Can We Evaluate our Culture from the Future?

Some practices accepted as normal and traditional in earlier eras and nations of Western history would be condemned as unjust or inhumane in those same countries today. A few examples include punishing male rapists by having them marry their single female victims; the use of physical torture such as thumbscrews in trials; and the owning of slaves.

When people of the future look back at these times of our own, what will they think? Are there any practices or behaviors that, taken for granted or considered normal today, are likely to be considered uncivilized by later generations? Do we deal with each other in ways that our posterity will judge barbaric?

This is not a question about practices already highly controversial in today’s society — such as gay marriage, consensual abortion, or the separation of children from parents at national borders. Rather, it’s about behaviors our society considers ‘normal’ when it comes to established cultural norms, and how we relate to our fellow humans, other living beings, and our environment.

What are the ethical “blind-spots” or emotional disabilities that occasion our engaging, without even thinking, in practices that a more enlightened future society would view with dismay?

Are there any contemporary practices or behaviors that you find troubling but that seem to slip by “under the radar” seemingly unnoticed in our world of today?

What is the underlying reason for certain behaviors’ being acceptable in one age while likely to be judged uncivilized — and therefore unacceptable — by subsequent cultures?

Please share your thoughts below.