Personal Autonomy in Witnu Society
In the article “Individual Autonomy and Social Structure” written by Dorothy Lee, She discusses how in our society, we have difficulties with implementing human dignity into to our day to day lives. On the other hand, She proceeds to explain how by analyzing different culture in the same situations, it is possible with to come up with a solution for this problem. The main social problem that is being discussed by Dorothy Lee is Individual Autonomy, which is one person being able to decide for themselves and taking a course of action in their lives, and how it affects the social structure . Furthermore, in the American society that is being described by Dorothy Lee, they believe that having personal autonomy will lead to chaos and an unorganized society, however she shows through examples of different societies that, that is not the case. Moreover, one of the societies being used as an example is, the Witnu Indians, she uses this example to show that it is possible to have personal autonomy, only by having a great social structure in that society. She specifically talks about their use of language and also the respect that is being shown to everybody, regardless of age, gender or hierarchy.
In the Witnu society, the use of language is one of the key reasons why personal autonomy does not result in chaos and unlawness, One of the ways that language affects individual autonomy and social structure of their society, is the way they use their language at home. The use of language in the western home is much different compared to the Witnu Society, according to Lee the members of the western family use language to reflect their respect to one another which puts them at a hierarchy level. For example, in a western family they say ” I took the baby to the washroom” which puts the baby at a lower hierarchy level implying that “I” made the decision to take the baby to the washroom. However, in a Witnu family they would say “I went with the baby to the washroom” suggesting that the baby has the ability to go and the decision was made by him/herself. This change however small gives the baby a sense of dignity and puts him/her on the same hierarchy level as the other family members. Another example would be , the way they refer to each other on the day to day bases, in an American family described by Dorothy Lee saying, “I have a sister” seems very normal. On the other hand, in a Witnu society they do not and in fact can not say “I have a sister” instead they say “I am Sistered” or “I live with my sister.” To Live is the phrase they use towards things they respect, this is something that is not used in the western society and in order to show respect to another a lot of words have to be used. Moreover, the use of language in family can affect the way that family members are viewed therefore leading to a great use of personal autonomy without unlawness. In a western family the use of language places the members in a hierarchy which leads to the parents making the decisions taking the personal autonomy away from the kids and in some families the wife.
Outside the family, the use of language also differs between the American/Western society and the Witnu society. In a western society the way people talk in the house might be very different compared to the way they talk to strangers in their community and in fact the use of language is what makes them strangers. On the other hand, in a Witnu society the use of language outside the family is what brings the community very close together which leads to an organized society with the use of personal autonomy . In a witnu community people speak to each other in the same respectful way they would talk to their family members resulting in a family like community.