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Essay Example: Cultural Relativism Versus Human Rights

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Vanderbilt University
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Cultural relativism acknowledges diversity in cultures where each is worthy of its right even in the presence of conflicting moral believes. Cultural relativity emphasizes that it would be erroneous to judge ancient Egyptians as not advanced and speculate they received special assistance from extraterrestrial beings to complete the Great Pyramids. Instead, one should not examine ancient Egyptian works through technology lens but accept their architectural prowess, then focus to understand the approach used to build them. A similar illustration would arise in the belief that Egyptian land had ties to personal salvation since gods sanctified the dark, fertile earth in the Nile River Delta that one would attain re-birth of ones soul (James and James 36). It implies that those buried elsewhere would become non-existence in the afterlife, explaining why those dying in far of locations made arrangements for their bodies return to Egypt.

Cultural relativity emphasizes the need to understand cultures based on their unique terms rather than through external standards. It closely matches ethical relativism that holds truth being variable rather than being absolute. It implies that nothing exists as inherently wrong and good when viewed in the context of own cultural expression (Fedorak 17). For instance, the ancient practices among Mayan to self-mutilate their bodies and offer infant sacrifice is neither good nor bad, but rather demonstrates the cultural distinctive similar to American custom to shoot fireworks every July Fourth.

Human Right

Human rights embrace the universalism principle that human beings are entitled to indivisible and interdependent rights without distinction of any kind since all are born of equal dignity. It emphasizes that individuals should exercise brotherhood spirit in their interactions with others. This differs with cultural relativism believe that universal values are secondary during the examination of norms and that external principles should not overrule the cultural norm (Shepard 80). Human rights value the universal dignity that all individuals should receive similar treatments. For instance, ancient Egyptians embraced fairness on gender equality that allowed women were enjoying many liberties including the right to the execution of legal documents, property ownership and embracing the profession of choice. This reveals in the presence of female physicians such as Merit Ptah as the chief physician that has become male-centric in present days. Maya women enjoyed rights to assume leadership in important societal positions. Women had equal chances to assume high-level political status within the Maya society as demonstrated by Ixmucane spirited defense of women and children rights (Ramon, Speed and Solano 61). She defended the childrens lives against the people who sought to kill them.

Ancient Egypt Political Organization

Ancient Egypt was a highly organized society structured along upper and lower classes with craftsmen occupying the middle class as the kingdom developed. Although difficult, individuals would move between classes despite a consistent existence of separate classes. The royal family occupied the highest level comprising pharaoh, wives, and children (Garcia 177). They lived in palaces enjoying clothing and foods. Ancient Egyptians perceived the Pharaoh as God's incarnation with one of the wives serving as Great Royal Wife and her children regarded as the elite in the royal family. The eldest son of the Great Royal Wife would succeed Pharaoh while other royal family members are assuming high-level governance positions to safeguard their status.

Government and religion were perceived inseparable with Pharaoh heading the state while being the gods divine representative on earth. Religion and governance existed remained interconnected to yield an orderly society. The pharaoh governed with assistance from advisors, priests, and administrators. The noblemen occupied level close to the royal family and their resided nearer palaces. They had lavish estates that became a source of wealth to their families. They led luxurious living and wore finely constructed clothing (Garcia 479). The noblemen served in high-level government positions with the premier referred to as Vizier likened to the prime minister. Viziers were executive head under them being high priests and royal overseers in charge of forty-two district governors executing Pharaoh Orders. Their children attended the best schools with the eldest son entitled to inherit the position of the father (Garcia 183). Additionally, other sons would earn the education to obtain governance posts and become scribes.

Ancient Maya Political Organization

Mayans operated through hierarchical governance associated with kingship and priesthood. The leaders lived within interdependent city-states comprising rural neighborhoods and urban ceremonial centers. Alike the ancient Egyptians, religion was interwoven into daily lives of Mayans and a major unifying civilization factor (Ramon, Speed and Solano 63). Mayan politics revolved around city-states ruled by aristocratic class headed by the king. Each city-state was ruled by its king supported by the ruling class. Similar to Egyptians, they viewed King being the chief representative of their gods. Unlike the peaceful co-existence witnessed in forty-two ancient Egypt, city-states would often war leaving a system where they would make allies to oppose others.

The political alignment had one city-state in each region being more powerful forcing others into paying tribute to the city-state to ensure peaceful coexistence. The other city-state would assume leadership as the power of the other waned. The presence of trade relationships united the city-states leading to a thriving economy (Osiatynski 164). The king issued policies assisted by the city-state council comprising priests, special councilors, and priests. The king role involved mediating the supernatural and real worlds. The role extended to appoint chief though such positions were patrilineal inherited.

The social classes were evident of Mayan society with Kings classified in the Ahau while local magistrates, town counselors, their deputies, and executives were in almehenob. Priests conducted rituals, sacrifices, divination and religious instructions. Their role extended to monasteries management and astronomical observation. Merchants oversaw trading with artisans were tasked with infrastructural designs. In the lower class were peasants, farmers, and slaves (Osiatynski 165). Men undertook to slash and burning agricultural method while women held household duties, unlike peasants who served as slaves to the city-state kings.


Works Cited

Fedorak, Shirley. Pop Culture: The Culture of Everyday Life. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.Garcia, Juan Carlos Moreno. Ancient Egyptian Administration. Boston: : Brill, 2013.

James, Allison and Adrian James. Key Concepts in Childhood Studies. 2. London: SAGE, 2012.

Osiatynski, Wiktor. Human Rights and Their Limits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Ramon, Pedro Pitarch, Shannon Speed and Xochitl Leyva Solano. Human rights in the Maya region : global politics, cultural contentions, and moral engagements. Durham : Duke University Press, 2008.

Shepard, Jon M. Sociology. Belmont, CA : : Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.


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