Madelyn Boudreaux (NSBOU9917@NSULA.EDU)
Sat, 12 Mar 1994 13:00:34 -0600

Your problem is one that gives us all nightmares, I suspect.

>My brain tells me not to do this: that I must be the good
>ethnographer and, perhaps more importantly, that such
>interventions by "outsiders" never unfold as planned and
>often create more difficulties than they solve.

In an article in the _Chronicle_of_Higher_Education_, Richard
Perry points out that moral relativism and cultural relativism are not
the same. We sometimes mistake the two, because we are taught to
weigh EVERYTHING. Perry wrote, "Cultural relativism does not...
mean that all human behavior merits approval, it only means that to
understand what people do, it is more useful to ask why they do it
than to decide whether or not they should," [Perry, Richard J.
"Why do Multiculturalists Ignore Anthropologists?" Chronicle of
Higher Education 38.20 (1992)]

>I have actually been warned by a court officer that, if I am
>aware of any behavior of his that will harm him and I don't work
>to intervene I will be contributing to his delinquency.

Your own legal well-being is at stake; so is your personal moral
well-being. That this issue has caused you this much worry alone
should give you the answer. When we are confronted with a
situation that causes us real moral distress, we MUST act. Each of
us may have different morals, and we may draw the lines beyond
which we will not go at different things, but none of us should
*ever* let our own morals be compromised by promises of grant
monies, degrees, tenure. It is our obligation not only to our field,
but to ourselves.

I wish you luck.

Madelyn Boudreaux
Northwestern State University
Natchitoches, Louisiana.