Friday, October 30, 2009

Morality, Justice, Ethics and Adoption

Michael Sandel is a Rhode Scholar who did his graduate work at Oxford and teaches a class on Justice at Harvard, putting morality ethics and justice in very human and everyday terms:

Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive?

If you had to choose between (1) killing one person to save the lives of five others and (2) doing nothing even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing — what would you do?  What would be the right thing to do, Sandel asks us to ponder.

He has authored a book entitled Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? which is also a PBS series with some videos available online.

I heard him speak at Rutgers the night before last. He basically compares philosophers Jeremy Bentham's theory of utilitarianism with Immanuel Kant.

Utilitarianism believes that what is best for the most is what counts. This is commonly known as cost-benefit analysis such as was used by the Ford company in deciding not to fix the Pinto exploding defect, weighing the cost of law suits when people were killed or injured against the cost of fixing it.

Other examples of utilitarian theory are the rationale for killing or torturing one human being to save the lives of more than one or many.

Kant, however, believed that it is morally wrong to use a human being as a means to an end. Objectification - or putting a dollar value on human life - violates basic human dignity. Kant argues that maximizing happiness is not the only thing that matters, Respect for human rights is primary.

Sandel's work is to stimulate discussion on these issues as they relate to real-life situations. He challenges students and those attending his lectures to "listen more closely and argue more explicitly about moral questions of justice."

Seems a no-brainer to me to adopt these philosophic theories to adoption. Challenging us to think about comparisons to slavery or indenture...or who is the "real parent"...are my way of attempting to stimulate such conversation.

As I stated in my Sept 8 post "Adoption Comparisons": Comparative arguments like these - whether you agree or disagree - create lively and thoughtful discussion and debate.

On Oct. 5 I asked "Is Adoption Natural?" and engendered some 85 comments.

I also compared adoption to kidnapping when several adoptees on Facebook were triggered by the Jaycee Duggard kidnapping.

When we look at these comparisons, of course we are not blind to or ignoring the differences.

And so once again, I revisit the question of the connection between adoption and slavery based on two facts:

- both institutions separate families
- both institutions involuntarily change people's names (as opposed to marriage)

Tobias Hübinette notes that “[b]oth the slaves and the adoptees are separated from their parents, siblings, relatives and significant others at an early age, stripped of their original cultures and languages, reborn at harbours and airports, Christianized, re-baptized; both assume the name of their master/parent and, in the end, only retain a racialised, non-white body that has been branded or given a case number. ... These children were objects of rescue fantasies and relief projects for the European homeland populations and especially feminist and Christian philanthropist and humanist groups.”  (“Between European Colonial Trafficking, American Empire-. Building and Nordic Social Engineering: Rethinking International Adoption From a Postcolonial and Feminist Perspective.”)

In the Old Testament. the phase "I will blot out their names" (to erase their though they had never existed) is a more powerful threat even than physical death.

--Dr. Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself


maryanne said...

Since this dead horse has already been beaten to a pulp and we know where you stand and where others who have commented on the topic before stand,and nobody is about to change their mind, why bring it up again? It is a waste of time, and not fun to go around the same things over and over again.

AdoptAuthor said...

Why not? We had agreed (or so I thought) in previous discussions that to disagree was acceptable but to cur off discussion was not.

Why does Michael Sandel ask the same questions over and over? Is he really seeking a "right" or "wrong" answer to the question of whether you would kill one person to save many...or would you steal medicine for your child? IS there one right or one wrong answer to such questions?

AS I SAID, I - like Sandel - see value in such philosophical debates and discussions for the purpose of stretching our thinking, exercising and opening our minds.

I think that "anti-adoption", for instance, gets dismissed as a lunatic idea, and impossibility, without seeking to look into *WHY* today people have begun to speak out against an institution that until the current time was held sacrosanct.

Can we just ignore the fact that two or more generations who have lived under the oppression of adoption AS IT IS CURRENTLY PRACTICED IN THE U.S. have found the courage to speak out against it? To call it oppressive and discriminatory? Dishonest? Coercive and exploitive? Often taking children not for the child's best interest at all but to meet a demand?

is it wrong to be against THAT?

In order to see what is wrong with adoption we need to look at all these aspects and comparisons with an open mind, IMO.

Anyone who doesn't care to, that's fine and their prerogative. We all know that minds are like parachutes...we can chose to open and expand them and fly - or not.

I just came across (agian) the Rollo May quote and thought it very applicable for discussion, as is a discussion of whether or not you would steal medicine for your child....or was it "right" or "wrong" to allow our children to be taken from us for adoption? Were we "right" or "wrong" to yield to the authority figures or would we have been "right" or "wrong" to defy them???

Basically - what is the right thing to do when your gut and the law or social standards are in conflict??

If you listen to the Sandel videos online - you will hear a snipit of a discussion about baby buying...

maryanne said...

That kind of discussion of theoretical rights and wrongs is lots of fun for 20 year old college kids to stay up all night debating, but I find that in the mostly grey real world people just do what they have to do and live with the consequences. "Right or wrong" are seldom so clear, and often irrelevant. I have never been in a position to have to steal medicine to save my child nor have most middle-class people, that kind of thing is just an exercise in rhetoric. Whatever happened years ago around surrendering our kids is long-over and right or wrong, it is what it is, and everyone deals with it in their own way.

You no more have an open mind at this point than I do, and it gets really tiresome being preached to about opening my mind and accepting YOUR point of view. Nor does that cliche about parachutes nor any number of others clarify anything anymore than "if your mind is too open, your brains fall out.":-)

AdoptAuthor said...

As always you are entitled to you opinions, and like me, have little trouble expressing them! :-)

At the Sanders lecture, the audience was at least 50% senior citizens...not just 20 year old college students! Many older folk are still interested in discussing philosophical questions whether or not actually having to steal for necessity would ever be part of our lives. There are many who care about things that do not directly effect themselves. Also, for MANY,
there *IS value* in the discussion inteslef - otherwise Michael Sandel would not have a very popular book and a PBS series.

Further, while our personal loss is over and past, the wrongs of adoption become more and more apparent to me as the years and decades pass....which is totally in keeping with the findings of Dr. Condon on long term grief...that it gets worse over time, not less. Plus, I think adoption practices have gotten far worse as they are more privatized than they had ben in "our day" as you just recognized on OSOLO's blog speaking of the "Very modern corruption, greed, and shoddy adoption practice."

Your are aware of it - so do we just ignore it? Tsk, tsk it? Or try to get to the root of it? I feel that we as a nation and consumers of adoption adoption services NEED to have far MORE discussion of right and wrong, not less. For me, as a writer, discussions like this stimulate my brain and get me to consider new outlets and new venues to present our issues and guess what? Some things are being to change and shift a bit!

The very dreaded term anti-adoption being visible had mad people ask why? Why would anyone be against such a presumed wonderful win-win institution as adoption? That is very helpful IMHO -- t get people asking and thinking instead of blindly beleiving myths and lies.

So, I will continue to do what I do and you are always free not to join the discussion, not to even come to this site and see what I have to say if bores you to have me beat what you consider a dead horse...or continue to come and complain about it. Your choice! Whatever floats your boat and helps you is OK with me. Arguing is a way of releasing pent up anger.

From my favorite quote collection:

Rebels and dissidents challenge the complacent belief in a just world, and...they are usually denigrated for their efforts. While they are alive, they may be called "cantankerous", "crazy", "hysterical", "uppity", or "duped". Dead, some of them become saints and heroes, the sterling characters of history. It's a matter of proportion. One angry rebel is crazy, three is a conspiracy, fifty is a movement. ~ Carol Travis

I am a rebel with a cause, and damn proud of it!

Here's another:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmond Burke

maryanne said...

I avoid inspirational quotes of any sort:-)

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget