Moral Heroes

Moral Heroes (lauded by David Slutsky)

 

Our first two moral heroes listed here are: Boge Gebre (or is it Bogaletch Gebre?) from Ethiopia and Wangari Maathai from Kenya. However, I wonder: do I admire and venerate these remarkable individuals merely because their lives and accomplishments happen to cohere well with values that fit my idiosyncratic experiences, education, work and subsequent perspectives on global ethics? Or, on the other hand, do these individuals deserve praise, respect, and emulation because their lives and work embody and exemplify values of such importance that they transcend cultural differences and have some sort of objective, perspective independent status?

 

The first news story below includes an interview with Boge Gebre (or Bogaletch Gebre), followed by a link to a website for an incredible organization that she helped create.

 

 The second news story below includes an interview with Wangari Maathai, followed by a link to a website for an incredible organization that she helped create.

 

1) First news story (featuring Bogaletch Gebre, moral hero):

Kidnapped. Raped. Married. The extraordinary rebellion of Ethiopia's abducted wives.

 

KMG Ethiopia - Change Takes a Commitment not a Miracle (formerly known as Kembatta Women's Self-Help Center - Ethiopia)
 
for much more on Bogaletch Gebre, moral hero, click here for my blog post "Bogaletch Gebre: Guide, Leader, Teacher" (interested readers can also click here and check out the comments above and below on that linked webpage/blog post too)

 

2) Second news story (featuring Wangari Maathai, moral hero):

Can one woman save Africa?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/can-one-woman-save-africa-1794103.html

 

The Green Belt Movement

http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/

 
for more on Wangari Maathai, moral hero, click here (very sadly, also click here)
 

Our third moral hero (of a different kind?) listed here is Roger Boisjoly, an engineer with a conscience. Did bureaucrats at Morton Thiokol and NASA murder (in the sense of depraved indifference or some sort of person-slaughter) the seven crew members who died when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart? Why is this question not raised and discussed every single time anyone mentions the Challenger Shuttle disaster?

 

3) Third story, found here in a series of links on why certain people concerned with business contracts and the "image" of NASA may have unnecessarily caused to die the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.


Remembering Roger Boisjoly: He Tried To Stop Shuttle Challenger Launch

 

Roger Boisjoly - The Challenger Disaster

http://www.onlineethics.org/cms/7123.aspx

 

Ethical Decisions - Morton Thiokol and the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster – Index

http://www.onlineethics.org/CMS/profpractice/ppessays/thiokolshuttle.aspx

 

a tiny part from: Challenger: The Untold Story (produced by the National Geographic Society)

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/videos/challenger/


National Geographic no longer provides the full video previously available at the second link below (with no explanation why!). The first link below is a press release about it:

Challenger: The Untold Story. Twenty years after the space shuttle challenger disaster national geographic channel transports viewers behind the scenes of this national tragedy.

http://channel[dot]nationalgeographic[dot]com/channel/videos/challenger-the-untold-story/

4) Fourth story, on Odette Kayirere and Sarah Cleto Rial, see:
 
5) Fifth story, on women protesting in Egypt, see:
 
Egyptian Women Protesting
 
Gender at the Egyptian Protests
 
6) Elouise Cobell, Moral Hero

 

Elouise Cobell is the lead plaintiff in the largest class action law suit ever filed against the U.S. government (filed in 1996). Representing over 500,000 Native Americans, Cobell reasonably argued that the U.S. government owed Native Americans hundreds of billions of dollars. In late 2010, Cobell settled for $3.4 billion in large part to provide at least some recompense to the older Native Americans who were sadly dying every day without receiving even a small measure of justice in this regard.

 

In 1887, the U.S. government tried to break up Native American Nations/Tribes by dividing tribal owned land into individual Indian accounts, and/or trust funds, for which the U.S. government supposedly served as trustee. While serving as treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation Indian Tribe (and building the Blackfeet National Bank, which turned into the Native American Bank and is a marvelous story in its own right), Cobell saw how clearly the U.S. government continually failed to serve as minimally responsible trustees, in some cases stealing funds themselves, in other cases leasing Indian property to corporations and allowing the corporations to steal Indian funds, and in most all cases generally mismanaging the Indian accounts/trust funds in the most egregious ways. After much stonewalling and criminal defiance from Washington D.C., Cobell filed what became the largest class action ever against the U.S. government.

 

Here is a promotional video clip for a documentary on this titled, "Cobell v." (formerly titled, "Broken Promises")

 

Here is a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

 

Here is the official website for the settlement

 

 
Below are four pieces covering this matter from Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:

 

Federal Judge Rules US Government Owes Group of Native Americans $455 Million for Unpaid Royalties on Drilling for Oil and Gas, 8/12/2008

 

Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization: A Celebration of Victories, Rights and Cultures, 11/23/2006

 

Indian Leaders Offer to Settle Largest Class Action Lawsuit Against Federal Government in U.S. History, 6/24/2005

 

"The Indian Enron"? Hundreds of Boxes of Documents Destroyed, Charges of Contempt of Court, Billions of Dollars at Stake, Millions Paid to Arthur Anderson: Native Americans Sue the U.S. Government, 5/29/2002,

  

Elouise Cobell is currently the Executive Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation.
She is now recovering from cancer treatment. Let us all please wish her well.
 

7) Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

 

Last week I found this gem of a post at feministing.com roughly titled, "texas-rep-thompson-blasts-legislative-sexism"

 

The post includes a video clip in which Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson spoke out against disrespect for women in the legislature. Her words are extraordinary, powerful, and sadly much needed.

 

Here is the Texas House webpage for this wonderful woman. Some highlights:

 

“Rep. Thompson has been in the forefront of every campaign against discrimination for the last four decades. Ms. Thompson has among the highest ranks of any legislator for her voting record on issues of concern to women, minorities, labor, consumers, reform advocates, domestic violence victims, the elderly, teachers and civil libertarians.”

 

“Rep. Thompson has authored and passed more than 200 Texas laws, including Texas´ first alimony law, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, laws prohibiting racial profiling, the state minimum wage, the Durable Power of Attorney Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Sexual Assault Program Fund, the Model School Records Flagging Act, the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, contraceptive parity, and scores of other reforms benefiting women, children and the elderly. Rep. Thompson pushed through major reforms in child support enforcement, simplified probate proceedings, and complete overhauls of statutes dealing with statutory county courts and municipal courts. In 2005, she passed legislation requiring free testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), an early indicator of cervical cancer, for women who have health insurance.”

 

Here is the sadly wonderful clip from the House Floor – Rep. Thompson on Disrespect to Women – May 26, 2011

 

This clip is only 7 minutes and 53 seconds. Please watch/listen to every second of it.

 

My favorite part is this, especially the last sentence (beginning at about 6 minutes and 24 seconds):

     “… And we have not earned this disrespect in this house. We fight here we get elected just like you do. And we have not earned this kind of disrespect. And I don’t want to tolerate it by anybody. And men, if you don’t stand up for us today, don’t you walk in this chamber tomorrow.”

 

Also this part (beginning at about 4 minutes and 8 seconds):

     “… This is wrong; it cannot exist. And I think that – I want to ask you if you have any intestinal fortitude, and I believe you do, to stand up and tell this organization that this is not acceptable conduct for the members of this house…”

 

Some of Representative Thompson’s sentiments here remind me of (one aspect of) G. A. Cohen’s criticism of John Rawls’ focus on the basic structure of society and social institutions, as opposed to focusing on individuals and individual obligations. Liam Murphy published a paper on the same topic, and you may know of the literature surrounding it. These matters remind me of the frequent part of many speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he identifies the greatest injustices not necessarily in the horrible, unethical actions of bad people, but rather in the silence and inactions of (seemingly) good people who know what ethics/justice requires and do not step up to do things about it (because doing so has various costs and risks for sacrificing one’s career, job, time, resources, freedom, and/or life). We can find similar sentiments throughout history. Senfronia Thompson could not have said it any better than she did in her words above (as well as in many other places for those interested to look).

 

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero