Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Unideal Observers

According to this article a German production has been cancelled due to fears that it would anger the Muslim community and perhaps incite riots. Fantastic. The opera contains a scene in which the king presents the heads of idols including Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha, and the Prophet Mohammed.

Is this possibly offensive? Sure. Does that make it bad? Nope. Art sometimes offends people. So does philosophy. Sometimes you need to make a statement or get the audience’s attention.

Someone in the article makes the comment that once we bend art to the stick of religion we are on our way back to the middle ages. They are completely correct. It’s a move that we can’t afford to make.

We ought not to make excuses for people who threaten violence like a schoolyard bully. You’re offended? Tough. Don’t go to the opera, change the TV channel, listen to a different radio station.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Is all exploitation "bad?"

The question has been bugging me for a while. This was aggravated the other day when I was listening to a PETA rep on Maxim radio on my Sirius radio. The DJs had contacted her because of the comments they have made regarding Crocodile Steve Irwin.

They charge him with the exploitation of animals. An odd charge, given that he was a herpetologist who produced fantastic amounts of video which preached the saving and respecting of animals.

Are they wrong? Not on this first charge. He did make money from the display and handling of animals outside of the animal's natural environment. I suppose that this is a sort of exploitation. The Merriam-Webster gives two definitions of "exploit." The first is "to make productive use of." He certainly does this. In many senses of the word.

The question, then, is whether exploitation is a bad thing. This is where I think that they are off base.

Even if we agree that the animals are being exploited by Crocodile Steve it is odd to say that they are being harmed. He removes them from a bad situation (a literal State of Nature) and cares for the animals in a facility that is much like their own environment save for the absence of violent death and the presence of abundant and regular food. Our captive critters are not being harmed in a recognizable way. Their place in life seems to have been greatly improved via their exploitation.

It seems appropriate to juxtapose this case with that of some factory workers in 3rd world nations. The charge of exploitation is often leveled at the corporations which contract with the factories due to the fact that they do not pay the same wages in their country as they would get in the US. All the same, they are making (in many cases, but surely not all) fantastic wages in comparison to others in their society. By some reports they take these jobs because they are the best ones available.

Does the charge of exploitation pan out in either case? Do these cases show that exploitation is not always a bad thing? Do we need two new words in light of these realizations?