General Question

laureth's avatar

Do better-off people have a moral obligation to end the suffering of others if it doesn't require similar suffering on their part?

Asked by laureth (27091 points ) February 15th, 2009

Peter Singer wrote an article called Famine, Affluence, and Morality in which he explains that if we are able to end suffering without causing similar suffering to ourselves or our dependents, we have a moral obligation to do so. In short, we shouldn’t necessarily give up our homes to the homeless (because that would produce equal suffering on our part), but we should not be wearing more clothes than we need simply to stay warm when there are people that don’t have winter coats, and that we shouldn’t eat more than we need to live or eat out in restaurants while there are people starving.

Do you believe Singer’s point is valid? If so, why do we not do more to help the have-nots? And if Peter is wrong, why are we not obligated to end the suffering of others by giving up our “extras”?

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80 Answers

Bri_L's avatar

I feel I have a moral obligation to do so. But that is based on my own moral code.

I feel others have a moral obligation to do so, but only based on my moral code as well. I can’t make them do it.

laureth's avatar

@Bri_L – how far are we obligated to go? Is giving our loose change away to famine relief enough of a step, when by doing with a little less ourselves, we can stop somewhat more suffering?

steve6's avatar

Most people I know donate to charity but that doesn’t seem to be enough. If the really wealthy people would donate a significant amount directly to the people in need it would help. A large part of what the middle class donates (or the rich for that matter) never reaches the needy. The charities keep lots of it to pay for their own expenses. Cut out the middle man, tax the rich more, or is that socialism?

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I think it displays a particular courage, humility and kindness to end the suffering of others even at the cost of likewise suffering.

Sorceren's avatar

No. I believe we each have an obligation to use no more of the Earth’s resources than we strictly must — but that is the limit of our obligation to others and to the future.

Life is suffering, a series of unmet needs and unfulfilled wants. They differ only in degree, and our karma and our current “hand” determine what life game we will play and how we will play it.

Expecting — or feeling entitled to — automatic help is not the way to live free.

laureth's avatar

@steve6 – Is it immoral of the “really wealthy” people to therefore choose not to donate? And if that is socialism, is socialism (by definition) wrong?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

The poor are always with you. I think the flaw in the reasoning is that it’s possible to eradicate poverty and suffering. This is not realistic; new circumstances arise every day. While living simply and minimizing possessions are good things, you have to be cognizant that when you give up purchasing, you are also reducing demand, which reduces jobs somewhere.

In so many cultures, greed and corruption eat into “hand outs” for people. American involvement in Afghanistan should teach the lesson, to paraphase Warren Zevon, “Send Medical Care, Schools and Infrastructure.”

This is, of course, coming from a woman who owns a total 8 changes of clothing, one coat, and 5 pairs of shoes. I’m not in favor of conspicuous consumption, and I donate three times the amount reported by the Palin family in 2007 on half the income.

laureth's avatar

@Sorceren – I believe that expecting or feeling entitled to help is not the issue that Singer is addressing (although it is a valid point). If people find themselves with more than “what they strictly must,” are they not obligated to find people who do not have that much and make sure they get it?

Bri_L's avatar

I find it interesting that you often hear people in the serving industry say the wealthier the people, the poorer the tip.

laureth's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock – I agree. So far, I’ve been unable to phrase it as well as you have.

By submitting this question, I am in no way implying that I agree with Singer. What I am trying to do is find a way to put into words why I think he isn’t always right.

However, I think Singer would say that just because we can’t eradicate all poverty doesn’t mean that we should let all poverty continue to exist. It’s that old argument about throwing that one starfish back into the sea and how it at least ends the suffering for that one starfish, even if we can’t get to all of them.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t believe in moral absolutes.
My own morality also doesn’t exactly agree with the statement. However,
1) My morality does dislike needless suffering, and it also dislikes waste and excess and greed. My morality favors benevolence and love, and assisting others, and I feel that the world should be a place where all creature’s needs are cared for, and the need for survival and lack of suffering outweighs the need for excessive consumption.
2) I think when the example gets more extreme, then I agree with the theme more. For instance, I hear it said that 10% of the world’s military expenses is approximately the cost of feeding all of the starving people in the world. That makes me feel very strongly that humans can and should be providing for basic human needs.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@laureth, start with the fact that he’s talking about everyone in the UK donating would solve the problems in Bengal. Perhaps it would feed everyone in Bengal. But it wouldn’t create infrastructure, farming, teaching marketable skills, etc. all of this takes more time and money than the amount he’s talking about. It get backs to the feed the man vs. teach him to fish analogy. Sounds like Singer is taking a “just feed ‘em” posture, which for 1971, is typical.

laureth's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock – agreed. The moral position nowadays would be giving “till it hurt” in order to provide that infrastructure and education.

steve6's avatar

@laureth You tell me, is socialism wrong? The 220 year old question.

introv's avatar

I’m with @AlfredaPrufrock that is isn’t possible to eradicate poverty and suffering – the worlds problems are just too large. It is also very true that a lot of money donated doesn’t reach it’s intended target. To further add to the complications a lot of charities drive desire for their own services – homeless charities for example. Donating to self perpetuating and expanding charities is, in my opinion, not great on a moral basis.

Ultimately, in an ideal world I would agree we do have a moral objection to help those less fortunate (by transferring the excesses in our lives to the deficits in theirs), but we just don’t live in that world where it’s all that simple, solvable and black and white.

laureth's avatar

@steve6 – I believe in balance. Pure socialism, just like pure capitalism, is wrong (imho).

@introv – are we not obligated, then, to somehow come up with a way to efficiently transfer the excesses?

steve6's avatar

I agree with your humble opinion.

asmonet's avatar

Socialism is fantastic. I believe in democratic socialism.

I think we have a moral obligation to contribute to those worse off as often as we are capable. I don’t think we should deny ourselves a steak dinner if we want one, but if %-10% of all income went directly to the poor, the world would be a better place.

laureth's avatar

@asmonet – Do you give that much? (I’m assuming, of course, that you have income to give, which may or may not be true. It also may well be none of my business.)

I think Singer is saying that if we do not, we are immoral.

Zaku's avatar

@laureth – I don’t think Singer, as you’ve written his position, is always right. It seems to me that humans have the abundant means to feed, clothe, and house everyone, and to educate them and give them plenty of freedom to do what they really want. Humanity can afford to not have anyone homeless, starving, or lacking basic health care, and still to richly reward labor, service, art, entertainment, entrepreneurs, etc. Humanity can also afford to let non-human species and habitats thrive by giving them the space they need to function and applying scientific husbandry – and if we continue to let species and natural habitats die off, we will be hard-pressed to survive at all ourselves. What it will take though, is transforming some of our thinking, probably including the “Capitalism versus Socialism” fallacy that derails so many progressive economics discussions. In the face of the possibility and necessity of shifting from a world of suffering and extinction to a world of abundance, health, and freedom, I think there is a moral imperative to provide for the needs of those who are suffering. That’s not the same thing as saying that we need to remove wealth from anyone who has more than anyone else. There’s plenty of room for providing for everyone’s basic needs, and also allowing for wealth and some degree of excessive consumption. That false argument, and the terror people have of becoming homeless etc., is one of the main things that derails and polarizes discussion, it seems to me.

laureth's avatar

@Zaku – I agree, and that’s a very good way of rephrasing Singer. (Space was limited, and so is the patience to read through a long question, so I abbreviated.)

Sorceren's avatar

@laureth — “If people find themselves with more than “what they strictly must,” are they not obligated to find people who do not have that much and make sure they get it?”

They are obligated not to waste it. Giving it to the poor or suffering is a noble ideal, but what if the effort to get it to them goes past the point of diminishing returns — for the environment and in terms of energy, if not for the individual with the surplus?

They won’t let you go put your old furniture on the curb in the part of town where it’s needed. You can’t just walk up to a raggedly dressed woman on the street and hand her a pile of clothing, can you? What if she were insulted? I do donate surplus items to nursing homes, schools, and the local Community Caring Center. But most of the alleviation of suffering I do is with my grown children; the Baby Boomer generation was the last in which children would grow up to become better off than their parents.

I think charity begins at home, alleviation of suffering with the person or group suffering closest to you.

laureth's avatar

@Sorceren – I agree. I think Singer effectively made the point that people ought to be helped, but he didn’t prove to me that helping people I don’t know is equal to helping people I do know. I also think we’re hardwired to go further to help those closest to us, and then those a little further out, etc., like ripples in a pond. In turn, those are also the people most likely to help us out in time of need.

It is my view that morality is a combination of something inborn (even monkeys have a sense of fair play), combined with a set of rules that allow us to live together peacefully in a society. If we give to the extreme to people unlikely to help us in return, it might be very altruistic, but it also might not be so very good on a survival scale.

In other words, I think eating out in a restaurant also alleviates suffering, in that it gives a waitron, a cook, a manager, a busboy, and maybe a janitor, as well as a farmer and a truck driver and a health inspector, jobs, which insure food on their table and a home to live in.

laureth's avatar

@ everyone – thanks for contributing. I appreciate everything y’all have said, even if I questioned you again on it. It all makes me think, which was a lot of the point of asking the Q in the first place.

Sorceren's avatar

@Zaku — “What it will take though, is transforming some of our thinking, probably including the “Capitalism versus Socialism” fallacy that derails so many progressive economics discussions.”

What you’re saying is that everybody will a) have to agree to think the same way, and b) have to agree that the world owes us a living. That way lies starvation!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

That being aside, I do believe in managing your immediate sphere of influence to the best of your ability. By that I mean, never pass up an opportunity to do go when and where you can in your daily life. Donate to local food banks, donate unread books to the library book sale, donate to NPR if that’s important to you, buy raffle tickets from charities, patronize school/church fundraising events, buy girl scout cookies when asked (or donate), pick up trash on your block, etc. Whatever’s important to you to have done, be the one to do it. If everyone did that, life would function so much better for all.

asmonet's avatar

@laureth: I’m unemployed, looking for a job, I did give to charity when I could even when I had entry level positions. My entire life though, I’ve almost always qualified to be on the receiving end of said charity. I honestly won’t be able to afford it for the next few years, I’m digging myself out of a big hole and so if everyone in my family. I mean, right now, we do receive charity and we have nothing to spare.

I didn’t read the link, I liked your summary though. I hope he means if you do not and can, it is immoral. If you cannot and don’t, it isn’t.

Before, I mean 5%-10%.

asmonet's avatar

And I don’t mind you asking. :)

laureth's avatar

@asmonet – You’re correct about his point. And I know you’ve said before in other Qs that you’ve worked at soup kitchens, etc. I think that by any measure, you’re doing well by Singer. And me, fwiw.

susanc's avatar

David Foster Wallace in a paragraph I like:
…(a) mistake lies in (the) assumption that the real motives for redistributing wealth are charitable or unselfish. The conservatives’ mistake (if it is a mistake) is wholly conceptual, but for the Left the assumption is also a serious tactical error. Progressive liberals seem incapable of stating the obvious truth: that we who are well off should be willing to share more of what we have with poor people not for the poor people’s sake but for our own; i.e., we should share what we have in order to become less narrow and frightened and lonely and self-centered people. No one ever seems willing to acknowledge aloud the thoroughgoing self-interest that underlies all impulses toward economic equality – especially not US progressives, who seem so invested in an image of themselves as Uniquely Generous and Compassionate and Not Like Those Selfish Conservatives Over There that they allow the conservatives to frame the debate in terms of charity and utility, terms under which redistribution seems far less obviously a good thing.”

asmonet's avatar

Thanks. :)

laureth's avatar

@susanc—ooooh, nice! That’s so very true.

steve6's avatar

So we should pay someone not to rob us?

Grisson's avatar

I know lots of people who put 10% of their salaries away for retirement in their 401K. I know fewer who give 10% to charity.

Interestingly, the 10% for the 401K is ‘before taxes’, but the 10% for charity is usually ‘after taxes’.

steve6's avatar

@asmonet You read all my posts?

laureth's avatar

@Grisson – I think it’s important, also, to provide for ourselves. Putting money in a 401K is supposed to help assure that we will have enough when we are old, and not need to rely on the charity of others. It’s like when you get that safety talk on the airplane before it takes off – you put on your oxygen mask, and then help the person next to you.

Zaku's avatar

@Sorceren – “What you’re saying is that everybody will a) have to agree to think the same way, and b) have to agree that the world owes us a living. That way lies starvation!”
No that’s not what I was saying. For a), I was just observing that people stop communicating when they start essentially just yelling “commie!” and “capitalist pig!” at each other, when there are new things waiting to be said and heard. For b), not everybody has to agree, and I’m not saying “the world owes us a living” – I’m saying the world has abundant resources, so no one needs to starve, especially if we are willing to intelligently redesign how we share the world.

Grisson's avatar

@laureth I agree. What I find interesting is that those who do each often do so on different terms [i.e. before taxes/after taxes]. Not saying it’s right or wrong, just something to think about.

laureth's avatar

It seems like the before-tax after-tax terms is a legislated thing, not one that individuals can easily change.

Grisson's avatar

@laureth Oh it’s true that you take deductions for charitable givings before taxes by law, but when it comes to deciding how much to give we are not constrained by law.

Blondesjon's avatar

@laureth…I believe William Shakespeare said, “Tis questions as these that extoll thine awesomeness.”

This question would be fun to debate from either side. Above are a ton of well thought out and articulate answers.

My problem is nit-picky. How does one person or even a group of people decide what is moral? Do I get a say in deciding who our appointed moralists are? What if I agree with only half of the things they find immoral? Does that make me immoral? How did we choose these people again?

Morality is itself a luxury afforded the rich. When it comes down to the lower class choice of feeding your family or feeding the world, the poor only get “the lesser of two evils.”

Zaku's avatar

@Blondesjon – Sounds like a great question to post by itself to the fluther.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Zaku…I do tend to tangent. :)

blushes

laureth's avatar

@Blondesjon – One could say that by agreeing with what a moralist decides is moral, one chooses who the moralists are.

I agree with what you say about the lesser of two evils. I have also heard it said that if you would do something you think is immoral in order to feed your family, you must not think it’s overly immoral in the first place.

critter1982's avatar

Yes I think it is my moral duty to help those less fortunate than myself, and I think the overall general consensus feels the same way. Morality though, is relative so I cannot speak for everyone. Regarding your question as to why we as a society don’t do more I think there are a multitude of reasons. Greed is obviously one of the biggest reasons, peoples sense of necessities are drastically different, peoples sense of entitlement, peoples sense of materialism all play roles in why we as a society don’t give as much as we really should.

One thing that I see people doing everyday though, is giving to natural disasters. My brother-in-law works for a national disaster relief organization and I am fortunate enough to see the amount of time and money people devote to this. This is the main reason I believe people in general feel a moral obligation to be liberal with their money and time when it comes to those less fortunate. People see these hard working people and the plight that they were forced to go through. They see that it wasn’t something brought on by themselves and people tend to believe that it wasn’t deserved and people feel a moral obligation to make it right again. I think a big reason though that people don’t give their money and time is simply because of trust. People don’t trust the begger on the street isn’t going to go buy drugs or alcohol with the money they give them, or that the begger doesn’t drive home in a Porsche. People don’t trust these non-reputable and even reputable organizations designed to support those less fortunate. They don’t believe that the people running these organizations aren’t out for their own good and taking home fat paychecks. People don’t trust that these people less fortunate are in the situations their in because of some difficult situations but rather they are just leaches getting a freebie from the system.

Creative community based organizations with local accountability are often some of the best avenues for giving to alleviate poverty

laureth's avatar

@critter1982 – I agree. However, I notice that while the generosity pours forth for the big disaster of the moment, people are notoriously inept at caring for the affected people once the news programs move onto the next disaster.

Look how much help was sent forth to the victims of Katrina, for example. People sent scads of money and items. However, lots of people are still unable to live in their homes or are displaced in other cities, and I’m willing to bet that once the original flush of donations was used up, very few people are continuing to help. They’re on to the next disaster.

critter1982's avatar

@Laureth: Absolutely, it’s out of sight out of mind. Actually my brother-in-law currently lives down in New Orleans. It’s amazing to see how much work still needs to be done.

susanc's avatar

I’d like to go back to the David Foster Wallace point: people need to share because it’s better for the sharers.
I’m always pretty horrified when I hear people (often on radio talk shows) saying you shouldn’t give money to beggars because “it only encourages them”. Encourages them?
What?!? If someone’s only recourse is begging, they need help! So help them! How is this complicated?
I’m also discouraged when I hear people (also often on radio talk shows, and some here)
saying you should give to community-based charitable organizations instead of to persons. What’s wrong with both?
There are persons I don’t give to personally because they look frightening, but not very damn many. Touch the guy’s filthy hand when you hand him the paltry two dollars. You won’t die. Look him in the eye. He’s drunk? No kidding.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with only giving to tax-deductibles, okay? YOU GET A MONETARY REWARD. That’s not “giving”. That’s “planning”. Not that it’s not perfectly fine. But taking a handout from the IRS for being a good person kind of takes the gloss off it for me.
My favorite self-service at a low level of morality is people who want their names on plaques for doing something to help somebody else. I think we should put the names of the helped on the plaques. “From May 2002 Robert had to camp in this public park for a summer. He found a job in September 2002. Good going, Robert!! You are the type of citizen we can all be proud of! You have inspired us. We salute you.”

am i ranting

Grisson's avatar

@susanc Agreed. Giving to charitable organizations has up-sides and down-sides besides the tax implications. You have to be careful that what you give isn’t remaining at the top. (ref:Charlotte, NC and United Way CEO compensation). Otherwise these organizations can get more bang for the buck, or at least make the buck bang further from home.

There are upsides and downsides to direct giving as well. . You made reference to one, support of alcoholism and drug use. I would not like to think I’ve supported either.

The solution to that is to take the person to the nearest fast food restaurant and get them a meal. That addresses the immediate need and is usually unexpected. However, the last time I did that, the guy actually apologized to me for putting me out. (Though he really didn’t, and I could have done better).

dynamicduo's avatar

No, and I resent the concept that I have an obligation to do anything for anyone just because someone else thinks it’s the right thing to do. More often than not I hear of people preaching things that other should do, but these people don’t even follow the words they speak, so why should I give any consideration to them?

susanc's avatar

@grisson, whom I admire: I don’t think it’s up to me to decide whether someone drinks or not. They’re strung out, I’m passing by, they ask for help, I give them money. I’m strung out on my own varied thises and thats. Who am I to judge what suffering they’re asking me to alleviate?

I have a long story about taking a beggar to dinner if you ever want to hear it.

Wait, here it is, I know you want it: Cape Verde Islands, stopping over en route S Africa. This was 2005, the week the London tube got bombed. A trinket seller called Momo spoke beautiful French to us. We hated the trinkets. They were awful. We said, No thanks, Momo, want to just come have dinner with us? He was stricken with surprise, apparently no one does this just for the fun of conversing. The next night he said Come on, I’m taking you to dinner. After a long dark walk, we found that was chicken and rice eaten with the fingers of the (right) hand out of a common bowl in a squat at the fringe of town, no sidewalks, streets made of sand, beyond the Chinese section, which was itself very spartan: one lightbulb, twelve very young illegal Senegalese Muslim men living in one unfinished concrete room, two broken plastic chairs (for us), one Koran, one mullah (about twenty years old), two litre bottles of orange Fanta (a huge treat). We ate, we smiled, choice pieces of chicken were pressed into our hands. My husband didn’t speak any French. He smiled, he let guys stroke his ponytail. There was fear of/fascination with Americans/Christians/the infidel. We learned everyone’s name. We helped polish wooden “folk-art” rhinos made in a factory. Watching me, the fat american lady, polishing a rhino horn, they all doubled over with laughter, walked around slapping hands. We grinned little by little and it was at that point that everyone relaxed. The next day we hired a truck, went to the bigger town, bought them a foam mattress so that they could take turns not sleeping on the floor, and delivered it. The mullah said, “Pourqui vous avez fait ca?” I said, “Nous sommes Americains, merci pour votre hospitalite; dormez bien, mon fils.”
I SO advocate Grisson’s approach of taking a guy out for a meal. You DO NOT KNOW what human contact this could lead to. ‘Course, they coulda eaten us. But we knew they wouldn’t.

AGAIN, on the issue of what giving gives the giver. It gave me the most interesting,
startling social event of my life (so far).

I know I talk too much. Hell with it. I’m old. I get to.

critter1982's avatar

@susanc: I’m not sure whether your comment, ”I’m also discouraged when I hear people (also often on radio talk shows, and some here) saying you should give to community-based charitable organizations instead of to persons. What’s wrong with both?”, was directed at me, but I want to comment on it anyways. I don’t take issue with giving to persons. In fact I would rather give to a person directly as I can see the immediate result (sure that may be selfish but it’s satifying). My comment regarding community based organizations was a solution to those people that do not trust beggers and that do not trust these large charitable organizations. I, myself don’t always give handouts to beggers especially when I see that they are drunk or when they give me this sappy “false” story. I once had a begger tell me that if he just got $10 he could get the train which is leaving in 10 minutes to head off to Philadelphia. The train was 1 hour away by foot. I offered to get him a taxi and to drive with him to the train station and buy him a ticket but he depressingly denied. I personally don’t feel a moral obligation to help homeless people drink, smoke, or inject their sorrows away, but I am more than willing to help them out with their necessities.

fireside's avatar

wow, i had so many points i wanted to make about so many posts, but it’s too much so I’ll just summarize.

Basically, I agree that it is a moral imperative to assist those less fortunate than yourself if you can do so without sacrificing your own well-being and comfort. However, this goes to what has come up before and that is how do you define morality.

I don’t think that it matters if you are helping people you know over helping people you don’t know, as long as you are consciously helping. But the reason for being of service to others, in my mind, is really a spiritual one as well as a social one.

According to my beliefs, which is where I form my moral code, you will benefit your own soul by aiding others in their time of need. You will also benefit the person you helped, which gives them the chance to benefit others.

It’s the same concept as “Pay it Forward” – namely, you have or will be the recipient of the kindness of others in your lifetime and you should return the favor to create a rippling effect that will help to uplift the whole of humanity.

Sorceren's avatar

@susanc — “What?!? If someone’s only recourse is begging, they need help!”

Too often the problem is that it’s not their only recourse, just their first.

Here in Fort Worth we know that basically every beggar on a high-traffic street corner/intersection probably makes more per day — tax free — than any local CEO. Further, they protect “their” good corners with violence.

The game is to show up, look pitiful and have a semi-legible sign, and people will hand over the money. To me, this is one step above mugging, and I refuse to help such merciless actors get rich tax-free. I’d much rather give to someone who is not begging. Someone who wouldn’t even think of begging.

Allie's avatar

I think it’s valid and if people (generally speaking) were perfect, or even slightly better than they are now, I think it could work.
People like their things, though. And they like their time. Myself included. I try to help out when I can, but I don’t always.

…This is a great question. I know what I want to say, but I’m not quite sure how to put it. I may be back. Hmm…

Grisson's avatar

@Sorceren “than any local CEO”. I think that’s a bit of hyberbole. Either that or there are no banks and no United Way in Fort Worth.

Sorceren's avatar

Maybe a bit, @Grisson — but not much. I’m with you about United Way; military people have been fairly forced for decades to donate “so the squadron can achieve 100% giving.” Even if it was just as dollar, I resented it.

asmonet's avatar

A dollar? Really?

Waaah.

Grisson's avatar

@asmonet I refuse to donate to United Way for just that reason. Businesses (and apparently the military) are pressured into donating so the organization can ‘look good’. I will NOT contribute to that kind of hypocrisy.
I choose my hypocrisies carefully.

asmonet's avatar

I just think a dollar is nothing to cry over.
I see your point but, ugh. I think Fluther is riddled with spoiled brats today.

Grisson's avatar

@asmonet A dollar is nothing to cry over, but if 98 cents goes into the CEO’s pocket, it would be better spent given to the street person directly, alcholic or not, susanc.

asmonet's avatar

Sure, but two cents still goes somewhere, if you were forced to give to them you could supplement it with a charity of your choice. I’m just saying, the cup can be half full, or 2% full if you like.

Sorceren's avatar

@asmonet, I get the feeling that if 98% of humanity were forced into servitude to benefit the remaining 2%, you’d say, “But at least 2 out of 100 are getting care!”

fireside's avatar

Isn’t that how it is currently?

asmonet's avatar

@Sorceren: That’s a silly argument.

Sorceren's avatar

@Zaku —” For a), I was just observing that people stop communicating when they start essentially just yelling “commie!” and “capitalist pig!” at each other, when there are new things waiting to be said and heard.”

Well, that’s what I said. In order for people to stop that, they’re all going to have to suddenly start thinking alike.

“For b), not everybody has to agree, and I’m not saying “the world owes us a living” – I’m saying the world has abundant resources, so no one needs to starve, especially if we are willing to intelligently redesign how we share the world.”

Do you write speeches for politicians? That’s about on the same level of clarity and meaning as “I know you join me in rejoicing in living in the greatest, most prosperous country in the world. I hope you will join me to change it.”

“Intelligently redesigning how we share the world” sounds wonderful until you think about the logistics. Exactly who gets to sign off on the redesign for the world?

susanc's avatar

From fireside: it is a moral imperative to assist those less fortunate than yourself if you can do so without sacrificing your own well-being and comfort.

I don’t get where people get the idea that their comfort or even
well-being are utterly and completely primary. I really, really don’t. I’m stunned.

Siren's avatar

I think it displays a particular courage, humility and kindness to end the suffering of others even at the cost of likewise suffering.

@NaturalMineralWater: You are my hero.

fireside's avatar

@susanc – It’s the same as when you get on an airplane and they tell you to put your own air mask on first in the event of an emergency. You have to be able to take care of yourself before being able to take care of others.

Just as in Maslow’s hierarchy you have to have the base needs covered before you can handle social issues. Jumping down into a pit to toss someone a rope isn’t going to help them any more than it will allow you to help others.

Zaku's avatar

@Sorceren – There’s a huge range between not being able to listen to each other and “they’re all going to have to suddenly start thinking alike”.

Sorceren's avatar

@Zaku — true, but there’s a vast difference between capitalist pigs and commies, too. And the very same divisive GroupThink pervades the people who yell those things as pervades Washington — and it’s steadily permeating America.

You do write speeches, don’t you?! :)

It’s actually a question for its own thread but I’ll ask it again anyway: “Intelligently redesigning how we share the world” sounds wonderful until you think about the logistics: Who would do that, whose paradigms would be forever destroyed, and who, exactly, gets to sign off on the redesign?

Zaku's avatar

@Sorceren – I think that really is a separate question. Nonetheless, I’m thinking of it more like this: Paradigms (culture, economics, laws, all sorts of ideas that shape human behavior) are always very complex and constantly changing. The topic and my response aren’t about which groups rule, which profit and which suffer. (Ack, I need to leave and stop writing now.)
No I don’t write speeches for politicians.

laureth's avatar

@Sorceren – It does sound like the world must not have been Intelligently Designed to begin with, eh?

Sorceren's avatar

@laureth — <snickering appreciatively> That’s how I see it — either the world or human nature!

Your sense of humor, your thoughtful conciseness put me in mind of, and your avatar looks like a 30-year-old picture of, someone I admire very much. (Your last name wouldn’t by any chance end in “x”, would it?)

steve6's avatar

That dollar doesn’t bother you if you’re the one receiving it.

YARNLADY's avatar

No one has a moral or any other obligation to choose for anyone else.

laureth's avatar

I am not sure that we’re choosing for someone else in this case – merely providing food to someone else, should they choose to eat it to stay alive.

By the way, @Yarnlady – I adore your alias. I, too, am a yarn lady. :)

YARNLADY's avatar

thank you. My friends started calling me that because I was always asking for donations for the plastic canvas needlepoint gifts I make and donate to charity auctions and charity craft fairs.

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