For what is worth, and making clear that I am a relative outsider in the
academic community of the USA, studying there my experience was that
speaking aloud about so-called political issues was judged inadequate for
some student colleagues around, who did not want to bring this issues to
their jobs or to their email inboxes. The problem is, of course, that some
of those so-called political issues are ethical issues. Torture is wrong.
Preventive wars are wrong. Killing tens of civilians is wrong. Hiding the
American casualties from the public view is wrong. Making death and genocide
relative is wrong. And it is totally right to say that they are wrong. What
is wrong is to keep silence.
I remember being bitten for raising the issue of Abu Graib when sending a
link to the torture pics by a student who thought I was taking an inadequate
stand. What was my right to judge these soldiers, this guy implied. I assume
he was mad at the fact that I was not American as well and was judging
American actions. I did not want to enter into a discussion about how
commonly the USA judge the practices of others and how I had a right to
openly criticize torture and how relevant it was to do that in an academic
context. I just asserted my right to criticize torture everywhere it
happens. Unfortunately, during all my years at the USA, I never heard any
graduate student talking aloud against the Iraqi war or against the
militrary practices of the government but in some local issues that are
politically correct. I heard them too much talking about their academic work
as if that work happened in a miracolous vacuum.
If the students don't speak out, who does? I remember that during those days
an email written by Zimbardo talking about students' apathy circulated. I
wonder how students apathy has been build and fostered by the academic
community. Do students feel afraid that they might not get a job if they
come out and talk? Or they do not feel an ethical concern about what is
going on? I assume that some people don;t speak out by academic politeness.
But, when does academic politenness turn out to be ethically dangerous?
David D. Preiss
home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/
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