Westerners judging others

Recent comments in response to the blog post entitled ‘Upsets at the Dejong Pema Choling Academy’ have raised an important issue:

Should foreigners try to stop behaviour in one society which would be considered to be abusive in their own society? Should they remain silent, or should they take action? Take corporal punishment on the Indian sub-continent, for example. Should a western volunteer intervene? It is commonplace there, and considered an essential tool in maintaining discipline in many schools, as indeed it was in our own societies until a couple of decades ago.

I would be interested in your views.

Jim Coleman
Himalayan Education Lifeline Programme


  1. Someone has, without offering their own views, asked me to state what I think.I can’t put it better than this, which was posted to me in confidence by someone who did not want to get involved in the heated exchange of views under the blog entitled ‘Upsets at the DPCA’:

    “…as foreigners I think we have no right to impose our cultural ideas, of right and wrong or anything else. We can sometimes benefit from perhaps more enlightened attitudes and assist in change but we must not impose upon or denigrate cultures we by definition are unlikely to fully understand. We may find some ideas difficult, or even abhorrent, but we have to accept that they are part and parcel of history and tradition even if, as in the case of Afghanistan, some of that ‘tradition’ is a modern invention. Clever people help people help themselves but sadly the western way of doing things seems to be one of imposition…”

    I would add though, that where what is being done would break the law in that country, and where, because of the power relationships involved, local people are afraid to speak up or report the abuse to the authorities, then intervention by an outsider might do more good than harm. One of my Nepalese friends felt that it would be right in such curcumstances, even if, in the first instance, the instinct of the local community would be to rally around the accused against the interference of a foreigner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I think HELP is the volunteer organization that I looked for for a long time. It is the most easily accessible and responsive organization I found on the web. I really like the self donation to the school and how independent it requires its volunteers to be, unlike many other organizations.
Michael WintersteinSt. Paul Primary School