Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Life You Can Save... if you care to try

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer changed my life. And that was by design.

My best friend, the common catalyst for most of my moral-lifestyle-shifts, gave me her copy of The Life You Can Save in December. I read through it quickly, often fighting back tears as Singer carefully lays out a solid case for giving to the world's poorest people. The commonly heard arguments against giving (like aid creates dependency and aid encourages poor people have more babies) are honestly and fairly addressed. Before I was half way through the book, one thing was entirely clear to me: my daily choices are unforgivably selfish.

The opportunity cost of my lifestyle, my spending choices, is a human life. Every dollar I spend in a restaurant, on faster internet, or for new clothes is a dollar spent with heartlessness, because I don't need any of those things. I live in a world where 10 million children die each year from poverty - and I am in a position to help. How can I justify what I spend to maintain my comfortable middle-class lifestyle when I could instead pay for oral rehydration therapy (some salt and sugar dissolved in water) and save one of the 3 million who die of diarrhea each year? What kind of a person am I if I have the ability to save someone's life, but choose to turn away?

This blog is an exploration of a consumer culture that tells us to define personal worth by accumulation of wealth rather than good deeds; institutions and religions that claims to serve the poor but whose actions say otherwise; the giving and spending habits of the mega-rich, celebrities, and politicians; and my own morality.

It is my hope that a thoughtful, public discussion of the issues surrounding poverty and the role of the wealthy (that's us) will encourage me to do more, and encourage others to join me.

-Selfish Blogger

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