A kiss is just a kiss, a bribe is just a bribe…
You are visiting a culture in which the law enforcement officials (that is, the police) and other civic officials do not receive substantial pay. The country is also highly “bureaucratic” (a lot of “red tape” to get any legal paperwork processed, and so on). As a result of this, it is a general cultural expectation, though officially illegal, to give officials in businesses or on the police force a little “palm greasing”—a little money “under the table” either to have a job expedited at a civic office or to have an officer overlook a misdemeanor. You are out on a date with your girl/boyfriend and decide to engage in a passionate kiss.* The public kiss in this very conservative culture is illegal and you can face time in jail for a misdemeanor, though it is something that is frequently overlooked. An officer sees you, deduces from your dress and mannerisms that you are a “foreigner”, and is starting to ticket you. You strongly suspect that it is culturally acceptable at this time to give a little money to get out of the ticket—but you also know that this is officially illegal in this country and highly unethical in your own culture. What will you do? What ethical choices guide your decision?
*This portion of scenario is based on a real incident involving Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty, in India.
Case Study questions
· Summarize the different possible perspectives to the issue.
· What are the benefits and disadvantages of a cultural relativism approach to the case?
· What response would more recent efforts at defining intercultural ethics—such as the peace/humanistic ethic or the dialogic ethic—propose in such a case?
· What cultural values might be associated with the different ethical stances?