Brief Summary of Peter Singer’s The Singer Solution to World Poverty. Presented the thesis statement on how does the selling of a child to organ dealers is as morally wrong as buying a new TV set. Three reasons were provided to serve as a response to the thesis statement.
First Reason: People give higher priority to luxury. Spending are higher for luxuries than on basic needs. Money spent on luxuries equates to spending on trash. It focuses more on the self and loses the concept of the ‘others.’ The excess spending that human allot to luxuries should instead be donated to charity so that money should serve a higher purpose.
Second Reason: Charity is only done during face to face encounters. Charity is easier not to do when poverty is not experienced first-hand. It is human nature not to help strangers. Poverty, especially on other nation, is not relevant to the wealthier countries.
Third Reason: There is a double standard in viewing the act of charity. Quick formulation of judgments in criticizing other people’s ‘lack of help’ but disregarding his or her own lack of participation in charity. Turning a blind-eye when a real situation occurs where help is necessary. The concept of ‘fair-share’ results to a construed view of charity.
The gap between the wealthy and the poor has been widened due to the debate of whether or not it is a requirement to share rather than by mere generosity. Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher, argues that charity goes beyond an outreach program, it is a moral responsibility that everyone should participate to help the poor. He believes that people who have so much excess in life should do its duty as a human being to help those who are less fortunate. In his work entitled, The Singer Solution to World Poverty, he philosophized about the intentional ignorance of the people coming from affluent nations with regards to the issue of charity.
He then made a comparison between selling a child to organ dealers and buying a new TV set. The comparison that he established revolves within the same context of morality. If it is a grave act to sell a child to organ peddlers then so much the same when buying a new television. Singer pointed out that the people, particularly the Americans, spend so much on luxury.
He also stressed that people are only compelled to help when it is done in a face to face encounter. Lastly, people have the tendency to turn a blind-eye to those who are in need and judge other people’s lack of charity within a double standard context.People nowadays give a higher priority on luxury. A higher budget is often allotted to things such as cars, vacation trips, shopping spree, etc than the basic needs.
Singer gives focus on the United States and stated that, “the average family in the united states, spends almost one-third of its income on things that are no more necessary to them” (Webb 309). It can be seen that these luxuries, though not necessary, became part of a human’s lifestyle. However, what’s harmful is that the wants are much more demanding that the needs. It will become eventually a part of an ‘unnecessary necessity’ to human life.
So much focus on these things has a huge effect on people veering away from thinking of others. Singer further said that “so much of our income is spent on things not essential to the preservation of our lives and health” (Webb 309). If these luxuries cannot even contribute to the well-being of our own selves, how much more to others? It gives the notion that these wants posed a certain kind of self-centeredness that charity together with the concept of ‘others’ is a mere shadow. Singer view spending on luxuries is just like spending on trash.
For him, the money vested on these things should serve a higher purpose, such as saving a child’s life. “If we value the life of a child more than going to fancy restaurants, the next time we dine out we will know that we could have done something better with our money” (Webb 313).Children are being valued so much in America with the amount of laws implemented to protect their welfare. They are the mirror of everyone’s daughter and son.
By utilizing the money for children who are suffering outside the American border instead of throwing it around for ridiculously expensive holiday trips, it will be just logical and worthy to feed a hungry child.Feeding a hungry child only seems applicable when that child is in front of you. Doing charity is only extended during a face to face interaction. Beyond that, everyone stops caring.
“For one thing, to be able to consign a child to death when he is standing right in front of you takes a chilling kind of heartlessness; it is much easier to ignore an appeal for money to help children you will never meet” (Webb 309). Singer observed that the poverty of other children can mostly be seen on the news or can be read on the paper by typical families within wealthy nations. They tend to sympathize for the moment but when it is time for dinner, they instantly forget. An action can be done only if that poor child would be knocking on their doorstep.
The absence of a physical interaction makes the poor child a total stranger. From this aspect, “evolutionary psychologists tells us that human nature just isn’t’ sufficiently altruistic to make it plausible that many people will sacrifice so much for strangers. On the facts that human nature, they might be right, but they would be wrong to draw a moral conclusion from those facts” (Webb 313). This is the reason why Singer has stated that it is so difficult for people to donate to overseas charitable organizations.
Since there is no actual experience of poverty within these affluent nations, its citizens think that it is not relevant to their lives. It is easy to derive a conclusion or to feel compassionate if someone is seeing it from a third person point of view. Singer writes about how American viewers judged Dora on the Brazilian film, “there is a troubling incongruity in being so quick to condemn Dora for taking the child to the organ peddler while at the same time, not regarding the American consumer behavior as raising a serious moral issue” (Webb 310). They easily reacted because they were not in that situation.
If Dora is non-fictional, her experience will still be alien to the viewers. It is the same thing with the act of helping a ‘stranger,’ though one can know that someone is suffering, it does not provide an impact since that person is on the other side of the world.The easy judgments that people make result into a certain form of double standard when it comes to charity. People assume that there is always someone who donates regularly to these overseas aid agencies.
Richer people who can give a lot more than what others can offer. From this thought, people do not see a reason why they should bother to help when others can give more, “people are able but unwilling to donate” (Webb 311). On the contrary, the knowledge that not everyone is joining the charity bandwagon inhibits them to give more what they can give. The concept of ‘fair-share’ thus either delimits them or stops them to share the money to the foreign aid agencies.
Singer insists that it is always good to give more for the purpose of helping to save lives out of poverty. He said that “we know that the money we can give beyond that theoretical ”fair share” is still going to save lives that would otherwise be lost” (313). Another aspect of this double standards in the concept of charity is that the easy condemnation of Dora and Bob’s situation. As Singer have related, people can easily decipher the wrong actions committed by the two characters.
However, if those experiences are to be applied into an actual scenario, people turn a blind-eye. Singer said that “when it comes to praising or blaming people for what they do, we tend to use a standard that is relative to some conception of normal behavior” (Webb 312). People may argue that there will always be someone who is worse than what they do. It is hard to commit to the act of helping when one doesn’t see it from their own eyes.
Singer has just one aim of stressing that the horrid effects do not necessarily have to unfold in front of someone before donating to charity. Now, before buying a more technologically-advanced TV set, perhaps one should first consider if he or she would be alright with the idea of selling a child to the organ peddlers.
- Webb, Igor. Ideas across Time: Classic and Contemporary Readings for Composition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.