The dependency thesis states that what is good or bad depends on what the people of that particular society, regard as wrong or right. Another definition is that; the moral principles that have been accepted by a certain cultural are the correct ones, irrespective of what other cultures practice. If a certain community accepts that upon meeting someone older than yourself you should bow your head, then not bowing your head to an elder person is morally wrong (1).
The dependency thesis has some strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is that; if by any chance you get entangled in another community, you become unaffected by some of the earlier obligations. For example, in a Kenyan society, abortion is wrong. If a Kenyan girl is married to a Chinese, whose culture condones abortion, she will be free from the no abortion rule. When this Kenyan girl is married to a Chinese, she will have the choice of aborting if wished.
According to the thesis, it is not right for one community to force its rule unto another person from a different community. This means that a foreigner may live amidst another community, and continue practicing what he thinks is right. For example, a reporter from BBC will be able to report the lifestyle of the Fulani people, without himself being forced to abide to the traditions of the Fulani (3). If somebody is supposed to adhere to his culture’s principles, it means that there is no supreme person who is supposed to judge everybody. This means there is nothing that entitles one human being to judge others. The thesis also advocates that we should see other people’s culture as important as ours. This has enabled people to tolerate other people’s culture. Being able to tolerate other people’s culture has enabled people from different cultures to live together.
For example, a Muslim and a Christian can be very good roommates even if they have different believes. Both cultures teach to respect other people’s culture (4). One of the major draw back of this thesis is that, it gives room for one community rising over the other with catastrophic results.
From the thesis, Hitler can be viewed to be equally moral as Gandhi. Both Hitler and Gandhi did and preached what they believed is right for their people. If a certain community has a moral principle which allows one to kill another person, the results can be catastrophic. During the crusade mission in the 10th century, Muslims and Christians slaughtered each other. Both of them were thinking that they were doing the right thing.
One irony in this case is that they were all killing, each other to please the same person. During the Rwandan genocide, the Hutus were made to believe that they needed to defend their country from Tutsis. Even though they were the majority, they went on to kill approximately 800,000 Tutsis (5). The other flaw of this thesis is that, people who advocate for change are considered to be wrong. For example, can we say that Jesus was morally wrong sine he was not accepted by his community? People who may come up with ways that are supposed to make the living condition of a community better, maybe shut down since they may be going against what is accepted as morally right. Another fault is that a person can fail to be held responsible for doing something wrong, simply because he does not belong to any community (7).
“Ethical Relativism.” ACSU. ACSU, 15 January 2003.
Web. 16 February 2011.