Conscience may tell us to do something good, but there are few more derogatory terms in the English language than "do-gooder". In fact, such a person, impelled by conscience, may cause harm.

And where does conscience come from? Is it culturally dependent? I was in Isfahan, and we were taken into the showroom of a carpet merchant, filled with amazing Persian rugs (and prices to match). Because it was not a public place, we were told we could remove our hijab, and of course we did, because we prefer not to wear a headscarf indoors. It is not part of our tradition in Australia.

As we left the shop and returned to the street, I fastened my scarf again, but I noticed that some forgot to do this, and were walking bareheaded in public in Iran, sure to attract attention or worse.

What does my conscience tell me to do? Urge my fellow tourists to resume hijab and comply with the oppressive government strictures, or be free but in danger?

Does conscience change according to time and place? Is it something we have to puzzle over?


Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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