global responsibility

I recently was assigned an article written by Peter Singer in which he presented the following point: those fortunate enough to have money beyond their own necessities should use all of  that money to help others. Singer compares spending money on luxury items to letting an underprivileged child die. He says that we all are presented with a choice: to pad our own lives with pleasure using our surplus money, or to save the lives of those in need.

I found the link between Singer’s point and globalization to be incredibly glaring. Globalization has clearly brought people closer together through faster communication and increased awareness of the globe as a whole. It  has also drawn attention to the fact that all countries are not on an even playing field. Often where we are born largely determines our quality of life. Those of us fortunate to be born into a richer country like America are privileged- we did not work towards or earn being born into the conditions we were. This raises an important question- as “privileged” members of an increasingly global society, is it our responsibility to give our non-essentials to those less fortunate?

As globalization intensifies and develops, we’re bound to become increasingly aware of global social issues. While some countries will reap the benefits of a more integrated world, countries lagging behind may find themselves ultimately worse off. With a heightened awareness of the global state, it will be more difficult to ignore the gap between our lives and luxuries and the struggles of third-world or undeveloped countries. Will further globalization rouse the conscious of people worldwide and bring about more charity towards needy countries? Or will we simply become more desensitized to the hardships of others? It seems as if globalization could bring about a more integrated world community (recently seen through movements like Occupy Wall Street spreading to other countries), or it could further widen the gap between rich and poor countries.

Personally, I can see the point that Singer is trying to make. However, very few people would be actually willing to donate the entire surplus of their income. A mass movement of this behavior would probably be necessary for it to catch on or be effective, which at this point in time seems unlikely. Also, while Singer presents the idea that people should donate– he doesn’t specify how or through what means. It is easy to sit back and brush off an idea like Singer’s because we live comfortable lives, and comfort is something difficult to give up. While in a perfect world people would share globally to reach some standard of equality, a compromise seems to have  the most potential to be a successful strategy at this point. Donating SOME surplus as opposed to ALL of it seems to sit better with Americans as a whole as a way of doing their part, while still aiding people in need of financial assistance.

Ultimately, globalization is bringing about a lot of important questions- and one of them concerns our level of responsibility in eliminating global inequality.

5 Responses to “global responsibility”

  1. Prof.Glaw Says:

    Giving up income raises the question of where do we derive our greatest satisfactions in life. Is is from stuff (goods & services) or is it relationships? Students who have studied abroad in developing countries have told me that one thing that has struck them is how happy people can be even though they have very little stuff.

    Of course, as you observe, the big question is how to get there. The answer is probably… one step at at time.

    Nice post! Thanks for making me think.

  2. Tim Owens Says:

    I would also argue that simply throwing money at larger issues of hunger and poverty typically does little to fix the underlying issues. There are plenty of corrupt organizations (and simply inefficient ones) that would happily take some, most, or all of your paycheck and pad their administration fees. In many cases fixing these bigger problems will take technology and innovation as well as strong political movements. I think it’s also difficult for people to know when money is appropriate (and to whom) and when something else is needed.

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  4. JoAnn Schrass Says:

    Tim makes a powerful point about knowing where your contributions are going. I think that is why the Students Helping Honduras is such a popular cause. Our students visit, become involved and there is a continuity of care with such a project. There are other organizations out there with responsible leadership and a history of the money trail where funds get to the needy without excessive overhead. I think that Doris Buffet is a great steward of her generosity. We can learn from our students and from Mrs. Buffet. This was a great, thought provoking piece. Keep thinking and posting.

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