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An ethical quandary

Let me preface this by saying I am deeply saddened by what has happened in Victoria.  That what happened there is a tragedy, to my mind, indisputable.

But it does raise some interesting questions about… well, about a lot of things.  Tonight, though, I’m mainly concerned with donations to help the victims.

What are we donating to?

We have enough federal money and facilities to cover the medical expenses of those wounded, so it follows then that all the fund will be given to help people rebuild.

So, essentially, we are giving people stuff.

Now stuff is great, I like stuff.  It’s sad that people lost their stuff.  I’d be sad if I lost my stuff.

But 45,000 people die every WEEK around the world from preventable water diseases.  And 90% of them are children.

In 2008, 5 MILLION children died from malnutrition.  5 million.

So why-oh-why are we giving so much money to replace stuff when we could be giving money to save lives.

Oh, I’m not saying don’t help.  In fact, I signed up today to give blood.  Saving lives is really important.

Saving lives is really important.

There’s a really uncomfortable moment in the West Wing, about season 4, when Will Bailey has just started at the White House, so early on, he still is on contract.  The President walks in to his office to discuss the upcoming State of the Union address.  A humanitarian crisis has broken out in the fictional African nation of Equatorial Kuhndu.  10,000 are dead already, and the number likely to rise.  Sending US troops in would cost several hundred US lives.  Bartlett and Bailey have the following exchange:

“Why is a Kuhndunese life worth less to me than an American life?”- Bartlett

“I don’t know, Sir, but it is.”- Bailey

Please, allow me to ask: why is an Australian life worth more to us than an African life, or an Indian life, or an Haitian life?

Or, more to the point, why is STUFF for Australians worth more to us than the lives of people across the globe?

No matter whether we give or not, these people will not starve.  They will have health care.  Many will have insurance covering their homes, and those who don’t will be able to rent.  Some- a few- will probably be in a terrible financial situation.  But there will be government assistance, and they will still have far more than most.

Meanwhile, people are dying in Africa and South Asia because they don’t have food.

If the loss of 131 lives (at the moment) is tragic, why aren’t why doing something to prevent the loss of thirty times that today alone from preventable water diseases.  Do you know how much it costs to give someone access to fresh, clean drinking water for 20 years?  $20.

So please, today, donate to Charity: Water.  Because, as sad as today has been, other thing equally sad are continuing, and, unlike these fires, you actually have the chance to do something about it.  You can actually save a life.

One thought on “An ethical quandary

  1. Exactly the reason why my regular giving is to organisations that provide help to the poorest of the poor.

    When crisis situations develop, I have no problem per se with people giving out of their compassion. I rather encourage it. However, it’s somewhat embarrassing that the amounts raised usually dwarf the contributions to global concerns that may affect far more people over a much longer timeframe. That’s not to diminish the horror of any single event, but to highlight ongoing problems that mutely scream for attention to their plight.

    I think things like the Victorian bushfires are just so close to home for Australians that people are moved to compassion for places that are familiar and for people they they know.

    Often the crisis donors are those who already give to other causes and are just moved to give on top of their ordinary donations. Not sure if that pattern is likely to change.

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