern science and society alike. As the science of gene therapy improves, it is imperative that the ethical implications and the social and biological repercussions be discussed. It is crucial to understand that while gene therapy could be one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine, it could also be one of the most destructive if applied incorrectly. On September 14, 1990, Ashanti DeSilva began a never-before-seen procedure in an attempt to cure her SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency), more commonly known as Boy in the Bubble Syndrome.1 During this procedure, white blood cells were extracted from her body and infected with a retrovirus carrying copies of the healthy gene she needed to have a healthy immune system. These “infected” white blood cells were then injected back into her body. The infection spread through her blood stream, infecting the rest of her white blood cells with the new gene and manipulating their genetic code, allowing them to function as healthy leukocytes.2 This basic application of the budding science of gene therapy proved to be a great success, and Ashanti’s immune system made a steady ascent into normalcy. However, not all gene therapy procedures were met with as much success as Ashanti’s, and over the next
ten years the innovative science faced slow progress and steep opposition in response to its relatively unsuccessful track record throughout the rest of the nineties. Even Dr. W. French Anderson, Ashanti DeSilva’s physician and the man often heralded as “the father of gene therapy,” expressed his doubt by saying that many scientists “came to realize that nothing was really working at the clinical level.”3 The opposition to the application of gene therapy technologies was accentuated and publicized by the death of Jesse Gelsinger, who had a mild genetic disorder affecting his liver function and who died after volunteering for a gene therapy trial in 1999.4 Gene therapy has proven to be a complex science with even more complex and ethically perplexing applications. In order to clear up any misconceptions about the mechanical process of gene therapy, it is necessary to briefly describe how the mechanisms of gene therapy operate. The science of inserting a gene into a cell relies heavily on the use of vectors. A vector is scientifically defined as “an organism that transmits pathogens from one host to another.”5 In the case of gene therapy, the organism is whatever is being employed to carry the gene into the cell, while the pathogen is the gene that is being carried into the cell. In essence, the vector is the bus that the “passenger” genes ride into the cell. The vector is utilized to insert a healthy gene into the cell to replace or augment the function of 23
Figure 1. Gene Therapy Using an Adenovirus Vector
an unhealthy, dysfunctional gene. Usually these vectors are viruses, most commonly retroviruses or adenoviruses that have been modified to be used safely for the purposes of genetic transfer.6 Viruses are often used because they possess the unique ability to differentiate between different types of cells and insert the genetic material into specific cells.7 These viruses carry the healthy gene into the target cells that contain the dysfunctional gene and replace the dysfunctional gene with the code for the healthy gene that is located inside the body of the virus (Figure 1). This can happen several different ways. Some viruses, including the retrovirus, insert their own DNA along with the new gene directly into the chromosome, while other viruses, such as the adenovirus, merely insert the new gene into the cell’s nucleus.8 The virus then reproduces and spreads throughout the body, repeatedly infecting new cells with the modified healthy gene. Between the spread of the healthy gene by the virus and the natural reproduction of the now healthy9 genes, the human genome is slowly repaired. Here and now in the twenty first century, the FDA has not approved any gene therapy products for use by the general public.10 However, over the past twenty years the number of new gene therapy trials has steadily risen, and the number of publications relating to the field of gene therapy has skyrocketed.11 Perhaps best demonstrating the wide availability of the inner processes and workings of genetic manipulation are
a collection of books called the Springer Protocols that provide students and researchers with reproducible laboratory experiments and procedures pertaining to most life sciences. The volume most relevant to gene therapy is titled Transgenesis Techniques: Principles and Protocols and begins by saying “One of the major challenges currently facing the scientific community is to understand the function of the 20,000 to 25,000 protein-coding genes.… This book details the transgenic techniques that are currently used to modify the genome in order to extend our understanding of the in vivo function of these genes.”12 The book then goes on to provide 21 fully developed lab techniques directly involving or on the subject of genetic manipulation of model organisms such as flies, zebrafish and mice. With the increase in research and development of the medical science of gene therapy, there comes a need for the further discussion and dissection of the ethical issues concerned with pursuing this science and its application to humans. As gene therapy becomes more developed and is used to treat a greater number of patients, the most relevant ethical concern will become one of justice. There are several ethical concerns that fall under the category of justice, beginning with accessibility to treatment. The therapeutic procedures involved in gene therapy use some of the most modern medical technology available and, therefore, prove to be unbelievably expensive. Needless to say, when these treatments become approved for use by the general public, only the very upper financial class will be able to afford them. This 24
Justin Baker, center, with Maura Metcalf-Kelly and Robert Zilinyi. implies that patients with the same diseases in the same institutions who only differ in terms of economic status will not have access to treatment for the same procedures, which is a direct violation of the principle of justice.13 This violation of justice is only the very tip of the iceberg; financial difference plays a much bigger role than just an immediate difference in access to treatment. As gene therapy becomes a more popular treatment option, serious social discriminations may be enacted against those unable to afford treatment. For example, if a person is identified as having a treatable genetic disease but cannot afford treatment, a new window of opportunity is opened for insurance companies to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. Despite the fact that the new healthcare bill disallows insurance companies to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, an insurance company could easily argue that a treatable condition should not be included in this ruling; consequently, those with conditions such as SCID and other conditions that have proven treatable will still not be able to receive health insurance. In his book The Healing of America, T.R. Reid creates an analogy where income directly affects a person’s chances of receiving necessary medical treatment. Reid describes a case of two women, both afflicted with ovarian cancer, whose differences in income dictate how and when they receive treatment, the type of treatment they receive, and ultimately whether they are cured of the
disease or become terminally ill. The woman who is saved is the CEO of a prosperous company. Because of her wealth and top-ofthe-line health insurance, the cancer is caught early on, and she is given hasty treatment. The other woman is a maid by day and irons shirts at a laundromat by night. Because she cannot afford a $400 annual doctor’s visit, let alone the $55,000 treatment necessary to save her life, her disease is not caught in time to be cured, and she is sent away with nothing more than painkillers to ease her passing.14 This same analogy can apply to how the treatment of genetic diseases with gene therapy will be dictated; even if a person’s disease is identified as treatable, like the second woman’s, he or she will not be able to afford treatment and will subsequently suffer because of the inability to pay for expensive medical procedures. Another repercussion of unjust treatment resulting from economic status would be a massive widening of the social classes, creating a whole new form of racism against those who are “genetically inferior.” In fact, this new racism would be the only scientifically and biologically supported definition of race because of the quantifiable genetic differences between the genetic classes. Like Pre-Civil Rights America, it is completely realistic to think that job opportunities, social status, income, and a whole other host of social factors would be decided by the genomes of individuals rather than the ambitions and work ethic of individuals. This scenario depicts a future where gene therapy can be used to modify any gene 25
“It is crucial to understand that while gene therapy could be one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine, it could also be one of the most destructive if applied incorrectly.”
to affect an unnatural superiority among the genetically modified. Such an idea is no longer science fiction; for years there have been many well-documented cases of this kind of procedure being performed on model organisms, like mice and flies. For example, a scientist named Masaru Okabe, working out of the biology labs at Osaka University in Japan, successfully identified a method through which he could inject a jellyfish gene into lab mice. This gene coded for the production of a protein called green fluorescence protein. Once injected with this protein, nearly every cell of the mouse’s body, save its blood cells, sperm cells and hair, glowed fluorescent green when exposed to blue light.15 This occurred because once injected with the jellyfish gene, the mouse’s cells were able to produce the fluorescent protein, despite the fact that the gene coding for them was from a completely different organism. Most shocking about this narrative is the fact that this experiment was not conducted recently; Okabe made this discovery in the fall of 1997. Since that time, genetic engineering technologies have improved and advanced dramatically; performing these kinds of procedures on humans is well within the bounds of current scientific technology. In fact, by inserting genes into fertilized, pre-zygotic eggs in vitro and allowing those eggs to grow naturally and develop into a human baby, it is conceivable that scientists could create an entirely new breed of superior homo sapien, one possessing whatever traits were given to
it through genetic modification. In his book Remaking Eden, Dr. Lee M. Silver, professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, exactly describes this event, stating that the humans who have undergone genetic modification for generations (the GenRich class) and the humans who have reproduced naturally (the Normal class) would become “entirely separate species with no ability to crossbreed, and with as much romantic interest in each other as a current human would have for a chimpanzee.”16 This soon leads to a debate of beneficence. Beauchamp and Childress describe “beneficence” as an action of mercy or kindness toward another person, including concepts such as altruism, humanity and love, as well as most other actions intended to benefit others, under the umbrella of beneficent ideas. They further define the principle of beneficence as “[referring] to a moral obligation to act for the benefit of others.”17 Using gene therapy to cure disease is beneficent for the patient because it treats a specific, frequently life-threatening condition that cannot be treated except by altering the patient’s genetic code. But can altering a person’s genome to create a genetically superior being be considered beneficent or is this a purely cosmetic act that could be harmful to the individual and to society? I will argue that beneficence does not extend to cosmetic genetic modification for two distinct reasons, one social and one biological. Human innovation stems from diversity in socio-cultural perspective; when a group 26
“As gene therapy becomes more developed and is used to treat a greater number of patients, the most relevant ethical concern will become one of justice.”
of people come together to create, whether it be to create political policy or technological advancement, each person’s ideas are shaped by his or her own personal education and life experiences. In a world where all the influential members of society are genetically modified to be superior beings and are, therefore, raised in the same socio-cultural setting, this diversity would not exist. Society might become static; there would be no social evolution among humans, which would damage us as a thriving species. Ruut Veenhoven, professor of social conditions for human happiness at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and director of the World Database of Happiness, suggests that a major factor contributing to improvements in quality of life “is in the increased freedom in modern individualized society. The social system allows us more opportunity to choose and we have also become more capable of making choices which, taken together, has increased our chance that we will live a life that fits our individual needs.”18 Based on this analysis, it is reasonable then to infer that decreasing freedom and limiting the opportunities for people to fulfill their individual needs will have a reciprocal effect on human social success, i.e. the progress in quality of life will begin to break down and eventually cease altogether. Some would say that since gene therapy is a biological manipulation of human structure and function, it is in our best interest to perform these procedures in the name of scientific progress. However, these
people would be overlooking some very basic concepts of evolution, the driving force behind the creation of the twenty-first century human genome. Our genome is the result of millions of years of natural selection of the traits best suited for our environment. If we begin to manipulate these traits, we will expose ourselves to environmental stimuli that our current genes may be protecting us from. Moreover, if we modify our genes with the same standard modifications, we open ourselves up to a catastrophic scenario: the possibility that a single plague that amends a standard modified section of the genes could wipe out the entire modified population. This could be referred to as a synthetic founder effect: a select group of people breaks off from the population and creates an entirely new population with only their limited genetic diversity. This is understandably dangerous, especially for a volatile species like humans, who are already susceptible to a host of diseases, genetic and otherwise. Gene therapy is a brilliant technology that could benefit multitudes of people who have a chance to be cured through the replacement of their damaged genes. But if this technology is used for purposes other than conventional medicine, the consequences will likely be severe. It is imperative that we fully consider all the ethical, social and biological implications of these technologies on our society as a whole before they are approved for general use and before the use of them gets out of hand.
1. Larry Thompson, “Human Gene Therapy: Harsh Lessons, High Hopes,” FDA Consumer Magazine, 2000.
www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/ CellularGeneTherapyProducts/default.htm. 11. Michael L. Edelstein et al., “Gene Therapy Clinical Trials Worldwide 1989-2004 – An Overview,” The Journal of Gene Medicine 597 (2004): 598-599. http://onlinelibrary. wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgm.619/pdf.
2. Jennifer A. Parks and Victoria S. Wike, Bioethics in a Changing World (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010), 441. 3. Pete Shanks, Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics and the Very Perplexed (New York: Nation Books, 2005), 133.
12. Elizabeth J. Cartwright, ed., Transgenesis Techniques: Principles and Protocols, 3rd ed. (New York: Humana Press, 2009), 3.
4. Parks and Wike, Changing World, 492.
13. Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2001), 225.
5. Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece, Biology, 8th ed. (San Francisco, CA: Pearson, 2008), G-38.
14. T.R. Reid, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (New York: Penguin, 2009), 205.
6. “How Does Gene Therapy Work?” U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://ghr.nlm. nih.gov/handbook/therapy/procedures.
15. “Glowing Green Rodents,” Discover Magazine, 1997.
7. “Gene Therapy for Cancer: Questions and Answers,” National Cancer Institute, www. cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/gene.
16. Lee M. Silver, Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World (New York: Avon, 1997), 240-241.
8. “How Does Gene Therapy Work?” U.S. National Library of Medicine. 9. There has been some question over what can be considered “healthy” in the philosophical context. For the purposes of this paper, “healthy” will be defined as “naturally functioning,” i.e. the replacement gene is now able to code for the protein or proteins that the original gene was not able to code for. The discussion of “what is healthy” should be reserved for another analytic paper all in itself.
17. Beauchamp and Childress, Principles,
18. Ruut Veenhoven, “Life is Getting Better: Societal Evolution and Fit with Human Nature,” Social Indicators Research (2010): 120. OTHER WORKS CONSULTED “Gene Therapy,” U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, http://www.ornl. gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/ medicine/genetherapy.shtml.
10. “Cellular and gene therapy products,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http:// 28
The Ethics of Short-Term Medical Aid Jennifer Behrens, Student, DePauw University
very year, many Americans choose to donate some of their resources to fulfill a desire to “help people.” Albeit a cliché, vast amounts of money, time, and personnel are sent overseas on this notion. Particularly criticized is the mobilization of individuals to provide medical aid to underserved populations on a short-term basis. There is nothing intrinsic to the concept of short-term medical aid that makes it unethical. Nevertheless, in light of the vast amount of this type of work that is done, it is reasonable to consider the effectiveness and appropriateness of these efforts. When making these considerations, it is helpful to rely on the principles set forth in American medical ethics. By thoughtfully considering the implications that these ethical principles have for short-term medical aid, disastrous outcomes can be avoided and effective aid can be delivered to those who need it. A brief segment of the evening news is enough to demonstrate that inequality exists all around us. As America wrestles to reform its health care system, the issues of rights and accessibility to health care swirl through the media. A closer look reveals that the problem of inequality in health care is not merely a domestic issue. News of natural disasters, warfare, and poor infrastructure abroad carry with them stories of inadequate healthcare on an international level. Ronald Munson, a professional bioethicist, responds to such differences in the accessibility and effectiveness of medical treatments by stating, “In a society committed to fairness, no one
questions in principle that we must be sure that disadvantaged groups receive a just allocation of society’s [medical] resources.”1 Although some Americans are choosing to fight for the rights of disadvantaged groups within our own national boundaries, others are living out this commitment to fairness by striving to meet the medical needs of disadvantaged groups around the globe. Arguments for fairness and equality come in all shapes and sizes, as do the groups of people they convince and motivate. Whether compelled by old-fashioned American values, the often-called “extreme” views of Peter Singer,2 or the words of Jesus3 and other religious figures, Americans from all walks of life temporarily abandon their lives at home with the goal of providing medical aid to those abroad. Many of these adventures are merely weeks long, often planned by religious organizations and school groups. The individuals making such treks may have medical backgrounds, but such backgrounds are not necessarily a requirement for inclusion. While performing their duties, some volunteers uphold the same strict standards of medical ethics that are expected in America. Others, however, do not always uphold such standards, often to the detriment of the original purpose of their work. Munson describes American medical ethics as resting on four basic principles, all of which are echoed in the Hippocratic Oath. The first, the Principle of Nonmaleficence, is perhaps the most oft-quoted when discussing medical ethics and duties. This principle, 29
Jennifer Behrens as modernized by Munson, requires us “to act in ways that do not cause needless harm and injury to others.”4 This foremost principle encompasses the refusal to do anything intentionally injurious to others. Also included is a commitment to minimize any avoidable harm, reducing it to zero when possible. Munson discusses this principle at length, mentioning specifically the necessity of establishing some “reasonable standards of performance” in the medical field.5 In America, such standards are enforced through various types of licensing or credentialing of professionals in the medical or medicallyrelated fields. These standards function to “ensur[e] that physicians and others have acquired at least a minimum level of knowledge, skill, and experience before undertaking the responsibilities attached to their roles.”6 Allowing someone without said experience and skill to perform medical procedures has great potential to introduce the harm this principle intends to avoid. In addition to preventing harm, American medical ethics also stresses that medical professionals help their patients. Munson summarizes this principle, known as the Principle of Beneficence, in the following way: “We should act in ways that promote the welfare of other people. That is, we should help other people when we are able to do so.”7 The debate about the duty of all individuals to act for the benefit of others can be left to Singer and his fellow philosophers. However, in a medical context, this principle is more of an imperative. The duty of a medical
professional is always to act in the best interest of the patient, curing that patient’s ills when possible and making him or her comfortable when a cure is impossible. The third principle, the Principle of Distributive Justice, demands that medical practitioners act with fairness and equality in all dealings. In the medical context, this means “similar cases ought to be treated in similar ways.”8 Any difference in the way similar cases are prioritized or subsequently treated must be rooted in some difference among the cases. Several theories attempt to explain the differences that may justify special treatment for some. For example, some theories posit that an individual’s contributions to society may render him or her more deserving of treatment than others. Finally, in addition to the three principles already listed, Munson also considers the Principle of Utility. This principle, the basis of utilitarian philosophy, prescribes that “we should act in such a way as to bring about the greatest benefit and the least harm.”9 In medicine, this principle encourages workers to do the most good with the resources available. However, this principle does not necessarily have precedence over the others; nonmaleficence and beneficence must also be considered. For example, Munson argues that “we would never think it was justified to deprive someone of a right, even if by doing so we could bring benefit to many others.”10 Thus, the violation of an individual’s rights, or perhaps even neglect of his or her needs, is considered a much greater harm than the 30
“How many ‘utilitarian points’ are gained by the project when it guarantess a healthy childhood to a formerly ill child?”
good the redirected resources would bring as benefit. In America and other developed nations, it is commonplace to demand physicians and other medical professionals to act within the confines of these principles at all times. Although often neglected, these medical principles hold true for all interactions between patients and those acting in a medical capacity, regardless of the location of an interaction. If it can be argued, as it often is, that all humans are equal and are equally deserving of certain rights and goods in life, then it also can be argued that all patients equally possess certain rights as well. One of these rights is the right to be under the care of medical professionals who act ethically, following the principles described above. In a presentation given in Berlin in 2009, Dr. Paul Bouvier of the International Committee of the Red Cross asserted that medical ethics hold true regardless of the situation: “Medical ethics in times of armed conflict is identical to medical ethics in times of peace.”11 While Bouvier speaks only of times of warfare, his point can be paralleled to any situation, including natural disasters and prolonged humanitarian crises. In each situation, medicine depends on the aforementioned ethical principles to “protect the life and health [of the patient] and to provide assistance.”12 This purpose describes the fulfillment of the Principles of Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. To best fulfill this duty of protection and assistance, one may rely on a system
of utilitarian calculations to decide which short-term aid projects are most worthwhile. Speaking of international aid in general, Thomas Pogge provides four basic guidelines for deciding which forms of international aid efforts are most worthwhile and should, therefore, be carried out. His principles are: A. Other things (including cost) being equal, it is morally more important to protect a person from greater serious harm than from lesser. B. Other things (including cost) being equal, it is morally more important to protect persons from harm the more such harm they would otherwise be suffering. C. Other things (including cost) being equal, it is morally more important to achieve some given harm protection for more persons than for fewer. D. Other things (including harm protection) being equal, a [humanitarian group] should choose cheaper candidate projects over more expensive ones.13 Pogge then translates these principles into a series of mathematical equations, with the intention of providing the humanitarianhearted with a quantitative way to select their projects in utilitarian fashion. The principles Pogge sets forth seem, for the most part, applicable and acceptable for short-term medical aid endeavors. From Principle A, it does appear rational to prevent people from contracting a deadly infection 31
Distinguished guests and faculty discuss ethical issues over dinner. rather than preventing them from stubbing their toes; the former is obviously a much greater risk to their health than the latter. As described in Principle B, it is also logical to protect those who are at a greater risk of becoming infected than those at a lesser risk. Through Principle C, Pogge prescribes that a project that prevents the infection of 100 people for $10 is of greater value than one that prevents the same infection in only ten people at the same cost. Principle D is also logical, as it requires that a project that prevents 100 infections for $10 be selected over one that does so for $20. Yet it seems neither efficient nor appropriate to apply the quantitative analysis that Pogge has developed when planning and executing a short-term medical aid project. The minimization of harm is naturally a goal, although perhaps unexpressed, of such a project, especially when the mantra of its participants revolves around the idea of “helping others.” However, finding ways to quantify the intangible benefits of such work is impossible. How many “utilitarian points” are gained by the project when it guarantees a healthy childhood to a formerly ill child? How could the prevention of the death of a mother of six ever be weighed against something that has a dollar sign? Can the grief of a father or the tears of a baby be translated into numerical terms? Barring a quantitative utilitarian analysis, some evaluation of a proposed short-term medical aid project must occur to determine its feasibility, worth, and ethical status. The
feasibility and worth of the aid effort can be determined by consideration and consultation with individuals at the destination location. The ethical status of the project is more difficult to decipher, but not impossible. Relying on the principles of medical ethics and the moral duty they impart to medical aid volunteers is the best way to do this. By considering the ability of workers to fulfill these duties in the context of the aid project, the ethical permissibility of the project can be determined. Pogge also emphasizes the difference between positive and negative ethical duties. A positive moral duty occurs when an agent has “any moral reason … to prevent or to mitigate harm others will have suffered.”14 These types of duties are encompassed in the Principle of Beneficence, which holds medical personnel responsible for preventing future harm that illness can cause an individual to suffer. A negative duty occurs when an agent has a “moral reason not to cause (or to participate in causing) harm to others.”15 Negative moral duties are identical to those considered under the Principle of Nonmaleficence to which all medical professionals are accountable. In situations created by short-term medical aid, all involved in delivering health care are bound by positive and negative moral duties (or their corresponding medical principles). Pogge, along with many others, believes that negative duties should have greater weight in determining the permissibility of an action or collection of 32
actions than should positive ones. “Holding constant what is at stake for the agent and for those affected by her conduct, negative moral reasons are stronger than positive moral reasons.”16 In all situations, this means that considerations of the harms that an action could cause must be thorough and be given significant heft in balancing the drawbacks and benefits of the action. As an example, Pogge discusses a situation when three lives can be saved only at the loss of two others. In response to such a situation, Pogge states, “The widely affirmed impermissibility of such an action shows, that, at least when [lives] are at stake, negative moral reasons ... are more stringent than their positive counterparts.”17 Thus, when the saving of lives is concerned, consideration of the fulfillment of the Principle of Nonmaleficence outweighs consideration of the other tenets of medical ethics. In the context of medical aid, maleficent actions must be considered beyond the classic sense of the category. When such actions are discussed in American medical ethics, the concerns raised typically involve a medical professional acting in such a way as to directly cause bodily harm to his patient. Examples of such might include failure to treat a particular ailment or giving an improper drug or drug dose. In vulnerable situations that require medical aid, considerations must be made for a variety of other types of harm, including non-medical harms and other, generally intangible harms, that could result from short-term involvement.
Perhaps one of the worst harms that could result from short-term involvement is the creation of mistrust on behalf of those being assisted. Mistrust can cause a variety of problems, from relatively minor problems, such as non-compliance with medication regimens or recommended practices, to very serious problems, such as active violence against aid workers. Additionally, the mistrust cultivated by one short-term group can undermine the efforts of subsequent groups for years to come. Munson offers the following suggestions for how to avoid causing this type of harm: “Treating patients with respect, taking seriously their reservations about diagnostic tests or proposed treatments, and taking the time to educate them about their medical condition and the therapy for it are important in securing the trust of any group of patients.”18 Surely all of these suggestions are expected of physicians in American medical settings, but an emphasized commitment to them is important where social, economic, language, and cultural barriers may challenge such practices. The ability to overcome these barriers, especially cultural and educational gaps, is essential to preventing harm during shortterm trips. Some treatments and suggestions may not seem to require much explanation when administered to American clientele, but identical treatments and suggestions can be detrimental in populations that do not receive regular medical care. Take, for example, vitamins.19 Medical student Maya Roberts ponders the complications that could 33
“The short-term bandages commonly carried out by American do-good teams will only hold for so long. A more durable solution is necessary.”
be caused by such a life-enhancing treatment in an aid situation. Without proper education about what the vitamins are and how they are to be used, it is possible that the children receiving them would take too many of the tasty chewables and become constipated. For example, Roberts argues that “[t]he vitamins do not eliminate the parasites, which continue to inhabit [the] gut, and the child now has the unenviable combination of persistent parasitic infection and vitamin-induced constipation.”20 However, it is also possible that the vitamins will be taken properly, resulting in increased health for the child. If a child were to get sick after the vitamins had run out, the mother will seek treatment for the child. A new medication, perhaps an antibiotic, is prescribed to treat the child, in addition to vitamins. However, money is short, so “[s] he decides she has enough for the previously suggested vitamins but decided to skip the unfamiliar drug.”21 The child does not receive the medication he needs to recover from his illness. Thus, as is shown by the vitamin example, a lack of education about treatments offered by a short-term team can result in long-term harm for the population. Though much more difficult to weigh, short-term medical teams must also consider the emotional impact of their work.22 Shortterm aid workers have opportunities to leave emotional scars on the people they intend to help during their travel. Carol Etherington of Doctors Without Borders specifically mandates the consideration of how volunteer groups spend their leisure time and the
relationships volunteers form with individuals in the communities they serve. “Remember, they’re the ones always saying goodbye,” Etherington says of the people being aided. As volunteer groups move in and out of underserved communities, the people in those communities meet new people and make new friends but then must watch them leave at the end of one or two weeks. Additionally, she warns of the danger and harms associated with the promises aid workers make, especially those to return. In many instances, these promises are never kept. Finally, one must think about the possible dependence created by short-term medical aid. Forcing or allowing those receiving aid to rely on short-term provisions, especially when a poorly-designed exit strategy is used, can later reverse any good created by the effort. While the need for worry over dependence creation is debated in humanitarian circles, any work that disables those being assisted such that they are further unable to sustain themselves has never been the end goal of humanitarian assistance . When such problems do arise, projects are often ended or downsized. Paul Farmer cites an example in which a UN-affiliated group canceled a program that provided formula for infants simply because the program was “creating dependence.”23 Thus, honest and goal-guided analysis must be used when considering this factor. In a perfect world, short-term medical aid would not be necessary. In a perfect world, every human would have consistent access to 34
“Consideration of the negative duty of the volunteer group to prevent harm – health-related and otherwise – to the population being served must be the primary determinant of the ethical status of the project.”
competently-staffed and fully-stocked medical facilities. Unfortunately, our world falls short of this ideal; people around the world go without needed medical care on a daily basis. Short-term medical efforts are not the solution to these problems; they are merely a temporary Band-Aid on a gaping wound. While they may save a few lives and make volunteers like me feel good, they cannot correct the long-term issues that are present. Persistent problems need persistent solutions. Some wounds need something more than a Band-Aid. Sometimes they need stitches, casts, and corrective surgery. The short-term bandages commonly carried out by American do-good teams will only hold for so long. A more durable solution is necessary. While short-term aid aims to quell the flood of need, reinforcement must be established in the background. In medical terms, this may include diverse strategies, including the establishment of permanent
hospitals and clinics, the offering of health education programs and other establishment preventative measures, the training of local individuals as health care workers and physicians, and the securing of long-term or self-sufficient funding for such projects. As more sustainable programs are developed, the Band-Aid that is short-term medical aid must suffice in providing medical care for those who need it. But not every effort is beneficial to those being assisted; not every effort is ethically permissible. Consideration of the negative duty of the volunteer group to prevent harm – health-related and otherwise – to the population being served must be the primary determinant of the ethical status of the project. Following that, qualitative analysis of the costs and benefits of such a project must be considered as prescribed by the other principles of medical ethics. In this way, short-term medical aid can be delivered in a way that truly “helps the people” who need medical care.
1. Ronald Munson, Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics (United States: Thomson and Wadsworth), 227.
International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organization, eds. Daniel A. Bell and JeanMarc Coicaud (United States: Cambridge University Press), 222-228.
2 2. Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (New York: Random House), chapters 1 and 2. 3
3. See specifically Matthew 25:35-40.
4. Munson, Intervention and Reflection, 770.
7. Ibid., 771.
8. Ibid., 775.
9. Ibid., 773.
14 14. Ibid., 249. 15 15. Ibid. 16 16. Ibid. 17 17. Ibid., 250. 18 18. Munson, Intervention and Reflection, 219. 19 19. A full account is found in Maya Roberts’s article “Duffle Bag Medicine,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association 295(2006): 1491-1492. 20 20. Ibid., 1492.
10 10. Ibid.
21 21. Ibid.
11 11. An electronic copy of the presentation by Dr. Bouvier, entitled “Medical Ethics and Humanitarian Action” is available at http://www.humanitaererkongress.de/obj/ dokumente/Paul-Bouvier-Medical-Ethicsand-Humanitarian-Action.pdf.
22 22. This concept was discussed at length by Carol Etherington, a director at Doctors Without Borders, on her visit to DePauw University on November 10, 2010. 23 23. Paul Farmer, “Integrated HIV Prevention and Care Strengthens Primary Health Care,” in Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader, ed. Haun Saussy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 271.
12 12. Ibid. 13 13. Thomas Pogge, “Moral Priorities for International Human Rights NGOs,” in Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenge of 36
Ethical Imperatives of Presidential Eulogia Katie Lovett, Student, Davidson College
he American historical landscape has been marred with shocking instances of national tragedy. Following these moments, citizens are forced to begin the mourning process and to come to grips with the reality of their grief. In this turbulent context, the president emerges as a force capable of dictating the direction of the nation’s collective sorrow. The role of executive consolation in the event of a national tragedy initially emerges in the form of a national eulogy, as the general public looks to the president for guidance while attempting to make sense of the wounds inflicted upon the United States. The ancient Greeks believed in two concepts of time; chronos referring to linear, calculable time and kairos implying a more “situational” understanding of time. In this view, kairos proposes a certain kind of time, which proves immensely valuable to the art of rhetoric. In any given rhetorical situation, kairos may be interpreted as the “window” of time during which the speaker’s elocutions will prove the most advantageous.1 The national eulogies delivered by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson following the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, respectively, presented each executive with an opportunity charged with potential. In each instance, the president assumed the role of the rhetor wielding the power to direct the nation’s
ensuing actions. In this rhetorically loaded moment, what moral responsibilities does the executive leader bear? In such a highly publicized event, these presidents navigate the fine line between opportunity and opportunism, seeking to assuage national grief while concurrently alluding to impending policy changes that could counteract similar tragedies in the future. The president must adhere to certain ethical imperatives by offering due attention to the tragic past while also maintaining a forward vision. Therefore, the discourse must essentially sit astride what has already occurred and what lies in the future. While kairos itself does not direct towards a specific moral standard, it does imply an acute awareness of appropriate timing and opportunity. Above all, the major ethical premise of presidential eulogia must be to console the audience. Thus, an examination of the speeches of these five presidents offers a view into the rhetorical strategies and moral imperatives employed in each executive’s management of national grief. There exists a general rubric for eulogies given in response to a national tragedy. First and foremost, the president must honor and memorialize those who have died or who have been injured, while simultaneously consoling the living. If he is to properly fulfill his moral responsibility of addressing the nation in a moment of crisis, the president must share in the collective grief by exhibiting appropriate solemnity. Yet the tone of the speech must also be lucidly grief-stricken, allowing listeners to detect a more personal 37
Katie Lovett tone underneath the somber rhetoric. In terms of political stance, the president must not excite the ambitions of any one political party in such a kairotic moment of grief. Selfinterest and opportunism must be completely divorced from the eulogy if the speech is to be perceived as morally well intentioned. Blame and other actions promoting disunity must be avoided at all costs, as they would appear severely misplaced in such a grievous situation. Within these moral guidelines, the speech must also establish a sense of direction in which the healing process may begin.2 In their own unique way, Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Johnson all stepped forward to manage their own individual moments of kairos. As R.W. Apple Jr. set forth in a The New York Times article published three days after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, the president “must identify with the ensuring national grief – lead the mourning…[and] also confine and direct it” lest the public mindset “evolve into a sense of national despair and futility.”3 Thus, my paper will examine how personal morality factored into the aforementioned eulogies given by Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Johnson as they directed collective national grief with the rhetorical techniques of the eulogy. The recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona, had the potential to deepen the rift between Republicans and Democrats. Unlike the aftermaths of the September 11th attack and the Oklahoma City bombing, the aftermath of the Arizona shootings had the effect of
“inflaming the divide” between political parties in the United States rather than uniting citizens in an undifferentiating shared state of national mourning.4 According to scholar Amélie Frost Benedikt, kairos is a “qualitative and experiential” time that begins the instant an event is perceived as having “a critical ordinal position set apart from its predecessors and successors.”5 Thus, kairic times necessitate a decisive stance capable of adequately, and also ethically, addressing a situation that may never arise again. For example, the eulogy following the Arizona shootings would not have been an appropriate time to bring up public policy relating to gun control laws or the state of American mental health institutes. Although these polemical issues may very well have been at the forefront of the minds of viewers across the United States, President Obama’s moral responsibility lay first and foremost in his duty to comfort citizens traumatized by the events of the preceding week. Opportunities certainly do come and go, and President Obama’s handling of a blatantly violent attack against the Constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly represented a key moment in his presidential agenda. President Obama’s speech needed to downplay, rather than accentuate, the vitriolic partisan divide. Don Baer, the chief White House speechwriter during the Clinton administration, noted that President Obama was facing “tougher times” and a “tougher audience” as he took the stage to deliver his speech at the University of Arizona. 38
“Thus, my paper will examine how personal morality factored into the … eulogies given by Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Johnson as they directed collective national grief with the rhetorical techniques of the eulogy.”
President Obama had the added challenge of delivering his speech in today’s attention saturated economy, in an atmosphere almost resembling a pep rally. As Nobel Peace Prize winner Herbert Simon wrote in a 1971 article, “in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”6 The tension that resonated in the University of Arizona gymnasium during President Obama’s thirty-four minute long speech spoke to the true kairotic nature of his address.7 In these thirty-four minutes the president had a moral responsibility to attempt to curb the ideological animosity simmering beneath the surface. The president commenced his speech by seeking to align his own grief with that of the American public, declaring, “I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.”8 President Obama’s use of pronouns dictates the unifying tone of his speech, with only twelve instances of “I” occurring throughout a five-page speech.9 These individualizing I’s serve only to increase the power of associated declaration. For example, although President Obama admits to his audience, “There is nothing I can say that
will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts,” he immediately transitions to the collective “we,” avowing, “We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours…,” effectively establishing a tone of unified commemoration. In the textbook Public Speaking, authors Michael, Suzanne and Randall Osborn discuss the power that rhetoric wields in bringing listeners together, noting how “words can also bring people together in times of grief.”10 President Obama’s emphasis on “we,” what the Osborns call “the great pronoun of inclusion,” offers an example of the executive power proposing a promising future out of a tragic past within a context of unity.11 The speech also goes on to promote the value of individual responsibility within this rhetorically collective spirit, endorsing the importance of each citizen personally striving for an America that can reflect upon, yet move beyond, a tragedy such as the Tucson shooting. President George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress and the American people on September 20, 2001 provides a second example in which to consider the rubric of presidential eulogy. While a broad range of analysis and criticism in relation to this speech exists, a focus upon the implementation of specific language and thematic elements proffers a more direct view into the kairotic moment of delivery. The president immediately begins with the inclusive “we,” implementing the collective pronoun in an anaphoristic sequence of assertions: 39
Katie Lovett, left, and Peter Salib. We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed to terrorists to save others on the ground…. We have seen the state of the Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers – in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the decency of loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own.12 Within this repetition, President Bush employs several other stock eulogistic techniques. As Adrianne Dennis Kunkel and Michael Robert Dennis delineate in their article Grief Consolation in Eulogy Rhetoric: An Integrative Framework, it is imperative to “celebrate, to commemorate, to honor, to dedicate, to mourn and thus praise the life of the deceased.”13 The president accomplishes this aspect of the eulogy framework with the mention of the reactions, “the giving of blood and the saying of prayers,” in honor of the thousands of Americans who perished in the attacks. President Bush also strives to appeal to a diverse audience with the application of several of the universal values introduced in the Osborn Public Speaking text, including benevolence, security and unity.14 The saying of prayers in English, Hebrew, and Arabic highlights the value of unity, while “the decency of loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own,” draws upon the theme of benevolence.
Furthermore, the allusion to the implementation of extensive relief efforts reassures the American people as to the security of the nation immediately following the terrorist attacks. President Bush continues on to employ an enduring metaphor – that of light and dark: “All of this was brought upon us in a single day – and night fell on a different world where freedom itself is under attack.”15 As the Osborns perceptively point out, people are much more likely to listen, apprehend, and retain a message if it relates to their attitudes, beliefs and values. Thus, understanding audience motivation can help a rhetor “appeal to the common humanity in listeners that crosses cultural boundaries.”16 President Bush, therefore, utilizes the enduring metaphor of light and dark to introduce the universal motivation of safety in his address to the American people. The fight against symbolically charged, metaphorical “night,” falling on a nation whose very democratic foundation has come under attack, strengthens the rhetorical value of the president’s declaration. As President Bush’s address progresses, he employs another rhetorical technique in perhaps one of the most loaded, polemic sections – the designation of the enemy: Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.17 40
“President Obama’s emphasis on ‘we,’ what the Osborns call ‘the great pronoun of inclusion,’ offers an example of the executive power proposing a promising future out of a tragic past within a context of unity.”
The implementation of anadiplosis, a figure wherein the last word of a phrase, clause, or sentence is used to begin the next, with “…but it does not end there. It will not end until…” reinforces the potency of the president’s assertion.18 Despite the inevitable discordant opinions surrounding the president’s address and his direction of the national response, President Bush fulfills his obligations to the American people in the kairotic moment surrounding his speech. By divulging pieces of important information, answering the question “Americans are asking: What is expected of us?” by laying out intentions to improve air safety, strengthen the American economy and “rebuild New York City,” President Bush accomplishes one of the primary purposes of presidential addresses following national tragedies; to offer reassurance and guidance during a time when “Freedom and fear are at war.”19 Following the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, President Clinton professed to the families of the victims in the audience, “You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.”20 His inclusion of such a simple conjunction in that first sentence embodies a magnanimous shift in consolatory tone. The president acknowledges that too much has indeed been lost, yet immediately discounts a sense of hopelessness with the affirmation, “you have not lost everything.”21 “Clinton’s mastery of positive reappraisal and unification” permeates
a speech delivered in the wake of the unexpected national tragedy which claimed 168 innocent lives on April 19, 1995.22 A quiet, yet determined, intensity characterizes President Clinton’s remarks during the memorial prayer service. He mourns the “terrible sin [which] took the lives of our American family,” simultaneously intensifying audience members’ feelings of love and respect for the deceased by pointing out the “innocent children in that building, [there] only because their parents were trying to be good parents as well as good workers,” as well as “citizens in the building going about their daily business.”23 Thus, Clinton sufficiently honors the victims of the attack during his moment of tribute, employing emotionally charged language and conjuring up views of the deceased as benevolent, ordinary citizens innocently going about their daily lives. His laudation and praise of these individuals serves to assuage the grief plaguing those who remain. The president even includes a letter from a young, single mother whose husband was killed when Pan Am 103 was shot down. By showcasing the individual grief of one American, President Clinton’s intended consolatory measures are brought even closer to the forefront of his address. Within a speech laden with biblical references, President Clinton responded to the kairos of the moment by pledging to petition Congress for increased power to combat terrorism in the form of the creation of a domestic counterterrorism center headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.24 41
“President Bush accomplishes one of the primary purposes of presidential addresses following national tragedies; to offer reassurance and guidance during a time when ‘Freedom and fear are at war.’ ”
As A.D. Kunkel and M.R. Dennis posit in Grief Consolation in Eulogy Rhetoric: An Integrative Framework, eulogies may in fact seek to further agendas in addition to commemorating the deceased.25 While, in his somber address, President Clinton dedicated sufficient attention to memorializing the victims of the attack, he also alluded to intended policy changes, stating, “Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail.”26 While President Clinton would go on to push for legislation seeking to curtail the freedoms exploited by terrorists, he upheld his ethical obligation to his audience by refraining from engaging in specific discussions of these policies during his eulogy. Thus, while presidents may ultimately utilize national tragedies as catalysts for their political agenda, the moment of eulogy does not present an arena for in-depth discussion of new laws and regulations. President Ronald Reagan recognized the inappropriateness of delivering the scheduled State of the Union address in the immediate aftermath of the Challenger tragedy on the evening of January 28, 1986. Rather than discussing economic policy or new legislation, the president adapted to the mood and needs of the nation, declaring, “Today is a day for mourning and remembering.”27 President Reagan immediately established the genuine nature of his grief through a self-disclosure of emotion: “Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.”28 By
translating his own personal mourning into words that can be tangibly perceived by his audience, President Reagan incorporated his own grief into that of the collective American nation. President Reagan also introduced three elements of the emotion-focused coping mechanism discussed by Dennis and Kunkel; reference to afterlife, appreciation of time spent with, and lessons learned from, the deceased, and appreciation of the deceased’s good life.29 He called each astronaut by name, declaring to the families of the deceased that their “loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, ‘Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.’” Thus, Reagan praised the honorable and courageous role models that these heroes represented during their lifetimes. By acknowledging that the courageous crew, “the Challenger Seven,” were well “aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly,” Reagan also praised the honorable conduct of the deceased prior to the tragedy.30 Furthermore, he establishes a powerful intrinsic link between the victims and the American people. By declaring, “We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers,” Reagan placed the fallen astronauts and the American people on the same purposeful trajectory, thus revitalizing confidence in space exploration. President Reagan recognized the magnitude of the moment and the resonance that his remarks would have for the future of the American space program. By avowing, “Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue,” 42
Katie Lovett, right, and Anne Hillman. the president appropriately consoled the nation before directing them on a hopeful and unified path towards continued discovery and exploration. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s address before a joint session of Congress on November 27, 1963 represents the epitome of a kairotic moment necessitating presidential guidance. The rhetoric that President Johnson imparted to Congress members following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy would set the tone for the future of his administration. Johnson not only had to console and unify the nation following the tragedy, he had to simultaneously direct the administration that had fallen into his hands. Johnson opened by immediately honoring the enduring memory of the fallen president in a rhetorical sense: “Today John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen.”31 Although Johnson acknowledged that “no words are sad enough to express our sense of loss,” he continued on to use his words in a determined effort to “continue the forward thrust of America” that Kennedy began during his presidency.32 Similar to President Bush’s utilization of anaphora in his September 11th address, President Johnson delivers a repetitiously powerful ode to Kennedy’s political agenda: The dream of conquering the vastness of space – the dream of partnership across the Atlantic – and across the
Pacific as well – the dream of a Peace Corps in less developed nations – the dream of education for all our children – the dream of jobs for all who seek them and need them – the dream of care for our elderly – the dream of an all-out attack on mental illness – and above all, the dream of equal rights for Americans, whatever their race or color – these and other American dreams have been vitalized by his drive and by his dedication.33 The enunciation of “dream” recurring throughout this portion of his address speaks to the very American dream that Kennedy sought to promote. As he fuses Kennedy’s ideas with his own elocutions, Johnson’s rhetorical approach thus represents an effort to bridge the gap between Kennedy’s assassination and the future that he had envisioned. An echo of Kennedy’s characteristic employment of chiasmus, discernable in the famous “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” persists in Johnson’s assertion, “We will demonstrate anew that the strong can be just and the just can be strong.”34 Throughout his address, the new president maintains a strong emphasis on civil rights, positing that “no memorial or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.”35 A New York Times article dating to November 28, 1963, comments on the manner in which Johnson’s address 43
“By avowing [after the Challenger tragedy that] ‘Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue,’ … President [Reagan] appropriately consoled the nation before directing them on a hopeful and unified path toward continued discovery and exploration.”
“surprised even his admirers with its force, its eloquence, [and] its mood of quiet confidence.”36 As he reaches for an ideal of unity and compromise, Johnson consoles the nation while simultaneously directing the nation towards constructive agreement and open dialogue untainted by vitriolic political ideology. As Professor Karlyn Kohrs Campbell of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota contends, “a national eulogy is a speech given in response
to a national tragedy. National because we all share it and relive it via television and because…it is a direct attack on our national values.”37 Consequently, when our values as a nation have come under attack, every single American has then been attacked, regardless of age, race, gender, economic status or political beliefs. It is in this context of unified mourning that the executive figure rises to address the nation, with this moment oftentimes carrying the ability to define his legacy as president.
1. Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009), 45.
7. Brad Phillips, “Was President Obama’s Speech Too Long?” Mr. Media Training, January 13, 2011, <http://www. mrmediatraining.com/index.php/2011/01/13/ was-president-obamas-speech-too-long/>.
2. “U of M Expert Available to Comment on Presidential Rhetoric and Tragedies,” UM News, January 12, 2012, <http://www1. umn.edu/news/expert-alerts/2011/UR_ CONTENT_291476.html>.
8. Barack Obama,, “Obama’s Remarks in Tucson,” The New York Times, January 12, 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/13/ us/politics/13obama-text.html>.
3. Sarah Wheaton, “Executive Consolation,” The New York Times, January 12, 2011, <http://www.nytimes.com/ interactive/2011/01/13/us/20110113_ CONSOLATION_INTERACTIVE.html>.
9. Ibid. 10. Michael Osborn et al., Public Speaking (Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc., 2009), 290.
4. Adam Nagourney, “Facing Challenge, Obama Returns to Unity Theme,” The New York Times, January 12, 2011, <http://www. nytimes.com/2011/01/13/us/13assess.html?_ r=1>.
11. Ibid., 291. 12. George W. Bush, “Address to a Joint Session of Congress Following 9/11 Attacks,” American Rhetoric, September 20, 2001, <http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ gwbush911jointsessionspeech.htm>.
5. Amélie Frost Benedikt, “On Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time: Toward an Ethics of Kairos,” in Rhetoric and Kairos: Essays in History, Theory and Praxis, ed. Phillip Sipiora and James S. Baumlin (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002), 227-235.
13. Adrianne Dennis Kunkel and Michael Robert Dennis, “Grief Consolation in Eulogy Rhetoric: An Integrative Framework,” Death Studies 27, (2003): 1. 14. Osborn et al., Public Speaking, 111.
6. Technorati, “Attention Economics and Digital Conversations,” Technoratibeta, May 27, 2010, <http://technorati.com/technology/ it/article/attention-economics-and-digitalconversations/>.
15. Bush, “Address.” 16. Osborn et al., Public Speaking, 105.
17. Bush, “Address.”
27. Ronald Wilson Reagan, “Address on the Space Shuttle Challenger,” Miller Center of Public Affairs. The University of Virginia, January 28, 1986, <http://millercenter.org/ scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3413>.
18. Crowley and Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics, 428. 19. Bush, “Address.”
20. William Jefferson Clinton, “Oklahoma Bombing Memorial Prayer Service Address,” American Rhetoric, April 23, 1995, <http://www.americanrhetoric.com/ speeches/wjcoklahomabombingspeech.htm>.
29. Dennis and Kunkel, “Fallen Heroes,” 30. Reagan, “Address.”
31. Lyndon B. Johnson, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress,” The American Presidency Project, November 27, 1963, <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index. php?pid=25988&st=&st1>.
22. Michael Robert Dennis and Adrianne Dennis Kunkel, “Fallen Heroes, Lifted Hearts: Consolation in Contemporary Presidential Eulogia,” Death Studies 28, (2004): 703.
23. Clinton, “Oklahoma Bombing.”
24. Todd S. Purdum, “Terror in Oklahoma: The Government; Clinton Seeks Broad Powers in Battle Against Terrorism; Oklahomans Mourn Their Loss,” The New York Times, April 24, 1995, <http:// www.nytimes.com/1995/04/24/us/terroroklahoma-government-clinton-seeks-broadpowers-battle-against-terrorism.html>.
34. Ibid. 35. Ibid. 36. Tom Wicker, “Johnson Bids Congress Enact Civil Rights Bill with Speed: Asks End of Hate and Violence,” ProQuest Historical Newspapers. The New York Times, November 28, 1963.
25. Kunkel and Dennis, “Grief Consolation,” 4.
37. “U of M Expert,” UMNews.
26. Clinton, “Oklahoma Bombing.” 46
Is Genetic Engineering Ethically Responsible? Maura Metcalf-Kelly, Student, William Jewell College
enetic engineering is a burgeoning field within medical science, with the potential to revolutionize the way that we think about everything from I.Q. to immortality. Gene therapy and genetic enhancement are no longer confined to the realm of speculative fiction. As scientific developments continue, genetic engineering will become a subject of debate not only within academia but also within the public sector. It thus is vital that we, as human beings and as members of society, have a basic understanding of the ethical implications of genetic engineering and are able to evaluate and reflect upon dilemmas in genetics as we are met with them. It is vital that the members of a society possess this basic understanding, I shall argue, because each generation has an ethical responsibility to the next and because scientific developments that present an opportunity for great benefit or great harm to the members of this and further generations deserve serious consideration. Before proceeding with my argument, it will be useful to define the terms that will be involved in my discussion. Genetic engineering is an umbrella term for any procedure in which genes are intentionally manipulated in order to generate a desired outcome. The two fundamental forms of genetic engineering are gene therapy and genetic enhancement. Gene therapy is the process of altering a personâ€™s genes for the purpose of curing a disease. This is accomplished through the use of one of the following three techniques: first, a disease gene (also called an abnormal gene) may be
switched out with a non-disease gene (also called a normal gene), second, a disease gene may be manipulated in order to repair the faulty gene, and third, a non-functioning gene may be replaced with a functioning gene. Genetic enhancement is the transfer of genetic material with the intention of modifying nonpathological human traits (traits not caused by diseases).1 Genetic manipulations may be used either within the germ line or else with somatic cells, which are any cells other than egg or sperm cells. Somatic and germ-line alterations are different in virtue of their intended intergenerational consequences (or non-consequences, in the case of somatic-cell alterations). Somatic cell alterations intend to affect only the genes of the individual undergoing treatment, while germ-line alterations will be heritable. One among many complicated factors both in genetic therapy and enhancement is that some genes are pleiotropic, meaning that they affect people in different ways depending on the unique environmental factors that surround them, referred to collectively as the exposome. Environmental factors (e.g., limited exposure to sunlight, cramped working spaces or sound pollution) can and do play a role in the shaping of human genes. This characteristic of many of our genes is ethically salient because it suggests that the exposome could interact with our altered or manipulated genes in unpredictable and potentially detrimental ways. Diseases reduce quality of life because they increase peopleâ€™s suffering and decrease 47
“It is … vital that we as human beings and as members of society have a basic understanding of the ethical implications of genetic engineering and are able to evaluate and reflect upon the dilemmas in genetics as we are met with them.”
the quality and quantity of human capacities. It is through honing our capacities that we are able to realize these capacities. Principles like Derek Parfit’s principle of procreative beneficence recognize the close intersection of human lives and how, on a larger scale, the actions of the members of one generation can affect those in the next. The Hippocratic Oath limits these ethical considerations to a physician in relation to his or her patient. However, modern developments in fields like gene therapy make it necessary to widen the scope to include future generations, for both somatic and germ line interventions can potentially affect the germ line of the patient, and, consequently, the health of any offspring. Bioethicist Marc Lappé explains the possibility for altering the genetic makeup of future generations through genetic engineering as follows: As a result of early genetic engineering, the traditional modes of genetic engineering may result in alterations of both somatic and germ line cells. This is so because any genetic change made to the embryo theoretically can be incorporated into its germ line, as long as the change was done prior to the differentiation and segregation of the sex cells from the body of the early embryo proper. Thus, if performed early enough in embryonic development, any gene-modifying technique can lead to germ line alterations.2 It may be helpful to consider the implications of Lappé’s insight through two
hypothetical scenarios. In the first scenario, a woman with sickle-cell anemia discusses the option of germ-line genetic therapy with her doctor. Her doctor explains to her that the treatment has successfully cured the disease in every instance of its use. The risks the treatment will present to the woman’s health are minimal (only as much risk as is taken in any medical procedure involving anesthesia). However, because the intervention involves germ line cells, the genes of the woman’s future offspring will also be altered. Medical scientists have determined that the risks to future offspring are much greater than the risks to the patient, although the procedure is too new for the nature of these risks to be reliably established. The woman’s lifespan will not be changed by this treatment, but the quality of her life, in terms of things like health and mobility, will be significantly improved. The woman chooses to have the operation and recovers quickly. Bearing in mind what the doctor told her about the risks of reproducing, she and her partner consistently use protection during intercourse. Despite these preventative measures, however, the woman discovers that she is pregnant. She and her husband are ethically opposed to abortion and decide that the potential risks to the fetus are not so severe that they justify termination. Eight months later, she gives birth. Shortly thereafter the infant is diagnosed with a disease that, while not terminal, will significantly lower the child’s quality of life. In the second scenario, a man seeks 48
Participants discussing their papers somatic cell treatment for chronic depression, the effects of which he may alternatively alleviate with daily use of a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). Just as with the woman in the first scenario, he and his partner are informed of the risks associated with procreation in virtue of the inconclusive effect that this genetic manipulation will have on offspring. Unlike the woman in the first scenario, he and his spouse inconsistently use protection during intercourse. The couple goes on to conceive two years later. Just as in the first scenario, the infant is born with a birth defect that, while not life-threatening, will significantly lower the child’s quality of life. I argue that these two cases are ethically different in virtue of the degree of risk taken by each person undergoing treatment and that the ethical violation (and retroactively, the ethical permissibility of undergoing the treatment) may be determined by considering each patient’s purpose for seeking treatment. In the first scenario, it may be the case that the unintentional and indirect harm that the patient brings upon her future child by having this procedure – and her consequent culpability – would be much less serious than that of the person treated in the second scenario. Because the outcome was a secondary consequence of a treatment performed to cure a disease in the parent, the degree of ethical violation to the child in the first scenario seems to be of a lesser degree. In the second case, however, the ethical violation done to the infant by his parents seems less acceptable because the genetic
intervention that brought about the infant’s health condition was not, strictly speaking, necessary. The purpose for which the man in the second scenario sought treatment was a condition that was also preventable through an alternative method. There seems to be a morally important difference in the culpability of the agent for the violation of the rights of an individual who was, at the time of the procedure, unable to consent or reject this genetic manipulation. It is a unique complication of genetic interference that the persons who could be adversely affected do not at the time of the procedure yet exist to speak on their own behalf. The closest approximation to this is the dilemma about genetically altering embryos or fetuses in order to imbue them with what the parents of the child view as very socially “desirable” characteristics. I have tentatively arrived at four criteria to determine the violation, and the consequent case for the ethical permissibility of genetic manipulation. They are as follows: (1) intention, the reason for which the subject seeks treatment; (2) degree of separation, how closely the treatment can be causally linked to the person harmed; (3) level of third-party involvement, the likelihood that the treatment will affect a third party; (4) purpose of treatment, whether the treatment aims to eliminate a disease gene (making it a “negative” procedure, according to medical terminology), or if it aims to introduce an additional or supplementary gene (a “positive” procedure). 49
Fig. 1: Degree of Harm in Genetic Intervention
I have used the four criteria listed above to create a table (Figure 1) that measures the extent of violation brought about through a given treatment and can be used to determine whether the degree of harm is minimal enough to render the procedure morally permissible. In each of the four squares, a check mark will signify that the procedure fulfills the criterion listed in that square, i.e., intentional/ primary/ active/ positive. An X mark will signify that the procedure does not fulfill these requirements and is thus unintentional, secondary, passive, and negative. If a potential genetic procedure has an X mark in three of the four boxes, then it can be considered ethically permissible; correspondingly, if a procedure has a check mark in three of the four boxes, then it should be considered ethically impermissible. Criterion (4), which concerns the purpose of treatment, has more force than the other three categories, such that in the rare case that the treatment under consideration does not fulfill any of my other criteria for permissibility the procedure should still be considered ethically permissible. To emphasize the predominance of criterion (4) in determining the moral permissibility of a procedure, I have bolded this square. A difficulty presents itself if a given treatment fulfills two of the four boxes, but does not have the extra force of fulfilling criteria (4). If a treatment fulfills neither the three criteria that together make such a procedure ethically permissible (criteria (1), (2), and (3)) nor the overriding fourth criterion (criterion (4)), then the decision should ultimately be left up to the patient.
I maintain that in such instances, it is permissible to proceed with the treatment, and the decision as to whether or not to commence with the treatment should be put in the hands of the individual seeking treatment. If what matters most to humans is how we live, then it seems as though we should be able to enhance the qualities of our lives through the methods available to us, so long as the potential risks and the potential benefits are about equal. I advocate J.S. Millâ€™s view, that each personâ€™s mode of choosing his own existence is best, not because it is the best existence in itself, but because that individual chose that mode of existence. According to a general principle of utility, then, it should also be ethically permissible for adults of legal age to employ the methods of enhancement that they view as conducive to a good life, if they fulfill any two of these criteria. Judging by the criteria established in this principle, it seems that there is a difference between the type of unintended and indirect ethical violation that is potentially an outcome of somatic cell gene therapy and the type of harm that results from direct and intended manipulation of germ-line cells. My stance, then, is that germ-line cell therapy is ethically impermissible because it violates the principle of procreative beneficence. This is not to say, of course, that germ-line manipulation will not extend into the domain of ethical permissibility in the distant or even near future, when scientists have mastered it more precisely and are able to foresee the effects of this procedure on a third party. Even at 50
Maura Matcalf-Kelly, left, with Justin Baker such a point in time, however, I do not think germ-line manipulation should be performed for any reason other than curative genetic engineering; because germ-line manipulation is irreversible, its execution should require very strict guidelines. It is highly probable if not inevitable that in the future, germ-line treatment will begin to eliminate certain medical conditions that significantly lower the quality of people’s lives. Unfortunately, the uncertain results of such irreversible alterations will not only affect the patient, who has made a decision with sufficient knowledge of the personal risks involved, but it will also affect the individual’s potential offspring, who cannot consent to the procedure and yet will necessarily face its consequences. If genetic manipulation becomes common practice, then it will necessarily affect the next generation of human beings. This is potentially problematic because it is unclear whether the genes that we currently value and wish to enhance will be as conducive to quality of life in the future as they are in present conditions. Evolution has been negotiated on the clear testing grounds of survival and extinction, and human valuation is not so much a replacement as an interference, the effects of which remain unclear. I have thus far adopted a stance of limited tolerance regarding the ethical impermissibility of genetic intervention. Thus, it could now be useful to present and respond to several common arguments against the ethical permissibility of genetic enhancement. First, many people argue that genetic
enhancement goes against human nature or the will of God. Whether we think our lives are guided by evolution or by a divine being is not relevant; rather, the core of the argument is simply that enhancement contradicts the natural course of our lives. The argument is that we are “playing God” without the proper knowledge to do so competently and the perhaps reckless actions of this generation will present serious repercussions for the next. Julian Savulescu presents a potential response to this problem. Because we as a society already condone countless other forms of enhancement, such as performanceenhancement, mood-enhancement and sexual enhancement, there is no reason not to condone genetic enhancement. We already act in opposition to nature in many other areas of our lives, as Savulescu points out: We interfere in Nature or God’s will when we vaccinate, provide pain relief to women in labour (despite objections of some earlier Christians that these practices thwarted God’s will) and treat cancer. No one would object to the treatment of disability in a child, if it were possible. Why then, not treat the embryo with genetic therapy if that intervention is safe? This is no more thwarting God’s will than giving antibiotics.3 The salient feature that distinguishes other forms of enhancement from genetic enhancement, however, is that whereas the former may be discontinued at any time, the latter is permanent and irreversible. Savulescu 51
“Our genes do not determine the course of our lives; we can choose which gifts to use and how to use them …”
is prepared with a response for this further objection, as well: our environment and the drugs that we take affect our biology in the same way that enhancement does. From a consequentialist standpoint, the outcome of both environmental manipulation and direct biological manipulation is the same: antidepressants have been found to alter the brain in such a way that users are far more prone to anxiety later in life. Maternal deprivation can have the same biological effects as Prozac. It could also be objected that genetic enhancement will debase the traits that we currently value. We value our traits because we develop them; we study, practice, train, and struggle to cultivate our raw capacities in order to achieve our goals, which have personal importance for us. If we are able to attain these same qualities with a fast, painless procedure, then we could lose our dignity as unique, self-created human beings. Nick Agar responds to this objection using cases in which, for instance, an alcoholic undergoes genetic intervention in order to amplify his impulse control. According to Agar, [s]omeone who underwent this kind of general intervention would be no different in regard to rational character formation from those who started with the normal gene.4 The type of enhancement in which a person has a deficiency of a normal human capacity should be regarded as therapeutic although not medical, as no disease gene is involved; the procedure thus has a leveling rather than enhancing effect. Agar says that a common
mistake made in criticisms of the objectives of the Human Genome Project is that [m]uch of the language seems very genetic determinist. Some talk as if it is DNA alone that creates the phenotype. Genes alone produce nothing; only in combination with environmental input is an organism built.5 Agar justifies more extreme types of genetic enhancement with similar reasoning: he argues that genes do not cause particular types of people. It is how we utilize our capacities that make us free individuals. Our genes do not determine the course of our lives; we can choose which gifts to use and how we use them, and we can even choose to educate ourselves in certain areas where we lack natural aptitude. Agar argues, “a particular genetic makeup may be necessary for, say, Tolstoy-like talent, but it will not be sufficient.”6 There are different degrees of risk in both genetic therapy and genetic enhancement, and I have suggested some of the factors that require our attention in determining the extent of the violation, which should be done on a case-by-case basis. I believe that I have used these criteria, along with the principle of procreative beneficence, to show that a myriad of factors merit ethical consideration when delving into this issue. Although there are doubtless many other factors that are instrumental in determining the ethical permissibility of genetic treatment, this essay has hopefully demonstrated some of the reasons for the complexity of this issue and the significance of discussing it. 52
1. Kathi E. Hanna, “Genetic Enhancement,” April 2006, http://www. genome.gov/10004767. 2. Marc Lappé, “Ethical Issues in Manipulating the Human Germ Line,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 6, no. 16 (1991): 423. 3. Julian Savulescu, “Genetic interventions and the Ethics of Enhancement of Human Beings,” The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics (2006), 12. 4. Nick Agar, “Designing Babies: Morally Permissible Ways to Modify the Human Genome,”Bioethics 9, no. 1 (1995), 351. 5. Ibid, 347.
OTHER WORKS CONSULTED Glover, Jonathan. “Questions About Some Uses of Genetic Engineering.” In Bioethics: An Anthology, I, 2nd edition, eds Helga Khuse and Peter Singer, 185-197. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006. Lappé, Marc. “Ethical Issues in Manipulating the Human Germ Line.” Bioethics: An Anthology, I, 198-208. Mill, J.S. On Liberty. London: The Penguin Group, 1859. Parfit, Derek. “Rights, Interests, and Possible People.”Bioethics: An Anthology, I, 108-112 Resnik, David B. “The Moral Significance of the Therapy-Enhancement Distinction in Human Genetics.” Bioethics: An Anthology, I, 209-218.
6. Ibid, 351.
Savulescu, Julian. “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children.” The Bioethics Reader: Editor’s Choice (2007).
Spreading the Alarm: The Appeal and Importance of Secular Arguments Against Human Germline Enhancement Steven Pet, Student, Hamilton College
ecent developments in genetic modification techniques point to a human future that has, until now, been confined to the minds of science-fiction writers. Geneticists have demonstrated remarkable control over gene expression and phenotype through the chemical modification of DNA. Genetic modification methods come in two primary forms: somatic cell therapy and germline engineering. Somatic cell therapy seeks to deliver functioning genes to a person suffering from an illness caused by dysfunctional genes (e.g., cystic fibrosis) and thus serves the familiar and laudable goal of treating disease. Germline engineering, on the other hand, whether through directly altering the gene sequence or through modifying gene control mechanisms, enables scientists to change – proponents would say “enhance” – the character and quality of future generations of humans. Unlike the relatively uncontroversial and indeed promising science of somatic cell therapy, germline enhancement introduces a host of moral questions about what it means to be human, what it means to be a member of a family, and what it means to be a member of society. While any one of these ethical concerns could form the basis of an argument against germline enhancement, I believe that an oppositional argument focused on family relationships and social justice most effectively combats arguments in favor of germline enhancement and appeals to the widest general audience. Proponents of germline enhancement generally hold a biologically deterministic
view of human life and reject the notion that humans are exceptional creatures. From this vantage point, they proceed to argue that once our knowledge of this science becomes safe to implement, parents should be allowed – and may even be morally obliged – to “improve” the genetic composition of their unborn children. To many, this language surely invokes the frightful images of genocide and forced sterilizations carried out in the name of eugenics during much of the twentieth century. However, the bioethicist Arthur Caplan, a proponent of germline enhancement, argues that the tragic history of eugenic applications should not taint today’s logical discourse on the subject and that “the moral permissibility of [today’s] eugenic goals must be addressed on its own terms.”1 So long as the state does not compel parents to conform “with particular visions of what is good or bad, healthy, or unhealthy” for their child, Caplan argues, “there would seem to be enough consensus about the relationship between certain physical and mental attributes and health to permit parents to choose certain traits, features and capacities for their unborn children.”2 In essence, would-be germline engineers want to make humans better, according to some normative standard, “to delete, modify, or add genes,” to make us taller, stronger, faster, smarter, kinder – happier.3 Why shouldn’t we improve the human gene pool? What could be a nobler goal? Most humans, the molecular biologist James Watson believes, erroneously assume that “the way nature intended it is best” when nature 54
Rahul Abhyankar, Alyson Watson, Steven Pet and Alison Bailey did not – he is sure – intend anything at all.4 To Watson, humans are merely the sum of biologically imperfect parts, products of an evolutionary script several billion years in the making, which, by forces neither sacred nor absolute, made us who we are today. “The imperfections are not [part of ] any grand design,” Watson says, they are “just a mistake.”5 From this anti-exceptionalist view of human life, Watson and those of a similar mind find little reason not to “improve” the human genome. So long as our “self-directed evolution” never becomes state-sponsored, Watson proclaims, “it’s irresponsible not to try and direct the evolution to produce a human being who’ll be an asset to the world.”6 A world filled with smarter, more attractive, more productive people…. Indeed, at first blush, germline enhancement seems to promise a rosy future for mankind. But what sacrifices must we make to become the masters of our own nature? What are the deeper implications of taking control of our evolution and shifting it into overdrive? In Enough, Bill McKibben attempts answers to these fundamental questions and makes a compelling case against the utopian picture envisaged by Caplan, Watson, and other proponents of germline enhancement. While McKibben predicts grave consequences in both the familial and societal realms if the floodgates of germline engineering are allowed to swing open, the heart of his oppositional argument turns on the personal sacrifices that people will have to face. “[W]e stand on the edge of disappearing even as individuals,” he writes.7
McKibben questions at a deeply metaphysical level whether a world filled with genetically enhanced humans translates into a better world. Germline enhancement, he contends, will rob individuals of their personal agency and effectively strip their lives of their essential human meaning. If society allows parents to genetically predispose their offspring to be superior musicians, athletes, mathematicians, or the like, children subject to such preprogramming would find little meaning in expressing their genetic gifts – gifts no longer endowed naturally, but shopped for, chosen, and purchased. If we create a world wherein “the limitations and wonders of our bodies” change with the continuously rising tide of germline engineering innovations, McKibben argues, we will no longer feel personally responsible for our achievements or failures. People will be left constantly questioning whether it was they who came first or last in a musical tryout, marathon, or trivia tournament, or if true achievement lay with their superior or inferior genetic endowments.8 “Why would you sign up for a marathon if it was a test of the alterations some embryologist had made in you, and in a million others?” McKibben asks.9 Without the ability to put our genuine selves up against our environment, he argues, we will no longer be able to achieve a state of “flow” – a condition of pure joy and satisfaction achieved not when people excel against some arbitrary standard, but rather when they transcend their personal limits (whether that be climbing the 55
stairs or scaling Mount Everest). According to McKibben, engineering “better” humans will not increase people’s feelings of personal worth; in fact, “it might well sap joy,” because people will be left constantly questioning the authenticity of their talents.10 McKibben’s primary concern thus rests on his belief that germline enhancement would “end the tension we feel between the real and the artificial” and thereby preclude our finding distinctive meaning in life.11 Yet, as critical, insightful, and compelling, as McKibben’s central argument may be, its strength depends largely, if not entirely, on the predisposition of the audience. As the philosophy scholar Katheryn Doran rightly observes, what McKibben means by the words “humanity,” “nature,” and “meaning” remains elusive until the last chapter of his book. There, McKibben shows his true colors as someone thoroughly engrained in the Western, Judeo-Christian tradition; and there, we discover that McKibben’s opposition to germline engineering, at its core, proceeds from his exceptionalist view of human life and his belief in the sacredness of human nature.12 “In the Western tradition,” McKibben writes: The idea of limits goes right back to the start, to a God who made heaven and earth, beast and man, and then decided that it was all enough, and stopped…. This faith has no formal creed, no official ritual, and yet it has persisted for millennia through its insistence that instead of putting ourselves at the center, we
need to move a little to the side.13 Of course, that McKibben’s argument relies heavily on the Western religious tradition does not discredit his argument. But it does, as Doran correctly points out, leave him open to the charge of begging the central question against his opponents.14 Indeed, whether someone finds McKibben’s argument convincing will depend heavily on her or his preexisting ideas about human nature. Watson, for example, who clearly does not share McKibben’s belief in a set of immutable moral laws that man is bound to respect, articulated this point well: “Should we manipulate human genes at all? The answers to these questions depend very much on our views of human nature.”15 In the eyes of his opponents, therefore, McKibben’s argument holds little weight, as it assumes what they believe cannot be shown – that is, that distinctive meaning inheres in human life. McKibben, moreover, is not the only opponent of germline engineering vulnerable to this charge. Michael Sandel, one of germline engineering’s fiercest and most outspoken adversaries, also risks appealing to a narrow, perhaps religiously inclined, audience. At the beginning of his influential essay, “The Case Against Perfection,” Sandel writes, “In order to grapple with the ethics of enhancement, we need to confront questions largely lost from view – questions about the moral status of nature, and about the proper stance of human beings toward the given world.”16 But what could Sandel’s loaded language possibly mean to a committed 56
“But what sacrifices must be made to become the mastrs of our own nature? What are the deeper implications of taking control of our evolution and shifting it into overdrive?”
atheist or even to someone of faith, who happens to believe there is no such thing as the “moral status of nature?” Moreover, how might either of these hypothetical individuals view Sandel’s argument that people must “acknowledge the giftedness of life…[and recognize] that not everything in the world is open to whatever use we may desire or devise?”17 More than likely, they would not alter their most basic understandings about man’s relationship with nature. Sandel’s argument, like McKibben’s, thus seems thoroughly question begging and, as a consequence, surely falls on many opponents’ deaf ears. Sandel and McKibben have the burden to demonstrate – without appealing to any religious or quasi-religious sensibilities – that germline engineering threatens all people, both religious and secular. That they appeal only to those people who share their moral and religious worldviews effectively limits the size of their receptive audiences. Although Watson clearly stands with the more radical players in this debate, his response to these kinds of oppositional arguments might typify the responses of other secular critics: I just can’t indicate how silly I think [the sanctity of the human gene pool] is…[E]volution can be just damn cruel, and to say that we’ve got a perfect genome and there’s some sanctity to it, I’d just like to know where that idea comes from. It’s utter silliness.18 Undoubtedly, many people disagree
with Watson and believe that religious or quasi-religious arguments against germline engineering are, in their own right, sufficiently viable. But perhaps this is not the most constructive debate opponents of germline engineering – both religious and secular – should engage in with proponents. As Doran puts it, Surely some religious views of man and the meaning of life are sufficient to ground an anti-interventionist position…. But are they necessary? Can the non-religious or even the irreligious among us make the case against such interventions without smuggling in some appeal to a spiritual view of what it is to be essentially human?19 Doran’s, and my, answer to this question is an unequivocal yes. By making a purely secular case that does not subscribe to an exceptionalist view of human life, we can show why germline engineering poses a practical threat to all. Germline engineering would fundamentally and negatively change the relationship between parent and child. Parents who make the financial and psychological investment to genetically enhance their unborn child will likely feel entitled to a certain desired outcome, and, as a result, they will find it harder to accept the child if (and indeed when) he or she falls short of that ideal. Caplan attempts to discredit this claim by pointing out that parents already try to shape their children’s interests, values, and life directions toward a most desired outcome. He contends that parents taking 57
Steven Pet active steps to ensure that their child gets the best possible genetic start to life would not be qualitatively different from, say, sending that child to an elite nursery school. Genetically enhancing unborn children, he argues, would thus fit squarely within what we now consider acceptable parenting.20 Caplan errs, however, by equating parental encouragement of certain characteristics in children with unchecked genetic preprogramming toward that same end. In arguing that the main problem with “designing parents” rests with “their drive to master the mystery of birth,” Sandel is onto a practical point in addition to his clearly metaphysical one.21 Children inevitably differ from the exact images that their parents idyllically envision, and throughout human history parents – even the most domineering among them – have had to cope with this reality. To a large extent, this thoroughly dynamic, give-and-take process between parent and child makes up what we consider parenting. In the words of the bioethicist Adrienne Asch, “successful parenting requires a mix of shaping and influencing children and ruefully appreciating the ways they pick and choose from what parents offer, sometimes rejecting tastes, activities, or values dear to the parents.”22 Germline engineering, however, offers a new child-molding tool of unprecedented power. According to the hype, parents will no longer need to learn how to appreciate the unanticipated and/or unwanted life decisions of their children. Advocating this new image of the family, the molecular biologist Lee
Silver writes, “with reprogenetics, parents can gain complete control over their [child’s] destiny, with the ability to guide and enhance the characteristics of their children, and their children’s children as well.”23 In this world, the proponents of germline engineering envision that parents will be able to decide the content and character of their child’s future – no surprises and no disappointments. This picture – that parents would be able to bring children into this world with a virtual guarantee stamped on their backs, however, has several major flaws, and prospective parents who buy into its false promise seriously threaten future relationships with their children. If parents begin investing time, money, and energy into genetically preprogramming their future children, they will also likely begin to feel entitled to certain results and will find it harder to appreciate those passions in their children that diverge from their original plan. Indeed, germline enhancement would introduce a new level of unfulfilled expectations into the family unit. Take, for instance, a married couple of professional musicians who pay to have their future son endowed with a gene that increases his likelihood of developing perfect pitch. Would those parents support their son if he spurned violin lessons to pursue his passion for baseball? Probably not. Germline enhancement, the bioethicist Dena Davis writes, indeed “has the alchemy to turn a hope into a virtual entitlement” and the power to fundamentally change what it means for parents to be disappointed in their child.24 In 58
“Germline engineering would fundamentally and negatively change the relationship between parent and child.”
short, it threatens to make parental love and acceptance contingent on the full expression of purchased genes. While the threat that germline engineering poses to the family stands as reason enough to condemn it, the societal risks it poses are even greater. For one, our troubling history with eugenic policies suggests that it is not improbable that germline enhancements could become statesponsored. Surely we need only consult our history books filled with anti-miscegenation statutes, racially-based immigration restrictions, and compulsory sterilization laws aimed at the “unfit” and “feebleminded” to expose germline engineering for what it really is – the latest and greatest platform for eugenics. Not according to Caplan, however. He argues that germline enhancements would only occur at the urging of two parents who want to give their future child the best possible start to life. The idea that the U.S. government would force its particular vision of perfection on prospective parents, he writes, “flies in the face of a number of facts about the pursuit of perfection in other areas of health care.”25 For example, Caplan notes that despite the presence of cosmetic surgeons in the U.S., no slope has “developed in American society to the effect that those with big noses or poor posture must visit a specialist and have these traits altered.”26 He wrongly assumes, however, that society places equal value on all human characteristics. True, the state has little conceivable interest in regulating innocuous traits like nose size and posture, but it surely
has a far greater interest in controlling such characteristics as IQ, physical stamina, and mathematical ability. In their book From Chance to Choice, Buchanan and others speak to this point: There is reason to worry that [genetic] interventions undertaken by or at the initiative and urging of the state would be more likely to be motivated by a societal, not an individual, perspective about what kind of children it would be best for the society to have…. It is not plausible to rule out completely enhancements for the benefit of society, as opposed to the subject of the enhancement.27 After all, what does American history show if not that the U.S., in the company of other Western countries, might be receptive to population eugenic goals again in the future? Certainly it does not follow – and history tells us that it has not followed – that a government unconcerned with standards of physical appearance must also be unconcerned with standards of intelligence or social acceptability. Even if the state never coerces parents to genetically enhance their children, however, parents will still likely face significant social pressures to conform to this standard. Once some parents begin genetically enhancing their children, others will feel obligated to give their children an equal footing with their engineered peers. This process, McKibben predicts, will only gain pace once it has started; it will set off 59
“While the threat that germline engineering poses to the family standards as reason enough to condemn it, the societal risks it poses are even greater.”
a “biological arms race” that “will accelerate endlessly and unstoppably into the future, as individuals make the calculation that they have no choice but to equip their kids for the world that’s being made.”28 Like any other scientists, would-be germline engineers, if allowed, would undoubtedly conduct constant research studies and thereby develop new methods of genetic enhancement at a dizzying pace. Since parents would only have one shot to engineer the germline of their future child, however, advancements in this field would come with devastating social consequences. Any children born with the most innovative genetic enhancements of their time would quickly become “outdated” as research and development moved inexorably forward. This process, Doran predicts, would force children to cope with “ever higher standards of intelligence, athletic prowess, talent, attractiveness, and so on.”29 “The vision of one’s child as a nearly useless copy of Windows 95,” McKibben writes, “should make parents fight like hell to make sure we never get started down this path. But the vision gets lost easily in the gushing excitement about ‘improving’ the opportunities for our kids.”30 Upon close inspection, then, the hollow interior of the rosy future promised by germline enhancement’s proponents becomes readily apparent. Germline enhancements would also undoubtedly come with a very large price tag and would, as a result, be available to only the wealthiest families. This economic
reality would only exacerbate the already pressing problem of inequality by adding yet another, perhaps more insidious form – biological inequality. Germline enhancements, McKibben insightfully writes, “would benefit the rich far more than the poor…[it] would take the gap in power, wealth, and education that currently divides both our society and the world at large, and write that division into our very biology.”31 Once again, Caplan counters with a ready response. “It is hard to argue,” he writes, “in a world that tolerates so much inequity in the circumstances under which children are brought into being, that there is something more offensive or more morally problematic about biological advantages as opposed to social and economic advantages.”32 Yet, even if we grant Caplan’s assertion that biological advantages are no “more offensive or more morally problematic” than social or economic advantages, this would certainly not vindicate biological inequality any more than it would social or economic inequalities. Indeed, Caplan’s position seems to amount to little more than, “If there is already so much inequality in this world, what is the harm in adding more?” Clearly, we cannot and should not subscribe to this patently self-defeating position. Germline engineering indeed poses a threat to humans on a variety of different levels. As McKibben and Sandel powerfully argue, it would break the natural barrier between technology and human nature and would, as McKibben puts it, “break us free from the bounds of our past and present and 60
“We should impose strict, unambiguous, and far-reaching prohibitions on germline enhancement principally because it threatens to undermine and destabilize the values of social justice and equality that familial and societal structures currently try to uphold.”
send us winging off into parts unknown.”33 Yet despite McKibben’s and Sandel’s important insights, their arguments, which both reflect an exceptionalist view of human life, risk appealing to a narrow audience. In constructing what I believe to be both an effective and appealing argument against germline enhancement, I refrained from appealing to any religious or quasi-religious
sensibilities and chose, instead, to focus on the practical consequences that would logically emerge from germline enhancement. We should impose strict, unambiguous, and far-reaching prohibitions on germline enhancement principally because it threatens to undermine and destabilize the values of social justice and equality that familial and societal structures currently try to uphold.
1. Arthur L. Caplan et al., “What’s Morally Wrong with Eugenics?” in Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine (Washington D.C: Georgetown University Press, 2000), 213.
Germline Genetic Engineering,” in Uneasy Humanity, eds. C. Balmain and N. Norris (Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009), 190. 13. McKibben, Enough, 209.
2. Ibid., 220.
14. Doran, “Building Better People?” 190.
3. Bill McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2003), 30.
15. Watson, DNA: The Secret Life, 397. 16. Michael J. Sandel, “The Case Against Perfection,” The Atlantic Monthly, 2004, 51.
4. James D. Watson, DNA: The Secret Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 399.
17. Ibid., 54.
5. David M. Glover and others, DNA: Pandora’s Box (New Jersey: Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 2003). Movie quotations from James Watson available at https://www.msu.edu/course/lbs/133/bellon/ transcript.pdf.
18. Engineering the Human Germline, Symposium at the University of California, Los Angeles (1998), http://www.hgalert.org/ topics/hge/justin.htm. 19. Doran, “Building Better People?” 190.
7. McKibben, Enough, 46.
20. Caplan, “What’s Morally Wrong?” 21. Sandel “The Case,” 56.
8. Ibid, 7.
22. Adrienne Asch, “Prenatal Diagnosis and Selective Abortion: A Challenge to Practice and Policy,” American Journal of Public Health 89, no. 11 (1999), 1655.
9. Ibid. 10. Ibid., 52. 11. Ibid., 55.
23. McKibben, Enough, 58.
12. Katheryn Doran, “Building Better People? Three Secular Arguments Against 62
24. Dena S. Davis, “Parental Investment Factor and the Child’s Right to an Open Future,” Hastings Center Report 39, no. 2 (2009), 25. 220.
31. Ibid., 36. 222.
25. Caplan, “What’s Morally Wrong?”
32. Caplan, “What’s Morally Wrong?” 33. McKibben, Enough, 11.
OTHER WORKS CONSULTED
Lee M. Silver, “Reprogenetics: How Reproductive and Genetic Technologies will be Combined to Provide New Opportunities for People to Reach their Reproductive Goals,” in Engineering the Human Germline, eds. G. Stock and J. Campbell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 57-72, quoted in Bill McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2003).
27. Allen Buchanan and others, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 173. 28. McKibben, Enough, 35. 29. Doran, “Building Better People?” 189. 30. McKibben, Enough, 34-35.
An Examination of the Issues and Ethics of Commercial Gestational Surrogacy Elisabeth Schlaudt, Student, Furman University
to the child…(and) the gametes of both commissioning parents are used.”1 For the purpose of this paper, any reference to surrogacy from here on will refer to paid “full surrogacy” as defined by the ESHRE Task Force on Ethics and Law 10.2
INTRODUCTION In this paper I will thoroughly discuss the controversies surrounding commercial gestational surrogacy from the standpoint of traditional moral theories and Care Ethics. I will then explain what I believe to be the best approach to the issue based on the Care Ethics view of self. In section 1, I will provide a definition for commercial gestational surrogacy. In section 2, I will provide arguments for the two opposing positions surrounding the topic, Pro- and Anti-commercial gestational surrogacy. In section 3, I will explain how Kantianism and Care Ethics view commercial gestational surrogacy and whether either of these theories provides a solution to the issue. In section 4, I will explain how the practice of commercial gestational surrogacy can function morally through focusing on Care Ethics.
SECTION 2: PRO-SURROGACY VERSUS ANTI-SURROGACY POSITIONS The positions I am outlining in these sections are polar opposites, yet the values and “rights” for which they argue are exactly the same. Each side claims their position is the one that truly supports women’s rights, the child’s best interest, and prevents the intrusion of the “public” realm into private life. Prosurrogacy bases much of its arguments on a “preservation of autonomy” platform. Antisurrogacy takes a more paternalist “greater good” approach. Since the United States still has no national level legislation, the few states that have made the effort to establish legislation (e.g., California and New York) form their legislation based on one of these two positions. Many states, though, refuse to touch such a controversial topic and instead have left it to the courts to decide whether such surrogacy should be permitted. Because of the lack of a nationwide consensus, the topic of surrogacy has become increasingly complicated, as the issue has been allowed to be brushed under the rug instead of being confronted and decided upon. This difference between Anti- and Prosurrogacy approaches is particularly evident in how each side views the preservation of
SECTION 1: COMMERCIAL GESTATIONAL SURROGACY AND THE SURROUNDING CONTROVERSIES Surrogacy has become exponentially more complex as a result of the medical advancements within the last thirty years; a couple can now commission a woman to carry a child created with Mendelian techniques from the gametes of strangers genetically related to the couple, surrogate, or even two unrelated strangers. That is why I will only be addressing commercial gestational surrogacy, or paid “full surrogacy,” in which “the gestating woman has no genetic link 64
“The difference between Anti- and Pro-surrogacy approaches is particularly evident in how each side views the preservation of women’s rights.”
women’s rights. The Anti-surrogacy approach asserts that surrogacy “exploit(s) women’s bodies, including…using women’s wombs as empty vessels.”3 It is seen as a form of “reproductive prostitution” since a woman is selling a part of her body and degrading an intimate process to a marketable service like a hotel room or a rental car. Advocates of Anti-surrogacy also hold that surrogacy is a form of class exploitation in which the upper-class takes advantage of poor women. As surrogacy becomes an increasingly common practice, it is feared that the ones who will suffer the consequences will be poor women of color. It is believed that they will be forced into the practice by the amount of money involved, thus violating their autonomy. This is a rather paternalistic view since Anti-surrogacy proponents assert that the only solution is a complete banning of the practice in order to protect the potential victims of such an arrangement. Pro-surrogacy proponents are also concerned with protecting the rights of women but believe that banning surrogacy would essentially reverse the years of progress for women’s reproductive rights. Supporters of surrogacy hold that a woman should be treated as an autonomous, freethinking being and be allowed to use her own body as she sees fit. To curtail these rights would be denying women “both democratic and reproductive freedom.”4 Furthermore, surrogacy should not be limited to the elite few because this would also undermine women’s equality and autonomy as human beings. Advocates for surrogacy point out
that there are laws regulating sperm banks which allow females with impotent husbands to have access to donor sperm. Why then can an “impotent” female not possess the same rights? Moreover, some women may physically not be able to go through pregnancy due to “congenital causes like Mayer-RokitanskiKüster syndrome, inoperable scarred uterus, (and) hysterectomy.”5 Does this mean they should automatically be denied the chance to have a genetically related child? Pro-surrogacy advocates believe that this is not the case and that surrogacy does not violate women’s rights overall. What is actually considered to be in the child’s best interest is a particularly controversial subject since it deals directly with the definition of whether surrogacy is a good or a service. One division of the Antisurrogacy groups holds that children are being labeled as a product in a surrogacy contract and thus are being commodified. Some people even go as far as to equate it to slavery as practiced in the United States until around 145 years ago. This concern was voiced by Senator Ernie Chambers at a public hearing for the Surrogacy Bill LB 674, “When you are aware of that kind of history (slavery), and it is not too far back, there is a keen sensitivity to the ‘thing-a-fication’ of human beings.”6 Basically, the argument is that surrogacy “violate(s) the basic rights of children they create. Women should not be breeders to bear children for wealthy couples, and babies should not become part of anyone’s profit making scheme.”7 From this perspective, 65
Elisabeth Schlaudt, front, and fellow participants return to Prindle from meditation. it is obvious why the practice could be seen as morally repugnant. Anti-surrogacy proponents also believe that surrogacy can have a devastating impact on a child’s identity. The Baby Manji case is a prime example of this fear coming to life. Baby Manji was a baby girl born to an Indian woman who was commissioned by a Japanese couple. Right before her birth, the couple divorced and the intended mother disowned the child. The Japanese embassy in India refused to issue a passport for Baby Manji since she was born in India and thus required an Indian passport and a “no objection” certificate to leave the country. However, Baby Manji could not obtain an Indian passport since Indian law requires that an infant’s passport be issued with the mother’s – both the Indian surrogate and the intended Japanese mother refused to take custody of the infant. As a result, Baby Manji became a “citizen of nowhere and a child of no one.”8 The infant was eventually saved when her grandmother (the mother of the Japanese mother) came to claim her granddaughter. A similar case also occurred in Buzzanca v. Buzzanca, with a slight difference. The commissioning couple also divorced right before the child was born to the surrogate mother, but the baby was not genetically related to the intended parents, instead she was the result of carefully selected egg and sperm donors. The conflict came when the intended father refused to pay child support citing that the baby was not his child since the child was not genetically related to him.
In court, the child was initially declared legally parentless since the genetic donors and the surrogate reserved no parental rights. This was later found to be untenable by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, and they ordered Mr. Buzzanca, the father, to pay child support since he consented to the insemination and was intended to be the father.9 Although the Buzzanca v. Buzzanca case deviates slightly from the definition of surrogacy as determined for this paper, both of the children in these cases were not initially treated as children but as objects in a contract - as “no-bodies.” For the Pro-surrogacy position, these fears are valid ones, but they do not call for a complete banning of surrogacy. Instead, Prosurrogacy advocates assert that these “identity” problems can be solved by legislation that protects the resulting children from situations like those described above, while still retaining people’s freedom of choice. Such advocates acknowledge that no system is absolutely perfect and, given that surrogacy is a relatively new development, there is need for improvement to the current system. However, Pro-surrogacy advocates also hold that the decision to use surrogates ultimately supports the child’s best interest since often the couple is using surrogacy as a last resort to have a child that is genetically related to them and have already demonstrated extreme devotion to preparing for one. As a result, many claim that there is no child desired and planned for more than one born out of a surrogate arrangement – as Jane Sutton, spokesperson 66
Elisabeth Schlaudt for the National Association of Surrogate Mothers puts it, such a child is “…planned, desired, loved, given, and nurtured by the adults involved.”10 Furthermore, for women who are at risk for pregnancy complications, surrogacy decreases the risk of premature or handicapped babies. To the Anti-surrogacy claim that surrogacy is “commodifying” babies, the Pro-surrogacy position responds that the surrogate is receiving payment for the service of her womb – not the child. This is due to the fact that the child is not genetically related to her and was already “pre-created” before being implanted in her womb; her womb is being used to aid the development of the child. Pro and Anti-surrogacy advocates stress the need to preserve personal “rights.” Whether the position is taken to support or ban surrogacy, there is a fear that either position will cause an intrusion of the “public” into the private life by taking away personal rights. But what constitutes as the “public” is different for each side. The Antisurrogacy position sees it as the economic intrusion of public commerce into the sacred unit of family. By allowing surrogacy and thus the perceived act of “baby-selling,” one is subjecting the family unit, “a bedrock institution,” to the capitalistic market.11 Motherhood is a revered role in society and thus should be kept separate from the commercial world and should in no way be bought or sold. Pro-surrogacy also regards motherhood as a highly personal issue but does not see the “economic intrusion” as the “evil.” Instead, Pro-surrogacy proponents
view the true intrusion as occurring when surrogacy is banned by the government. Completely abolishing the practice would be violating individuals’ and families’ basic rights of privacy and reproductive freedom. As stated in the report by the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, “Surrogate parenting is a logical extension of the right to procreate, and accordingly, a part of the constitutional right to privacy.”12 This view has been upheld in a number of cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut, Skinner v. Oklahoma, and Danforth v. Missouri.13 As a result, surrogacy is considered part of one’s intrinsic human rights and must be respected. SECTION 3: APPLICATION OF THEORETICAL MATERIAL TO THE ISSUE OF SURROGACY Kantian ethics has a seemingly straightforward position on surrogacy, but upon closer examination, we discover that it is not as clear-cut as it initially appears. According to the Categorical Imperative, one must always act “… so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.”14 Humanity is priceless in that its worth is exalted above all things and cannot be quantified. For example, bioethicist Mario Morelli stated, “One’s humanity for Kant included one’s body, and the destruction or alienation of one’s body, in whole or in part, is a violation of the principle, at least in most cases.”15 The only way money can be associated directly with a person is if he/she is 67
receiving payment for a specific quality (e.g., a skill or talent). Where Kantian ethics runs into trouble with surrogacy is defining whether it is a service or a good. Once this distinction is made, it is a simple matter of following the Categorical Imperative to determine the morality. If surrogacy is considered a good then a price is being put on a child who is supposed to be “exalted above all price.”16 If surrogacy is considered a service, then it has the possibility of being moral. The acceptability of receiving monetary compensation for a service depends on whether the surrogate is being deceived or manipulated. That is, if the surrogate understands the contract into which she is entering and agrees to it without coercion, then she is not being used “as a means only.” In this case, the surrogate is receiving payment for renting her womb or her “skill” as a surrogate mother. Some Kantians compare this transaction to the transaction that occurs when a doctor receives payment for the use of his/her hands. By viewing it as “renting,” the surrogate is not “depriving (herself ) of an integral part or organ.”17 Furthermore, she is not destroying her body nor putting it at any excessive risk if she has reasonable belief that the pregnancy will be easy for her. Thus, she is not participating in what Kant refers to as “partial self-murder” or treating herself as only a “means to an end.” Because it is difficult to determine whether surrogacy is a good or a service under Kantian Ethics, one cannot definitively say whether Kant would consider it immoral. Although Kantian Ethics does address the issue of “thing-a-fication,” it does not
address the issue of the “identity” of the child involved. Kantian Ethics would take issue with the Baby Manji Case because the “rational agents” involved were bad bearers of contract and thus did not respect each other. The fact that the child’s identity was violated would not be considered an ethical problem because issues concerning emotional ties and relationships “might be of importance in the personal realm, (but) such inclinations cannot be considered relevant in the moral domain.”18 Considering the emotional ties and relationships would also hold the wellbeing of one rational agent over another by placing more emphasis on both the surrogate’s and the commissioning parent’s obligation to care for the child. As a result, Kantian Ethics would also not be able to provide a sufficient ethical solution to this dilemma. Care Ethics provides the most appropriate approach to the moral issues of surrogacy, but it too is not without its challenges. Care Ethics has a different interpretation of the “moral person” than traditional ethics (e.g., Kantian Ethics) because it does not view the idyllic moral person as an “independent, objective, and impartial being(s) that the traditional liberal accounts have posited…”19 Care Ethics recognizes that people are interdependent beings with complex relationships who require other human beings for emotional and psychological support. Thus, we have an ethical responsibility to support and nurture these relationships. This is not to say that autonomy is not considered in Care 68
“What is actually considered to be in the child’s best interest is a particularly controversial subject since it deals directly with the definition of whether surrogacy is a good or a service.”
Ethics; it simply is not a central focus of this approach. The importance of preserving autonomy carries equal, if not less, weight than preserving relationships. In Care Ethics it is not thought to be morally incorrect to be influenced by relationships and emotions – in fact, it would be immoral to not consider the strength of certain relationships when making decisions. Traditional ethics does not recognize emotional connections and responsibilities as an important consideration in making ethical choices because emotionbased decisions are viewed as “non-moral, personal, and private….”20 As a result Care Ethics has different moral objections to surrogacy and different ways of addressing them than traditional ethical theories. For Care Ethics, it is the lack of a relationship and disconnection between the surrogate and the commissioning parents that is the problem. This is what causes the perception of the surrogate as merely a service or a tool, and as a result, the surrogate is “dehumanized.” If the surrogacy was approached with the preservation of the relationships between the surrogate, commissioning parents, and the child as the main concern, then it has the possibility of being regarded as a moral procedure. Traditional ethics cannot appreciate this position because emotional ties and connections are not a part of their moral structure. Thus, what can be considered the greatest fault with surrogacy cannot even be addressed by traditional ethics.
SECTION 4: A PROPOSAL OF AN APPLICATION OF CARE ETHICS Using Care Ethics as the basis of my reasoning, contemporary surrogacy has the potential to be morally acceptable. Relationships between the surrogate and the commissioning parents must be more of a focus than they are in current commercial surrogacy practices. There is a policy of “anonymity” that is currently in place with commercial surrogacy where the surrogate and the commissioning parents never meet except to exchange the child; for the majority of commercial surrogates, a photograph is the only contact that they will ever have with the baby they carried for nine months. This leads to a “dehumanization” of the woman since there is no contact: there is no relationship that would give meaning to the surrogate other than that of a “vessel” that carries the child. The surrogacy agencies, or “baby brokers,” are partially to blame for this because they provide a buffer between the surrogate and commissioning parents, allowing the parents to “use” the surrogate with complete anonymity. This disconnected relationship, as mentioned previously in this paper, can also lead to a “race to the bottom” in “which countries with the most permissive reproductive laws fight one another by cutting prices in order to compete for the business of reproductive tourists.”21 This stems from the view that women are simply providing a service – a service that is susceptible to the pressures of the free market. The fact of the matter is that surrogacy is not a normal “service or good” that can be compared 69
“The issue must be approached with a combination of both traditional and Care Ethics if society is ever to come to a consensus on the morality of surrogacy.”
to the service of a surgeon’s knowledge or hands or an athlete’s body; it involves the creation of an entirely new “relationship” that must be respected and accounted for. The claim that relationships need to be more of a focus in surrogacy is nothing new; Dr. Jennifer Parks, associate professor of philosophy at Loyola University, cites relationships as the key to making surrogacy ethical. Dr. Parks points out in her essay that “the practice is not inherently moral: it is possible to imagine a different view of contract pregnancy in which relationships are forged and honored, and in which children born of such arrangements are protected and warmly received.”22 It is the traditional “autonomy first” view that oversimplifies the issue to a contractual one where the woman is just renting her womb and the moral questions that arise are ones of whether her autonomy and the commissioning parent’s autonomy are being respected. By eliminating the policy of anonymity and reducing the role of the “middle men,” commercial surrogacy has the potential to be a moral situation. Promoting relationships can even solve the moral issue of monetary compensation. The ethical issue with paid surrogacy again comes back to the problem of “dehumanization” because it may potentially cause “insult to human dignity, the instrumentalization of the human body…and inappropriate inducement (coercion) of women.”23 But if a strong relationship exists between the surrogates and commissioning parents, then the surrogate would not be viewed as simply an object. In
such cases, a surrogate receiving reasonable monetary compensation would no longer be an issue. Additionally, the surrogate would be paid for the service of her womb – not for the child. This would apply to situations like miscarriage in which the surrogate would still receive full payment (given that she did not violate the contract), providing the important delineation between being a service or a good. As long as there is a relationship between the parties, reasonable monetary compensation can be considered ethical. Technology, communication, and most importantly, globalization have transformed the ethical landscape in the last thirty years. Due to these changes, the ethical dilemmas we face today have become increasingly complicated, as the numbers of ways humans can relate to each other have multiplied. A woman in India can carry the genetic child of a couple in Canada. That being the case, people are struggling to address the complex ethical issues of surrogacy. Given the unique combination of changing medical technology, a “shrinking” world, and fundamental human desires involved in surrogacy, no one ethical theory can be applied to the issue. Answering questions of whether the surrogacy manipulates or nurtures the people involved requires a multifaceted approach that takes into consideration the traditional ethics world we live in and the fundamental connections being created. As a result, the issue must be approached using a combination of both traditional ethics and Care Ethics if society is to ever come to a consensus on the morality of surrogacy. 70
1. F. Shenfield et al., “ESHRE Task Force on Ethics and Law 10: Surrogacy,” Human Reproduction 20, no. 10 (2005): 2705, http:// humrep.oxfordjournals.org.libproxy.furman. edu/content/20/10/2705.full.pdf+html.
9. Tuininga, “Nebraska’s Surrogacy Law,”
10. California Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, Hearing on Surrogate Parenting, Los Angeles, December 11, 1987, quoted in Markens, Surrogate Motherhood, 85.
2. Ibid. 3. Susan Markens, Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction (Berkeley: University of California, 2007), 17.
11. Markens, Surrogate Motherhood, 98. 12. New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, Surrogate Parenting in New York: A Proposal for Legislative Reform (Albany: New York State Senate Judiciary Committee, 1986), 49, quoted in Susan Markens, 95.
4. Ibid., 16 5. Shenfield et al., “ESHRE,” 2705. 6. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Statement, L.B. 674, Neb. Unicameral, 90th Leg., 1st Sess., quoted in Kevin Tuininga, “The Ethics of Surrogacy Contracts and Nebraska’s Surrogacy Law,” Creighton Law Review 41, no. 2 (2008): 186, http://web.ebscohost. com.libproxy.furman.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/ pdfviewer?hid=108&sid=daeb0ec5-e1ac-406783f8-810bad29b87e%40sessionmgr113&vid=3.
13. Markens, Surrogate Motherhood, 96. 14. James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2010), 137. 15. Mario Morelli, “Commerce in Organs: A Kantian Critique,” Journal of Social Philosophy 30, no. 2 (1999): 318.
7. New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues, Public Hearing on Surrogate Parenting, December 8, 1988, 386-87, quoted in Markens, Surrogate Motherhood, 69.
16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Carmela M. Epright, “Impartialism, Care, and the Self,” Philosophy in the Contemporary World 4, no. 3 (1997): 7.
8. Jennifer A. Parks, “Care Ethics and the Global Practice of Commercial Surrogacy,” Bioethics 7 (2010): 334.
19. Parks, “Global Practice,” 336. 71
20. Epright, “Impartialism,” 7.
OTHER WORKS CONSULTED
21. Parks, “Global Practice,” 336.
Chang, Mina. “Womb for Rent: India’s Commercial Surrogacy.” Harvard International Review 31, no. 1 (2009): 11-12.
22. Ibid., 334. 23. Shenfield et al., “ESHRE,” 2705.
Ciccarelli, Janice C, and Linda J Beckman. “Navigating Rough Waters: An Overview of Psychological Aspects of Surrogacy.” Journal of Social Issues 61, no. 1 (2005): 21-43. http://web.ebscohost. com.libproxy.furman.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/ pdfviewer?hid=108&sid=daeb0ec5-e1ac4067-83f8-810bad29b87%40sessionmgr113 &vid=3.
Addressing Ethical Concerns with the Process of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis Taylor Wood, Student, University of San Francisco
n the arms race of ethics for and against reproductive genetics, activists continue to find themselves polarized by emerging technologies that quite often blur the boundary between scientific progress for the sake of humanity and progress at the hazard of humanity. The present paper will explore the process of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis – a technology that was in its infancy a mere decade ago – and the ethical dilemmas that plague its practice and advancement. While this method is often singled out, the entire notion and practice of reproductive genetics is continually examined for ethical quandaries. For example, in vitro fertilization, a stepping stone to preimplantation genetic diagnosis, is often cited for its externalization of the reproductive act. Similarly, pre-natal genetic diagnosis can be seen as the greater of two evils when compared to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis because of its nature as a late-stage diagnosis protocol that results in either live delivery or abortion. These topics all deserve lengthy discussion to do justice to both sides of the debate; however, for now, I will focus simply on one method of reproductive genetics: pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (henceforth abbreviated to PGD) can be loosely defined as the “testing of preimplantation stage embryos or oocytes for genetic defects”1 and is ideal for couples who are at high risk for passing on severe genetic disorders to their offspring. First introduced in 1968 in the sex selection of rabbits, it was
not long before PGD was applied to human cases.2 Once this occurred, the number of applications took off, with a total of 886 referrals in the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) PGD consortium database by the year 2000.3 PGD can be summarized in five stages, which are illustrated in Figure I. During the first stage, the mother is given medication to induce superovulation (viz., produce many eggs for usage in subsequent stages). These eggs are then allowed to mature and are collected during stage two. In stage three, the collected eggs are fertilized in vitro in a laboratory setting. Stage four involves the biopsy of each embryo to ascertain the sex and genetic disposition. Because this stage takes place on the third day, the healthy embryos will have divided to form eightcelled embryos. Due to the fact that Homo sapiens do not have fixed lineages, each of these eight-celled embryos may lose a cell in the process of the biopsy without suffering any adverse effects. Karyotyping assisted by polymerase chain reactions and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) is one such method of sex identification, while markers specific to particular genetic disorders are more commonly used to identify mutant alleles.4 FISH, a method of labeling pieces of the chromosome, uses probes that detect and attach to pre-determined chromosomal sequences. Once attached, they can be detected by the fluorescence of the dye upon exposure to ultraviolet light. In this way, pieces of the chromosome light up for simple 73
Figure I: Stages of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis visualization. Similarly, markers specific to chromosomal anomalies associated with certain diseases can be introduced to the isolated DNA. If the specified sequence is present, the probe will attach and make itself visible to fluorescent light or other means of identification. With the conclusion of stage four screening, stage five can begin. During this stage the desired embryo is transferred into the uterus where it will be carried to term. The remaining embryos are typically discarded.5 This five-stage process is generally observed for all cases and is said to be 100 percent effective, which means that the desired embryo is implanted only after it has undergone a battery of tests and its sex and/ or genetic disposition has been confirmed. Despite the efficacy of the method, the ethics regarding its practice is far from clear. For this reason, the arguments against its widespread application will now be examined. Is it possible that PGD is the beginning of the reemergence of the regrettable acts of eugenics performed before and during the chaos of World War II? Could it be that science has gone too far in its pursuit of perfection? In standing against the usage of PGD, there are four primary arguments that are most often cited by its opponents. The first of these is the notion of scientists and doctors “playing God” in their practice of PGD. Proponents of this point of view claim that PGD “interferes with the natural process of reproduction” by removing the physical act of sexual intercourse from conception.6
While this is true, the significance of such a removal is up for debate. For example, in vitro fertilization, which is inexorably tied to PGD due to the nature of stage three detailed above, is often used in cases when couples are unable to conceive a child without intervention. Is it still wrong to deny them children when the natural process of reproduction has failed them? Simply altering the method of impregnation should not detract from the miracle that still takes place nine months later. It seems as though such an argument does not take into consideration such cases and thus is too one-sided to take seriously. The second argument against PGD claims that it abuses women by objectifying their bodies and treating them merely as a means to an end. Feminists who advocate for this are under the impression that the application of reproductive genetics in this way is just another means by which males exert their dominance over females.7 Given the individuality of the choice to conceive using PGD and the fact that females are often chosen over males in cases when the feminine genotype is more likely to mask allelic mutations, this argument is decreasing in relevance. However, there still are cultures with a significant infant selection bias based on gender, and PGD may support such biases. The next argument purports that PGD kills innocent embryos. While this is true, the value of the embryo is up to debate. Such a topic would require an entire essay to elucidate a controversial answer; however, our current culture endorses the view that embryos prior to implantation have less value than late stage 74
Taylor Wood (third from left) listening to Robert Bottoms’ keynote address. fetuses, children, and adult humans. Therefore, because the moral value of embryos increases with the passage of time, PGD is more favorable than selective abortions and other late-staged screening methods that result in pregnancy termination.8 Pre-natal diagnosis, for example, uses amniocentesis and/or Nuchal Translucency ultrasounds to test for complications including Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18, Open Neural Tube Defects (NTD), Abdominal Wall Defects (AWD), and Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome. Frequently the fetus will be terminated if such defects are discovered.9 Therein lies the controversy that is bypassed, to some degree, by the early detection offered by PGD. For this reason, PGD is the most morally acceptable route. Another argument against PGD is a slippery slope argument that links PGD to the dystopian belief that it will lead to eugenics reminiscent of World War II and also the creation of so-called “designer babies.” As Geraedts and De Wert assert, such a creation of “designer babies” (babies for whom eye color, height, affinity for athletics, sexual orientation, etc. are predetermined by the parents) will remain “improbable for many decades” to come until technology can catch up to such foresighted individuals.10 The notion that WWII eugenics will repeat itself, as history so often does, ignores the many checks and balances that are already in place to prevent this. The ESHRE Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis Consortium was created specifically for this reason.11 This group is charged with the responsibility of closely
monitoring all reported cases of PGD including referral reason, methods and results, and long-term success rates so that the practice remains regulated under public scrutiny. By keeping track of the long-term efficacy and clinical outcomes of PGD cases, the practice will remain far from the perverse atrocities of WWII. The final argument against PGD that I will discuss in this paper is the law of unintended consequences. It is often difficult to predict when certain mutations are both beneficial and detrimental depending on intensity. Sickle cell anemia, for example, is lethal in its fully recessive form, but it bestows resistance to malaria if the genotype is heterozygous. Cystic fibrosis is another such example where heterozygotes are resistant to cholera while the homozygous recessive genotype is fatal and homozygous genotypes are not granted resistance. Simply eliminating the mutations leading to sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis from the global population may seem positive because it will eliminate fatal genotypes; however, such a removal will also simultaneously eliminate resistances to malaria and cholera. This raises the question, “Just when are mutations considered deleterious?” Many instances are not clearcut. Autism and Asperger’s, for example, have been responsible for many great alternative thinkers. Simply labeling a mutation as a disorder may not take into account all possible desirable traits that can spring from it. Therefore, the burden remains on scientists to be clear that we often do not fully understand 75
“Is it possible that PGD is the beginning of the reemergence of the regrettable acts of eugenics performed before and during the chaos of World War II? Could it be that science has gone too far in its pursuit of perfection?”
all of the outcomes of selecting for or against certain traits. Opponents to PGD have many valid concerns regarding the practice, but so too do the supporters whose perspective will be discussed in the following section. How can we choose to ignore the opportunity to relieve someone of his or her suffering when it is apparent and requires little effort on our part? What if we could prevent such suffering from even taking hold in the first place? PGD offers hope for certain complications fitting this description. As Geraedts and De Wert report, the first victory for PGD was the ability to filter for a desired sex.12 This opportunity now provides families with the ability to balance an unequal familial gender ratio. This is especially important to families with significant risk of passing on acute genetic disorders in which one sex is targeted in particular (i.e. x-linked disorders). Conversely, such sex specifications may lead to increased disparity in populations and associated value judgments given to a certain gender. In addition to choosing the sex for offspring, genetic disorders may also be screened for during stage four of PGD. Improving the human race by minimizing (and potentially eliminating entirely) deleterious mutations leading to Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, Leigh syndrome, and various inimical mitochondrial disorders is just the beginning of what PGD can be capable of.13 Perhaps just as important as what PGD accomplishes is what it avoids: abortion.14 Those who value the sanctity of life are quick
to attack alternate methods of reproductive genetics that employ selective abortion to terminate “undesirable” fetuses; however, PGD does not require the use of selective abortion. Instead, PGD, as explained prior to this, does not allow embryos to reach such a distinction (as they are incubated in vitro while tested and not implanted until all diagnostic tests are complete) before they are discarded, thereby avoiding this pitfall of practices like prenatal genetic diagnosis. Another source of strength for the supporters of PGD is the ESHRE PGD Consortium, which collects, analyzes, and publicizes the long-term outcomes in addition to ensuring that doctors adhere to the guidelines set forth for PGD cases.15 This organization, which released its second data collection in 2000, has kept detailed records on mutations screened for, referral amounts, successful pregnancy and delivery rates, and various other categories of information pertinent to the clinical application of PGD.16 This organization and others like it are vital to facilitating dialogue between governing bodies and health care groups as well as between doctors and their patients amenable and qualified for PGD. It is of the utmost importance that this communication remains transparent so that the success rate and goals of the PGD program remain under scrutiny by the public at all times. While extinguishing genetic disorders from circulation via PGD may seem like a practice immune to corruption, the opponents cannot be ignored lest their fears become 76
Participants relaxing in the courtyard. realized in our negligence to compromise. In the penultimate section of the present paper, I will attempt to reconcile the disagreements over PGD and offer a few words on the future of preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Drawing lines in the sand and entrenching deeply in personal opinions is the greatest barrier to diplomatic dialogue on controversial issues, and while I donâ€™t see a way to avoid this entirely, I hope to shed some light on a few release valves that may reduce some of the tension between supporters and opponents of PGD. First and foremost, I believe that the association with WWII eugenics should never be forgotten, so ethics committees should be put in place (taking the lead from those that have been established already) to oversee cases and ensure that counseling of patients remains non-directive.17 By allowing patients to mold their PGD results without influence from overlypaternalistic scientists and governing bodies, autonomy will be maintained. Obviously the majority of patients will opt for embryos with the minimum mutation load, but there are shades of gray where certain disabilities (i.e. deafness) are concerned. Therefore, it remains of paramount importance that the ultimate decision resides with the parents. Also important to the ethical administration of PGD is the procurement of informed consent that is complete in the sense that
all possibilities of protocol failure (i.e. falsepositives) and the limits of the procedure are all fully disclosed at the outset to the parents.18 In this way, embryos can be given the respect that they deserve rather than be flippantly cast aside by parents not prepared to handle unexpected results. These guidelines will maintain a degree of moral direction, but an overriding goal must be established so that all participants and practitioners recognize the limit between improving the human race and progress for the sake of progress alone. Choosing to participate in PGD is a decision that many parents will be faced with in the near future, and, as the technology advances, so too will the options available to these parents when it comes to promoting the health of their children. While we may never see the emergence of the â€œdesigner baby,â€? the advancement of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis will certainly shape the face of reproductive genetics in the future. Will these reproductive breakthroughs and our own desires for perfection pave the way to the dystopian future seen in Gattaca? Or can we seize the opportunity to set boundaries conducive to scientific growth while maintaining the humanity that we hold so dear before the Rubicon is crossed and we find ourselves in a Brave New World we neither hoped nor dreamed could ever be? Time alone will tell.
1. J.P. Geraedts and G.M. De Wert, “Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis,” Clinical Genetics 76 (2009):315.
10. Geraedts and De Wert, “Preimplantation,” 322. 11. Joep Geraedts et al., “ESHRE,” 2673.
12. Geraedts and De Wert, “Preimplantation,” 315.
3. Joep Geraedts et al., “ESHRE Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis(PGD) Consortium: Data Collection II (May 2000),” Human Reproduction 15, no. 21 (2000): 2674.
13 A.L. Bredenoord et al., “Dealing with Uncertainties: Ethics of Prenatal Diagnosis and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis to Prevent Mitochondrial Disorders,” Human Reproduction Update 14, no. 1 (2007): 84 and Geraedts and De Wert, “Preimplantation,” 317-318.
4. Geraedts and De Wert, “Preimplantation,” 315-316. 5. Matthew S. Liao, “The Ethics of Using Genetic Engineering for Sex Selection,” Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (2005): 116.
14. Raz, “Eugenic Utopias,” 603; Bredenoord et al., “Dealing with Uncertainties,” 86.
6. Ibid. 7. Aviad E. Raz, “Eugenic Utopias/ Dystopias, Reprogenetics, and Community Genetics,” Sociology of Health & Illness 31, no. 4 (2009): 606.
15. Joep Geraedts and others, “ESHRE,” 2673.
8. Geraedts and De Wert, “Preimplantation,” 322.
17. Bredenoord et al., “Dealing with Uncertainties,” 85.
16. Ibid., 2675-2678.
9. M.H. Bogart et al., “Genetic Disease Screening Program: California Department of Public Health,” (2009): 4-24.
18. Ibid., 85-86.
To Support Or Not To Support: The Issue of Cognitive Enhancement Robert Zilinyi, Student, Skidmore College
ne of the more prominent and relevant debates currently ongoing in the field of bioethics is the use of cognitive enhancement drugs, which are also known as nootropic drugs. The name nootropic stems from the Greek words nous (mind) and trepein (to bend/turn). From this, the functions of these drugs are apparent; they alter your mindâ€™s function. There are not really concrete sides on this argument to be supported or refuted; however, the primary claim made against the use of cognitive enhancement drugs is that they are a form of cheating in that they are seen as offering some an unfair advantage over others. This paper will explore the opinions of several authors in the field writing about this subject and will further show that if approached from a pragmatic moral standpoint, the use of cognitive enhancers might prove to be fruitful for the future realization of personal and public goods. The two sides of the baseline argument as I see them are this. On the one hand, there are those who make the claim that cognitive enhancement is a form of cheating, and their off-label and widespread use ought to be strictly prohibited. The other side, the side that I am more inclined to agree with, states that cognitive enhancement drugs do not, in fact, give an unfair advantage and might actually aid in leveling what is already a very uneven academic playing field. There is more to be said by both sides; however, the subtleties and alternate implications will show themselves in what follows. Before addressing the two sides, it seems necessary to give a brief explanation of what nootropic drugs are and
what their common uses are today. There are many supplemental readings that provide more in-depth accounts of the specific neurological functions of these drugs and their actions. However, for the purposes of this paper, the explanation that follows should be sufficient to guide the reader through the implications of the arguments that this paper will make. A cognitive enhancement drug, or nootropic drug, is a neuropharmaceutical psychostimulant that is supposed to improve some cognitive function or another, such as memory, attention, or alertness.1 Examples of nootropic drugs are Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, caffeine and several others. There is a broad range in the effectiveness of these drugs as well as in the relative health risks inherent in taking some of them. Many cognitive enhancers are designed for those with cognitive disorders such as ADHD, dementia and Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Cognitive enhancement drugs have not been on the market long enough to have determinate results on the long-term effects of nootropic drug use, and it is this point that several authors touch on in their arguments against these drugs. However, the ethical dispute surrounding these drugs is centered on the off-label use of them by healthy individuals to aid in their studying, as well as how this practice could be seen as cheating. To understand this point further, we will first look at the arguments from the side opposing the use of cognitive enhancers. I will use two viewpoints as the principle formulations against the use of cognitive 79
Robert Zilinyi enhancement drugs. The first viewpoint that I will address is the view that cognitive enhancers offer an unfair advantage to some, and at the same time they create public health and safety issues. Eric Racine and Cynthia Forlini best represent the healthcare aspect of this argument in their paper, â€œExpectations Regarding Cognitive Enhancement Create Substantial Challenges.â€?2 The second viewpoint, a more radical one, is that an ethical application of cognitive enhancement is not possible given the present state of our moral community. The major proponents of this view, Ingmar Perrson and Julian Savulescu, argue that with the present state of the moral character of humanity, any widespread use of cognitive enhancement drugs would result in far more ills than it would goods.3 The second viewpoint is more speculative and I propose to show that it does not have a firm footing. Before getting to the more drastic of the aforementioned views, a more detailed look at the baseline ethical implications of the first view will help set the stage for the second argument. If it is not possible to even get past the issues of cheating and unfair advantages, there is no basis for continuing on to address what might come of the widespread use of nootropic drugs, at least from a moral standpoint. The issue of cognitive enhancement as a form of cheating is addressed on both sides of the argument, both for and against. Why might cognitive enhancement be considered a form of cheating? Many have compared the use of nootropics in academia to the use of anabolic
steroids in sports. In competitive sports, many athletes take performance enhancement drugs to excel in their sport. On the surface alone, the use of these drugs is unethical since they violate the governing standards and sanctions of professional sports. Beyond this, however, there is also an issue that presents itself in the form of an unfair advantage being given to those who dope over those who do not. When individuals use steroids in sports, their goals are winning a game and ultimately gaining fame and glory, not to mention, a rather hefty paycheck. This may seem like a slightly unfounded claim since I cannot provide any sort of empirical proof for this, and so I will not base my argument entirely on it. However, the realizable goods from the use of steroids in sports only extend as far as the demands of the individual and potentially her or his team. The use of performance enhancers in sports does not change the rules of the game or what it means to be an athlete in this sport, and so it really only benefits the individual to use these drugs. The institution of sports does not gain any goods from individual usage of steroids. The team may benefit from the performance of the individual, but this again does not do anything to realize any public goods. Before comparing doping in sports to using nootropics in academics, I think it necessary to make several distinctions that seem to be absent from almost all literature on the subject of cognitive enhancement. In several articles that I have read, the use of nootropic drugs is depicted as the tool of the procrastinator, who waits until the 80
Robert Zilinyi, left, Linda Clute and Justin Baker last night before an exam, pops this magic pill and does great on the exam. The first distinction necessary is that nootropics are not used exclusively for cramming for a test. The use of nootropics extends far beyond the night before an exam and, therefore, cannot be seen as a last-ditch method to improve one’s grades. Another point to be stressed is that these cognitive enhancement drugs are not “intelligence in a bottle” as some make them appear in their articles. While I do acknowledge that these authors are not actually claiming this, their wording fosters this sort of image in the reader’s mind.4 These drugs do not make students smarter. Rather, they allow them to concentrate more extensively or keep them alert when they might otherwise be unable to stay awake. These drugs are as simple as coffee or the Monster energy drinks that keep students awake when studying or doing homework. The drugs that are currently available on the market do not create intelligence. The drugs do not make an individual’s brain do more than it is physiologically capable of doing; they merely alter the release of certain neurotransmitters so that the brain functions more efficiently.5 That being said, the idea of cognitive enhancement being the same as doping may not seem all that far off. It is, after all, nothing more than a performance-enhancing drug. However, as discussed by Rob Goodman, the difference between academia and sports is whether one or the other is a zero-sum activity.6 The key distinction here is that in
the case of sports, the pride and dignity of the activity is the process. While the product (e.g. winning) does matter, the dignity of winning a game is lost when the participant reaches this end through an unfair advantage gained over her or his opponents. The ultimate end in sports is winning and achieving athletic greatness. This may seem to contradict what I said earlier regarding money and fame and everything else that goes with it. However, these ends of winning and athletic greatness are generally what lead to the ends of fame and fortune and so go along with one another hand in hand. However, the fame and fortune tend to be lessened and sometimes stripped from the individual if it is found that the means by which he or she got to the end were unfair to others and did not require the same effort that others put in. In Michael Shermer’s article “On the Argument that Enhancement is ‘Cheating,’” he argues that if an athlete participates in a game with the end of money or fame or anything other than the dignity of the sport or game in mind, the dignity is already injured at that point.7 With these two conceptions in mind, it is clear to see that any value in a sport is found in the process of achieving competitive greatness and not in what may come for society following this greatness. It would seem, based on the principles of sports, that to enhance one’s capabilities by means of drugs would, in fact, create an unfair advantage for some and not others, and that this would constitute a violation of the rules of sports as well as the potential goods of sports in general. 81
“This paper will … show that if approached from a pragmatic moral standpoint, the use of cognitive enhancers might prove to be fruitful for the future realization of personal and public goods.”
When we look at enhancement in academia, however, it appears that there is value in the process of working hard and achieving based on one’s “natural” capabilities, but the more important aspect of learning is what comes of it. We see in this instance that academia is not a zero-sum activity. Further, we see that there are repercussions beyond the scope of just the institution of learning for improving or not improving ourselves. Academic institutions, as I see it, exist for the educational growth of the individuals of a society so that these individuals might contribute something useful to their society as well as to the societies of others. The means by which these ends are met seem significantly more negligible in the grand scheme of things over the resultant ends. This is not to say that cheating off another does not constitute a violation of the institution of education in general. There is a huge distinction that must be made here. Taking another’s work and presenting it as your own or not learning the material and using a crib or a cheat sheet during an examination are violations of governing policies of academia in general. In addition to being a violation of these codes, there is nothing to be gained other than good grades that an individual is not worthy of. In the vein of Deweyan philosophy, this is not progress either morally or socially. Good grades do not define an education. Education, according to Dewey is “getting from the present the degree and kind of growth there is in it.”8 To cheat is to stagnate one’s growth and education. Now people argue that
to enhance one’s cognitive capabilities through the means of nootropic drugs, more specifically prescription nootropic drugs, is to create an unfair advantage over fellow students and that this is cheating in the same vein as the methods stated above. An argument that is implicit in this is that there would be an uneven playing field created by such drug use. This aspect of the debate needs further exploration to determine whether there is even a foundation for such an argument. The first issue in this argument is the assumption that there already exists an even playing field. As Cakic so rightly puts it in his paper, “Smart Drugs for Cognitive Enhancement: Ethical and Pragmatic Considerations in the Era of Cosmetic Neurology,” both hereditary and socioeconomic factors play into the cognitive capabilities and academic performance of each individual person.9 If we were to assume that every person had the same IQ and lived under the same socioeconomic conditions, then it might be plausible to say that there exists an even playing field. However, since this is not the case, we must acknowledge that there is already an uneven playing field in academia. There are numerous reasons for these inequities including the contrasts between schools in affluent areas and schools in impoverished areas, private versus public education and so on. It is also important to note that studies have shown that the use of nootropics is widespread across the demographic of students in general, with some college campuses reporting as high as 25 percent usage rates by their students.10 82
It is those people who would otherwise be academically less competitive that are benefiting the most from these drugs and using them the most. That being said, it would appear that the use of cognitive enhancers might, in fact, play a role in leveling the already uneven playing field. However, before addressing these possibilities, the current state and availability of nootropic drugs needs to be examined. At present, there are few non-prescription nootropic drugs available to most people on the open market. Of those available, the primary drug available is caffeine, which comes in many forms, combined with other supplements that aid in alertness and concentration such as taurine, vitamins B6 and B12 and guarana. The remaining, more potent cognitive enhancers are prescription medicines prescribed solely to those with neuro-cognitive disorders. This, of course, is only the ideal picture of the distribution of drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall and Provigil. The reality of the situation is otherwise. Anyone who has Internet access or a friend with ADHD can find out the symptoms of the disorder, go to a psychiatrist, make a case for himself or herself and get a prescription for one of these magic pills. A 2009 article in The New Yorker called â€œBrain Gainâ€? talks about the underground culture of cognitive enhancement in higher education. The primary source of the article is a Harvard University graduate who did exactly what was explained above and made it through his extremely hectic time at Harvard (going to school full-time, running a student
organization full-time and maintaining a social life and grades) all with the aid of his little blue pills.11 Practices such as these are regarded as taboo and might be seen as cheating because students are procuring nootropic drugs through illicit or dishonest means. Now this may be seen as cheating the FDA or the laws governing the use of prescription drugs, but it does nothing to the integrity of the educational system. The people using these drugs are not bringing with them any information that is not contained in their own mind. They are not relying on the work of others to pass off as their own. All that these people are guilty of is improving their capabilities to study and pay attention. It would appear, in fact, that these practices help students achieve more and participate more in their educational experiences, which help shape the people that they become in society. How can an improvement of oneâ€™s educational potential be seen as wrong? An argument that says that there is an unfair advantage because the individual on cognitive enhancers only has to read materials once to get the information out of it seems almost absurd. From a pragmatic standpoint, the ability to glean and retain information faster and more efficiently is, many times, of itself a good and can lead to the realization of more goods, individual and social. Now that the current state of affairs regarding cognitive enhancement is on the table, an exploration of the future possibilities for nootropics can be opened. From what has been said, I believe that my point concerning the use of nootropics as a form of cheating has 83
â€œThese drugs do not make students smarter. Rather, they allow them to concentrate more extensively or keep them alert when they might otherwise be unable to stay awake.â€?
been made clear. Pragmatically speaking, the realization of more goods through enhanced cognitive capabilities does not present itself as unethical. Rather, it can be seen as contributing to the overall moral character of humanity. At this point, my argument becomes hypothesis and not fact. However, if the expected ends of this hypothesis were realized, the social and individual goods realizable would be immense. If through the use of nootropic drugs, a more even playing field were fostered in academia, it could be argued that a new level of academic competition would arise, bringing with it a higher standard of education, increased innovation and better technologies to ameliorate present and future ills. There are, however, several issues facing the realization of this end. The first issue that presents itself, and it is probably the most discussed issue in the secondary literature on nootropics, is the health risks that may be inherent in the prolonged use of some of the current drugs. Many argue that because there are health risks involved in the extended use of cognitive enhancers, they should not be made available to the general public. I agree with this sentiment given the present situation. However, in the vein of all that is pragmatic, we have before us an opportunity to realize a higher standard of social growth and cognitive capabilities. Instead of denying the use of nootropic drugs because present drugs might be harmful, we should instead look for ways to overcome these obstacles and focus whatever
efforts are available to the development of a non-harmful nootropic drug. Drawing from Dewey, I believe that we have a duty as rational beings to moral and social progress, and that the only way that we can continue to evolve and grow is through this progress. We would do ourselves wrong to deny ourselves the capability to enhance our cognitive capabilities if it would not be detrimental to our current or future state. Many of us take daily vitamins, many of which include B vitamins (a natural nootropic), to assure that our bodies function to the best of their abilities. Why would it be unethical to take yet another pill that increases our capability to learn and retain information? As I stated above, B vitamins are a natural nootropic that increase mental stamina and alertness. Why is it that we do not attempt to deter the use of these B vitamins as well? We accept vitamins because they are natural, and so it might be argued that nootropics should not be accepted because they are unnatural. However, if we are going to argue that nootropics are unnatural, then we must also concede that the antibiotics that we take are not natural either and, therefore, should not be supported. After all, many of these pharmaceuticals are developed in the same way that nootropics are and to relatively the same end: the improvement of our present state. All of medicine up until this point seems to be a practice of manipulating ourselves to escape the perils of nature. Every pharmaceutical advance that we make acts to further change our bodies in 84
Robert Zilinyi, left, and Rafik Mohamed such a way that we can alter the natural course of our lives. To draw the line at improving our mental capabilities seems ludicrous and irrational. Our cognitive capabilities stand at the forefront of the improvement of ourselves and of our surroundings. This does not mean that the health risks in taking nootropic drugs are negligible and should be ignored. They are probably the most important issue relevant to nootropic use. However, to propose, as Racine and Forlini do, that the necessary healthcare resources required to develop an ideal cognitive enhancer should not be allocated to the development of such drugs is, I believe, wrong.12 Nootropic drugs are already being developed to treat neurodegenerative diseases. In the development of these drugs, we expect them to be developed to a standard wherein their use is not detrimental to the patient or user. If we are already developing these drugs, why should we not support the development of over-the-counter nootropics the same way that we support the development and distribution of something such as an over-thecounter antihistamine? There does not seem to be an adequate answer to this question. This brings me to my next point on healthcare resources, the availability of nootropics. Cakic argues that the use and availability of these cognitive enhancement drugs would be favorable only to the upper class and would once again widen both the educative and socioeconomic gap between upper and lower class individuals.13 The foundations of this argument appear to rest on the current status of nootropic drugs in general. They are for the
most part prescription drugs that only those prescribed them are supposed to take. Because of this, those who want nootropics and are not prescribed them must seek them out through illicit or dishonest means. Many times such individuals end up paying top dollar for these cognitive boosts. From this situation, without further consideration of future circumstances, several authors have concluded that only the wealthy would be able to get nootropics and that the uneven playing field would persist. The obvious solution to this problem is to make a nootropic drug that could be sold over the counter. If a nootropic drug were developed for widespread use by anyone, due to the vastly increased demand, the price of these drugs would most likely be comparable to that of something like an everyday vitamin. The realization of the goal of developing a non-harmful nootropic drug would make the issue of the use of cognitive enhancers much more straightforward. If developed, I believe that this drug would face the same sort of reception that caffeine receives from the general public because they serve a similar function. While some would stand in opposition to their use for personal reasons, many would accept these drugs as another means to improve their capabilities. Caffeine itself is considered to be a nootropic drug; it increases alertness and helps improve cognitive function and is the most widely used study aid known to academia. If this hypothetical nootropic drug were developed, from a pragmatic standpoint, its availability would have to be 85
universal. Without universality, it might still be considered an unethical practice and, to draw on James for a moment, it would be morally wrong to restrict some from access to this drug and its potential capabilities for realizing the most goods. As with all other pragmatic moral matters, there is no final or concrete answer as to whether or not the use of nootropics is ethical in all cases. Its use ought to be prohibited in cases where its application would do more harm than good. However, the consideration of whether or not to use the drug is a personal matter, unique to each individual and situation. In order to determine whether or not the development of a more potent, less harmful nootropic should be supported, one final crucial consideration must be made. This consideration concerns whether the potential ills of such a drug would outweigh the potential goods if developed and implemented in society. In a 2008 article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Perrson and Savulescu make a very pointed argument against the development and use of nootropics drugs. The argument is that, given the current moral character of humanity, the development of potent nootropic drugs would most likely prove itself to be more detrimental than it would be beneficial.14 The reason I call it a very pointed argument is that it focuses very intensely on the subject of weapons of mass destruction as the reasoning for why nootropics should not be developed. It is my position that the authors assume too much in their argument and, although admitted by
the authors, do not consider the possibility of the alternative sufficiently. Perrson and Savulescu argue that if there is going to be research into the development of effective nootropics, then there also must be an equal amount of research into what they term “moral enhancement.”15 The problem with their reasoning is that, in my opinion, if we approach the development of nootropics pragmatically, we realize that through their development, the moral development requisite in Perrson and Savulescu’s claim would be realized through the development of these drugs. Obviously, this assertion needs support to give any validity to the claim. While it is true that there are people who are capable of immense moral evil, it is unfair and unfounded to characterize humanity as such. The claim of Perrson and Savulecsu’s paper does not attempt to account for the realizable goods from the use of nootropics. This is a substantial issue that virtually nullifies their claim. The reason that I say this is that the claim essentially focuses on the growth of moral evil and not only fails to consider, but neglects the growth of moral goods and the moral agents implementing these goods. I think it is equally plausible, if not more plausible, to claim that if we are capable of increasing our cognitive capabilities then, at the very least, the growth rate of ills will be on par with the growth rate of goods to alleviate those specific ills. To make this less abstract, I will use an anecdotal example. Suppose that group A, who we will call “terrorists,” and group B, who we will call 86
“All that these people are guilty of is improving their capabilities to study and pay attention.”
“FBI,” are both given access to cognitive enhancers. On the assumption of Perrson and Savulescu, the terrorists will advance their terror capabilities at a much higher rate than the FBI will be able to come up with tactics to deter and obstruct these terror activities. This argument does not logically follow. At the very least, it should be assumed that the growth rates will be equal and that the present capabilities of the FBI to stop the actions of the terrorists will be at least the same. It can be argued that this is an optimistic view that has minimal grounding; however, the entirety of both my argument and that of Perrson and Savulescu are hypothetical in that they are arguing for future results that are, as of yet, unrealized. I have still not addressed my claim from above concerning the development of nootropic drugs. If we were to develop and implement nootropic drugs into society, which is necessary for both my claim and Perrson and Savulescu’s, I believe that through increased cognitive capabilities and higher educational standards, more goods would be realized than the potential ills stated above. This increase in cognitive capabilities would allow individuals to assess the ills of a situation and find a quicker and more efficient path to the amelioration of these ills. In addition, and more hypothetically, if there were to be a general increase in the cognitive functioning of humans in general, we might see a general decline in disputes over what many deem to be “stupid” reasons. To give a little more weight to this unequivocally technical term
of stupid, I would add that these disputes are generally over a lack of understanding from one culture to the next that might be partially alleviated if humanity saw an increase in its overall cognitive capabilities. So, in response to Perrson and Savulescu, I would say that the requisite moral enhancement they so desire might be implicit in the development of cognitive enhancement. After all, and to return to James, the reason that we are capable of such high levels of moral decision-making is due to our evolution to a higher cognitive functioning species.16 How better might we improve this capability than by increasing our cognitive skills? CONCLUSIONS The issue of cognitive enhancement is one that needs addressing. It cannot be ignored or suppressed as is suggested by some. What exactly the moral implications of the application of nootropics in society might be are, of course, still up in the air. However, from what has been said, it seems safe to conclude that the use of nootropic drugs is not a form of cheating, as has been suggested. This might change, depending on the specific guidelines of the educational system in the future. Given the present state of nootropic drugs, I do not think that making them readily available to the general public would be wise or beneficial. However, with the potentially realizable goods that have been expounded, I do believe that further research and development of a more ideal nootropic drug would be beneficial to moral and societal growth. 87
1. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1988).
8. John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1948), 184185.
2. Eric Racine and Cynthia Forlini, “Expectations Regarding Cognitive Enhancement Create Substantial Challenges,” Journal of Medical Ethics (2009): 469-470.
9. Cakic, “Smart Drugs,” 612. 10. Brendan Maher, “Poll Results: Look Who’s Doping,” Nature (2008): 674-675.
3. Ingmar Perrson and Julian Savulescu, “The Perils of Cognitive Enhancement and the Urgent Imperative to Enhance the Moral Character of Humanity,” Journal of Applied Philosophy (2008): 162ff.
11. Margaret Talbot, “Brain Gain,” The New Yorker (2009), http://www.newyorker. com/reporting/2009/04/27/090427fa_fact_ talbot.
4. Vince Cakic, “Smart Drugs for Cognitive Enhancement: Ethical and Pragmatic Considerations in the Era of Cosmetic Neurology,” Journal of Medical Ethics (2009): 611.
12. Racine and Forlini, “Expectations,” 469-470. 13. Cakic, “Smart Drugs,” 612. 14. Perrson and Savulescu, “The Perils of Cognitive Enhancement,”162.
5. Peter J. Whitehouse and Eric Jeungst, “Enhancing Cognition in the Intellectually Intact,” Hastings Center Report (1997): 14ff.
6. Rob Goodman, “Cognitive Enhancement, Cheating, and Accomplishment,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (2010): 145+.
16. William James, “the Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” in Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays (USA: Oxford University Press, 1999), 204.
7. Michael Shermer, “On the Argument that Enhancement is ‘Cheating,’” Journal of Medical Ethics (2008): 85ff.
Personal Morality, Law, and Ethics: The Case of the Dorm Room Dealer1 A. Rafik Mohamed, Professor of Sociology, Clayton State University
I view a drug dealer as someone who is making money. I was generally…sometimes, yes, I could make money...but the vast majority of the time it went right back into it. Or ya know, we all would go out and have a fun time and I would make sure to try to pick up the bill or something. Or just having a good time…I certainly wouldn’t call myself a drug dealer. It definitely didn’t feel like that at the time -Brice
financial aid at Columbia University, tuition and mandatory fees at the private Manhattan institute topped $43,000 for the 2010-2011 academic year. And, if the cost of room and board, books, and additional expenses are factored in, this annual cost of attendance shoots up above $57,000. But, consistent with the demographic and socioeconomic profile of many prestigious private university students, both David and Coles apparently come from fairly affluent backgrounds. And ultimately, as New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly noted, “This is no way to work your way through college.” Beyond the ethical objections raised by the Commissioner to the Columbia Five subsidizing their college education through illicit drug sales, and in direct rebuttal to his specious claim that he was compelled to sell drugs to support his Ivy League ambitions, Harrison David’s father, a Massachusetts surgeon, told reporters that he had paid his son’s tuition “since day one.” And, as a further testament to the Columbia Five’s relative privilege, at least three of the embattled students have retained costly and high-profile defense attorneys known for handling celebrity and other prominent cases. Given the attention paid the drug sting by the national media and the abundance of additional chatter on the subject in the blogosphere, it would seem that the possibility of rampant drug use and drug dealing networks on prestigious college campuses is a shocking anomaly to an otherwise chaste and academically focused culture that typifies daily life on college campuses. In fact, in
n December 7, 2010, five Columbia University students were arrested for allegedly distributing drugs out of university dorm rooms and fraternity houses. These young men were charged with illegally dealing an assortment of controlled substances including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, Adderall, and LSD. Nicknamed “Operation Ivy League,” the drug bust drew national attention with headlines dubbing the students “The Columbia Five” and hyperbolically cautioning, “Move over Harlem pushers, you’ve got some Ivy League competition.”2 Upon his arrest, twenty year old Columbia junior and former high school salutatorian turned suspected drug dealer, Harrison David said, “Why do you think I have to do this [stuff ]? He [my father] won’t pay my tuition.” Another suspect, Chris Coles, echoed David’s claim reportedly telling police that “I just sell it to pay tuition.” Certainly, Columbia is among the most expensive universities in the nation and the cost of attending the Ivy League institution is no easy freight. According to the office of 89
DePauw Professor of Philosophy Richard Cameron introducing Rafik Mohamed response to the Columbia arrests, New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said, “The most surprising aspect was the openness of the drug dealing. It appeared to have been done very cavalierly. In addition, there was a wide range of drugs.”3 While some of the Columbia Five’s peers’ reactions echoed Prosecutor Brennan’s seeming surprise to the operation of a robust drug spot right beneath their noses, most current and former students at Columbia and elsewhere had reactions that could perhaps best be summed up by “duh.” While clearly not methodologically sound, anecdotal information gleaned from news outlets covering the story suggests that drug sales on Columbia’s campus were well known and, if intended to be clandestine in any way, were quite poorly hidden in plain sight. The Daily Beast, for example, reported on the day after the arrests: But, in fact, the prestigious institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has long been ‘ripe’ for drug trafficking, a knowledgeable 2009 Columbia graduate told The Daily Beast. ‘I think the permissive environment of Public Safety’ – as Columbia’s campus police force is known – ‘makes it a no-brainer proposition,’ said this former student, who described himself as a recreational drug user who dabbled in selling. ‘I always felt safe.’ Another recent grad and former residential adviser confirmed these
observations. ‘It is permissive,’ the former student adviser told The Daily Beast. ‘I got the sense that it wasn’t a priority….When you suspected illegal drug use – which means pot, because it’s the only one you’d be able to tell from the hall – you’d have to call Public Safety. Of course, there was the understanding that Public Safety would take so long to respond that there would be no evidence still apparent. I don’t know if it was deliberate, but after 45 minutes or an hour, you’d have to be a moron to get caught. You’d have to be still holding a joint.’4 Indeed, this account from The Daily Beast, as well as countless other reactions to the Columbia Five and another well-publicized drug bust at Georgetown University less than two months earlier, and my own research on college drug dealing suggest that networks like these not only exist, but flourish, at universities around the country. DORM ROOM DEALERS I don’t know, I really just do it to smoke, that’s the only reason I sell pot. Then you just start selling tons of pot. Then, like now, I get to smoke tons of pot. -Lacoste Over a six year period, my colleague Erik Fritsvold and I, along with the help of several critically important undergraduate 90
Rafik Mohamed research assistants, conducted interviews and observations of a drug dealing network that operated around a hub Southern California private university. A couple of key dealer-informants provided us with critical information about how the network functioned, and they ultimately served as gatekeepers to other people whose daily lives revolved around the drug sales and use that defined this network. In total, we interviewed approximately fifty of the network’s dealers, all of whom were current college students or recent graduates of the hub and surrounding universities. All of the dealers could be comfortably characterized as upper-middle or upper class. In regard to race and ethnicity, all but a few of the dealers who operated within this network were white or were whiteidentified. And, in addition to selling drugs, most of the network’s dealers were frequent drug users with marijuana being their primary drug of choice. The majority of our network’s dealers started and ended their dealing careers with pot, and they ranged from “small-time” dealers selling marijuana in primarily eighth and quarter ounce increments to substantial dealers who routinely sold marijuana in quarter-pound, pounds, and multi-pound quantities. In fact, the largest dealers in our study routinely grossed over $100,000 per month from their drug sales. Beyond marijuana, the minority of dealers in our network trafficked in street drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. We also discovered a very robust prescription drug market that offered a wide
variety of licitly manufactured but illicitly distributed opiods, stimulants, and CNS depressants to the student population served by the network. Unlike the open-air, highly visible, and relatively anonymous transactions that typify “open” drug markets, our dorm room dealers worked their trade in what drug researchers classify as “closed” markets. By and large, our network’s dealers operated out of their apartments or dorm rooms and typically limited their drug sales to either customers they knew personally or customers that could be “vouched for” by a friend or closer acquaintance. This is not to suggest that these dealers took extra precautions to conceal their illegal activities. On the contrary, their operations could best be described as haphazard and they often utilized pathetic risk management strategies. Also unlike the relatively quick and impersonal transactions that occur in open drug markets, our dealers practiced the art of the slow deal and exchanged drugs for money in an environment that was described by one of our dealers as “friendly-like.” As Stopper, one of our network’s few female dealers said of these drug transactions: You go over their house and you pick up a sack [a pre-weighed bag of marijuana] from them and you feel like, ‘Oh, I should hang out with them,’ almost like you had to do them a favor in addition to paying them. There’s the unspoken rule that you have to share your first bowl with whoever you are 91
“The key question driving this study was why would well off college students choose to sell drugs. More specifically, why would someone who conceivably stood to lose so much if caught make the irrational and arguably immoral choice to sell drugs?”
buying it from…It was always like, they ask you a couple of questions about how everything was going…It was almost like they wanted it to be a more personal relationship as opposed to more formal…It’s not like you’re going to buy a pack of gum. If you alienate these people…there’s an element of trust involved in something even as minor as buying weed. You don’t want to piss them off. You don’t want to insult them. You’re going to come back the next week or the next day…You just don’t want to burn that bridge. You eventually become connected to whoever sells to you. You can literally call them at two in the morning and say, ‘Can I drop by?’ If you guys have a good relationship, they’ll say ‘yeah.’ The key question driving this study was why would well off college students choose to sell drugs. More specifically, why would someone who conceivably stood to lose so much if caught make the irrational and arguably immoral choice to sell drugs? Quite clearly, and very much like the Columbia Five, most of the dealers we encountered in our network did not need the money; their parents paid their tuition, room and board, made their car payments, and provided them with spending money for incidentals and nights on the town. Furthermore, in spite of their attempts to rationalize their illicit behavior, the dealers we observed and interviewed certainly knew what they were doing was illegal. Finally, and rather basically,
none of our network’s membership struck us as the type of people who would fare well in prison. So, again, why would they choose to sell drugs? Many of the dealers we interviewed indicated that they sold drugs to underwrite the costs of their personal drug use or to otherwise offset other incidental and entertainment expenses. As one dealer remarked, he smoked “tons of pot” and did not want to pay “retail” for his personal supply. The “spirit of capitalism” was another common factor behind our dealers’ choices to sell drugs. In essence, drug sales seemed like a way to hone these dealers’ skills as future capitalists and an effective means to acquire more disposable income. As one of our dealers, Ashcan, commented, “It was an easy way to make money.” We also found that our dealers achieved a good bit of ego gratification and a boost in status among their peers for being known as the dorm room dopeman. It was a way to stand out among peers who, by virtue of their parents’ wealth, already possessed an abundance of material status symbols. As our most brazen dealer, Lacoste, bragged when asked about drug dealing, “If you said, where’d you get pot, where can I get pot? I’m sure my name would be mentioned at least 50 percent of the time.” Other dealers interviewed seemed to be seduced by the simple thrill of deviant behavior and the rush they received from getting away with activities they knew to be illegal and arguably immoral. Finally, we concluded that some of our subjects sold drugs as a means to embrace traditional expectations 92
“Finally, we concluded that some of our subjects sold drugs as a means to embrace traditional expectations of masculinity and to ward off the emasculating force associated with being educated young men from relatively privileged backgrounds.”
of masculinity and to ward off the emasculating force associated with being educated young men from relatively privileged backgrounds.
OxyContin, got hooked on it, tried to come off it himself because it wasn’t, it didn’t look right, and ended up committing suicide. Uh, so that’s uh… that was about two years ago. Jimmy’s comments, along with abundant feedback from and observations of the college drug dealers involved in our study, reflect what we have defined as mental gymnastics – a combination of semantic twists, neutralization strategies, and rationalizations that permit people to renegotiate their personal morality and downplay their involvement in an unambiguously illicit and potentially harmful enterprise. These mental gymnastics involve learned excuses for criminal or deviant activities and include classic neutralization strategies like denial of law’s necessity, denial of injury, and denial of gain.5 Beyond these archetypal strategies, we also found frequent renegotiations of personal morality in other forms. For example, our dealers commonly justified their personal choices to us through suggestions that “everyone else” was either using or selling drugs; therefore, they were merely going along with the tide. Others routinely rationalized their illicit drug activities by contending that what mattered most was not the journey they were on, rather it was the destination at which they would ultimately arrive. Since none of these dealers intended to make a career out of drug sales and figured to eventually adopt more conformist positions in mainstream society, they were able to redefine their personal morality and convince themselves
PERSONAL MORALITY AND UNETHICAL CHOICES – MENTAL GYMNASTICS Largely informed by the works of philosophers who have explored questions of morality with much greater patience and care than I, in its simplest form, I have come to understand personal morality as the set of rules governing our personal choices and the code that guides personal decision-making on a daily basis. These rules may or may not be consistent with society’s declared norms and, perhaps most interestingly and relevant to my own research on college drug dealers, these rules may or may not be consistent with a person’s own stated beliefs. And finally, as was revealed on several occasions throughout our dorm room dealer research, these rules may or may not be consistent with objective assessments of harm on behalf of the person making the choices. Toward this latter point, for example, Jimmy, one of the approximately twenty prescription drug dealers we interviewed said the following: One time, I had like ninety-nine [pills] in three days and I lost track of two weeks. Basically, I had no idea what was going on…lost track of reality. You know I don’t remember dick for two weeks…One of my half brothers had back pain issues, was hooked on painkillers, ended up taking 93
Rafik Mohamed, right, with Rachael Holley that what they were doing in the present moment mattered less than where they would ultimately end up. We also observed a good deal of what can be called a reciprocal labeling effect. In short, the majority of our dealers were reared in a culture that conveyed to them that conventional success was part of their heritage while also downplaying their transgressions. Consequently, in spite of their very obvious involvement in illegal drug activity, they were able to cling to a positive and legitimate self-identity. Again, reciprocal labeling, what Jeffrey Reiman6 called “the carnival mirror image,” and other neutralization strategies and renegotiations of personal morality commonly came to the fore during our dorm room dealer interviews. In our network’s dealers’ own words, examples of these techniques included: I mean if someone really wanted to bust us they could. All they would have to do was get someone to sit on our house to get some evidence against us to be able to go in there. No one cares that much. I think a lot of it has to do with the people we are, we don’t live in the ghetto. We don’t make noise, we don’t have parties, we don’t bring attention to ourselves, we are quiet, we pay everything on time. -Ann
at the time. I don’t really know. Call me a supplier, or just a middleman or whatever, I don’t know. -Beefy I view a drug dealer as someone who is making money. I was generally… sometimes, yes, I could make money...but the vast majority of the time it went right back into it. Or, ya know, we all would go out and have a fun time and I would make sure to try to pick up the bill or something. Or just having a good time…I certainly wouldn’t call myself a drug dealer. It definitely didn’t feel like that at the time. -Brice I’ve never been directly involved with sales although…I’ve contributed some funds here and there for some drugs…I guess you could say I’ve been indirectly involved in the sales side of it…It’s pretty much a network that I formed my freshmen year through meeting everyone at the dorms…I just met the kids that have made it common practice to go down to Mexico to make a little bit of money you know. -Brad You were dealing with people who were all in college and who were all your friends…People are generally pushing for it not to be as criminalized as it is. So, I think it is twofold…people are surrounded by their friends and the people they care about, so it makes it
Q: Would you consider yourself a drugdealer? A: Yeah, but I don’t really like the label. Q: What would you rather be called? A: I don’t know. Just I don’t know. I can’t really think of a label that I prefer 94
“… relative immunity enjoyed by these drug dealing communities distorts the true nature of their behavior and contributes to the cumulative series of injustices and public misperception perpetrated by U.S. failing drug policies.”
hard to feel like you are a criminal in that sense. And then there is probably an attitude about it not really feeling really like it should be illegal. It is like when you are sixteen and you are drinking alcohol at a high-school party. You know that that is not like quote-unquote legal, but it certainly doesn’t stop you. -Cecilia
of these codes suggest we actually support. Nowhere is this disconnect more clear than in the unequal application of domestic drug laws. As Canadian academic Laura Penny writes: The War on Some Drugs is largely a war on the poor. The cartels have lawyers and bodyguards and havens to protect themselves from justice. The minor players and users do not. Some drugs are classier than others, but the abjectness of the drug user’s condition, and the force of prohibition against them, is dependent on the class of the user, not the effects of the substance itself. Woe betide the collared crackhead from Any Ghetto, who can look forward to a stint in prison. Would that he, like Noelle Bush or Rush Limbaugh, had the resources for revolving-door rehab. -Laura Penny Continuing with this section’s aphorist theme, there is another proverb, this time of African origin that says, “In the land of no law, there is no offense.” In the case of our college drug dealing network, and in line with Penny’s admonishment of United States drug law hypocrisy, our stated public morality has consistently been grossly inconsistent with the application of our “zero tolerance” drug law. Essentially, the Columbia Five’s arrests notwithstanding, what routinely occurs behind the gates of our ivory towers offers but one example of the many contradictions in our public morality. During the same period in which our heavy-handed web of drug laws continued driving a thirty year
A FEW THOUGHTS ON PUBLIC MORALITY There is a Caribbean proverb that says, “Every man knows where him own house leak.” I understand this to mean, whether or not we choose to attend to or even acknowledge inconsistent or disparate practices carried out in our routine collective behavior, we still know these inequalities exist. Related to the question of morality, as is often the case when considering questions of morality and ethics, particularly in the context of college drug dealing and domestic drug policy, I find myself left with more questions than answers, especially questions that revolve around public morality – the codes of conduct put forward by a society that ideally would be endorsed by all rational persons. While a full exploration of these questions and contradictions is beyond the scope of this particular essay, I will say that there is considerable disjunction between what we, as a collection of individuals who comprise our society, say we most firmly stand for, as embodied in our legal codes, and what our actions as articulated through the enforcement 95
Rafik Mohamed (center) prison population explosion in the U.S., the relatively affluent and primarily Caucasian population who made up our study’s dorm room dealers remained immune to the brunt of the war on drugs. And, in spite of their poorly concealed criminality, law enforcement was an almost nonexistent presence in these dealers’ lives. Subsequently, they were viewed by others and were able to view themselves as having committed no offense. But perhaps more importantly, and in the context of public morality, the relative immunity enjoyed by these drug dealing communities distorts the true nature of their behavior and contributes to the cumulative series of injustices and public misperception perpetrated by US failing drug policies.
well-adjusted to injustice? What cultural cues are we collectively receiving that permit us to rationalize and otherwise overlook the glaring contradiction in our public morality that we see in, for example, our drug policies? What is it that we do to convince ourselves that these immoral disparities ought to be acceptable in a free and democratic society? Over the course of the symposium, I have been all over the map in contemplating how I might conclude my small contribution to this wonderful community of scholars. I thought I had it all figured out before I arrived. After all, this is my research and I have been publicly discussing it for a year or two now. However, after visiting with all the people at this symposium, my existing conclusion just did not feel right. And then, while reviewing some scribble I made on a sheet of Prindle Institute note paper, I read the quote on the sheet’s footer. “We need an ethical perspective in all that we do.” I sat for a while contemplating this seemingly simple statement. And, I thought of Dr. Bottom’s comment that there is not any certainty in choosing among those “annoying voices” that dance around in our heads while we negotiate our personal morality. However, I have concluded that the existence of these moral ambiguities, uncertainties, and annoying voices should not serve as an excuse for avoiding ethical reflection and considering the collective “ought” as we go about making our personal choices and developing our moral codes.
CONCLUSIONS During the keynote address that kicked off the fourth annual Prindle Institute Undergraduate Ethics Symposium, Dr. Robert Bottoms referenced Cornel West’s statement that “it takes a lot of courage to interrogate yourself.” Implicit in this statement, I think, is the understanding that we might not like the answers that this interrogation yields because it might cast doubt on our perceptions of self, how we view our personal morality, and the way that we justify, excuse, or accept inequality. In the context of drug policy in particular and criminal justice practices in general, we are due for a collective interrogation of ourselves, one that asks the questions, how it is that we have become so
1. Some quotes and other passages from this paper were excerpted from my book, Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Press, 2009).
4. “Columbia University Drug Bust,” The Daily Beast, December 8, 2010. Available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-andstories/2010-12-08/columbia-universitystudent-drug-bust-stuns-prestigiouscampus/#
2. James Sheldon, “Columbia University Drug Bust,” Manolith, December 8, 2010. Available at http://www.manolith. com/2010/12/08/columbia-university-drugbust/
5. For a more thorough discussion of neutralization theory, see Sykes, G. and D. Matza, “Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency,” American Sociological Review 22, no. 6 (1957): 664–670.
3. “Columbia University Drug Bust: Five Students Arrested for Alleged Sale of LSD, Cocaine, Ecstasy,” CBS News, December 8, 2010. Available at http://www.cbsnews. com/8301-504083_162-20025035-504083. html
6. J. Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 8th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2007).
Bottoms Up: Waiting Lists, Alcohol, and Casual Responsibility for Disease Rahul Abhyankar, Student, DePauw University
carcity of medical resources renders troublesome ethical complications including acquisition, cost, and allocation of resources. Of interest in this paper is the allocation of transplantable organs and whether or not causal responsibility should play a role. Should one who is an alcoholic receive lower priority than one whose liver disease is genetic? It seems the concept of control is relevant. After all, the amount of control is different in an individual who has cirrhosis of the liver due to years of heavy drinking and another whose liver failure is the result of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder. One cannot rightfully be held causally responsible for liver failure until one’s control over the disease is assessed. Because environmental, societal, and genetic factors are at play, determination of one’s degree of control is not without difficulty. Nevertheless, if one is causally responsible for his or her disease, receiving lower priority on a waiting list is a justifiable consequence. This statement certainly needs further clarification and support. Causation does not necessarily render responsibility. In what cases can one be held responsible for his or her disease? Even if criteria for causal responsibility can be agreed upon, should causal responsibility play a role in the allocation of scarce medical resources? Such questions shall be addressed along the way. To be held causally responsible is to act willingly and to be informed of and have the capacity to weigh consequences. Philosopher Walter Glannon describes four components of
causal responsibility that must be considered. First, “a person’s choices and actions must not be coerced by external factors or compelled by internal factors such as literally irresistible impulses.”1 Surely if a man is coerced into drinking excessively, he cannot be held accountable. Though cases of coercion may be on the surface easy to spot, there are many tough cases in which one’s causal control is uncertain. These shall be discussed later. The second component of causal responsibility is that individuals must be informed of all of the consequences. It would be unfair to hold a woman accountable for fetal alcohol syndrome if she was uninformed about the disease during her pregnancy. Now it can be argued that if one is uninformed, but society takes reasonable measures to inform the public, then the uninformed individual should be held responsible. It is the government’s responsibility to take reasonable measures to inform society, but once reasonable measures are taken, responsibility is in the hands of the individual. Thus, since there is a warning label on alcoholic beverages pertaining to fetal alcohol syndrome, there should be a similar warning label pertaining to low waiting list priority on a transplant list. This is a proper measure to inform the public. Glannon believes that it is “quite reasonable to assume that most people are capable of knowing that medical resources like livers are scarce and that they are capable of inferring from this knowledge that such scarcity might require some system of priority based on control and responsibility.”2 Perhaps Glannon is right, but why take such 98
“If one is casually responsible for his or her disease, receiving lower priority on a waiting list is a justifiable consequence.”
a chance? Rather such a notion should be clearly spelled out so that all individuals can understand without ambiguity. The third component of causal responsibility requires “the capacity for reflective self-control regarding the desires, beliefs, and intentions that issue in choices and actions. One must be able critically to evaluate these springs of action and eliminate, modify, or reinforce them and come to identify with them as one’s own.”3 If one cannot, because of some coercive genetic predisposition, eliminate the springs of his or her action (such as a desire to drink), then is one free of responsibility? Yes, I believe so. Certainly an inability to reflect lessens what I think of as one’s control over his or her actions. If, for example, a poor, homeless, uneducated migrant drinks alcohol stolen from various warehouses across the country and develops a small but significant liking for alcohol due to some genetic disposition, he or she cannot be held causally responsible for cirrhosis of the liver. It is important to note that in this case the migrant is unaccountable because he or she is uninformed about alcohol and because he or she is incapable of selfreflection, not because of his or her genetic disposition. Other genetic dispositions may be so coercive as to relieve one of accountability, but the migrant’s genetic disposition is not one of them. More on genetic dispositions shall be discussed later. Of course, the case described above is not an easy case to assess because the migrant may be responsible for his or her low quality of life and resulting
ignorance, but measuring one’s responsibility in regard to one’s own ignorance seems to me much tougher than measuring one’s responsibility in regard to years of heavy drinking. Let’s focus on the latter, although I admit the former is relevant. The fourth component of causal responsibility can be described as follows: [The] diseased condition must be sensitive to the choices and actions (or omissions) that a person makes over time, where sensitivity is formulated in counterfactual terms. That is, holding fixed all other events external to the individual, if the patient in question had made different choices and performed different actions, then the consequence of his diseased condition would not have obtained.4 Due to environmental, genetic, and societal factors, it is often difficult to determine if a disease can occur without the action of the individual, but cirrhosis of the liver is not one of those cases. In regards to liver disease, however, philosopher Frank Dietrich states, “Alcohol-induced liver damage is a special case, first, because the cause of the illness is clearly identifiable … and second … [because] [t]he symptoms reliably indicate whether [liver failure] was caused by alcohol abuse or not.”5 It may be the case that obesity and respiratory failure are caused by numerous, undetectable genetic problems, but genetic ailments of the liver, such as hemochromatosis, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and Wilson’s 99
disease, can be ruled out because each disease has a distinctive symptomatic marker. For example, in the case of Wilson’s disease, copper builds up in the liver, and in the case of hemochromatosis, the liver stores excess iron. It is “a special feature of liver transplantation that about 50 percent of potential organ recipients are alcoholics. [About half of patients] bring the liver damage necessitating a transplant upon themselves by persistently consuming large quantities of alcohol.” And there is little doubt about that.6 Yet, what if one day a bright researcher discovers a gene that is more than influential to the onset of alcoholism, would then an alcoholic be absolved of low waiting list priority? To answer this question, one must assess the coercive powers of the gene. In 1990, a group of researchers found what they had thought to be a gene related to alcoholism. The “presence of A1 allele of the dopamine D2 receptor gene correctly classified 77 percent of alcoholics, and its absence classified 72 percent of nonalcoholics.”7 Yet “the first test of the finding … by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) … failed to confirm it.”8 In 1998, researchers found “no evidence that the DRD2 TaqI-A1 allele or an STRP in the same gene is associated with alcoholism.”9 Even “if the A1 allele makes it more likely that a person will become addicted to alcohol over time, it seems implausible to claim that it compels a person to take the first drinks that eventually lead to the addiction and liver failure.”10 Glannon continues:
[At] issue is whether having the gene merely disposes one to drink or compels one to drink. If the latter is true, then the person should not be given lower priority for needed health care because his condition is caused by factors completely beyond his control and thus he is not causally or morally responsible for it. If the former is true, however, then he may be given lower priority because whether he drinks or not arguably is at least partly within his control. Crucially, the D2 gene by itself is not sufficient to cause alcoholism, but is one causal factor among others.11 To illustrate “the difficulty in determining whether, or to what extent, one can have control over and be responsible for alcoholism,” let us imagine the following set of genes, all of which have varying influences on an alcoholic:12 gene A – Forces one to drink at all times. gene B – Forces one to drink at the sight of alcohol. gene C – Does not create an urge to drink but increases the rate of liver failure. gene D – Does not create an initial urge to drink but makes one more susceptible to addiction. gene E – Increases anxiety which in turn increases the likelihood of addiction.
Joseph Fanelli, Rahul Abhyankar, Alyson Watson and Steven Pet Let us assume that the patients with these genes are informed about the low waiting list priority before the onset of alcoholism. In the cases of gene A and gene B, the genes are so coercive that one cannot reasonably be held responsible for his or her alcohol-induced liver failure. A patient with gene A has literally no will power; although he or she wills to do one thing, the body forces him or her to drink â€“ a genetic form of coercion. In the case of gene B, the individual will not become an alcoholic as long as he or she keeps alcohol out of his or her sight, but in todayâ€™s culture with alcoholâ€™s prevalence in TV commercials, supermarkets, and college campuses, this is not something an individual can reasonably achieve. Thus, this too is a case in which the gene dramatically limits the control of the individual. A patient with gene C willfully drinks alcohol, but his or her liver fails relatively faster. Two factors seem to be important in this case. First, is the patient informed about her genetic disorder before the onset of her addiction? If so, then he or she can be held causally responsible. One might argue that societal influence to drink is so great that drinking at least on rare occasions is inescapable, but this simply is not true. Peer pressure to drink alcohol is high on college campuses, yet there are individuals (even fraternity and sorority members) who do not take a sip of alcohol during their college careers. Furthermore, they do not practice such restraint by otherworldly measures. In other words, any normal person can steer
clear of a sip of alcohol. Second, how fast does the liver failure occur? It is probable that the patient in question will not be aware of his or her genetic disorder, but this matter is irrelevant unless the rate of liver failure is dramatically faster than the norm. If, for example, the patient is in need of a liver transplant after 25 years of excessive drinking, instead of the norm of 30 years, then the patient can be held causally responsible because the increased rate of liver failure caused by the gene is of little significance, but if the gene causes liver failure within a year of drinking, then the patient cannot be held accountable since the genetic disorder is a significant contributor to the disease. What about a span of 15 years? Where to draw the line, I submit, is beyond my knowledge and illustrates the difficulty of this case. A patient with gene D may have, for example, a disorder associated with the presence of the A1 allele of the dopamine D2 receptor gene. In this case, the gene does not cause an initial urge to drink but hastens addiction. If the patient with gene D is informed about his or her disorder, then he or she is causally responsible because he or she is aware of the consequences of drinking. If the patient is uninformed, then this case becomes quite similar to that of the individual with gene C. How influential is the gene? Surely it is no problem for a man or woman of age to have an occasional drink, and if gene D causes addiction after one drink, then it is unfair to hold the uninformed individual accountable. Yet, if addiction occurs after a decade of 101
Charles Hillman, center, with Caroline Perry, left, and Rahul Abhyankar excessive drinking, the patient’s claim to unaccountability is weaker. Responsibility “for alcoholism and cirrhosis is a matter of degree, depending on the degree of control one has over the events leading to these conditions,” but determining what degree delineates accountability and unaccountability is not an easy task.13 A patient with gene E may be the toughest case of all since it seems his or her inescapable anxiety leads to alcoholism. It is understandable that someone with uncontrollable anxiety needs a release, but must that release be through alcohol? If the gene somehow necessitates alcohol as the release, then the person cannot be held accountable, but if sleep, ice cream, or exercise could do just as well at relieving anxiety, then the patient has willfully chosen to drink alcohol and should be held causally responsible. In the last decade, researchers may have found a gene related to anxiety that codes for the protein CREB. The “[s]tructures of the extended amygdala, particularly the central nucleus of amygdala, are involved in anxiety and in motivational aspects of alcohol drinking behaviors … [t]he CREB gene transcription factor regulates the expression of the gene encoding neuropeptide Y (NPY), and decreased concentrations of NPY are implicated in anxiety and alcohol drinking behaviors.”14 One may argue that it is likely that more and more genes related to alcoholism will be found and eventually we will discover that alcoholics cannot be
held causally responsible for their disease and resulting liver failure. Thus, we should not hold any alcoholics causally responsible in the present. Indeed, one day this may be the case, but until then, judgment by causal responsibility is acceptable. For example, it may be true that one day we shall come to understand that our world is largely deterministic and that our wills and intentions are merely illusions. With this (many believe) comes the fall of morality and responsibility, but until that time, moral rules should be upheld. After all, most of us accept the notion of responsibility. Most would find it wrong for a guilty criminal to escape punishment. That is not to say that low waiting list priority is a punishment for alcoholism, a disease that debilitates many. A man should not receive low waiting list priority because it is judged that his addiction is a vice. Yet many mistake the argument for causal responsibility as a judgment on vice and virtue. Some believe that: We could rightly preclude alcoholics from transplantation only if we assume that qualification for a new organ requires some level of moral virtue or is canceled by some level of moral vice. But there is absolutely no agreement – and there is likely to be none – about what constitutes moral virtue and vice and what rewards and penalties they deserve. The assumption that undergirds the moral argument for precluding alcoholics is thus unacceptable.15 102
“Casual responsibility is a judgement on awareness and choice, not on vice and virtue … An invidivual can be held casually responsible for his or her actions even if the action in question is not a vice.”
This argument relies on an incorrect assumption. Causal responsibility is a judgment on awareness and choice, not on vice and virtue. More clearly, “[a]utonomous choices and actions that display a failure to exercise control and which adversely affect one’s health when performed over time need not and indeed should not be construed as vicious or reflective of a vicious character.”16 An individual can be held causally responsible for his or her actions even if the action in question is not a vice. Few, if any, regard skiing, boxing, or playing football as vices, yet these sports are extremely risky, and those involved are aware of the possible risks. If a skier experiences a traumatic accident and is in need of a liver transplant, then on the grounds of causal responsibility, he or she should receive lower priority than those whose liver failure is not a product of their control. This certainly seems to be a problem. Most believe that saving someone who is in a serious, traumatic accident is the right thing to do, but under the notion of causal responsibility, this person will most likely not have an available liver. One could argue that under the ‘saving the most lives’ principle, the accident victim should receive a liver, but this means that causally responsible alcoholics too would receive a liver before a patient with genetic liver failure. If causal responsibility is upheld, then a victim who willfully takes a risk cannot receive higher priority. Is there a way to resolve this troublesome problem? The solution may be found through
a system notorious for frustrating individuals – insurance. Ironic as it may seem, the opportunity to purchase reasonably priced insurance “enlarges the sphere of individual responsibility.”17 Moreover, “it may not be possible to determine whether an individual’s illness was caused by him- or herself, but the question of whether he or she had the opportunity of buying health insurance is easily answered.”18 The notion of insurance coupled with responsibility is developed in Dworkin’s theory of justice in which the distinction between brute luck and option luck helps determine an individual’s degree of control. The distinction can be described as follows: The outcome of a bet or the success or failure of an investment, for example, falls into the category “option luck.” The term “brute luck,” on the other hand, applies to events that are not the causal result of individual decisions. The workings of natural forces typically fall into this category. The consequences of strokes of lightning, hurricanes, floods, etc. are to be ascribed to “brute luck,” for example.19 In terms of healthcare, a genetic disorder can be seen as brute luck while willful, informed decisions can be seen as option luck. As seen in the discussion of different genes, it is sometimes hard to determine whether an illness is more the result of option or brute luck, but whether or not an individual buys health insurance is much easier to determine. Dworkin’s “basic thought runs as follows: 103
“In everyday life, we are held responsible for our actions. Why not be held responsible for our health?”
Brute luck is to be treated as option luck in all cases where there is the possibility of insuring against a risk.”20 If “people fail to buy insurance even though they could, the consequences are imputable only to themselves.”21 Thus, if one skier purchases health insurance but another skier does not, then the former should receive higher priority because the former has transformed any possible brute luck of an injury into option luck by purchasing insurance. Under Dworkin’s principle, an insured skier may have equal or greater priority to an uninsured patient with a genetic disorder like hemochromatosis. This, too, is controversial but perhaps plausible if what really counts is the choice to obtain health insurance. Though one may not be in control of his or her disease, one is likely capable of purchasing safeguards. One might argue that such a system allows recklessness, i.e. the insured skier may very well try riskier moves in the air with the knowledge that he or she is covered by insurance. This, indeed, is a worry, but one could imagine contingencies in insurance plans that reduce such recklessness. Certainly less controversial is the idea that an insured patient with a coercive genetic disorder should receive higher priority than an insured skier. I bet most find it acceptable that one who does not cause his or her disease ought to receive a scarce organ before one who does cause his or her disease. Alas, the tragic problem is not choosing between the insured skier and the insured hemochromatosis patient, but rather, the scarcity of organs. If there were a sufficient
number of organs, then there would be no need to distinguish candidates on a waiting list. Though in some instances determination of control is too difficult to institute causal responsibility, cases in which control can be determined ought to have causal responsibility as a factor in allocation. Not “only does the criterion of causal responsibility allow for a fair way of rationing, it also accords better than other criteria with the core values of modern societies in the free world.”22 In comparison with other criteria: [C]ausal responsibility has the advantage of tying in with normative concepts already deeply rooted in social practice. Not only the law consistently presupposes that individuals can be held responsible for the consequences of their actions, in everyday life, too, we usually assume that the people we deal with are responsible for their behavior. Other criteria for rationing which might seem feasible, like e.g. patients’ age, are not generally accepted in any area of society.23 In everyday life, we are held responsible for our actions. Why not be held responsible for our health? It is truly tragic that those with hemochromatosis, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and Wilson’s disease do not have the opportunity to be held responsible for their disease. These patients have no choice in the matter, and, therefore, these patients should have high priority in the allocation of scarce medical resources. 104
13. Ibid., 38.
1. Walter Glannon, “Responsibility, Alcoholism, and Liver Transplantation,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 23, no. 1 (1998): 33.
14. Subhash C. Pandey, “Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse Disorders: a Common Role for CREB and its Target, the Neuropeptide Y Gene,” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 24, no. 9 (2003): 456.
2. Ibid., 35. 3. Ibid., 34.
15. Carl and Martin Benjamin Cohen, “Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation,” in Intervention and Reflection, ed. Ronald Munson, (United States of America: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2008), 479.
4. Ibid. 5. Frank Dietrich, “Causal Responsibility and Rationing in Medicine,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 5, no. 1 (2002): 119.
16. Glannon, “Responsibility,” 43.
6. Ibid., 118.
17. Dietrich, “Causal Responsibility,” 116.
7. Kenneth Blum, et al., “Allelic Association of Human Dopamine D2 Receptor Gene in Alcoholism,” JAMA 263, no. 15 (1990): 2055.
18. Ibid., 116. 19. Ibid., 114.
8. Constance Holden, “Probing the Complex Genetics of Alcoholism,” Science, New Series 251, no. 4990 (1991): 163.
20. Ibid., 116.
9. Howard J. Edenberg, et al., “Genetics of Alcoholism,” Science, New Series 282, no. 5392 (1998): 1269.
22. Ibid., 129.
10. Glannon, “Responsibility,” 36.
OTHER WORKS CONSULTED
11. Ibid., 38.
Otsuka, Michael. “Luck, Insurance, and Equality.” Ethics 113, no. 1, Symposium on Ronald Dworkin’s “Sovereign Virtue” (2002): 40-54.
12. Ibid., 39.
Multiple Moral Realities: A Rhetorical Battle Over Definition and Framing Laine Baity, Student, University of Colorado at Boulder
he foundation of resistance rhetoric and its ability to call for reform relies on a bedrock of shared moral values. Rhetors often invoke support by pointing out the inequality, injustice and unchecked evil being allowed without penalty. They rally supporters behind collective values like liberty, justice or peace. Implicit within these movements is the idea that the rhetor speaks truth. Indeed, we almost always assume that truth-tellers fight for values that are commonly accepted within society. A blatant example of this is the concept of parrhesia, which inextricably links a moral speaker with someone who tells the truth. Although this concept has some value in determining the underlying motivations a speaker has when calling for reform, I argue that a modern application of parrhesia must be changed to account for multiple definitions of truth. A case study of Nazi morality, as well as a modern approach to dealing with multiple truths, will highlight the various challenges of defining morality. These examples also serve to highlight a fundamental dynamic of calls to conscience, which rely on advocating for a specific definition of morality.
many qualifications for achieving the status of parrhesiastes, for the purposes of this essay I have chosen to focus specifically on the relationship between parrhesia and truth. The author describes this relationship, saying, “the parrhesiastes says what is true because he knows that it is true; and he knows that it is true because it is really true.”2 Though this definition seems somewhat convoluted, teasing out its various components will provide a clearer sense of the term. First, the parrhesiastes can be viewed as a person who always speaks the truth. In fact, there exists an exact coincidence between what the speaker says and what is true. The parrhesiastes is incapable of speaking falsehood, for then he would no longer be a parrhesiastes. This coincidence between speaker and truth provides support for the second component, which is that the parrhesiastes knows the truth because it is really true. Implicit within this definition is the idea that telling the truth means heralding values that are good. While this explanation sets up the relationship between the speaker and the truth, it does little to explain what specific moral values are encompassed by truth in this equation. Indeed the author seems to take for granted the definition of morality, assuming that all people define truth in the same way. The cultural context out of which parrhesia arose gives some insight into how truth is defined. According to Foucault, “the word ‘parrhesia’ appears for the first time in Greek literature in Euripides [c.484-407 BC], and occurs throughout the ancient Greek world of letters from the end of the Fifth Century
THE ORIGINS OF PARRHESIA AND ITS LIMITED MODERN APPLICATION In order to understand the limitations of parrhesia, its most relevant tenets must be explained. In a lecture series at UC Berkeley, Michael Foucault introduced and explained the Greek term parrhesia, which means, “to tell the truth.”1 Although Foucault outlines 106
Laine Baity BC.”3 Viewing this term through a modern lens surfaces questions about how one can truly be considered a parrhesiastes given the variability of moral stances. Foucault mentions this “problem about the acquisition of the truth,” but he asserts that in the Greek culture this problem was of little concern “since such truth-having is guaranteed by the possession of certain moral qualities.”4 This problem did not arise for the Greeks because they had a uniform standard for morality, which they would refer to when engaging with the concept of parrhesia. He goes on to explain that the Greek conception of morality was commonly understood as a prerequisite for becoming a parrhesiastes. Indeed, the presence of certain moral qualities was evidence of one’s ability to know the truth and proclaim it to others.5 Devoid of the Greek standard for defining morality, parrhesia seems to be relevant only as a historical concept. Foucault himself acknowledges, “Parrhesia, in (the) Greek sense, can no longer occur in our modern epistemological framework.”6 Theoretically the concept of parrhesia seems to lack value in our modern framework, and yet its underlying premises still influence how people make moral evaluations. Though modern rhetors may not explicitly draw upon the Greek standard of morality, they draw upon an unspoken (yet collectively accepted) standard nonetheless. Any call for reform relies on a shared understanding of what is considered right. Indeed, the entire concept of human rights can be seen as an invocation of moral precepts that decent people ought
to follow. The presence of moral judgments in society indicates that the concept of parrhesia is still operating, though under new standards. Conferring the status of parrhesiastes onto an individual becomes somewhat convoluted in our modern context due to the absence of an external standard for morality. An implicit standard exists, however, making truth a concept that most people still believe in. It must be acknowledged, however, that devoid of any concrete standard outlining morality, people are free to define right and wrong in the way they prefer. This freedom in defining truth allows the concept of parrhesia to be applied in a new way. In this modern context, the status of a parrhesiastes can be conferred on people who normally would not be eligible for such a status. If the standard for truth-telling, and for morality in general, remains something that people can define for themselves, then we must admit that even people operating outside of the standards most people find acceptable may still be operating under their own personal truth – thus making them parrhesiastes. UNDERSTANDING PARRHESIA IN THE FACE OF MULTIPLE TRUTHS: A CASE STUDY IN NAZI MORALITY A case study on ethnic cleansing reveals how the parameters of morality can be manipulated to create various truths. Multiple realities of truth translate into differing definitions of right and wrong, which lead some people to perform actions commonly considered evil without violating their 107
consciences. In his essay “Mass Murder and the Moral Code,” Harald Welzer makes the startling claim that Nazi soldiers were “able to kill precisely because they were able to perceive themselves as persons possessing an intact moral code.”7 An in-depth look at Welzer’s findings will reveal the evidence for his claim and will shed light onto the ability of an individual to exhibit traits commonly thought of as evil while still remaining a parrhesiastes. In the first portion of his essay, Welzer explains the political and moral climate that gave rise to the Nazi philosophy. Understanding the moral climate of the time lends credibility to the idea that these Nazi soldiers were performing actions which they perceived to be true and right. Welzer explains that Germans valued “fighting political and racial enemies… in pursuit of the interests of one’s own nation.”8 Pursuing the good of the nation above selfinterest was a central moral objective taught to every young German. This pursuit was to be done “in an objective way and no longer with emotions and passion.”9 These ideals taken together create an ideology that taught Germans to fight for the good of the country despite emotional objections or personal feelings. Indeed, objectivity was given higher moral value than passion, and pursuit of the national good stood as the highest aspiration for which good Germans ought to strive. When the German government targeted the Jew as a destructive “parasite within” the country, they effectively invoked the German sense of nationalism as a motivation for destroying the Jews. Girding their resolve despite personal objections fulfilled
the ideal of remaining emotionless in the face of duty. After WWII ended, many Nazi guards claimed they felt no remorse as they were simply performing their duty. The value of loyalty to one’s country and to commanding officers thus superseded any personal objections to mass murder. Welzer observes that the “majority of perpetrators quite obviously did not break in doing their duties” and postulates that it “perhaps says something about what role selfassurance regarding their moral capacity played in those actions, which consisted in preparing or carrying out mass murder.”10 The premium placed on performing one’s duty thus redefined the boundaries of conscience to include mass murder as acceptable conduct. Although from an outward perspective we might condemn Nazi actions, from their perspective the Nazi soldiers were acting under the truth of their own personal moral code. Alternate views of morality surface in the evaluation of Nazi conduct. In the second half of his essay, Welzer critiques the work of Gitta Sereny who performed a series of interviews with the commander of Treblinka, Franz Stangl. According to Welzer, Sereny “implicitly assumes that her interviewee secretly experienced a deep sense of guilt, which, in turn, presupposes that he violated his own moral standards.”11 By assuming that Stangl felt guilty for his actions, Sereny not only assumes that he defines morality the same way she does, but that society as a whole operates under a specific moral code. Welzer accurately points out the limitations of Sereny’s moral argument, which assumes Stangl (and 108
“A case study on ethnic cleansing reveals how the parameters of morality can be manipulated to create various thruths.”
all Nazi party members) were acting under suppressed consciences. The alternative view assumes that the Nazi guards fashioned their moral consciences in such a way as to permit mass murder. Indeed, “if one wishes to explain the behaviour of perpetrators under National Socialism, one cannot make any progress by insisting on transcendental and universally valid moral principles.”12 Instead, the focus must be on the construction of conscience and its relationship to action – with the underlying assumption that Nazi members saw themselves as moral people living in truth. Welzer draws upon the axiom of social psychologist William I. Thomas who founded the Thomas principle. This principle, as explained by Welzer, relies on two tenets. The first is that person’s behavior is based on how that person perceives and defines a situation. The second is that actions are consequences of very real beliefs. In this case, the Germans’ perceptions of the Jews as evil were real (not “irrational or pseudo-scientiﬁc” as some might classify them today), and it wielded a response that caused the deaths of millions of people.13 From a modern perspective, Nazi conduct appears monstrous, and yet it emerged from a deeply held belief that they were acting for the best interest of Germany. Welzer expands upon this argument by saying the following: The Thomas-theorem may be helpful in realizing that people do not act at all times and in all parts of the world in accord with identical perceptions and moral judgments,
but that on the contrary, it is the variability of the given framework which permits sometimes one and at other times another action to appear to be right. In addition, it explains how it is possible for someone to perceive himself or herself to be a person of perfect integrity, though seen from another perspective his or her amorality assumes almost extraterrestrial dimensions.14 This statement demonstrates the contextual nature of moral values and their relationship to the good. It also shows how morality might be constructed differently to include values that are disdained from the perspective of another. This ultimately leads Welzer to the conclusion that “mass murder and moral code is not contradictory, but rather one of reciprocal conditionality. Mass murder could not have been carried out with amoral perpetrators.”15 Though this assertion is perhaps frightening, Welzer carries relative morality to its logical conclusion. In a world that allows all citizens to define their own morality, it stands to reason that some will define morality in opposite ways. This reality problematizes a more classical notion of parrhesia that assumes that a speaker operating with true beliefs will ultimately produce good results. As the example of Nazi morality shows, one person’s construction of morality may lend itself to actions that another finds unimaginable. Devoid of an external and universally applicable standard, however, a modern application of parrhesia must allow for 109
Participants gather for an evening address parrhesiastes to define morality in controversial ways. Though personal objections might arise when considering whether a Nazi could be considered a parrhesiastes, it stands to reason that if the Nazi genuinely acted in truth and met the outstanding qualifications of parrhesia set forth by Foucault, he could be considered as such.
without diverse popular participation.”17 This statement recognizes the importance of elite powers in decision-making, while effectively placing the highest importance on the public’s role in the process. In this view, communities are given the task of judging and evaluating standards of truth. It can be assumed that the community not only evaluates morals, but also strives to uphold and implement them as well. A second method for dealing with truthclaims surfaces in a critique of Borneman’s work. In his article “From Reconciliation to Coexistence,” Steven Sampson argues that competing truth claims ought to be determined in a court of law rather than in communities. Sampson asserts that the benefit of listening will only surface “if we have strong, impersonal institutions.”18 He continues by describing the specific role of impersonality in each arena: “In communities, such impersonality can lead to objectification and genocide. Yet it is precisely impersonality – in the form of legal institutions – that is required to lift community conflicts out of the quagmire of personal vendetta or ethnic revenge and into the realm of justice.”19 His view suggests that the enmeshment between a community and its affiliates renders that group of people incapable of making impartial decisions. This, says Sampson, is the very quality that leads to heinous demonstrations of group violence and prejudice. In response, he appoints the government as an impartial hand of justice. The detached nature of the government becomes the very quality necessary for properly discerning and enforcing moral behavior.
MODERN SOLUTIONS TO DEALING WITH COMPETING TRUTHS The specific example of ethnic cleansing surfaces the issues surrounding different definitions of truth, a problem facing modern scholars who wish to make judgments about controversial issues. A general overview of the strategies used by these critics to discern between various accounts of truth highlights the relevance of this issue and demonstrates the discrepancies that exist in the field. When multiple truths arise, contemporary critics are left with two main ways of reconciling them. In his essay “Reconciliation after Ethnic Cleansing,” John Borneman suggests that truths ought to be assessed by communities and used to influence public policy. Borneman suggests that communities employ listening strategies that involve “weighing competitive accounts.”16 Though the process for arriving at truth is not made explicit in his description, one can assume that the community will rightly understand which accounts are favorable. Borneman makes clear the role of communities in this practice, claiming, “While educated and critical elites are important for this public sphere, they are insufficient 110
“Although from an outward perspective we might condemn Nazi actions, from their perspective the Nazi soldiers were acting under the truth of their own personal moral code.”
A brief overview of these solutions does more than merely enlighten a reader about current social thought. It also underscores the idea that multiple truths create intense realities about moral issues that many assume are black and white. The absence of a universal moral standard provides freedom, but it also creates the possibility that some may not agree about what truth means.
quoted by author Louis Bulow as saying, “My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty.”20 His definition of morality relied almost exclusively on his ability to successfully perform his duty to Germany. Definition, thus, becomes an important rhetorical tool used to condemn or accept certain actions. The framing of truth is the source of moral definitions and creates a construct that informs how a listener will evaluate the content of messages. By framing their cause as truthful, a rhetor gains significant power over listeners. The framework created in Germany (which emphasized performing one’s duty without hesitation), heavily informed Stangl’s notion of morality. This framework provided him with a definition of truth that permitted murder on a grand scale as long as it served the country. A particularly poignant example of framing occurs in the interview between Stangl and Sereny. During the questioning, Stangl recalled a story about a Jewish man named Blau, for whom he had a particular fondness. As the story goes, Blau’s elderly father came to Treblinka and Blau asked Stangl if he could do anything to spare his father’s life. In an attempt to “demonstrate his integrity,” Stangl explained that instead of sending Blau’s father to the gas chambers, he allowed him to be given a good meal and then taken to the hospital to die a more painless death.21 Though the story smacks of almost unpalatable ignorance, it also illustrates how framing can completely alter how one person views an event relative to another. Although we might believe that Stangl demonstrated his cruelty by allowing an innocent man to die, he
THE RHETORICAL STRUGGLE FOR DEFINING AND FRAMING TRUTH The discourse of truth-telling surrounding ethnic cleansing more broadly relates to calls to conscience because both types of discourse rely on appealing to a sense of morality as leverage to induce reform. Although Borneman and Sampson each defend their views, the multiple viewpoints of these authors, alongside the multiple versions of morality illustrated by the Nazi regimes, point to the idea that claiming to preach truth is nothing more than a rhetorical struggle over definition and framing. The meaning of truth, as we have seen, has an evolving definition. Each person creates expectations about how the world ought to work according to his or her own version of moral truth. This attachment of truth allows the speaker to define morality in whatever way he chooses. For example, Franz Stangle, the commander of Treblinka, was tried for the murder of 900,000 people following World War II. Though he admitted to overseeing the murders and even took responsibility for the deaths, Stangl was 111
“The terms, then, are not truth versus untruth, but rather one definition of morality versus another.”
views the incidence as proof of his mercy. As Welzer explains, “Within the framework of contemporary moral guidelines it was possible for (Stangl) to regard himself as a good person, if by an act of omission he slightly eased another person’s dying.”22 Framing, thus, has a powerful impact on the interpretation and definition of moral truth.
but rather one definition of morality versus another. In cases where listeners are forced to define truth or take a stance on moral issues, they must employ truth-assessment strategies. Rather than blindly swallowing the rhetoric of the speaker, listeners must listen carefully to what morals are being claimed by the speaker. They must consider both the implications and the various alternatives. Listeners who employ a more discerning ear to the messages of rhetors will approach the content with a healthy criticism. This criticism will prevent listeners from being swayed through emotional appeals or lofty claims that the rhetor possesses some moral high ground. Thus, through employing diverse accounts of truth, audience members will respond to messages based on whether they agree with that definition of morality or not – safeguarding themselves from extreme responses that are attached to a particular value. By undertaking a study of parrhesia and revealing its new application in a modern framework, readers more clearly understand the limitations of applying universal moral standards. This point, further illustrated in the case study of Nazi morality, points to a broader reality facing modern scholars when dealing with multiple truth-realities. The various perspectives about truth and solutions for dealing with competing truth accounts underscore the need for listeners to critically engage with the moral messages being made everyday. A critical ear is crucial in the competition for moral definition and framing facing people everywhere.
IMPLICATIONS OF MULTIPLE TRUTHS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH CALLS TO CONSCIENCE The discursive battle over defining truth carries implications for listeners who are distinguishing between various messages of morality. Listeners must be aware of the emotional associations made by rhetors who attempt to persuade them of a particular definition of truth. Often these emotional appeals rely on a hazy definition of certain values to gain allegiance, without ever concretely describing the intended meaning. For example, invoking support in the name of democracy might mean different things to different audience members. The passion associated with that value is intentionally paired with ambiguity – this creates support for the rhetors who can then hide their true motives in the obscurity of the terminology. In light of that reality, the appeals made to conscience on the basis of morality take on a new dimension. Rather than viewing the appeals as advocations of actual truth, we are forced to see them as suggestions for adopting a moral stance similar to that of the rhetor. The terms, then, are not truth versus untruth, 112
1. Michael Foucault, “Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of Parrhesia: Six Lectures at University of California, Berkeley, 1983,” ed. John Pearson, 1985.
12. Ibid., 22. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid.
2. Ibid., par. 9.
15. Ibid., 30.
3. Ibid., par. 1.
16. John Borneman, “Reconciliation After Ethnic Cleansing: Listening, Retribution, Affiliation,” Public Culture 14, no. 2 (2002): 293.
4. Ibid., par. 11. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., par. 10.
17. Ibid., 296.
7. Harald Welzer, “Mass Murder and Moral Code: Some Thoughts on an Easily Misunderstood Subject,” History of the Human Sciences 17, no. 2 (2004): 16-17.
18. Stephen Sampson, “From Reconciliation to Coexistance,” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 185. 19. Ibid.
8. Ibid., 20.
20. L. Bulow, “SS Commandant Franz Stangle,” Sobibor, December 25, 2010.
9. Ibid. 10. Ibid., 29.
21. Welzer, “From Mass Murder,” 27.
11. Ibid., 24.
Authorizing Neglect: A Critical Analysis of Newsweek Representation of African Americans with HIV/AIDS Joss Greene, Student, Scripps College
n 2009 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that they would be collaborating with fourteen leading African American organizations to create “Act Against AIDS,” an education and prevention program that addresses the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on African Americans. The CDC’s website contextualizes the program as a response to the results of their 2006 study which found that while African Americans only compose 13 percent of the United States population, they account for 49 percent of new HIV infections.1 African Americans are eight times more likely than white Americans to become infected with HIV, and HIV-positive African Americans in New York City have an age-adjusted death rate that is 2.5 times higher than HIV-positive white Americans living in the same city.2 The CDC data also shows that AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women between 25 and 34 years of age and the second leading cause of death for African American men between 35 and 44 years of age.3 These statistics demonstrate the immediate need for education, prevention and treatment programs that specifically reach out to African Americans, but current media coverage denies the history and longevity of this need. For the past five or six years, mainstream media outlets like CNN and Newsweek have begun to run stories about HIV/AIDS within communities of color as “the new epidemic,” an illusory framework. Communities of color have fought HIV and its social consequences since the 1980’s, organizing on a grassroots
community basis and crafting national organizations.4 These organizations were founded in response to the fact that, since the beginning of the epidemic, people of color have accounted for new HIV infections at a rate far exceeding their percent of the United States population. From 1981 to 1986, while black people were only 12 percent of the United States population, they accounted for 26 percent of new infections. By the late 1990s, black women accounted for 72 percent of women diagnosed with AIDS, though they comprised only 17 percent of women in the United States.5 If HIV is seen as newly affecting people of color, it is because of new institutional recognition of HIV’s impact on communities of color, not because of a new impact. When we recognize the media’s central role in drawing attention and resources to an issue, mainstream news outlets seem less like the hero uncovering a neglected issue and more like an actor complicit in the prior neglect. And yet the presence of representation does not necessarily correlate to positive political outcomes. In this essay I will show how coverage of African Americans with HIV/ AIDS reflects a larger discourse about race and citizenship in the United States and how this coverage reinforces the narrative of African American self-destruction and failure to capitalize on the opportunities of a post-racial, color-blind society. Policies like the War on Drugs or the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which concretized inequalities in resource allocation, bodily surveillance, and paternal rights, are 114
The AIDS “statistics demosntrate the immediate need for education, prevention and treatment programs that specifically outreach to African Americans, but media coverage … denies the history and longevity of this need.”
debated and justified through the language of worthy and unworthy citizens. It is, therefore, an ethical necessity that critics deconstruct this media representation and theorize about its implications. One can begin this analysis with the most recent Newsweek cover issue on HIV/ AIDS that came out on May 15, 2006. This issue, “AIDS at 25,” exemplifies Newsweek’s characterization of AIDS in the United States as a story of African American failure. For example, in the lead story, “Battling a Black Epidemic,” Claudia Kalb and Andrew Murr explained that African American communities across the country are in peril, because scientists have made substantial progress toward defeating HIV at a molecular level, but Black communities seem unable to make the most of the scientific advances.6 The authors locate the “root of the problem” in poverty and the neglect that comes with it – inadequate health care and a dearth of information about safe sex. IV drug use, sexually transmitted diseases and high-risk sex (marked by multiple partners and no protection) have fueled transmission; homophobia and religious leaders steeped in moralistic doctrine have suppressed honest conversation about how to stop it.7 This catalog implies that African Americans are circumstantially fated to contract HIV, pathologically driven to self-destructive behavior, or abused by their own community leaders who refuse
to address HIV/AIDS. The story of “Black America’s” primitive politics and fatally flawed community tendencies resolves in a suggestion of self-imposed devastation: “At home AIDS now threatens tens of thousands of AfricanAmericans, many of them women, in big cities and small towns alike. A community in peril tries to save itself.”8 Suggesting that a unified black community is under attack by a virus constructs a false homogeneity among black people and denies the many ways in which laws, government policies, dominant ideology and outside media sources create elevated risk factors for African Americans. Furthermore, we can draw strong conclusions about Newsweek’s understanding of their readership if they can raise the specter of an apocalypse for the black community as an abstract issue. Such a sensationalization serves to titillate a readership only when the possibility of shared struggle is foreclosed; the readership is not called to see itself in peril, only to watch and see how a drama unfolds. NEWSWEEK PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION Newsweek’s engagement with a readership coded as white, upper-middle class, heterosexual and unaffected by HIV/AIDS is both ideologically constructed and reflective of capitalist market logic. Readership for Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News, the three largest American news magazines, is middleaged and middle-class, with an average age in the 40’s and an income currently hovering around $70,000 a year.9 Though there is not 115
Justin Bake and Joss Greene readily accessible information about the race of Newsweek readers, the voyeuristic sociological discussion of “Black America” demonstrates how whiteness saturates its reporting angle and the way it situates its audience. Newsweek’s coverage of African Americans with HIV/AIDS participates in a discourse that not only rationalizes the widespread deaths of African Americans from AIDS-related cause, but it also authorizes forms of regulation, surveillance, and disciplining of African American bodies that would not be possible without AIDS as the justification. Representation may claim to speak an objective truth, but images are politically inflected and have political effects. Race is “not only…the subject of struggle and contest at the level of social structure but also…a contested theme at the level of social signification, of the production of meanings.”10 In the “postracial” United States, knowledge of race is increasingly constructed through visuals and “controlling images” that circulate in multiple media forums, justifying inequalities in the distribution of State resources according to ostensibly non-racial grounds.11 The narratives and knowledges assigned to race have legitimized political, economic, and social programs including, but not limited to, forced sterilization of African American women, slashing of welfare benefits, resegregation of public schools, police repression in ghettos and barrios, and elimination of immigration rights. Racial policies, in turn, participate in the formation of a hegemonic understanding
of race when, for example, the welfare debate is framed around images of hypersexual, lazy African American “welfare queens.” HIV/AIDS must be understood as having multiple meanings and effects, “cultural and linguistic as well as biological and biomedical.”12 Given that HIV/AIDS discourse is a construction, not merely a reflection of objective truth, we should be unsurprised to hear that the new narratives developing to describe African Americans with HIV/AIDS are affected by hegemonic notions of race and existing racial tropes. New stories and characters like the HIV-positive African American mother, an economically dependent African American sick with AIDS, or the reckless community-destroying African American man on the “Down Low” must be analyzed, not as organic reflections of a medical truth, but as participants in a superstructure of racial hierarchy. REPOSITIONING MAGIC Newsweek coverage of people with HIV and AIDS in the 1990s reflects the larger neoliberal trends to evaluate citizenship worth according to perceived productivity and autonomy. The November 18, 1991 cover story, “Magic’s Message,” and the February 12, 1996 follow-up issue, “It’s More than Magic,” celebrate Magic Johnson as a figure of exceptionality, public catharsis and redemption, simultaneously relieving the public of guilt for ignoring the needs of other people with AIDS and privatizing responsibility for living with HIV. Magic 116
Johnson’s 1991 announcement that he was HIV-positive received an unrivaled flood of media coverage and his subsequent representation reveals the workings of a culture struggling to align heroes with productive labor. Magic’s citizen value is initially attributed to his exceptional corporeality and his ability to enlist it to generate audience pleasure. Jack Kroll’s article, “Smile, Though Our Hearts Are Breaking,” concludes the November 18, 1991 cover story on Magic’s disclosure and provides an extreme example of the discourse circling around Magic’s masculinity. He is described as an “Olympian” and “a modern Titan,” but frequently in conjunction with descriptors of his friendly smile, so he is distinctly coded as a non-threatening African American man. He is a “joyous giant.”13 Value based on physicality is tenuous and was especially so in the early 1990s when longevity for people with AIDS was hard to predict. The 1991 issue remaps Magic as a productive citizen, translating his physical qualities into manifestations of moral strength so he can continue to serve public interests and receive the accompanying social inclusion. Kroll attributes Magic’s appeal to his ability to “[pack] human virtues into Olympian size.” Panting with reverence, Kroll declares that Magic is the Olympian…who thrills us on the court, who beguiles us with the most famous smile since the Mona Lisa, who behaves with such generosity and charity, such warmth
and sweetness, that these qualities become manifestations of the spirit, just as his sports feats become manifestations of the physical.14 Kroll derives this intimate picture of Magic’s emotional and social self based on his physical presence on the court. Such extrapolation reflects the continued pervasiveness of racial scripts that confer interiority exclusively to upper-class white men and wrest the psyche of others from the objectification of their bodies. The main article in the issue, “Magic’s Message,” uses a similar strategy of lionization to derive Magic’s virtue from his athletic performance.15 Kroll extolled Magic as iconic proof of a post-racial society, someone whose “ability to inspire affection” stretched across demographics, so there is “no gender gap, there’s no age gap, there’s no race gap.” In “Magic’s Message,” Charles Leerhsen picks up on the concept of Magic’s universal appeal, but he attributes this to Magic’s having “the courage of his convictions, which in his case means remaining relentlessly upbeat.” Leerhsen commemorates Magic’s disclosure as a moment of national tragedy, but he holds Magic aloft as one who refuses to be brought down by the difficulties of his situation. The assertion that America is collectively moving through “stages of grief ” is substantiated through quotes by people off the street, like a 67-year-old retired nurse who states, “I’ve been crying for two days.” Magic’s family and friends are similarly devastated, but Magic is noticeably excluded from collective sorrow, 117
“Magic is the ideal neoliberal citizen with HIV who takes responsibility for the maintenance of his own illness without demanding services from the public.”
positioned as the one attempting to “calm down” his loved ones, declaring his intention to fight the disease and not be brought down, and remaining the “only member of [the Lakers] not to cry” over his HIV status.16 Magic’s capacity to respond to his personal adversity without tears is celebrated as a level of “control” that had always been “part of Magic’s game plan.”17 His ability to regulate his body so as not to express emotion in an emotional time is held up as further proof of his character strength and allows for the reframing of physical strength as moral strength. People with AIDS are frequently portrayed as out-of-control bodies, pathologically pursuing self-destructive behaviors, or denied selfhood as they are subordinated to an embodiment of the disease. Magic secures personhood through a battle between his individual will and his body where his “spirit” is victorious. While most people’s emotions and bodies would slip into decline after learning about their HIV-status, Magic is the superhuman who can force his body into compliance with his desire for a positive life. Instead of the disease controlling him, Magic is interpolated as the new “spokesman” for the disease. This power dynamic flip implies that the impact HIV has on someone is tied to how committed they are to fighting it. Magic is the ideal neoliberal citizen with HIV who takes responsibility for the maintenance of his own illness without demanding services from the public. Strangers may choose to invest emotional energy in
grieving about his situation, but Magic’s class position allows them to mourn his situation without feeling the pressure to invest any material resources in improving it. This characterization is expanded on in the February 12, 1996 cover story, “Back in the Game.”18 The summary of the story in the table of contents declares, “Magic Johnson’s exuberant return dispelled gloomy myths about living with HIV.”19 While anti-retroviral medications did extend possibilities for life with HIV beyond sudden and certain death, Magic’s return speaks to his access to these medications not the obsolescence of death from AIDS. AIDS activists advanced positive life-focused language in order to restore the humanity and agency of people with AIDS. Magic is articulated within that project as “[showing] the world that HIV isn’t something you die with; it’s something you live with.”20 Yet many people have died of AIDS-related causes, especially people living in poverty and people systematically denied access to health care services. This rhetoric of optimistic living with AIDS privatizes responsibility for dealing with AIDS, denying its association with death, but not showing how this evolution in meaning requires a massive commitment of resources to maintain wellness. Magic’s health is attributed to his fighting spirit, but the writers also commend his dedication to diet and exercise, fetishizing his strength as the antithesis of AIDS’ former connection with death and weakness. Praising his diligent workouts and meticulous attention to nutrition, they condition their sympathy on 118
Joss Greene his ability to prove that he is trying to make his body productive rather than allowing it to become dependent on medical services. The myth of the autonomous citizen body, which asks from the state only as much as it provides to the state, requires that some labor be unrecognized. In the case of Magic, his exercise and diet is framed as a natural and reasonable product of his work ethic without recognition of the exhaustion it might cause him or the class privilege that allows Magic to invest such time and energy in his physical upkeep. Thus, while a story of positive individual empowerment may facilitate Magic’s social acceptance, his inclusion comes at the expense of people (primarily poor people) who are unable to meet this standard and are then condemned for being too lazy to put the work into their upkeep. After the advent of antiretroviral medication, HIV was conceived of as manageable, through diligent, personal body regulation and Magic was the ideal front man for this reframing campaign. Magic was cloaked in political rhetoric in the 1991 Newsweek issue through the likening of his disclosure to John F. Kennedy’s assassination,21 the proposition that George Bush appoint Magic to serve on the President’s Commission on AIDS,22 and the characterization of his mass appeal as “a constituency that a presidential candidate would kill for.”23 In 1991, Newsweek conflates affect with effect, intimating that Magic’s disclosure generated universal sympathy and that this wave of titillated compassion would have
an unprecedented impact on the politics surrounding HIV/AIDS. All three articles in the 1991 issue point to Magic’s unrivaled capacity for addressing the HIV epidemic among African American people. Claiming that he should be able to “break down the resistance to AIDS education,”24 Leerhsen implies that African Americans face a disproportionate percentage of HIV infections because of their refusal to engage in prevention programs, but Magic may be able to chasten them into compliance. Barbara Kantrowitz quotes a gay, black, HIV-positive man as saying “[Magic] can address the issue better than anyone I can think of…. God couldn’t have picked a better spokesman”25 and calls Magic “an embodiment of possibility and hope” for black kids,26 implying that Magic’s race and celebrity status uniquely situate him to maximally improve HIV prevention among African American people. While it’s true that effective public health campaigns must speak to their specific audiences, designating Magic as the public health savior implies that no other person or government agency could have implemented an effective HIV prevention program tailored to African Americans and thus excuses that negligence. Newsweek writers held Magic responsible for attending to HIV/AIDS among African Americans and insinuated that he could halt the epidemic by telling the story of his downfall so compellingly that other African Americans would take precautions to avoid transmission. Individual-centered “fear appeals” have proven entirely ineffective in 119
“While a story of positive individual empowerment may facilitate Magic’s social acceptance, his inclusion comes at the expense of people (primarily poor people) unable to meet the standard who are then condemned as too lazy to put the work into their upkeep.”
HIV prevention, tending to trigger denial, helplessness, and disassociation from personal vulnerability rather than the adoption of new health behaviors, but HIV prevention is not the only role the writers advance for Magic.27 Equally significant is the way they enlist Magic for the purpose of speaking to a white public, soliciting their compassion, and providing a cathartic release of guilt for neglecting other people with AIDS. The 1991 issue wallows in the expressed grief at Magic’s disclosure, grief attributed to the public’s intimate connection to and profound love for Magic. Jack Kroll summarizes the public mourning saying, “People who make you happy make you unhappy when they tell you, in effect, that they’re dying.”28 The articles claim that this mass investment in Magic (an investment that proves that the American spirit of brotherhood has triumphed over racism and the stigma of HIV) will translate into political gains for all people with AIDS. Charles Leerhsen references a spike in calls to HIV-information hotlines after Magic’s disclosure to argue that “It’s logical to believe that the hot-line inquiries and classroom discussion will eventually translate into increased donations to AIDS-related causes from the private sector and increased pressure on the Bush administration to spend more money on education and research.”29 This conclusion is, in fact, not logical at all. Feeling sympathy for a celebrity has no inevitable or causal relationship to political mobilization around a social justice issue. Furthermore,
Magic’s repudiation of gayness and MSM HIV-transmission and the media’s emphasis of Magic’s heterosexuality could undermine safe sex programs tailored to queer people. Yet the narrative suggested that Magic’s political power stemmed from his unique position to encourage African Americans to regulate their behavior so they wouldn’t contract HIV and his particular blend of likeability showed middle-class white Americans that some people with HIV are okay and eased their consciousnesses about neglecting the [racialized] Others. It is no coincidence that character traits granted to Magic Johnson and denied to the undifferentiated mass of disregarded Others are the traits associated with proper citizenship. Roderick A. Ferguson argues that white racial formations provide the framework through which subjects can lay claim to and access rights and privileges of American citizenship. White-marked citizenship can be an option for those who successfully conform to and organize their lives to match hetero-patriarchal ideals. However, a rightsbased subjectivity that further privileges the privileged does not challenge the structures that deny certain people, such as workingclass single mothers, the ability to claim state support. The supposedly universal properties of citizenship are contingent upon one’s ability to become legible and valuable to the state, and one may try to secure those benefits by conforming to the logic of citizenship. Yet, as immigration and anti-miscegenation laws attest to, “in the racial logic of the state, 120
“There will be no reduction in the rates of transmission or the availability of anti-retroviral medications until conversations start with the recognition that the lack of pubic health and prevention programs, not individuals’ bad choices or personality flaws, are at the root of the epidemic.
immigrants and native-born nonwhites were racialized as the antithesis of heteropatriarchal ideals.”30 Represented as the negation, African Americans are constructively excluded from the category of citizen from the beginning. Understanding this meta-language foundation of citizenship allows us to see how Newsweek’s representation of African Americans with HIV/AIDS serves as a vehicle for perpetuating the narrative of African Americans as non-citizens obligated to meet their needs through individual struggle, but not entitled to state support. There is an undeniable connection between media representation and the rhetoric of race that circulates in politics, frequently to justify disenfranchisement of People of Color. Though varied in form and context, these representations continually perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans
as pathologically lazy and irresponsible, with a few exceptional icons like Magic Johnson, to counter arguments about the United States as a country with embedded and structural racism. These representations normalize a neoliberal vision of American society where one’s health and welfare is a product of an individual’s character. A call to address HIV/AIDS must begin with a call to question how we speak about and represent HIV/AIDS. Ideological analysis alone is insufficient, but political efforts will be more effective if they are grounded in an understanding of how the existing system operates. There will be no reduction in the rates of transmission or the availability of anti-retroviral medications until conversations start with the recognition that the lack of public health and prevention programs, not individuals’ bad choices or personality flaws, are at the root of the epidemic.
1. “HIV/AIDS 101: Statistics,” AIDS. Gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/ hiv-aids-101/overview/statistics/.
9. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2009: An Annual Report on American Journalism, http://www.stateofthemedia. org/2009/narrative_magazines_audience. php?media=9&cat=2.
2. Black AIDS Institute, Left Behind: Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic (Los Angeles: Black AIDS Institute, 2008), 16.
10. Howard Winant, The New Politics of Race: Globalism, Difference, Justice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 40.
3. Ibid. 4. The National Minority AIDS Council provides an online archive of video, text and images that chronicle their beginnings back to 1985. “NMAC and the AIDS Epidemic: An Online History,” National Minority AIDS Council, http://www.nmac.org/index/historymuseum.
11. Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (New York: Routledge, 2004), 54.
5. Madeline Y. Sutton et al, “A Review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis among Blacks in the United States, 1981-2009,” American Journal of Public Health 99, no. 52 (2009): S351.
13. Jack Kroll, “Smile, Though Our Hearts are Breaking,” Newsweek, November 18, 1991, 70.
12. Paula A. Triechler, How to have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 1.
14. Ibid. 15. Charles Leerhsen, “Magic’s Message,” Newsweek, November 18, 1991, 58-62.
6. Claudia Kalb and Andrew Murr, “Battling a Black Epidemic,” Newsweek, May 15, 2006, 42-48.
7. Ibid., 44.
8. Ibid., 43.
18. Sharon Begley and Allison Samuels, “Back in the Game,” Newsweek, February 12, 1996, 57-59. 122
19. “Top of the Week,” Newsweek, February 12, 1996, 3.
27. Loraine Devos-Comby and Peter Salovey, “Applying Persuasion Strategies to Alter HIV-relevant Thoughts and Behavior,” Review of General Psychology 6, no. 3 (2002): 287-304.
20. Begley and Samuels, “Back in the Game,” 57-59. 21. Leerhsen, “Magic’s Message,” 58.
28. Kroll, “Smile,” 70.
22. Barbara Kantrowitz, “From Hero to Crusader,” Newsweek, November 18, 1991, 69.
29. Leerhsen, “Magic’s Message,” 62. 30. Roderick A. Ferguson, “Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity,” in Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology, ed. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 55.
23. Kroll, “Smile,” 70. 24. Leerhsen, “Magic’s Message,” 59. 69.
25. Kantrowitz, “From Hero to Crusader,” 26. Kroll, “Smile,” 70.
The Case Against West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Rachael Holley, Student, Washington University in St. Louis
n a small town in the Appalachians, coal miners descend thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. In fact, almost 75 percent of this West Virginia town is heading to work underground because almost everyone works for the coal companies. Miners spend every day in dark, dank conditions and routinely risk their lives doing dangerous work. All this secures them minimum wage pay. They also spend their lives watching the destruction of entire mountain ranges and the beautiful landscapes for which West Virginia is known, having devoted their lives to one of the main contributors to climate change. West Virginia’s economy is dependent upon coal mining, but do the economic benefits of mountaintop removal coal mining really outweigh its social and environmental impacts? In this paper, I will argue that the economic reasons are not adequate justification for the destruction of environments and social subjugation that are entailed in mountaintop removal coal mining. I will address the main arguments for continuing the coal mining from the economic side: that coal is the cheapest power source for the United States and that entire West Virginia counties are anchored both economically and socially in the mining industry.
mountaintop removal. Essentially, coal seams are accessed by removing the top few hundred feet of hills and mountains and moving the “overburden” – the land that was once the highlight of the natural landscape – to a nearby valley. This method of mining is fast and yields a large amount of coal, allowing the rest of our nation to enjoy the cheap energy that fuels our rapidly expanding economy. At the same time, this mining destroys entire ecosystems that depend on the climate and rich forests of the Appalachian Mountains to survive. It disrupts animals and their habitats, causes massive deforestation, emits dangerous coal dust, alters the flow and chemical makeup of streams and rivers, generates toxic slurry ponds and acid rain, and finally results in the destruction of the second most bio-diverse temperate forest ecosystem on the planet. In his article “Land Ethic,” Aldo Leopold explores the concept of a world community as encompassing soils, rivers, animals, and even whole ecosystems, as well as people.1 It is not, he says, a strictly economic relationship, as we tend to treat it today. The development of this country, indeed of civilization as we know it, hinged upon the reaction of land to human actions upon it. Land is absolutely fundamental to our communities, and we must, therefore, include it as an entity as worthy of moral consideration as we are ourselves. Would we mercilessly exploit a fellow member of the human community in order to fuel our economies? Leopold also describes the land as a vital, upward-flowing “fountain of energy” that can easily be eroded and destroyed.2 I
THE ECONOMY VS. THE ENVIRONMENT Coal is indeed the cheapest energy source we have, and it provides power to many parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world. However, it is so cheap in large part because of the cheap, easy methods of obtaining the coal – that is, 124
Rachael Holley in Rafik Mohamed seminar would argue that by altering entire mountain ranges, ecosystems, and natural landscapes, we are interrupting the vital energy the earth is supplying us with. We are harnessing it, but by doing so it cannot continue to flow; as a result, we are weakening ourselves by slowly cutting off our lifeblood, condemning our future generations to the angry response of the earth – global heating, sea level rise, drastic changes in weather patterns. An action is morally right when it preserves the integrity and stability of our biotic community, asserts Leopold. If this is the case, we are clearly in the wrong. Another way to confront the destruction of land is to point out the fact that we are violating the rights of other moral agents. Paul Taylor, in “The Ethics of Respect for Nature,” describes a moral agent as being “every organism, species population, and community of life [that] has a good of its own which moral agents can intentionally further or damage by their actions.”3 The biologically successful existence of these organisms (macro- or micro-) do not require sentience or the capacity to experience pain – they merely have a good of their own, and if we concede that we must morally consider all things as having a good of their own, we then owe these organisms moral consideration. Destruction of mountains is not working towards the good of any living organism (and this would include ourselves if we take Leopold’s argument into account). Additionally, every “token” of every type is valuable at this level. Because of the damage already done, individual animals and plants are not easily replaceable, not easily substituted,
not easily discounted. Each individual clump of trees is a vital part of the ecosystem because that ecosystem has become so much smaller. All of this presupposes a bio-centric belief system; however, most coal executives would not be likely to hold these views. The deforestation and destruction of habitats is one of the most commonly discussed issues related to this type of mining. In “Interspecific Justice,” Donald VanDeVeer concludes that the soundest ethic in terms of relationships with the animal world is what he calls “Two Factor Egalitarianism.”4 This system weighs both the importance of conflicting interests between man and animal and the psychological capacities of the involved parties. While conflicting basic interests, though equally weighted in terms of “levels” of interest, will favor the more psychologically advanced organism (that is, the human), pitting basic against peripheral interests is a different story, and one which applies in the coal mining case. Basic interests will always take precedence over peripheral interests according to this theory. If this is true, when we contemplate how animals are being killed or driven out of ecosystems, we realize this is an infringement of a basic interest, which is the result of the peripheral interest of those seeking to mine coal. This is a case in which we are injudiciously subordinating peripheral to basic interests. If these arguments still do not seem compelling, it is at least undeniably clear that the coal dust, acid rain, and other pollutants are harming the health of humans directly. Many miners and citizens of coal towns suffer from 125
“[Coal miners] also spend their lives watching the destruction of entire mountain ranges and the beautiful landscapes for which West Virginia is known, having devoted their lives to one of the main contributors to climate change.”
respiratory problems or die in mining accidents. Acid rain can contaminate drinking water. I cannot find a way to reconcile the economic gains of this type of mining with the ethical dissonance it creates. An answer to this problem, inspired by Robert Goodland’s idea that moving towards sustainability would never be a bad idea, might be that cutting back on polluting fossil-fuel use can in the long run make way for cheap, clean energy that is available to everyone indefinitely.5 Sacrificing big profits now, in terms of coal mining, will encourage in the near future switching to sustainable power. It is difficult to look into the future, but it is necessary when moral violations occur on a daily basis due to our consumption-driven society.
obvious negative social implications, such as the injustice of the unevenly and unfairly distributed wealth, but these translate to environmental issues as well. Poorer people are less likely to be progressive and forward thinking in issues of sustainability – for example, currently, cleaner energy is too expensive for them, and efficient cars are also out of their reach. Core areas like big cities and out-of-state economic interests exploit the poorer areas, such as mining towns, by usurping their lucrative coal resources and leaving them to see little of the profits. It is issues like these that cause many people to claim that the here-and-now alleviation of poverty and hunger and other issues should take precedence over looking out for future generations’ environmental wellbeing. We know that keeping these people employed and continuing to expand our economy would be the best answer to poverty; yet, we also know that these things imply using more resources to fuel more economic pursuits. However, as Robert Goodin asserts in his article “Sustainability,” ecological sustainability is in everyone’s interest – areas that are already well-developed need resources that will sustain them, and developing areas also need resources in order to continue growing.6 Sustainability requires thinking to the future and figuring out how to make our resources last and how to make them efficient. Unfortunately, doing that involves sacrificing profits now, but it is unethical and indeed nonsensical not to strive for sustainable communities. If we continue as we are now, generations and generations of people will continue in poverty versus only the current one.
MINING TOWNS One of the more compelling arguments against putting an end to West Virginia coal mining is that entire counties in the state rely almost completely on the coal industries for their residents’ livelihoods. To cease and desist mining would put more than 20,000 people out of jobs, with nowhere else to go due to minimal schooling (West Virginia has the lowest rate of college graduates), and a coal-dominated economy means there are few other opportunities. The state ranks last in the entire U.S. in median household income – and yet mining is a $6 billion per year industry. Huge percentages of that $6 billion go to the upper echelon of coal company management. Miners and other laborers receive minimum wage. This economic disparity has its 126
“I cannot find a way to reconcile the economic gains of this type of mining with the ethical dissonance it creates.”
To this, some might reply that because future generations are non-existent right now, they are not morally considerable and are of no concern to us; yet this is an arbitrary line to draw amongst the human race. It amounts to age or birth-year discrimination and is not a valid argument against shifting to a sustainable economy. Can we really justify perpetuating a state of poverty over generations if we have the means to slowly reduce it beginning now? I would say that we have a moral obligation to start now, to get on board with sustainable resource practices and begin the process of bringing our economy to a bigger, better, more efficient level.
number of people born into and trapped in poverty. From where we are standing, these things seem rather difficult to put in place – largely because of the fact that people are used to the way it is. They have grown up with the ingrained belief that they come from a family of miners, or that coal is the best way to generate energy. I will draw some help from Murray Bookchin, who describes in “Will Ecology Become ‘The Dismal Science’?” the necessary steps for breaking out of the box of coal-dependent economies.8 We cannot expect people to read this essay, be convinced, and then make a change. People simply do not possess the ability or the will to change based on mere shifts in beliefs. We need to effect sweeping changes in society, in institutions, and in government in order to overcome the inertia of our current state of environmental affairs. It is necessary to recognize the true proponents of the perpetuation of coal-based economies: those with economic interests in coal. In theory, we would be able to develop the technology to power the entire nation with solar power within a decade, but this simply will not happen if coal interests are strong enough to dismiss the possibility because it would cost them profits. It is not the fault of the “lowly consumer” but the fault of those who “orchestrate public tastes.”9 In the end, it will be the responsibility of government to begin enacting policies that force changes; people will not voluntarily give up profits, give up jobs, or be more eco-friendly unless they must. Our current environmental situation suggests that we must make such changes.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT The motions necessary for sustainability, as indexed in Goodland’s “The Case That the World Has Reached Limits,” are increasing efficiency of production, reducing population growth, redistributing wealth, and generating qualitative over quantitative development.7 These guidelines I think provide a good model on which to base the social and economic restructuring of West Virginia. Finding an alternative source of energy – and an alternative source of state income – is vital. It must be the responsibility of the state government to ensure that all people, especially those in the currently politically disenfranchised and economically moribund mining towns, have access to proper education and opportunities for job growth. In this way West Virginia will be making effective qualitative improvements by reducing the 127
1. Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” in The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, eds. Donald VanDeVeer and Christine Piece (California: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2003), 215.
6. Robert E. Goodin, “Sustainability,” in Environmental Ethics, 443. 7. Goodland, “The Case,” 598.
2. Ibid., 220.
8. Murray Bookchin, “Will Ecology Become the ‘Dismal Science’?,” in Environmental Ethics, 273.
3. Paul W. Taylor, “The Ethics of Respect for Nature,” in Environmental Ethics, 202.
9. Ibid., 277.
4. Donald VanDeVeer, “Interspecific Justice,” in Environmental Ethics, 157. 5. Robert Goodland, “The Case That the World Has Reached Limits,” in Environmental Ethics, 598.
The Next Frontier in the AIDS Epidemic: Sexual Choice and Accountability between Both Sexes Hilary Landfried, Student, Gettysburg College
he first case of AIDS in Uganda was discovered in the Southern district of Rakai during the early 1980s. In only a few years, the disease spread around the world, and Uganda entered a dark age. In the early 1990s, at least 10 percent of the Ugandan population suffered from AIDS. Particularly dangerous in urban areas, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS soared upwards of 30 percent. Today Uganda stands as a success story in the fight against AIDS.1 After an aggressive campaign that has included encouraging the ABCs of sexual responsibility (Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condom use), promoting openness in schools about sex and HIV/ AIDS, and removing some of the stigmas associated with the disease, the prevalence rate has dropped to approximately 6 percent. Nevertheless, although this story is encouraging, the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda is far from over, and the battlefield is changing. At the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, the disease was painful and misunderstood. Searching for comfort and alleviation, people created mythical cures and causes. A common wives’ tale was that sex with a virgin or sex with a pygmy would cure the disease, and it became common “knowledge” that witchcraft was the cause of AIDS.2 Such misconceptions, which took years to dispel, once stood as a major hurdle in the fight against AIDS. Today, however, the battle against AIDS faces a new obstacle, or perhaps one that was once masked by a problem that was easier to address. The very culture of Uganda prevents a greater decrease in the prevalence of AIDS,
and women’s perceived roles stand at the forefront of these cultural deficits. In Eastern Africa, cultural customs deem women as the lesser sex. Because tribal customs place women in subservient positions, women are more likely to contract and unwillingly spread the disease than men. These cultural traditions include bride price, polygamy, mistresses, responsibility to home and family, and submission to man’s will. However, not only does the culture give little choice in sexual matters to women, but it also forces them to carry the brunt of the responsibility for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Here stands a gulf that must be bridged if the fight against AIDS is to be waged in an effective manner: women and men must share sexual choice and accountability. The dichotomy between reality and expectations begins with certain cultural practices such as bride price. When a man wishes to marry a woman, he first must pay her family with cows or cash. Although this transaction does not take place in every union, it remains a very common practice. In essence, this exchange is a sign that a woman’s status is one of property. She has no right to demand the usage of a condom or to refuse sex.3 For some women, this means knowingly sleeping with a husband who is HIV positive. If she were to refuse, she could be put at odds with the family, left by her husband, or even kicked out of her home. All of these are certain crises. A woman in Buganda culture (located in the southern part of Uganda) cannot marry within her own clan; she must marry into a new 129
“The very culture of Uganda prevents a greater decrease in the prevalence of AIDS and women’s perceived roles stand at the forefront of these cultural deficits.”
one.4 This means that she becomes part of her husband’s family and his clan. It also means that in domestic feuds, she has nowhere to run for support within the family. Their allegiance will most likely rest with the blood relative. Furthermore, men are allowed to practice polygamy in Uganda. While it is not true of all marriages, it is a relatively common practice. If one wife has HIV, it may be contracted by her husband and spread to the other wives. However, even if the husband is not practicing polygamy, in many cases, he will have at least one mistress and HIV can be spread in the same manner as within polygamous marriages. Cultural expectations allow men to be far more cavalier in their sexual behaviors and condone men having many sexual partners.5 This “sexual network” is a huge hindrance in fighting AIDS. Not only are men sleeping with numerous partners and/or wives, but they are also crossing generational lines. This means that the disease is crossing into newer and younger generations. Furthermore, there is a discrepancy in the prevalence of HIV between genders among young people between 15 and 24 years old. While males in this age group have an HIV prevalence of 1.3 percent, females have an HIV prevalence of 3.9 percent – almost triple the prevalence of males.6 Several things are happening to create this rate discrepancy. Although most of the population no longer believes that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, there is still a worry of “reinfection.”7 Reinfection happens if someone who already has AIDS sleeps with another
person who has AIDS; thus, their diseases would worsen. Those with a comprehensive knowledge of AIDS know that reinfection is extremely rare; however, it remains a widespread misconception. In addition to such mistaken beliefs, there are cultural traditions that put younger women at risk. In the Buganda culture, if the woman of a house dies, her niece will take her place as head of the family. If the man of the house has HIV, it can then be transferred to the niece.8 However, putting cultural directives aside, sex with younger women is extremely common in Uganda. One man even said that men decided to pay teenage girls for sex “because older women will make us push them to orgasm, but a young girl will let him satisfy himself and leave.”9 Paying for sex, at any age, is not uncommon in Uganda since the traditional male and female roles hold strong. Men tend to work outside the home and control the capital while women work inside the home. As a result, in many cases, sex is a means of procuring school tuition, paying for sanitary pads,10 getting food, paying for transportation, or receiving a gift of some sort, such as jewelry.11 Sex thus becomes a transaction that women rely on for basic necessities (food, transportation, shelter) and that men use mostly for physical satisfaction. While assisting Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organization in Uganda, I worked with Education for Life seminars facilitated by the Counseling and Trauma department. Taught in three parts, the seminars educate school children in levels primary five through 130
“This ‘sexual network’ is a huge hindrance in fighting AIDS. Not only are men sleeping with numerous partners and/or wives, but they are also crossing generational lines.”
seven (ages 10-15) about sex and sexually transmitted infections. During the first seminar, a facilitator will ask what boys can give to girls to convince them to have sex. The responses given are normally very similar at each school, ranging from money to cake and bread to bracelets. These gifts or trinkets rarely exceed the price of 2,000 shillings or roughly 1.00 USD. However, when the question becomes what can girls give to boys, the children’s responses are quite different. In order to tempt boys into having sex, girls can write love letters, walk suggestively, wear short skirts, or wear perfume.12 While girls seem to require some sort of transaction, boys merely need to see a female form to be convinced into sex. With the sex-as-a-transaction concept occurring at such an early age, it is easy to see how this notion can play out in society. It also exemplifies women’s status in society; if there is a material exchange for sex, women are seen as a commodity. During my internship with Kitovu Mobile, I not only assisted the Counseling and Trauma department but also traveled into the villages with Home Care, a branch of the organization that holds clinics throughout the Masaka and Rakai districts. During my time with this branch, I started to notice that more women than men attended the clinics. When I inquired whether the heavy imbalance was just a random occurrence, I was assured that it was actually the norm for a couple of reasons. First, women are tied to the home by agriculture and children. Their lifestyle is less mobile; thus, they stay in one place and can consistently
attend the clinics. Secondly, women are at risk of transmitting the disease to newborns unless they are extremely careful. Women are also the ones who care for the children. Thus, their health affects more than just themselves. With the use of Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and treatment, women are better able to provide for their children and can safely give birth while HIV positive.13 Men, however, have less incentive for getting tested and treated. If a man learns he is HIV positive, he is then knowingly spreading the disease through his sexual encounters. If he is untested, he cannot be blamed for deliberately spreading the disease and is only a victim himself. Even if a person of either gender gets tested, learns he or she is HIV positive, and receives treatment, it is still difficult to share a positive status with a spouse or partner. There is a chance that the significant other will leave the HIV positive person or refuse to have sex for fear of infection. While this disclosure is complicated for either gender, it is particularly hard for women. For women, being left by your spouse or partner means a loss of money to the family and social stigma. It becomes increasingly difficult to support and care for a family when a woman’s health is declining and community members start treating her differently because of her HIV positive status. However, domestic violence is also a concern. In one instance, a girl learned of her positive status and refused to tell her boyfriend for fear that he would beat her. Because he was unaware of her condition, he continued to expect sex and due to a lack 131
“During all the seminars I sat through, never once was it recommended that boys stop paying girls for sex or bribing them with food or gifts.”
of funds, the pair never used a condom.14 In certain cases, marital rape, beatings, and intimidation can force women into having sex with an HIV positive spouse or prevent women from seeking treatment.15 The fear and use of violence is a huge detriment to women in the fight against AIDS. The harsh reality is that because Uganda is a patriarchal society, the inequalities seen in general society trickle down into health issues. Women have a high risk of being infected by AIDS because of the societal norms that give females little control over their own lives and wellbeing. This reality is seen by almost all of the nurses, doctors, counselors, and volunteers that assist in the fight against AIDS. However, while it may be seen, commented upon, and explained to outsiders, the efforts being made to remedy or change the situation are falling short. While the first part of the Education for Life seminars looked into the causes and symptoms of AIDS, the second section delved into behavioral change. At the beginning of this seminar, students are asked to list the behaviors that put them at risk of engaging in unsafe sex and heightening their chances of contracting AIDS. These behaviors can be as obvious as accepting gifts for sex, watching pornography, or engaging in actions caused by peer pressure. Peer pressure is especially hard to overcome. Some of the children are teased for being impotent if they are not engaging in sex. Others are told sex is how one can prove one’s manhood or womanhood. The behaviors that heighten their risk of contracting AIDS can be indirect as well. “Detoothing” (taking
gifts or money without ever giving anything in return), walking alone at night, running away from home, or dressing provocatively puts girls at a higher risk of being raped.16 Once the counselors and children finish discussing the behaviors and their causes, children are then asked how they can avoid engaging in such risky practices. This is where the seminars and AIDS education in general begin to flounder. The easiest answer for students to come up with is that children should abstain from sex while still at such a young age. For many of the girls, this is easier said than done. Girls who are not attending school generally begin to have sex at a younger age than those still in school. Most of the children who are in school have at least one of their parents alive; the majority of students have both. The children who are not in school are often orphans or, at best, have one struggling or unhealthy parent. Their situations at home may require them to work to support the family or stay at home and care for the younger children. School becomes a luxury that they do not have time for or that they simply cannot afford. During one facilitation, the children were asked what the hardest behavior to change was. One brave girl raised her hand and replied that she could not just simply stop having sex; she needed the money to survive.17 Steps are being taken to create a situation where girls can be trained in income-generating activities. Many organizations give out microloans to women so that they can build a business to support themselves.18 Another 132
Hilary Landfried and special guest Nelson Schaenen intern, who worked in Masaka, Uganda, at the same time as I did, created a workshop that trained girls in tailoring skills. I also met with Sophia Klumpp, one of the co-owners of a relatively young business, Afri-pads, that provides reusable pads at an affordable price to girls in Uganda. These young women operate their two factories in a rural area of the Masaka district. While many men have applied for jobs, Ms. Klumpp only hires females. Many Ugandan men cannot understand why they cannot have a job or why women need one; however, the factories are set up to empower women to take control of their own lives.19 Many people, both insiders and outsiders of the Buganda culture, have seen the necessity of giving women and girls a means of supporting themselves and their families. However, these measures are new and have only reached a tiny fraction of those most vulnerable. Success stories need to be shared; more women need to know they have options outside of their typical roles, and more empowerment opportunities need to be created. Unfortunately, even these changes will not be enough. Changing the way women view themselves will only get women halfway to the point where they do not have to sell their bodies for money. Men have to realize why women may want or need a job other than staying at home. They must not prey on women in dire situations where dignity and personal preference have taken a backseat to survival. Women cannot advance or be empowered alone; equality can only be achieved through a joint effort from both genders.
Aside from creating a solution that will enable girls to stop relying on sex as a means of income, children also stated that they need to avoid walking alone at night, stop accepting gifts for sex, stop watching pornography, avoid peer pressure, and avoid wearing short skirts or tight clothing.20 The majority of the solutions give the weight of responsibility to the girls. During the first portion of the Education for Life facilitation, children were asked to briefly brainstorm ways to avoid engaging in sex.21 Similar responses were always given: girls should stop swaying their hips, wearing tight clothes, wearing perfume, acting coyly, and accepting gifts.22 Perhaps curbing some of these behaviors will lessen the desire for sex to an extent. However, it will only make a slight dent in the problem. Girls will still appear to be feminine, they still have to walk home from school or from fetching water, and they may have no other means of getting food. The responsibility of making wise sexual choices must be given to all genders if there is to be any hope of gaining ground in the fight against AIDS. During all the seminars I sat through, never once was it recommended that boys stop paying girls for sex or bribing them with food or gifts. Nor were boys ever told to respect girls if their answer was no. Instructing boys to refrain from physical domination was also, unfortunately, ignored. Moreover, no one thought to recommend that boys walk home with girls in groups so that older men would not harass them. Frankly, both genders are receiving a disservice in this current system 133
“Significant advancements can onlt be made if the whole community, both male and female, learns to see the value in gender equality.”
of sensitization. Females should not have to bear the brunt of protecting both sexes from acquiring HIV. Not only is this unfair, it is unrealistic. Meanwhile, males need to be given more credit. They are able to control their desires and urges and can learn to respect women instead of treating them like property. If there is any doubt that both genders need to be addressed in regard to sexual choice and accountability, some of the anonymous questions children asked at the schools where I worked can dispel any remaining skepticism. My main undertaking while in Uganda was to enable children to feel comfortable asking pertinent questions to teachers trained in trauma counseling and sex education. By placing locked ballot boxes at five schools, Kitovu Mobile test ran my “Disclosure Site” project. After just three days of the project’s onset, Njeru Primary in Nabagasi already had well over two hours worth of questions. A large portion of questions and submissions came from girls seeking advice on how to better protect themselves from acquiring HIV. Several girls asked how they could avoid boys that were trying to give them gifts for sex. One girl asked what she could do if a man tried to stop her on her way home from school. Another merely wrote a statement that the girls of the school were sick of boys touching them inappropriately and wished they would stop. One girl spoke of how she shared a room with her older brother at home; she wanted to know how to answer him when he demanded sex from her.23 We can empower women all we want. We can give them options, education, opportunities and teach them about their rights, but this
only mobilizes half the population to change. This still only holds half of the population accountable for their sexual choices. Significant advancements can only be made if the whole community, both male and female, learns to see the value in gender equality. What I am recommending is by no means easy or fast. If it were, the changes would have already been made. For many years, activists and forward thinking men and women have been trying to bring about equality for both genders. They are missing a key component. If change is to come for a whole community, a whole community must be involved. Women must be empowered to have complete freedom of choice in their sexual encounters, and men must respect women’s choices. Meanwhile, men must also be held accountable for their own sexual encounters. The Education for Life seminars are the perfect means for inspiring this prescribed sexual revolution. For older generations, the culture has become internalized, intricate, and difficult to question. On the other hand, the younger generations are open to progress and innovative ideas because everything is still new to them. Instead of just saying that women have rights and capabilities to girls, facilitators should say the same to boys. Respect for both genders should become paramount and a way of life. Little by little, the culture can change as each new generation moves closer to the goal: gender equality in sexual choice and accountability. By achieving such a goal, the battle against HIV/AIDS will, once more, take a turn towards the positive. 134
1. Will Ross, “Uganda turns back the AIDS tide,” BBC, December 2, 2003, http:// news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3250021.stm.
13. Landfried, field notes, June 11, 2010 Bukakata, Uganda, 12. 14. Landfried, field notes, June 2, 2010, Masaka, Uganda, 3.
2. Hilary Landfried, field notes, May 30, 2010, Masaka, Uganda, 1.
15. Lisa Karanja, “Just Die Quietly,” Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/ en/node/12290/section/7.
3. Donald McNeil, “Cultural Attitudes and Rumors Are Lasting Obstacles to Safe Sex,” New York Times, May 9, 2010, http:// www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/world/ africa/10aidscondom.html?r=1&scp=10&sq=u ganda&st=cse.
16. Landfried, field notes, June 4, 2010, Kyassimba, Uganda, 8. 17. Ibid.
4. Landfried, field notes, May 30, 2010, Masaka, Uganda, 1. 5. Landfried, field notes, June 11, 2010 Bukakata, Uganda, 12.
18. Clark Boyd, “Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way,” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/ frontlineworld/stories/uganda601/video_ index.html.
6. UNICEF, “Statistics,” http://www.unicef. org/infobycountry/uganda_statistics.html.
19. Landfried, field notes, June 2, 2010, Masaka, Uganda, 3-4.
7. McNeil, “Cultural Attitudes.”
20. Landfried, field notes, June 4, 2010, Kyassimba, Uganda, 8-9.
8. Landfried, field notes, June 4, 2010, Kyassimba, Uganda, 8.
21. Since the ages of the children participating in these seminars range from 10 to 15, safe sex is often not an option. There are no condoms made for children that are physically smaller than a fully grown male.
9. McNeil, “Cultural Attitudes.” 10. Ibid. 11. Landfried, field notes, June 29, 2010, Nabigasi, Uganda, 20-22.
22. Landfried, field notes, June 29, 2010, Nabigasi, Uganda, 20-23.
23. Landfried, field notes, June 22, 2010, Nabigasi, Uganda, 28-29. 135
Moral Formation & Censorship: Determining the Christian Response to Violence in the Media Alexis Lassus, Student, St. Louis University
he 2009 Gamers’ Edition of The Guinness Book of World Records includes a list of the top selling video games of all time. Of the top ten, seven are violence intensive games, which involve the players injuring or murdering human images.1 This list does not include the many video games that children and adults can access for free from the internet, and it does not even touch on the amount of violence that is seen in popular films, television shows and advertising. The prevalence of violence in our society’s media calls for a Christian response that is both relevant to current scientific findings, effective and based on Christian moral theology. It is necessary, then, for Christians to take an interdisciplinary approach when trying to determine the Christian response to censorship. This requires Christian ethicists to pull wisdom from psychology, sociology, political theory and theology. After studying the historic effectiveness of censorship by the Catholic Church and after evaluating modern sociological and psychological studies concerning the effects of violence in the media, those wishing to determine a uniquely Christian ethic must turn to philosophies of human formation based in the liturgy. Historically the Catholic Church has responded to this question with a strict stance on sexuality, focusing on pornography issues and only briefly addressing our society’s use of violence. Today the Church’s role in censorship is minimal when it comes to both top-down and grassroots approaches. The evidence that psychology and sociology have provided concerning the
detrimental effects of violence in video games and films ought to challenge the Vatican’s approach. However, the proper response from the Church must include prudence about its involvement with secular law. The approach must be less concerned with changing overarching laws and more interested in creating a grassroots approach rooted in Christian formation and liturgy that will teach families to use the media responsibly. Living a truly Christian life requires us to be actively conscious of the social environment and the practices by which we live because they significantly shape our moral, social and spiritual formation. The actions that we live our lives by reflect our values and, in turn, shape those values. We may choose to do good or evil, and those choices affect who it is we become.2 Formation and action can be challenging in today’s society, and the Catholic Church and its communities must acknowledge how difficult it is to control our environment today, as we are constantly barraged with violence in advertising and the media. Christian communities must develop more practical approaches to this prevalence of violence, which should include helping families and individuals determine how to censor responsibly. To achieve this end, such communities must facilitate family conversations about media violence and its role in human moral formation. Historically, the issue of censorship in and by the Church is a difficult area to tackle because it is very broad and has been expressed in many different ways. Not only has the Church censored media forms, but it has also silenced 136
Alexis Lassus scientists working on cosmological principles and priests requesting to attend social justice events, such as the March on Washington.3 In regards to the media, the Catholic Church has historically responded to censorship issues by being tough on sexuality and too lax on violence. When a Christian thinks of the idea of censorship, thoughts of highly conservative repressions of art, literature and movies come to mind. Many others think of the silencing and excommunication of scientists, such as Galileo or Teilhard de Chardin. As a result of this history of censorship, which in many cases did not have anything to do with the media but with the silencing of scientists or dissenting theologians, many modern day American Catholics are uncomfortable with mandated censorship out of a fear that it might silence artful expressions or, more importantly, progress in science and knowledge. It is understandable then that what the Church has said about what is appropriate in the media has become irrelevant and rarely utilized as a tool for Christians today in America. By understanding why certain censoring acts have been ineffective and perhaps detrimental to human freedom and growth, Catholics and Christians can form an approach to the media that more accurately and effectively reflects a Christian social ethic. Today the Church’s involvement in media regulation is minimal, though it is not missing. Two examples of the Catholic Church’s involvement in media censorship issues are messages from the Pope on the yearly World Communications Day, the movie ratings that
the Catholic News Service updates and the many Catholic newsletters and newspapers that are in print. Typically the World Communications Day messages confront topics such as the Church’s use of digital media for spreading the gospel and promoting international relationships with social networking tools, but they have also addressed the dangers of immoral expressions found in advertising, movies and books. For example, at the 19th World Communications Day, John Paul II encouraged “educational activity, in the family, in the school, in the parish, through the catechism, to instruct and guide the young to a balanced and disciplined use of the mass media.”4 This proposal for education initiatives also encourages seminarians to be familiar with various social networking and communication tools so that they may be better able to approach these issues. The Pope’s message from the 38th World Communications Day in 2004 speaks on the topic of family and the media, addressing the potential for “a risk and a richness.” This message addresses issues of moral formation. In the message, for example, John Paul II notes that “people grow or diminish in moral stature by the words which they speak and the messages which they choose to hear.”5 As a result, parents and individuals must use Christian wisdom to determine what forms of media allow for healthy formation and what forms are simply trying to persuade and exploit human desires and needs. Most of this message concerns exploitation of human sexuality and pornography issues and it does not touch on 137
“Many modern day American Catholics are uncomfortable with mandated censorship out of a fear that it might silence artful expressions or, more importantly, progress in science and knowledge.”
violence outside of violent sexual portrayals. Its approach seems to make a plea to those working in the media, in advertising or in film, video game, or television creation. However, it also speaks to parents, encouraging the “planning and scheduling [of ] media use, strictly limiting the time children devote to media, making entertainment a family experience” in addition to being good role models when it comes to choosing entertainment.6 Organizations sponsored by the Catholic Church such as the Catholic News Service also publish rating lists for past and current movies in which they provide both the Motion Picture Association of America ratings (G, PG-13, R, etc.) and the CNS rating. The CNS ratings range from A-I (general patronage) to A-IV (adults, with reservations, indicating that the films require analysis in order to avoid false impressions or interpretations). In between these two ratings are movies acceptable for adolescents, or only adults, and the most severe rating is an O, indicating that a film is simply morally offensive.7 Typically movies that have an MPAA R rating have a CNS O rating, but oftentimes PG-13 movies also carry the O rating. Families typically ignore these ratings either because they seem too extreme when compared to the MPAA ratings or because most Catholics have no knowledge of the existence of these specific ratings. However, this tool, and other rating systems like it, could be effective if paired with a more direct, personal approach to problems of immorality in the media. Many modern theologians who have addressed the issue of historical censorship,
the law and Catholicism tend to reject topdown approaches to censorship because of the dangers they present to society outside of a local parish or community. John Courtney Murray notes, “Social freedom is a complex, whose constituent elements are closely interlocked.”8 When the law or society decides to restrict one form of social freedom, the restriction runs the risk of imposing “restraints on a freedom which you would wish to see untouched…and unforeseen effects may follow, with the result that a regulation, in itself sensible, may in the end do more harm than good.”9 Furthermore, in a plural society, one group does not have the right to impose social morals on the greater society.10 If Christians wish to restrict the social freedoms of Muslims, Jews, or atheists based on moral beliefs, Christians risk being restricted by these other groups in ways they would not agree with. Lastly, when devising a law, especially concerning social freedom restrictions, it is important to analyze how effective and enforceable it will be. If a law is created and then not followed or enforced, other laws lose their strength and integrity. When it comes to social freedoms, there is a sense in our society that we should only restrict freedoms when it is “socially necessary” or a must for productivity.11 Therefore, in order to avoid the risks that come with censorship, it is up to smaller communities to determine what their own community’s moral standards ought to be and how such social freedoms ought to be used. These communities are places such as churches but also the family, for the home is the basic social unit of society. The 138
difference in this approach from a top-down enforcement is that it does not rely on coercion, but has faith that the average person might strive for higher moral standards. Actions that are personal and respect individual free will are more effective at transforming people. This approach from Murray is understandable and certainly full of wisdom from philosophy and political theory. However, censorship issues have changed in the past decades because of the advancement in technology. This project attempts to tackle one topic within a much larger issue, focusing on the modern prevalence of violence in video games. The changes in technology relevant to video games are expressed in two different ways, improved visuals and greater accessibility to information and media. Many argue that violence has been around in films and literature since the art forms first appeared, but they are not acknowledging the significant advancements technology has made in the past two decades, especially in the field of computer-generated imagery (CGI), a technology used by most filmmakers today. CGI technology is often implemented when filmmakers need background images such as landscapes or lofty architecture. More often, this technology is implemented to create major fight scenes in films, especially in the genres of science fiction or fantasy. CGI technology has also transformed the video game industry, making pixilated games like Super Mario Brothers appear outdated when compared to highly realistic games, which often involve violence. For example, if one compared
the fight scene between humans and aliens in an old Twilight Zone episode with one of the many battle scenes in Avatar, it would be clear that recent CGI technology allows for violence to appear much more realistic. This changes the viewing experience into one that is highly engaging and participatory. Secondly, since Murrayâ€™s time and since the mid 1990â€™s, the average Americanâ€™s access to the Internet has exploded. Most schools in America try to start computer literacy programs in early elementary education, all public libraries have Internet access and a Neilsen/NetRatings study showed that in March of 2004, three out of four Americans over the age of two have access to the internet from their homes.12 This kind of accessibility means that most children and adults can utilize the Internet for educational and entertainment purposes at any time of the day. Advertisements that the Internet user cannot control are found on almost all web pages; thus, increased technology and use of computers and television has made issues of censorship even more important today than fifty years ago. Violence in the media is prevalent, but more than that, it is constant and easily accessible by all. The prevalence of violence in video games and other forms of media have led to increased interest in the psychological effects of participating in artificial violence. Evidence compiled from sociological surveys, personality questionnaires, brain scans and studies on criminal behavior points to the ability of violent video games to desensitize participants to violent images and interactions. While video 139
“Families typically ignore these ratings either because they seem too extreme when compared to the MPAA ratings or because most Catholics have no knowledge of the existence of these specific ratings.”
game studies do not show that these violent games are producing more murderers or rapists, they do question the side effects of prolonged exposure and participation of children, teenagers and even adults. This evidence begs a response from the Vatican that addresses more than just sexual immorality in the media but also images and participation in artificial violence towards other human images. Today the Entertainment Software Rating Board puts a rating on video games sold in stores in the United States. Taking into account various qualities such as presence of nudity, violence, sexual violence, mature humor, language, drug use or simulated gambling, the ESRB places a rating on the front of games sold in stores. These ratings range from Early Childhood (content suitable for ages 3 and older) to Adults Only (content including prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity).13 Retailers can voluntarily decide not to sell video games with a rating of “Mature” or “Adult Only” to children under the age of 17; however, the ESRB ratings do not require retailers to refuse the sale of video games to children under the suggested age. Furthermore, these ratings are not found on all video games, as many games found solely on the Internet are not required to undergo the rating process. Despite lacking restrictive qualities, these ratings do serve to help parents who are paying attention to the games their children are playing. Unfortunately, most parents do not have control over the games their children have access to on the Internet or at the homes of their friends.
The chore of restricting and screening the content of every form of entertainment that enters a household or a child’s hands is rather daunting and unrealistic. However, psychological and sociological studies provide evidence that allowing children to freely play violent video games may be something worth questioning. These studies show that violent video games have negative effects in both the short and longterm concerning self-control, emotional control, inhibition, attention and aggressive reactions. A study of 39 gamers, conducted by the Psychology department at the University of Missouri-Columbia, found that the brain’s response to violence is desensitized when it is frequently exposed to violent video games. The researchers first gave the gamers questionnaires that evaluated how violent their favorite video games were and how aggressive their personalities were. Following the violent games, the brain activity of each gamer was monitored while they were shown a series of images, some neutral and others violent. When measuring brain activity, the p300 wave indicates the brain’s emotional evaluation of an image’s content. The larger the wave is, the more disturbing or out of the ordinary the image seems to the person. Gamers who constantly played violent video games had a significantly smaller p300 wave when violent images, such as a man holding a gun to a person’s head, were shown to them. The researchers furthered the study by looking for the application or realworld effect that the desensitizing of violence leads to. After playing an “opponent” in a video game, whoever won the game was allowed to 140
Robert Bottoms, left, Martha Rainbolt and Rafik Mohamed dole out a blast of sound to the other player as a sort of punishment. Those who had the smallest, most desensitized p300 waves doled out the harshest, longest punishments.14 A further study by the University of Aachen in Germany examined MRIâ€™s of the brain activity of gamers who played at least two hours of video games a day while they played those video games.15 The study found that as violence became imminent, the cognitive parts of the gamersâ€™ brains became more active while the emotional parts of their brains virtually shut down. The gamers would basically become emotionless robots with a mission to fulfill. Unfortunately that mission was to artificially murder a digital image of a human being. A study by the Indiana University School of Medicine found that gamers show a decrease in brain activity in areas that control inhibition and attention after playing violent video games. This study compared the brain activity of gamers after playing violent video games to the brain activity of gamers after playing nonviolent high intensity games such as car racing games. The negative effects were only found in the violent video game players.16 Acknowledging the real physiological evidence demonstrated by these studies, along with other research done on the effectiveness of role-playing, leads to the belief that violent video games have a potentially strong role in shaping attitudes towards the use of violence to settle problems. The famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 shows the ability of role playing to transform healthy and welladjusted people into their given characters.17
The experiment was projected to go for two weeks but was cut short before the first week because the students who were guards became sadistic and brutal, and the prisoners began to show signs of depression and healththreatening stress. Evaluating this case does not necessarily lead us to believe that people who play games in which they murder human images will become murderers themselves, but it does lead to an interesting discussion about the more mild effects of violent video games, such as tolerance of aggression and violent reactions in the face of social dilemmas. More importantly, these studies push us to think about how violent video games shape opinions about violence, war and the death penalty. Many of these studies are criticized for not giving proper consideration to other social factors, such as socioeconomic background, parental attention and education levels.18 It is worth noting the correlation between parental supervision and the amount of video games, violent or not, that children play. A Christian response to these issues must center on the family and community in order to address these issues. A Christian might also ask if hard sociological evidence is the sole determinant that something must be done about violence in the media. Christian discipleship gives significance to daily practices, as our lives are a continuous process of moral formation. The possible side effects of constant engagement with violent media forms may be impossible to measure. For example, our tolerance of war, torture and the death penalty, which may not reflect a 141
Christian ethic, could be the result of violent video games. Further, although it is feasible that most children who play a violent video game once or even frequently will not become murderous monsters, it is also feasible that constant exposure to violence may create a culture that tolerates and even values violence. Christians must respond to the presence of violence in the world by consciously shaping our environment and practices to reflect the Christian discipleship that is rooted in the sacraments and liturgy. When formulating a Christian approach to ethics, M. Therese Lysaught recognizes that our world is not conducive to moral Christian action, and our brokenness and alienation keep us from freely seeking peace and reconciliation. As a result, Christian formation requires that we root ourselves in the sacraments and liturgy, specifically reconciliation and prayer, so that we may constantly realign our lives with our Christian beliefs.19 The intent of the liturgy is to keep Christians from compartmentalizing their faith and leaving it in the pews on Sunday; its intention is to penetrate into all of our actions. The Christian liturgy has a twofold ability to both depict the world that God intended and to reshape the world to look more like God’s original intention.20 With this understanding of Christian formation, when we approach the issue of violence in video games we must question how participating in this type of media reflects our sense of reality and, in turn, shapes who we become. Drawing from Natural Law, many theologians recognize that our actions reflect
our end, and we are only truly happy when we are acting in accordance with God’s intentions. When we behave in certain ways or participate in immoral practices, we become more readily tempted to continue those acts.21 Instead of being free from moral restrictions, we act in a way that imprisons our desires and inclinations, pushing us towards sin and away from acting in accordance with God’s intentions. When individuals spend two hours a day playing video games in which they shoot other human images or constantly try to destroy the “bad guy,” they form their actions to be more tolerant of violent solutions. As gamers’ p300 waves decrease when looking at images of men shooting each other, their reaction to violence becomes less in line with God’s utter shock and intolerance for violence. Families and parents wishing to live in accordance with Christian discipleship must recognize that Christian formation does not only refer to our positive acts of prayer and attending mass, but rather Christian formation also refers to every action. Although urging parents and families to restrict every violent image may seem rather restrictive, this method is simply approaching human freedom from a very different foundation than our modern understanding of freedom does. David McCarthy and Dana Dillon note, “In Catholic moral thought, we all have basic freedoms due to us as creatures made in the image of God…[the] key to this freedom is how we also participate in our own becoming.”22 Christian liturgy is one of the strongest sources of wisdom when trying to determine the proper Christian response to violence. In 142
“The prevalence of violence in video games and other forms of media have led to increased interest in the psychological effects of participating in artificial violence.”
an article responding to developing a Christian stance on the death penalty, Tobias Winright and Allyne Smith argue, “What Christians do in worship, and especially in the Eucharist, has implications for how we are to reflect on moral issues.”23 They use the Lord’s Prayer and the sacrament of the Eucharist as the foundation for their argument concerning the death penalty. If we go to church and repeatedly pray the Lord’s Prayer, we recite the words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The liturgy is carefully designed because of the Church’s knowledge that the words we say aloud can shape our thoughts and actions. When we as Christians approach social dilemmas, it is entirely appropriate to draw from philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology, but it is also necessary that we integrate our Christian practices and beliefs. Christian discipleship requires us to place our identity as followers of Christ before our identity as citizens of a country or members of a political party. Because the foundation of Christian life is our community and the worship we do together, Christians must “seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring our everyday practices into greater conformity with our worship, such that our entire lives may be lived to glorify God.”24 Christians are not without foundation or guidance when determining the response to violent video game use. If we are trying to conform our daily practices to the words, actions and sacraments we participate in during the liturgy, we can easily see that the artificial shooting of human images does not
reflect the values stated in the Lord’s Prayer, nor does this kind of practice reflect our belief in the Eucharist’s ability to unite all human beings and Christians at one table. St. John Chrysostem said, “The mystery [of the Eucharist] requires that we should be innocent not only of violence but of all enmity, however slight, for it is the mystery of peace.”25 While Christian video gamers in no way come to the Eucharist with the guilt of a true murder, they come to the table having spent a great deal of time forming an attitude of enmity or aggression towards human images. Just as the liturgy is carefully designed because of its formative power, video games should be understood in light of the sense that what we habitually practice can shape our minds and hearts in a lasting way. The Christian foundation in communal worship not only guides us when confronting ethical questions such as the proper use of the media, but it also encourages our communities of worship to be the foundation for education and community building initiatives which can empower parents and families to address modern day issues with the media.26 Parishes wishing to take on the challenge from the Pope to use the media responsibly must facilitate educational programs for parents and children that not only address the issues of human sexuality in the media but also violence and consumerism. This type of programming is needed all across American parishes both because these issues are relevant for all living in our society and because these issues have many formative consequences. 143
“The Christian foundation in communal worship not only guides us when confronting ethical questions such as the proper use of the media, but it also encourages our communities or worship to be the foundation for the education and community building initiatives which can empower parents and families to address modern day issues with the media.”
One issue for the American Catholic Church is the question of why so many families have settled for lax restrictions on their children’s use of the Internet, television and movies. One might assume that Catholics are becoming less religious and care less about aligning their practices to Christian worship. However, this is not necessarily the case. Censoring and keeping track of the type of media that enters a child’s daily life is nearly impossible in our day of constant advertisements on billboards, web pages, television shows and clothing logos. It can also be difficult for older generations to even be aware of the types of technology and media that their children are using. This impossibility of censorship has led many parents to adopt a mentality that their child will see, hear or play a violent or sexually mature video game or movie whether they like it or not, so it is pointless to even try to restrict. Educational programs must acknowledge this fact and not assume that parents will be able to restrict all material. By acknowledging this, parishioners can learn about recent media trends and how to facilitate conversations with their children about types of media that they may encounter. Healthy Christian formation does not lead to absolute censorship. To believe that we can go our entire lives without experiencing pain and suffering is unrealistic and perhaps dangerous to moral development. Much of Christian formation is in confronting reality and with reality comes sin, violence and sexual exploitation. A Christian response to violence in the media must not attempt to shelter or
protect children from all evidence of our reality of sin. It must facilitate thoughtful encounters with this reality, taking advantage of teaching moments about how the world needs to be transformed and how Christians must act in order for God’s intended reality found in the liturgy to become more apparent in the rest of the world. This is why a foundation in the liturgy and sacraments is so crucial – they have much to say about how we must transform our world and approach images of violence and sin. This approach creates space for morally responsible television shows, movies and even video games that may include violence but show it in such a way that helps us to further the proper Christian response to violence and sin. One of the most important ways children can learn how to analyze the media and respond to expressions of violence and sin is by learning from their parents. This means that parents must be good role models when it comes to balancing media use responsibly. They must show that it can be used for education and positive creative expressions. The highly communicative and media based society in which we live is almost impossible to escape. The Christian response to this dilemma must be one that acknowledges the inefficiency of top-down approaches of censorship. Instead, responses should be grounded in the family unit and worship community. The Church must acknowledge the scientific and sociological findings concerning violent video games in order to address the needs of young Christians, for they are in a stage of life that is especially critical to proper moral formation. 144
1. “News - Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer’s Edition Reveals the Top 50 Console Games of All Time,” Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition, http:// gamers.guinnessworldrecords.com/ news/270209_top50.aspx.
8. John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1960), 154. 9. Ibid., 155.
2. Dana Dillon and David M. McCarthy, “Natural Law, Law, and Freedom,” in Gathered for the Journey: Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective, ed. David M. McCarthy and M. Therese Lysaught (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, Pub., 2007), 169.
10. Ibid., 160. 11. Ibid., 158. 12. Grace Kim, “Three Out of Four Americans Have Access to the Internet, According to Nielsen/NetRating,” Nielsen/ NetRatings: the Global Standard for Internet Audience Measurement and Analysis, Internet Access Penetration (U.S., Home), http://www.nielsen-online.com/pr/ pr_040318.pdf.
3. Bernard A. Curtis, “The Morality of Catholic Censorship,” Christian Century 82, no. 24 ( June 16, 1965): 773. 4. John Paul II, “Social Communications for a Christian Promotion of Youth,” Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the 19th World Communications Day, May 19, 1985, Section 6.
13. “Game Ratings & Descriptor Guide,” Entertainment Software Rating Board, ESRB Content Descriptors, http://www.esrb.org/ ratings/ratings_guide.jsp.
5. John Paul II, “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness,” Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the 38th World Communications Day, May 23, 2004, Section 1.
14. Terri Wells, “Do Violent Games Make Violent People?” Dev Hardware Forums, page 1 http://www.devhardware. com/c/a/PC-Gaming/Do-Violent-GamesMake-Violent-People/.
6. John Paul II, “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness,” Section 5. 7. “Catholic News Service MOVIE REVIEWS,” Catholic News Service Home Page, List of CNS classifications and MPAA ratings, http://www.catholicnews.com/movies. htm.
15. Wells, “Do Violent Games,” 2.
16. Kristin Kalning, “Does Game Violence Make Teens Aggressive?: Researchers Say Parents Should Look Closely at Findings of New Study,” Msnbc. com, December 8, 2006, http://www.msnbc. msn.com/id/16099971/ns/technology_and_ science-games/.
20. Tobias Winright, “Gather Us In and Make Us Channels of Your Peace: Evaluating War with an Entirely New Attitude,” in Gathered for the Journey, 297. 21. Dillon and McCarthy, “Natural Law,” in Gathered for the Journey, 169.
17. Wells, “Do Violent Games,” 4.
22. Ibid., 171-172.
18. Reuters, “Study: Violent Video Games Don’t Make Killer Kids,” USA Today, March 3, 2007, http://www.usatoday.com/ tech/gaming/2007-03-02-killer-games_N. htm.
23. Tobias Winright and Allyne Smith, Christian Worship & Capital Punishment (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 5. 24. Ibid.
19. M. Therese Lysaught, “Love Your Enemies: Toward a Christoform Bioethic,” in Gathered for the Journey, 326.
25. Ibid. 26. Lysaught, “Love Your Enemies,” in Gathered for the Journey, 326.
Who’s to Blame: Black People or “The System”? Alyson Watson, Student, University of Alabama
n general, black people have never acquired large amounts of wealth. When black people were slaves to rich white people centuries ago, they did not own property because they themselves were viewed as property. After emancipation, Congress debated whether or not blacks would be given “40 acres and a mule” to help them achieve equal footing with whites, but this measure was never passed. Blacks have unfortunately witnessed racism in every aspect of their lives, especially in terms of providing for their families and building wealth. Further, in the days immediately following Reconstruction, blacks were hard-pressed to find employment. When they even were able to find jobs, they were paid less than their white counterparts. Unfortunately, this inequality continues on through current times. However, now that so many gains in civil rights have been made, black people are starting to wonder if such inequality remains the fault of “The System” or if the economic plight of blacks is the fault of black people themselves. “The System” refers to the governmental and economic groups that wield great power in American society. These groups normally consist of white, upper class, conservative men. Some people think that the economic plight of blacks is the fault of black people themselves. In an address at the NAACP Gala to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Bill Cosby blamed black people for the continued racial inequality. In “Poor Excuse: Cosby and the Politics of Disgust,” Michael Eric Dyson disagrees with Cosby,
arguing that while black people should take responsibility, “The System” is not entirely without fault either. If one is to be completely honest, however, “The System” must shoulder all of the blame for the poverty in black communities today. In the fiery speech given by Bill Cosby on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby argues that black people should be blamed for their position in society. Throughout his speech, he repeatedly mentions that there is a 50 percent dropout rate.1 He claims that children are not being disciplined properly. Near the very beginning of his speech, he makes the following statement regarding the role that parents have not been playing: I’m talking about the these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit …Where were you when he was eighteen and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?2 Here Cosby makes some interesting statements about how he feels families are structured today and the problems that result from such structures. He assumes that the young black men are going to jail because not enough attention is being paid to the things they are doing. Cosby blames the mothers for not raising the children properly. He briefly gives some of the blame to the fathers who were not there for their children; however, he 147
Alyson Watson, left, and Caroline Perry ultimately blames the mothers again because they do not know where the fathers are. Later, he seems to blame the entire situation on young black girls who have sex because “[they] want somebody to love [them]” and end up getting pregnant.3 He assumes that black women are so busy searching for love that they have several babies for whom they do not provide proper parenting. These assumptions are extremely problematic. Another reason that Cosby posits for the continuation of racial inequality is that blacks have unrealistic perceptions of reality. For example, he claims that blacks rely on their religion too much. Thus, he argues that black people need to stop “asking Jesus to do things for [them].”4 Similarly, he argues that black women should stop naming their children with African-sounding names that they do not understand. Cosby also states that blacks should stop blaming white people for the economic disparities between whites and blacks. Rather, by allowing blacks to win Brown v. Board of Education, white people have done their part. Now, in order to overcome racial inequalities, blacks must stop allowing their youth to drop out of school. Interestingly, Cosby fails to mention that whites have not always done their part to achieve racial equality. For example, even after desegregating schools, whites still failed to give black students equal educational opportunities to those received by white students. In “Poor Excuse: Cosby and the Politics of Disgust,” Michael Eric Dyson disagrees
with Cosby. Rather than assign the entirety of the blame for racial inequality on black people, Dyson argues that both black people and “The System” should be held accountable. He partially elaborates on this point with an explanation that truth is simultaneous rather than serial: …truth is not serial to me. It’s simultaneous. In serial versions of truth, one thing is true until something else comes along to displace that. Then that’s true. No. Truth is simultaneous to me. That means stuff that is contradictory and conflictingcan be true at the same time.5 Perhaps both the blacks and “the System” are fully responsible for the economic plight of blacks. This is an interesting way to think about what is going on in black communities. Though Cosby obviously knows that not all black people act in that manner (since he was talking to a room full of Howard graduates), he made it seem as if everyone outside of that room was poor because of his or her own shortcomings. He does not even entertain the possibility of “The System” having anything to do with the poverty in black communities. Dyson simply wants to acknowledge that not everything that has befallen poor blacks is necessarily their fault. According to Dyson, many black people are taking responsibility by working and trying to take care of their families. Many of those who are not working have been laid off and/or are in search of jobs.6 Thus, “even though personal 148
“In the fiery speech given by Bill Cosby on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby argues that black people should be blamed for their position in society.”
responsibility is critical, it ain’t sufficient to help poor people.”7 Therefore, despite their efforts, some of these hardworking people are still impoverished. Dyson then goes on to state that other forms of responsibility, such as political and social, must fit into the equation as well. He explains that part of the reason for the poverty of black Americans is America’s shift from the manufacturing industry to the service industry. When this major shift occurred, black people no longer had access to “low-skilled, high-wage jobs that prevailed when the steel industry was at its height and when the automobile industry was flourishing.”8 Near the end of the chapter, Dyson emphasizes that he and Cosby have the same intention. They both want to help poor black people. However, Dyson argues that Cosby’s method of helping poor black people is wrong. By making such comments about the black community, Cosby legitimizes white supremacist notions of black people. Cosby’s comments were also elitist and arrogant, for he seems to think he is on a much higher level than other black people. Further, Dyson points out that Cosby does not realize that, despite being wealthier than many black people, he is “in the same boat as these poor people” because he “will be subject to the same forces and dynamics of white supremacy and social injustice at a certain level.”9 In reality, it is “The System” that is to blame. Cosby does not understand that the rate at which blacks are being thrown in jail is disproportionate to the amount of
crimes blacks actually commit. Further, as was mentioned earlier, black children may be dropping out of school because of the racist practices that still tend to exist even in integrated school systems. People like Cosby tend to claim that blacks are poor either because they are lazy or because they abuse the system. However, poor white people are not usually blamed for their condition, especially not by blacks. They are assumed to be “victims of circumstance.” In addition, many people do not tend to acknowledge that some rich white people have acquired their wealth by abusing the system. In fact, many whites only have such family wealth because their ancestors built it off of the backs of slaves. There is a big problem when abuse of “The System” gets millions of dollars for whites, but only welfare and food stamps for blacks. At this point, Cosby and some of his followers might say something like, “Well, if the whites are not helping us, then we need to help each other; the problem is that we are not helping each other.” However, white people do not have to resort to helping each other in order to create the illusion that they are progressing. Further, black people cannot help each other if even some of the wealthier of them are not very far removed from poverty, which is a point that Dyson makes in his piece.10 According to Dr. Nina Heckler, professor of sociology at the University of Alabama, the United States has enough wealth to entirely wipe out its poverty. Most of this wealth, however, is in the hands of white people. Therefore, if there 149
“However, in order to create substantial changes to the conditions on blacks, both blacks and whites must acknowledge the continued existence of white privilege and the necessity of radical change to the current system.”
is to be a redistribution of wealth, it must start with whites. Of course, black people should do all they can to gain knowledge, wealth, and influence. However, in order to create substantial changes to the conditions of blacks, blacks and whites must also acknowledge the continued existence of white privilege and the necessity of a radical change to the current system. For a while now, there has been a debate as to whether the precarious position that many blacks find themselves in is solely the fault of blacks or if the “The System” is also responsible. In his address Bill Cosby argues that black people are at fault. However, Michael Eric Dyson refutes this point in “Poor Excuse: Cosby and the Politics of
Disgust” by claiming that although blacks should take some of the responsibility, “The System” should shoulder some responsibility as well. In reality, however, it is “The System” that is to blame. The current economic crisis going on in predominantly black communities is just one example of the disastrous results that occur when a country is run only by a select number of elites. Often such elites will do anything for wealth and control, even if it involves perpetuating economic, racial, and social inequalities. Further, a system that allows one group of people to succeed and other groups of people to fall through the cracks “when necessary” is an unjust system and must be either radically changed or completely abolished.
1 1. Bill Cosby, “Address at the NAACP on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education,” Online Speech Bank. AmericanRhetoric.com, http:// www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ billcosbypoundcakespeech.htm (Washington, D.C, May 17, 2004), 1. 2
3. Ibid., 2.
4. Ibid., 1.
5 5. Michael Dyson, “Poor Excuse: Cosby and the Politics of Disgust with Damian Bruce,” Debating Race (New York, NY: Civitas Books, 2007), 394. 6
6. Ibid., 400.
7. Ibid., 402.
8. Ibid., 393.
9. Ibid., 405.
10 10. Ibid.
The Old Man and the Storm: A Documentarian’s Story and a Conversation with Bob Steele June Cross, Professor of Journalism, Columbia University
ORIGIN OF THE OLD MAN AND THE STORM
a bullet!” Then on Tuesday morning, the levees broke. I still wasn’t that engaged with the story at that point.… On Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk, and all of a sudden I heard the announcer’s voice take on this urgent tone, and I looked up and saw those people who had been inside the convention center in 106-degree heat with no food and no water for 48 hours. George Bush had just been on the TV saying, “We are down there, and the government is doing everything it can. We’ve got the situation under control.” This was being repeated on all of the news stations until some reporter from CNN got inside the convention center with his home movie camera and started taking pictures of what was really going on in there. I was horrified. I ran out of my office and began trying to get the attention of anyone I could find in the hallway saying, “There are tens of thousands of people who have been trapped inside the convention center, and the government has been saying that they are rescuing them, but they are not! They are rescuing them and dumping them inside this place where there is no food, no water. Nothing. Not even working sewage.” Everybody was sort of apathetic. I just could not get their attention on this issue.… I was so outraged that I just decided that this would not stand. This could not stand. I could not allow people to ignore what was going on and that became the impetus for why I went down there. I began thinking about what happens when people lose their culture and all of
he Old Man and The Storm was the first film that I did after I had written The Secret Daughter, the memoir about my family.… The way I came to do this film was sort of bizarre. The Thursday before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I was teaching my Broadcast Television class how to do “stand ups.” In order to teach them to do the “stand ups,” I was using the National Weather Service reports. I remember on that Thursday I was reading the weather reports off the wire, and it said that there was this hurricane coming towards the Gulf Coast – winds of up to 180 miles/hour – which would destroy habitats, trees and livestock and render the area uninhabitable for several weeks, if not several months. The report also said that deaths would be caused if people did not evacuate. It was like the horror story warning of all time. I read it in class and sort of laughed, saying that the weather advisory would cause reporters from all over the U.S. to spend their weekends getting wet in New Orleans since it has become the caricature of reporters to stand on the boardwalk so that people can see the wind in their hair getting them soaking wet. So I was really kind of scoffing at this in class. Then, low and behold, the hurricane hit that weekend. It actually did miss New Orleans; it passed 80 miles to the east of New Orleans – the eye of the hurricane did not go over the city of New Orleans. So, on Monday night people were like “Oh, great. We dodged 152
June Cross their memories.... People who live along the Gulf Coast of the United States tend to be more rooted than the rest of us.… Most of the people who live in Louisiana and Mississippi have been living there for at least five generations, so when those people were uprooted, it was more than just “we’re moving.” It was a movement of an entire memory of a country about a certain place in time and way of being. I really wanted to explore what that was. I often start my documentaries with a question that I have in mind, and in this case, it was the question “What does the loss of culture and memory mean to a people?” So that was the question that I went down there to try to answer. The first time I went to New Orleans was in December of 2005. The water was gone, but the residents still didn’t have electricity. At night the whole city was just black. I decided at that point that the difference between the United States and a third world country was electricity. They weren’t allowed to go back inside their houses for six weeks.... At that point, I really did not know what to do. I was trying to get a handle on everything that was happening. Everybody had been evacuated out of the city and there had been absolutely no attempt to keep track of who had gone where. Families had been separated, and, in some instances, families were lost…. The city then began to talk about how they were going to rebuild New Orleans – making it “better than ever,” which seemed to include not allowing back people who had been living there and who had, in fact, contributed not
only to the culture of the city, but also to the culture of this country. People who invented jazz came out of the ninth ward of New Orleans, and the government was talking about allowing it to just go back to green space. They had this big “green space” movement, which was going to be “sustainable” and “used as a bulwark against the possibility of a flood happening again.” I was listening to all this and I was sort of horrified that this could happen in the United States, and nobody seemed to be caring about it. And then I began to try to find some people to tell the story through. By January, I had five different characters that I was following, and one by one they began to fall away for various reasons. They had gone through major trauma, not just the trauma of losing everything you own, but the trauma of having your government basically just ignore you. Their families were all split apart.… These were people whose identities had literally been ripped from them through no fault of their own. They had done nothing. They were still considered citizens of the United States, but they were caught in this very strange situation. LINK TO FRONTLINE DOCUMENTARY, THE OLD MAN AND THE STORM http://www/pbs.org/pages/ frontline/video/fly/generic. html?s=fro102p63econtinuous=1
“I began thinking about what happens when people lose their culture and all of their memories … People who live along the Gulf Coast of the United States tend to be more rooted than the rest of us …”
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT STEELE, DIRECTOR OF THE PRINDLE INSTITUTE FOR ETHICS Steele: You used the phrase “what does the loss of culture and memory mean to people?”… What is society’s responsibility and “respondability,” to borrow from Alison Bailey, to people in these tragedies?
Cross: Well, there is the “do no harm” principle, from the Hippocratic Oath that Allison was talking about today, so I really was trying not to screw them. There are things that you find out when you deal with normal human beings, people who are not used to being in the spotlight. These people do not understand the rules of what to say and not say when being interviewed, so there are two different kinds of rules that I apply. The first is what I apply to the politicians, and the second is what I apply to real people.… There were a couple of times where I had to go to a mentor of mine because I thought that I was crossing my boundaries. There were a couple members of the family who I grew really close to. At some point, I realized that I wasn’t there to be a friend, but to be a journalist. I needed to remain objective.
Cross: The suicide rate in the city went up. The rates at which elderly were dying tripled from 2004 to 2005, which is directly attributed to the flood. The number of children who were involved in violent crime went up – children who were traumatized and had no way to deal with it. These were measurable public health things that resulted from the trauma of having to deal with what they dealt with in the way that they had to deal with it.
Steele: Last night Bob Bottoms said that “moral reflection does not need to be a solitary pursuit,” and good journalists don’t make decisions on their own. You make them with the help and the input of others. Who did you turn to?
Steele: Over the years, many of the documentaries that you have done have brought out those themes: race, class, etc. Do you see it as a mission or as an obligation that you have? Cross: I wouldn’t articulate it as a mission, but I do seem drawn to these themes… I am not sure if it has to do with the peculiarities of how I was raised that I see into that world.
Cross: I did turn to others. In particular I turned to Judy Crichton, the founding executive producer of The American Experience, and she helped me a lot. My editor at Frontline and my editor in the editing room helped me a lot. My cameraman who I would probably trust with my life contributed greatly.
Steele: How does a storyteller decide what you are going to use and what you aren’t going to use?
[Questions with Students] Student: Why couldn’t you be best friends with the people about whom you were reporting?
Gettridge was living. I called up his doctor and told him what was happening. I did not do anything else, but the doctor found a way to get him the medications. There are boundaries that we establish.
Cross: What if she did not like what I reported, and now not only is the friendship ruptured, but she also has negative information about me that she could spread out there.… I have a colleague, Leon Dash, who teaches journalism at The University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana. He often will first sit down with the person that he is interviewing and say, “I want you to know what the ground rules are. The ground rules are that anything you say, I may use in this story. I will not give you money. Do not ask me for money. I am here to observe everything that you do. Anything that you do may be used in what I am writing.” I do not normally go that far because I think that it sets up an artificial barrier from the giddy up, but it works for him. One of the ground rules is that you do not pay for interviews. There was another journalist who was working with Mr. Gettridge who was actually helping him build the house. I would not help him lay down the floor, but I brought him a meal every once in awhile. At one point, I found out that…he was not taking the four or five medications that he was on, because during everything that was going on with the hurricane, he had not re-filed for Medicaid under the new system, Medicaid Part D. I knew his doctor’s name because I had asked his doctor to go on camera to talk about the health consequences of living the way that Mr.
Steele: Journalists need to operate using the principle of independence…. What you did with the doctor was an Aristotelian solution – you took a step…to avoid allowing his health to deteriorate, but you still kept your independence to the greatest degree. Cross: I had a radio interview at one point and the guy said, “You just went there and filmed him and you didn’t help him at all. What good were you?” And, what I didn’t put into the film is that I really went after the state about why he had waited so long to get the money that he needed that was promised by President Bush in September. Eighteen months later he still didn’t have his money. And Mr. Gettridge received $60,000 that he had been waiting on for two years. People told me that I should have put that in the film, but it just felt too much like Anderson Cooper, so I didn’t go there. I didn’t give him his money, but I got him his money from the state. Student: Are you satisfied with the exploration of race in this story? Also, I noticed in the trailer that it didn’t mention race… Cross: It wasn’t about race, it was about Mr. Gettridge and his family. They were 155
June Cross and Bob Steele obviously black. They lived in the black side of town. It was a subtext. I didn’t consider this a film about race.
thing or another – the violence – but nobody is looking at what is happening to this region as they go through the rebuilding process, and I am interested in following that.
Student: Where does your obligation to the story end? Obviously the documentary is finished, but do you still feel that you have an obligation to Mr. Gettridge and the story?
Steele: What is the one story that you really want to do a documentary on? Cross: There is no one story. It is more like what is the one story this year, so right now I am on Pakistan.
Cross: I don’t feel like I have an obligation to Mr. Gettridge. I feel like I have an obligation to keep following the story in New Orleans.
Steele: What is the sixty-second story on Pakistan, so that everyone here can watch out for it?
Steele: Why so? Cross: Because everybody sort of goes back on the anniversary but no one is looking long-term. We talk about this process of ethics, but there is also the process of rebuilding. People have fastened onto one
Cross: I don’t know – a country being torn apart by its own DNA. It is a story about intolerance and hate and terrorism and what that says about the fracturing of a society.
Poems Anna Bower, Student, Furman University
When I Shared a Room with My Sister
face-up in a dead-man’s-float, his dappled down suffocated by the black pillow of a crude foe.
We had this line. It divided the room down the center, or what she said was the center – I did not question my sister. She said Now each of us has a side. Your side, my side. We agreed that sides helped with the keeping of sanity. So we learned to go about our business, careful not to allow anything larger than a pinky toe stray to the other side of that duct tape line. But sometimes when my sister was gone I crept over the boundary, wrapping my body in her green duvet and sighing in knowing the other side still existed. What I did not know, lying there still small, still happy, was that my whole life would be grey lines, boundaries, and the soft tread across them.
When I say “My dad does oil,” not once do they think about my mother’s cold salad fingers; bitter and moist, the remnant of romaine, wringing, twisting, breaking the green-leaf necks, wondering what time it will be tonight. Sonnenizio on a Line from Addonizio We part our lips, our mouths get near and nearer, two curvilinear crescents approaching collide and hoping to unearth some cosmic connection, that one nearly all our friends claim will occur now as we near this moment of nearness, and safely pass the moment before where I fear this nearsighted romance is nothing more than a veneer for convenience: two bodies finding what is nearby and latching onto it, like weary mountaineers clinging to the slope and groping the sediment and brush after a near fall when the peak seemed to sneer from above. Yet as we climb near and nearer, I think I could be your nearest. I could be your nearest, dearest.
Telling People About a Living When I say “My dad does oil,” they see suburbia with its sword-tipped gates, fat men chewing fat cigars, raw umber flakes trapped in their smiles. When I say “My dad does oil,” they imagine a duckling 157
Anna Bower For Other Women Afflicted with Disease
DESTINED FOR HELL was scrawled at the bottom of the page. It was underlined in black Sharpie.
One morning I woke up, looked in the mirror, and screamed like hell. I was a feminist. My face reddened when I asked my mother if she knew a cure. She looked at me with her sharp gaze and said right-now-this-instant you need to read the Bible. If that doesn’t work, go to the doctor.
In the fall, I took a sharp turn for the worse. I burned my Bible and my bra. Mother kicked me out and I moved up North to Hell’s Kitchen. I lived with two roommates in a red brick apartment. We had three cats and I worked on my doctorate in Gender Studies. My thesis was called The Plight of the Feminist.
When symptoms began to arise, she hung up her apron and called Doctor Freeman. My mother (whose name is Helen) thundered WHY DIDN’T YOU CATCH THIS EARLIER THE BIBLE HASN’T EVEN WORKED IT’S A BAD CASE OF FEMINISM. Her voice was as sharp as her fingernails. They were painted bright red.
One morning an oddly feminine man with sharp horns knocked on my door. He wore a white doctor’s coat and carried a Bible in his red hands. He smiled and said Child, it’s time to go to Hell.
Bring her in, Doc says. He thinks he read about a case like this in one of those fancy doctor manuals. My mother said He’s a sharp young man. He’ll knock the feminist right out of you, she said. Knows them manuals like I know the Bible.
Please don’t feel sorry. There are lots of other feminists in Hell. Once, I saw my idol Dr. Catharine A. MacKinnon reading aloud, perched high on a sharp cliff overlooking the fires. I think she was reading the Bible.
Turns out he didn’t know them manuals like mother knows the Bible. He wrote my prognosis in red ink. There is no known cure for Feminism-C (there are different manifestations, explained the Doctor).
Animal Crackers An elephant hoof is lodged between my teeth. Other carcasses lie stiff and colorless in the box, but my mouth moves: 158
â€œOne morning, I woke up, looked in the mirror, and screamed like hell. I was a feminist.â€?
a gnashing of paws and beaks and tails that snap easy and slide, bloodless, down my throat.
Of Endings The last time I saw you your lips were an umbrella turned down at the edges faded-salmon pink blistering beneath the sun
Yes, Yes There could be a lion in the hall, says the philosophy professor in his L.L. Bean boots and black turtleneck. We blink. He is making some attempt to describe a posteriori reasoning. We have to go out there to know, he says. So we leave our book-bags rooted to the floor and follow the professor into the hallway. We crowd together in our winter fleeces as the professor beams before us, pointing with a fat index finger as he shouts Yes, yes there he is! And we think Yes, yes there he is, the lion lying in the light of the vending machine, staring up at a row of Ho-Hos, with wheaten hide and eyes dark like soot. Fred Draper, who is very polite, asks if he would like us to press E6.
The last time I saw you we had a picnic perched on the roof dull apples and aged brie tart in our mouths We walked over a wooden bridge laboring under our weight the river slow simmering beneath us The last time I saw you we laughed at the chicken truck next to us in the shadow of the stoplight
A swipe and a strike! Bone and spittle of the skull lie dark on the white tile like blood in milk. Fred is dead, says the professor who smiles wide, who says Now we know! Yes, yes he is here! And we think Yes, yes he is here! The lion who has Hunger, O hunger, run, run, run.
Orange beaks snipping the wind rolling along towards fences and sawdust and a life ended 159
90 Days Jenna Buehler, Student, DePauw University
90 days is a photo narrative documenting the 2010 Hoosier Heartland Corridor (HHC) Project. The narrative features the voice of Gerald E. Clear, an affected homeowner of rural Delphi, Indiana. Gerald has lived in the small town his whole life and built his 50-year-old home himself. Like many rural farmers along the highwayâ€™s route, he must accept $6,300.00 per acre for his property within ninety days or face legal action. He says that he canâ€™t sleep most nights and that his wife is ill. His story speaks to the many sacrifices made each day for the sake of global ideals and progress.
Taylor Wood, Jonathan Green, Jessica Au and Jenna Buehler
faces of my spoken word: stories by a â€œqueer woman of colorâ€? Erica Granados De La Rosa, Student, Loyola University Chicago
We must produce reflections of our realities and experiences in order to proactively claim our identities, and the free will to choose who we are becoming as a new people. Limiting ourselves to preconceived notions of identity and reality produced by corporations and institutions that are driven by economic gain is a voluntary progression towards alienation and dehumanization. Failing to claim our tenaciously forming culture as the result of the socio-historical process of diaspora is to deny the hope that lives in our very skin. Asking us to assimilate and to abandon our history and our culture is asking us to surrender the consciousness of our reality and our condition.
We are, left behind residue, bastard children of the raped and murdered, a painful reminder and reflection of a history they do not claim but act upon gloriously. We thirst so desperately for humanity, for belonging. Painfully displaced, lost, we are forgotten, old property, enemies, toys that have grown old and boring, still looked upon shamefully. Ridiculed, our existence is questioned.
We must move forward in the voicing of our experience of truth. We must eradicate the need to define oneself as relevant to dominant ethnocentric ideologies and constructs. We must find power in the process of becoming as well as being. We must be the authors of the stories that tell of our becoming. We must continue to tell these stories and always work towards new and more powerful ways of storytelling.
Curious they stare at us, unfamiliar memories. Where did you come from? Why are you here? Asks the white child of the dark toned wheel barrel with a glance and a stare. We cautiously step forward with question, bitterness, and ignorance, naively in search for a truth. We are the sprinkle of brown in your white sea, wondering why we are not seen, thousands of years of becoming into nothing. 163
“We must move forward in the voicing of our experience of truth.”
We thirst for something; the sound of a distant language, a name, a continent, a hero, echoes of emptiness, remedies for our bitterness, a melody, a rhythm, a touch, a look, a kiss. We are the displaced of the lost and forgotten. Lost we are forgotten.
Tempos that echo the heartbreaks that our grandparents felt. So when your soul is awakened and recognizes sound, take it as a reminder from the divine that you are bound. And don’t take it likely that your body is a vessel, sacred by every means and far more complex than the mental. Because it carries the star dust of creation. It is proof of life through manifestation. It bears the promise of change bringing forth hope through the process of menstruation And it bleeds secrets that challenge the forces of alienation.
Music But I believe that our souls have memories of sounds, from the beginning, the creation of the universe.
So I believe that music is simply the spirit of the body, simply the light that reveals the godly, the majestic reminder that we embody, the ETERNAL power of life.
Like with every melodic sentence and paragraph our collective memory is immersed. Our souls are laced with the rhythms that our ancestors heard, like the organic drumming of a heart beat will always subconsciously be what we prefer.
Poetically Melodic Entering my fourth year of university, tryna’ rearrange and find my priorities, never looked beyond school, thought this was the best of me. Kept out of trouble, no kids, that’s all the rest could see.
Melodies that take us back to the movements of our for-mothers Rhythms that unite our hearts and bring our souls closer to our brothers Pitches that resemble the great balance like a ghostly memory of self
Child of immigrants they dictated what was 164
Erica Granados De La Rosa set for me, two choices: assimilation, or the inheritance of poverty.
mine to want to trade the I for us, the intimacy for lust, the skepticism for trust. And I just don’t understand it.
Wasn’t supposed to make it this far without denying self. Wasn’t supposed to be that bridge that could potentially distribute wealth. But I’m steady trying to find hood translation, making money back guarantees to prevent miscommunications. You see I’m a soul created solely to spark revelation, but I’m brown and I aint’ got a dick, so you see my complications.
But I could systematically plan my life, and I could intellectually prove the evils of being your wife, and I could make you out as the oppressor to make shit a little more black and white, But the truth is I’m in the grey. The truth is, I become a little bit more dependent on the idea of you each day, and the more I feel the more I want to run away. So I’m standing here wondering how much more of this internal hypocrisy I can take.
But I protect myself and ignore media sensations, rather find the power in this pen than receive alienating dictations. As I become pretty clear at this point in my path to liberation, I begin by telling stories through poetically melodic manifestations.
Because it’s more likely that you’re not the enemy. And it’s more probable that you’re just as a part of me as the brown on my skin. And I figure this much because the truth is, you’re the most beautiful reflection of this life that I’m living in. And you seem to be the most effective means of lighting my spirit whenever the flame is getting dim. And the chances of me becoming a whole human being without letting you make me smile seem very slim.
In The Grey I love you. But I could probably think of a hundred theoretical justifications to make that shit seem less romantic. And I could probably ignore the tears and the butterflies with heartless semantics. But I just can’t shake this stubborn desire of 165
“We must eradicate the need to define oneself as relevant to dominant ethnocentric ideologies and constructs.”
So I’m in the grey, but I’m in the grey because I hate your ass so damn well, and if you were to ever step to me and ask me about the pain you caused? BOY! Off the dome I would have 152 stories to tell!
Story #152. You make every single day, from the moment I wake up, an internal struggle. Every couple of waking hours I in some way shape or form compare myself to another in hopes that one day I will be more aesthetically and intellectually pleasing to you. So I wake up and I curse my body in the mirror, and I paint my face, and I burn my hair, and eat very little, so that I might be worth even talking to.
#1 starting with you still blaming me that humanity fell, and this bullshit idea that my sexuality could ever condemn me to hell. Not to mention the 5000 years of oppression and that point in time where any woman who decided to undermine the patriarchal domination was killed on basis of being a witch.
This is the burden that you create for me. It’s the same burden that my foremothers have carried for centuries. But today, I am blessed to be able to say
Fast forward to story #139 you privileged me with the option of being a Hoe? Or a bitch? never allowing me to conceive that the option of learning about my own divinity even exists.
///Tlazokamati Tonanztin/// See in native tongue I am able to confess that I am the daughter of the divine, and as a reflection of her she reminds me that we are one and the ability to give life and love are all mine. So I could sit here and continue to prove that the oppression you have continued to create is the worst of all time, But I won’t. Because although I will never allow your ass to forget that this oppression is real, I also choose to give birth to a process that will allow these wounds to heal. Because, even the great energies are
Fast forward to story #151. You played me. I wasn’t able to live my life around you, So you found a woman who could. I wasn’t willing to show you my weakness and become emotionally dependent on you, so you found a woman who would. And after all that bullshit, I disrespected myself and came crawling back to you like you told me I should. And you left me on the floor feeling worthless. 166
“Child of immigrants they dictated what was set for me, two choices: assimilation, or the inheritance of poverty.”
dependent on each other, And the Existence of the sun is vital to the existence of the mother, And I believe if we are ever to be truly free we must first choose to liberate the humanity within one another.
making selflessness a sacrament on every given day. She said: you see this conversation has long begun, but Erica, when you write you should try to shed light on the underground because to them our graves have been done, dressed up in poverty negation and denial. But, she whispered, anytime they try to cover up the remains they leave room for revival.. and that is why we lay.
So if you get anything from this long ass poem, I hope you understand that the freedom of our humanity is at stake. And although we may not always understand this and we may seem like walking contradictions, I LOVE YOU? should be all that we have to say And until you realize this…we will both continue to live confused and alone in the grey.
In her light we tell stories with no sight and no gaze, hidden from the power of his day, we find refuge in her night. And always remember we live rebirth by death, and we should always seek each other to take flight.
After she said that I was like, DAMN, that shit is deep…
In honor of Meztli and our process of liberation
So I sat down with an elder the other day, and at some point in our conversation she pointed up at the moon and confidently turned to me to say:
But at that point, I finally understood why I longed to touch you. And if I can be so bold in this poem, if you only knew what your breath and your moan do, you’d be so lost in my liberation, you’d forget all that our people have gone through.
Meztli? She has watched over many lovers. Traced the paths on which fingers discovered. Stimulating, making claims over bodies so as to keep them living. Life giving. See in her light skin speaks and lips feel making no sound, in a humble and laborious way,
And inherit pain and memories would dissolve into present day glories` manifested 167
Erica Granados De La Rosa in the ways that you choose to explore me and my people’s past. And as soon as you find the courage to do that, our lives no longer fit in their hour glass. And the struggle of my mothers becomes so clear in the friction between your fingers and my skin, Mestizaje becomes the only language that our love is born in. And the way you caress my back, you’ll learn of where my souls been. If you trace my scars, you’ll learn of my father’s sin.
Because our story is enacting right now, and this is more than a deep-ass sex poem, this is a vision of our liberation right now. And if you trying to tell me this is not a form of revolution, I would challenge and ask you to show me how. Because in my skin, and in your skin, the proof lies that our ancestors are still livin’. So when we praise that we are only giving, praise to where praise is due. And as long as the moon still shines I will always find a way for my skin to speak, and let you know that I love you.
But don’t worry, we are free from his lies and his stories.
What Do You Want to Say A Short Play
Joseph Fanelli, Student, DePauw University
MICHAEL Food Gus goddamit!
Michael - M/23 years old, Midwestern, dressed casually
GUS Geez sorry (swallows). Lay off will ya? I’m trying to tell a story.
Gus - M/17 years old, Midwestern, dressed casually
MICHAEL I know, but Jesus Christ Gus it’s like lookin’ at a fuckin’ landfill in your mouth. Do you talk to girls like that? No wonder Mom said you couldn’t find a date to homecoming.
PLACE AND TIME MICHAEL and GUS sit across from each other at a booth in a small diner. It is about mid-afternoon and the rest of the diner is relatively empty. MICHAEL is sitting back, clearly older, and watches GUS pick and eat his plate of food.
GUS Wait? Mom said what? MICHAEL Nothing (sighing and rubbing forehead), just go on with your story.
GUS So this was a year and a half ago like halfway through the season after the game-
GUS (Pauses a moment) Alright, so anyway…where was I? Oh yeah, Mom and Paul leave and I go to the locker room, coaches talk, whatever. So, I’m going over to Matt’s house, and I get a text from Mom that’s somethin’ like when are you coming home? And I’m like I don know, Later. Get no response back, but then Matt text me that his parents said we couldn’ come over and sorry or some shit, whatever. And I’m like okay with it cuz I’m pretty tired anyway, so whatever, I’ll go home and jerk-off or something…
MICHAEL (Interrupts) Will you chew your fuckin’ food, please? Jesus. GUS Oh yeah, sorry. (Chews for a second and then swallows.) So, like I said, this was after like the Franklin game or something, doesn’t really matter, anyway, after the game I’m talking to Mom and Paul on the field and they’re all like super-eager to leave, which is weird ya know cuz Mom and Paul always wanna talk forever after games. (Scoops food) So I’m like whatever don’t really think about it-
MICHAEL (Shaking his head) You need a goddam filter, man… 169
Gus: “Ok Mike, I’ll just pretend that Dad was never even around and I am a spawn of some sort of biblical miracle like Mary and Jesus.”
GUS You done? I’m trying to tell a story here.
MICHAEL ( Just nods head.)
MICHAEL Yeah man, just…go on.
GUS K, so I get the window open and sneak through and walk to the garage, unlock it, front door, unlock it, then I notice somethin coming from upstairs. A bunch of noise like somethins goin’ on.
GUS Anyway, I’m just gonna go home, right, ’cause I’m tired, whatever. So I get home, pull into the garage, park, get out. And I walk to the garage door and it’s locked. And I’m thinking that’s weird cuz the garage door is never locked. So I sit there and bang on it a couple of times you know, like bang, bang, bang, and nothing. So I go around try the front door, same thing, bang on it a couple times, nothing. So I try the back door, and again, it’s locked, no answer. So now, I’m a little worried, like, uh oh someone’s gone an locked themselves in the house and stealin’ all our shit or somethin’. But then, I remember I’m smart and always leave one of our windows by the back patio unlocked so I can get back in after I sneak out…
MICHAEL Where are Mom and Paul at during all of this? GUS You gonna’ lemme finish or what? MICHAEL (Sighing) Sorry, continue. GUS All right, so I hear this noise, and now I’m really freakin’ out cuz now it’s like for real like someone’s in the house. So I go grab a bat real quick from the garage and I go and start tip-toeing up the stairs. (Gus fake holds a bat at his shoulder and quiets his voice.) And as I go it’s getting louder, and this is like not good noise, like there is a serious struggle going on upstairs, and I got the bat you know and I’m holding it real tight and finally I get upstairs and the noise is coming from Mom’s room. And I start to inch towards the door, like real slow cuz I’m pretty scared at this point. And I get to the door and kind of put my ear to the door real close and listen to this entire struggle and all the sudden I hear mom yellin’-
MICHAEL You sneak out at night!? GUS Yeah. All the time. How m’ I s’posed to go do stuff with a friggin’ 11:30 curfew? MICHAEL Yur an idiot (shaking head). GUS Can I finish the story, please? 170
Gus: “OK. I think I’m done with high school, you know? It’s like everyone is so dumb and immature you know and I’m just sick of the same ol’ stupid shit I guess.”
MICHAEL (Covering ears) Jesus GUS! I don’t want to hear this shit!
(An awkward silence ensues. GUS and MICHAEL both look around the diner and play with the objects in front of them. The waitress appears with a pot of coffee. GUS waves a no thank you, MICHAEL obliges and holds up his cup. After the waitress pours MICHAEL’S, GUS changes his mind and holds his cup as well. She finishes pouring his cup and leaves. GUS finally breaks the silence.)
GUS (Half-laughing) What? MICHAEL Yur a little shit, you know that?
GUS What’s college like, Mike?
GUS (Laughing) What? I thought it was kinda cool, like mom was still-
Michael (Who’s been staring off into space) Sorry, what?
MICHAEL God, I do not think that is cool. Please do not tell me that story again. Goddam.
What’s college like?
GUS (Still laughing) Alright man. (Sighs) Geez.
MICHAEL Oh, it’s uhhh, it’s cool man.
GUS OK. I think I’m done with high school, you know? It’s like everyone is so dumb and immature you know and I’m just sick of the same ol’ stupid shit I guess.
GUS (Quiet for a few seconds. GUS is almost done with his meal, now.) So you got any good stories?
MICHAEL Well, I don’t know, I think college becomes kind of the same thing. Like getting older and ready to move on.
MICHAEL Not after that one. Quit that goofy grin, will you? (Playfully swats at GUS.)
GUS Yeah, but it’s still got to be better than high school, right? I mean all I ever hear from Jor171
Joseph Fanelli dan Dickey is how his older brother just loves college and it’s like parties all the time and girls are just everywhere and they don’t care either, like they’ll just fuck everyone. I mean is it really like that?
GUS Ok, so you did...you did like it then?
MICHAEL (Laughs quietly) They don’t just fuck anyone, bud.
GUS (Brief moment of silence) Really?
Yeah, I liked it.
MICAHEL Jesus Gus, Yes, I did like college, it was really fun fucking everything.
GUS Ok well you know what I mean. It’s fun, right? Didn’t you… Didn’t you like it?
GUS Ok, I’m sorry, but it’s just…when you were in school Mom was always freakin’ out and she talked like you had no fun and hated it and were always in trouble and I never heard you really talk about it so I just kinda figured.
MICHAEL Yeah, college was fun, glad I’m out now, but it was cool, yeah. GUS Ok, so there are like parties and stuff.
MICHAEL Don’t worry about it, man. I liked it. Mom just worries.
MICHAEL Yes, there are parties. GUS And girls? There are a lot of girls?
GUS Yeah, but she would get like really worried, like enough she’d call Dad just-
MICHAEL There are a lot of girls everywhere, Gus (laughs again).
MICHAEL Wait? She’d call Dad?
GUS You know what I mean.
GUS Yeah (pause). She would talk to him for like hours about you, like she was really worried and whenever I’d ask about it she’d kind of shrug me off.
MICHAEL Yeah, ok, there are a lot of girls. 172
MICHAEL Oh (staring deeply into space).
me? I just want to know what is going on. I’m not a kid anymore, Mike. I’m seventeen. I deserve to know something.
GUS Sometimes I’d sneak into the next room while she called him. She always asked Dad about you when you were a little kid. And she’d always say “that night.” But not just like any night she would say it like there was a real particular one. What was she talking about, Mike? Are you okay? Did something happen?
MICHAEL Will you please stop! Really, I don’t want to talk about this right now, all right? GUS Ok Mike, I’ll just pretend that Dad was never even around and I am a spawn of some sort of biblical miracle like Mary and Jesus (Rolls eyes).
MICHAEL No I’m fine, nothing happened.
MICHAEL Yeah, you’re fucking right. You’re just as great as baby fucking Jesus. It’s just (pause) we don’t need that…
GUS C’mon Mike, tell me.
(Another long moment of silence as both brothers look at their plates.)
MICHAEL Nothing to tell, bud.
GUS (Under his breath) Maybe you don’t.
GUS Mike (pause) I know there is something. Why won’t you tell me? Did it have to do with Dad? Was there something wrong when you were a little kid? I really don’t member much from when he was around, but you have to know stuff. What are you and Mom not telling me about Dad? Just stop, ok.
GUS I said maybe you don’t, but (pause) Dammit Mike, I don’t really remember him and well… you never let me talk about him or anything that happened (pause) and Paul’s cool, but… but you know he’s not the same. I’m sick of you and Mom doing this whole “lets not tell Gus he’s just a kid” thing. I just want to know something, geez.
GUS What? What are you guys so afraid of telling 173
Mike: “I’m sorry, Gus, I really am, but (pause) let’s just not do this right now, ok? Let’s finish eating and get out of here. I just can’t, ok, So drop it.”
MICHAEL I’m sorry Gus, I really am, but (pause) let’s just not do this right now, ok? Let’s finish eating and get out of here. I just can’t , ok, so drop it.
there’s a couple cars in front of me and they’re all kind of slowing down when they get close, but none of ‘em are really stopping. So finally I’m like ten feet away and I can see the guy’s definitely kneeling over an animal or something. And I’m kinda naturally slowing down during all this and I finally get to this guy. He had to be homeless from what he was wearing, was kneeling over a dead dog. Thing looked real nasty, prolly got hit. Tongue was hangin’ out and it had this kind of dirty gray color all across its fur. But as I’m passing, guy looks up and for maybe two seconds we make eye contact. And, you know, for a moment, like, I thought maybe I’d stop and see if the guy needed help, that could have been his dog was lying there dead, right? But when he looked at me, it was like we both knew I wasn’t gonna stop. And I didn’t. I swear to God I must’ve watched that man in the rearview mirror for the next mile before he just kind of fizzled out. And then I kept drivin’.
GUS Whatever, man. (They’re quiet now. GUS is finally done with his meal. The waitress comes and delivers a check. MICHAEL stares at the check for a long time, more to distract himself from the conversation than to read it.) MICHAEL You know actually (pause) I got a story. GUS Alright, (pause) What is it? MICHAEL Like three years ago I was doing a road trip with my buddies down to Tampa. We all took turns driving a leg and I got lucky enough to get the 4 to 6 AM shift. Now, it was s’posed to be the passenger seat’s job to stay awake with the driver, but this kid pussed out and fell asleep, I didn’t mind too much, though. I was doing okay. So round 5:40 I’m driving in the middle of god knows where, and I start seeing some figure on the shoulder of the road like a hundred yards ahead. I couldn’ really tell cuz it was early morning and all the fog and shit, but seemed like a guy. So as I’m getting closer I could see it’s definitely a guy and he’s kneeling over something. And you know
GUS (Confused look on his face) Mike (pause) what the fuck are you talkin’ about? MICHAEL (Laughs quietly to himself ) Nothing man, let’s just get outta here. END OF PLAY
Once Upon A Time in China Zheyi Liu, Student, DePauw University
don’t know where we are going. Someone says our camp is at the foot of Changbai Mountain, the forever-white mountain in the Northeast of China. What are we going to do there? Nobody tells me. A group of Shanghai men are chatting excitedly across the dark carriage. “Tei leng lao, tei leng lao, too cold, too cold,” they repeat, the only Shanghainese I understand. I bury my face into the army quilt. The crunch from the railway hypnotizes me into the dream of last summer in Wuhan. July 1977, I graduated from Wuhan No. 37 High School. We have no certificate of graduation, no principal’s speech, no photo shoot, only a sheet of paper on the desk with one question on it: “Are you going to stay in Wuhan or go to the countryside?” I circle the latter and sign my name. It is a year after Chairman Mao Tzedong’s death. A lot of things have changed – the Cultural Revolution has ended and the Gang of Four have been prosecuted, but many things have remained the same. The radio is broadcasting the same speech every day, “Comrades, let’s keep answering Chairman Mao’s call ‘educated youth go down to the rural countryside to receive a second education after school.’” Sometimes I switch the channel to listen to Pingpang games, but when Dad finds out, he beats me with the buffalo skin belt till I am swearing and crying. Most of the time I run away from home and call Boxin and Chopsticks to play basketball or swim. The school playground has been empty since graduation. The cicadas chirp behind the leaves
of the French Phoenix trees that surround the yard. Boxin always gets the basketball. Once he hit a long one, the ball bumped at the side of the rusted ring, drawing an arc in the air, and crashed a poster on the wall. A big, black mark is pressed on Chairman Mao’s quote: “The countryside is a vast expanse of heaven on earth where we can flourish.” Above the red, italicized letters, farmers stand in the golden fields, smiling to us. I’ve never desired to explore the rural “heaven.” I want to stay in the city no matter what happens. I’ve thought about working in Dad’s factory or joining the army. I like those big machines in the workshop and the many Shifu, elder technicians who have watched me grow up. If I asked them to take me as their pupil, they wouldn’t refuse. I would work hard, and one day I would become another Shifu. My grandma always says, “More skills, more ways of living.” She thinks that I’m the smartest among her three grandsons and that I will have a great future when I grow up. Now I often hear her sighing in her dark, small room. Sometimes I dream about being a soldier, carrying a real gun and driving a huge tank. When I was in Grade Eleven, the Army Air Force came to our school to recruit. I passed the school medical examination but failed the vision test. That was the end of my pilot dream. Flyers for the “Down to the rural countryside movement” cover older ones on the bulletin near our apartment building. I’ve heard elder people talking in the shade of the big locust tree. Some of them had believed 175
Zheyi Liu that the movement would end after Mao’s death, but clearly Deng Xiaoping didn’t have same intention. Shifu Wang puffs more smoke rings and says, “He needs time. The elder ones’re still controlling the army. Deng can’t go through all the reformation at once. As soon as the economy got fixed, more jobs would be offered and those kids wouldn’t need to work in the fields anymore.” Shifu Wang’s two sons were sent to the rural countryside last year and neither of them has come back. The government keeps sending away high school graduates but never tells us the time of return.
“Why would they do that?” I ask. “Cuz they want us to get stuck in the fucking place forever,” Boxin says. I’ve always known that day will come, but I’m not ready to go. I’m no longer a student having my routine school life every day, but who am I? A new farmer? An “educated youth” with a “blank identity”? What can I do in the future? All of a sudden, I’m kicked out of school and thrown into the huge and deep society. I feel lost, as if I’m walking in the darkest night with no streetlight. Before I leave for the countryside, I’ve worked in my father’s factory for three months to earn the money to buy a quilt, sheets and other necessities. Boxin and Chopstick are with me. Every early morning, when the ground still retains the coolness of the previous night, we come to the spacious backyard. After the sun rises, we have no shade to hide in. No single cloud in the sky. No hope of refuge from the longest and hottest summer of my life. We swing hammers high in the air, sprinkling sweat on the rusted red bricks. Before the sunset, we pick up the broken bricks and stack them together. Someone from the construction team comes with a steel tape. He measures around each pile and records the numbers in a worn out notebook. On November 1977, we are sent to the YanWan Brigade (now YanWan village) in ZhuRu Commune (now ZhuRu county) at HanYang Community (now HanYang Town). The countryside is nowhere close to the “heaven” on the poster. No electricity and
Our class has more than forty students, and most of us are going to the countryside. Families with more than one child or disabled children can keep one child in the city. I didn’t ask my parents. I know they must have saved the spot for Han, my elder brother. He has terrible eyesight. If my parents didn’t select him, it still wouldn’t be my turn. Hao, my younger brother, would get the spot. I don’t blame my father and mother. Every family is doing the same thing. We don’t have alternatives. Boxin told me last week that his parents had decided to keep his little sister. She was the only girl in the family. Many families have sent away the elder kids to save the younger ones. Chopstick’s sister left last year and it was his turn now. He also has younger siblings in school. Chopstick tells us that we will have “blank identities” after we leave Wuhan. “The government will remove our residence record.” 176
“The countryside is nowhere close to the ‘heaven’ on the poster. No electricity and no pitched road. We sit in the cark after sunset, listening to the hollow cries from our stomachs.”
no pitched road. We sit in darkness after sunset, listening to the hollow cries from our stomachs. On rainy days, the narrow country roads melt into a muddy swamp mixing with buffalo’s dung and rotten cabbages. We pull our soaked clothes and shoes from the two inches of mud, trying to balance the baskets on our shoulder. Every day we walk three miles from the fields, carrying harvested crops back to the commune. The production team leader assigns us into women’s teams. We’re embarrassed about how much strength these local women have. They carry fifty kilograms of crops like carrying babies, while we can hardly walk straight with half of their burden. Sometimes the local elders share some crops from our baskets. When the young farmers see it, they laugh at us and shout for a competition. The elders are always on our side. They snap, “ You want to compete with them? They are going back to the city one day. You? Can you go back to the city too?” It’s true that if you were born as a farmer, then you will be a farmer all your life. Even we’re becoming more aware of it. Can we go back? When? What would happen if we were going to stay here, like them, forever? Sometimes we steal the farmers’ crops and chickens for a meal. Boxin is the leader, and he knows how to catch hens. The country chickens never crow when we get close. Chopstick and I always watch in front of the cottage while Boxin hunts in their yard. When he selects his prey, he strolls around it for a short while. The hen is hastily pecking on the chaff, paying no heed to the pair of big
feet around. Suddenly Boxin lifts his left foot and stamps on the poor thing’s back. Before the hen recovers from the great shock, Boxin bends down and wrings its neck. He picks up the dead body and stuffs it into his ragged cotton-padded jacket. We run all the way back to our cottage and bury the chicken in the back yard. It will be our feast for a whole month. Chopstick always listens to us, but he has a lot bad ideas. Once a hungry dog ran into our yard. Chopstick suggested that we kill it. It was the coldest night of that winter and we had been short of food for a while. Boxin and I agreed that the dog meat could be good and we left the job to Chopstick. He shut the door behind the dog and caught it easily. Then he loosened his belt and hung the dog from a tree. Without a sound, we grabbed the hoes and beat the dog’s head flat. Later that night, Boxin cut the dog meat into pieces and threw it into the boiling water. We had no salt or spices to cover the strong odor of the meat. Standing in the darkness, I chewed the flavorless meat and wondered how long this winter would last. In the spring of the next year, the army comes to our commune to recruit, and I sign my name. A week later, I see my name on the poster, and I cry in front of it. It’s 1978 and I’m four months away from my nineteenth birthday.
Seminar Participants and Works
Front Row: Jennifer Behrens, Justin Baker, Erica Granados De La Rosa, Zheyi Liu, Rachael Holley, Maura Metcalf-Kelly, Elisabeth Schlaudt, Jenna Buehler, Linn Groft, Peter Salib, Caroline Perry. Second Row: Hilary Landfried, Katie Lovett, Taylor Wood, Laine Baity, Steven Pet, Alexis Lassus, Daniel Hornsby, Rahul Abhyankar, Jonathan Green. Third Row: Robert Zilinyi, Joss Greene, Joseph Fanelli, Alyson Watson, Anna Bower.
SEMINAR ONE Alison Bailey, Illinois State University
Elisabeth Schlaudt, Furman University “An Examination of the Issues and Ethics of Commercial Gestational Surrogacy” Commentator: Robert Zilinyi; Reporter: Taylor Wood
Justin Baker, Loyola University “The Pursuit of Justification: Ethical Implications of Gene Therapy” Commentator: Steven Pet; Reporter: Jennifer Behrens
Taylor Wood, University of San Francisco “Addressing Ethical Concerns with the Process of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis” Commentator: Elisabeth Schlaudt; Reporter: Robert Zilinyi
Jenifer Behrens, DePauw University “Ethics of Short-Term Medical Aid” Commentator: Maura Metcalf-Kelly; Reporter: Katie Lovett
Robert Zilinyi, Skidmore College “To Support Or Not To Support: The Issue of Cognitive Enhangement” Commentator: Peter Salib; Reporter: Justin Baker
Katie Lovett, Davidson College “Ethical Imperatives of Presidential Eulogia” Commentator: Taylor Wood; Reporter: Maura Metcalf-Kelly
SEMINAR TWO A. Rafik Mohamed, Clayton State University
Maura Metcalf-Kelly, William Jewel College “To What Extent Are Genetic Therapy and Genetic Enhancement Ethically Permissible?” Commentator: Katie Lovett; Reporter: Steven Pet
Rahul Abhyankar, DePauw University “Bottoms Up: Waiting Lists, Alcohol, and Causal Responsibility for Disease” Commentator: Alexis Lassus; Reporter: Laine Baity
Steven Pet, Hamilton College “Spreading the Alarm: The Appeal and Importance of Secular Arguments Against Human Germline Enhancement” Commentator: Justin Baker; Reporter: Peter Salib
Laine Baity, University of Colorado-Boulder “Multiple Moral Realities: A Rhetorical Battle Over Definition and Framing” Commentator: Hilary Landfried; Reporter: Jonathan Green
Peter Salib, The University of Chicago “Towards A More Kantian Kant: Problem in Rawls’ Conception of the Categorical Imperative” Commentator: Justin Baker; Reporter: Elisabeth Schlaudt
Jonathan Green, Northwestern University “Decadence, Ritual and the Quest for History: Benjamin Button’s World Without Memory” Commentator: Caroline Perry; Reporter: Joss Greene 179
Nancy Temple, left, and Janet Prindle discuss highlights of the weekend with Bob Steele Joss Greene, Scripps College “Authorizing Neglect: A Critical Analysis of Newsweek Representation of African Americans with HIV/AIDS” Commentator: Alyson Watson; Reporter: Rachael Holley
SEMINAR THREE June Cross, Columbia University Anna Bower, Furman University Poems Commentator: Erica Granados De La Rosa; Reporter: Zheyi Liu
Rachael Holley, Washington University in St Louis “The Case Against West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining” Commentator: Rahul Abhyankar; Reporter: Alexia Lassus
Jenna Buehler, DePauw University “90 Days” (photos) Commentator: Daniel Hornsby; Reporter: Anna Bower Erica Granados De La Rosa, Loyola University “faces of my spoken word: stories by ‘a queer woman of color’” (poems) Commentator: Linn Groft; Reporter: Jenna Buehler
Hilary Landfried, Gettysburg “The Next Frontier in the AIDS Epidemic: Sexual Choice and Accountability between Both Sexes” Commentator: Joss Greene; Reporter: Caroline Perry Alexis Lassus, St. Louis University “Moral Formation and Censorship: Determining the Christian Response to Violence in the Media” Commentator: Rachael Holley; Reporter: Hilary Landfried Caroline Perry, Northwestern University “Appropriate Vulnerability: The Norms and Limits of Forgiveness in Intimate Relationships” Commentator: Jonathan Green; Reporter: Alyson Watson
Joseph Fanelli, DePauw University “What Do You Want To Say” (short play) Commentator: Jenna Buehler; Reporter: Erica Granados De La Rosa
Alyson Watson, University of Alabama “Who’s To Blame: Black People Or ‘The System’?” Commentator: Laine Baity; Reporter: Rahul Abhyankar
Zheyi Liu, DePauw University “Once Upon A Time In China” (short story) Commentator: Anna Bower; Reporter: Daniel Hornsby
Linn Groft, University of Alabama You Must Be Something (documentary) Commentator: Zheyi Liu; Reporter: Joseph Fanelli Daniel Hornsby, Kansas State University “Coyote Hunting” (short story) Commentator: Joseph Fanelli; Reporter: Linn Groft
Biographies of Visiting Scholars
ROBERT G. BOTTOMS Robert G. Bottoms became President of Seabury-Western Seminary in January 2010. Formerly the President of DePauw University from 1986-2008, he was also the first director of The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Bottoms earned his bachelor degree at Birmingham-Southern College, a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Emory University, and his doctorate at Vanderbilt University. His career in higher education began when he was appointed Chaplain and Assistant to the President at BirminghamSouthern College. He later moved to the Vanderbilt Divinity School as Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor of Church and Ministry. He currently serves on the board of Joyce Foundation in Chicago and has been a consultant to the Lilly Endowment, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Fund for Theological Education. He has written articles and opinion pieces for The New York Times, The Indianapolis Star and the Chicago Tribune.
problems, which she then works through by appealing to “real life” examples taken from narratives, social science research, and public policy. She recently co-edited a special issue of Hypatia on “The Reproduction of Whiteness: Race and the Regulation of the Gendered Body,” with Jacquelyn N. Zita. Her recent work on philosophical issues related to racism and resistance has appeared in Hypatia, Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Perspectives, Feminist Ethics Revisited, and Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. She and Chris Cuomo have just co-edited The Feminist Philosophy Reader. Her current research interests address questions of race in feminist bioethics, and philosophical responses to intersectionality. JUNE CROSS June Cross is an award-winning producer with 30 years of television news and documentary experience. She was most recently an executive producer for This Far by Faith, a 6-part PBS series on the AfricanAmerican religious experience. She worked for PBS’s Frontline, CBS News, and PBS’s McNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Her reporting for the NewsHour on the US invasion of Grenada won the 1983 Emmy for Outstanding Coverage of a Single Breaking News Story. Secret Daughter, an autobiographical film that examined how race and color had affected her family, won an Emmy in 1997 and was honored that same year with a DePont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. She is also the author
ALISON BAILEY Alison Bailey directs the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Illinois State University where she is also an associate professor in the philosophy department. Her research addresses issues at the intersections of feminist theory, moral and political philosophy, philosophy of race/whiteness studies, and epistemology. Concerns for social justice drive her selection of philosophical 181
of a memoir, Secret Daughter published by Viking in 2006.Her documentary, The Old Man and the Storm, followed the travails of an extended New Orleans family for three years post-Katrina. Her other credits include Ashes of Cold War; Showdown in Haiti; The Confessions of RosaLee and A Kid Kills.
studies, worked as an investigator for private attorneys handling felony criminal defense cases. As a graduate student, Mohamed worked with the Law Offices of Milton C. Grimes during the Rodney G. King police brutality lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. From 1999-2009, Mohamed taught at the University of San Diego where he was also the Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and was twice voted outstanding professor of the year. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia. His book, Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class, offers novel insight into the world of college drug dealers, exploring issues of deviance, race, and stratification in the U.S. War on Drugs.
A RAFIK MOHAMED A. Rafik Mohamed was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the D.C. metropolitan area. He earned his bachelorâ€™s degree from George Washington University in D.C. and his masterâ€™s degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. As an undergraduate, Mohamed worked as an intern investigator for the D.C. Public Defender Service and prior to beginning graduate
Visiting Scholars and Symposium Organizers
Front Row (Visiting Scholars): Bob Bottoms, Alison Bailey, Rafik Mohamed, June Cross. Second Row (Organizers): Linda Clute, Martha Rainbolt, Bob Steele.
April 7-9, 2011 The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics Greencastle, Indiana