Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Frankl’s poignant memoir revealed the anguishing yet vital aspects of suffering. Suffering, in itself, is universal, yet also exclusive. What I mean by this is that everyone suffers, it is inevitable. Suffering, however, takes on a different form and demands a different ailment from person to person. Because suffering is unique in every person, it only makes sense that it plays a different role in people’s life.

Throughout time, suffering has obtained a dominant negative connotation. This makes sense because if one suffers, they are going through a lot of pain. The act of suffering is bad but the aftermath does not always have to be. As this differs from person to person, I believe that out of suffering can sprout personal growth. In order to live a happy life, people must learn how to deal with suffering since it is an essential part of life. Just as joys shape people, so does suffering. And many times, in moments of suffering people find themselves. This is because when suffering, many people are left or feel as if they are left with nothing. Thus, they must build themselves back up. The person who they are afterwards is usually not the person who they were before, and this is because after one has suffered, it is like they acquired glasses that show the world in another light. In the case of Gloucester, suffering allowing him to see beyond Edmund’s facade (ironically, he lost his vision) and was, thus, released from living in the lie that Edmund built. While he was left with pain for betraying Edgar, suffering allowed him to see the truth and soon led him in the arms of Edgar.

Persevering from suffering, however, is another story. I was very intrigued when reading how Frankl dealt with some of the hardships in the camps. I agree with Frankl that love can help one through suffering. Suffering, as I said before, can make the world seem desolate but love can fill an empty room. This is the case with Frankl when he talked to his wife in his head. Although she was not there, the love they shared for one another was present and this emotion combatted the ones produced by his suffering. Recently, I read a book titled Hideaway by Dean Koontz. While one of the characters, Regina, was in the captivity of a wicked serial killer in his dungeon like hideaway filled with corpses (I know, quite gruesome), she (ironically) escapes into her own mental hideaway that could not be more different than her captors’. Her hideaway, similar to Frankl’s, was filled with things she loves: her bedroom, the fragrant smell of roses, and more. While in her mental hideaway, not a single part of her was in reality. This allowed her to survive the moment. Thus, I think that in order to survive suffering, one must hold on to love. One way that love is important in moments of suffering is that it is a distractor. When Frankl was at the camp working in below freezing levels on a stomach that has been empty for countless months, the image of his wife takes him away from his suffering and transports him to a time marked with love. While love cannot help everyone when suffering, and sometimes even causes more pain, I think that love is a great escape from suffering.

Apathy Coexisting With Empathy

Empathy is great, relating to others people's issues and pain, becoming stronger, and broadening your perspective; All the cliches about suffering (not roasting). Empathy allows for people to contribute to a good cause, donate, become activists, and more.

But, within the majority of humans who are capable of feeling emotions, there is a very small percentage of those who don't possess empathy. I am referring to those with an antisocial personality disorder--sociopaths and psychopaths--which means that without empathy they don't have morals since right and wrong is based on the effects it has on people. Like if I steal that money is that bad? I don't know since I don't feel bad for the person the money belongs to. Or you do have a loose standard of morals but I'll still steal and it won't affect me.

Apathetic people won't feel or care about the suffering of people or animals. Is that bad? Because they don't feel emotions like the vast majority does. And does humankind look down on apathetic people. I mean in all of history people with mental health problems are isolated, rejected, and deemed inferior because they are different or because people are scared and rashly judge and label them malicious, dangerous, and IMMORAL.

Yes serial killers are all psychopaths but not all psychopaths are serial killers. I guess how I'm trying to relate apathy, empathy, and suffering to Peter Singer together is that not everyone has the means to be an animal activist, charitable, giving aid, volunteering, and doing good.

And it goes farther than the extremes of having an antisocial personality disorder: People with other mental health issues like depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia. People who have a low income, abusive environments, and many more life inhibiting problems. Some people don't have the time and resources to debate questions like this but those who do can make a huge difference and provide much needed aid globally.

Anyways we all live together and some can make a difference, help, change their lifestyle, have a sustainable and environmentally friendly life while others manage to live their lives with their own life inhibiting issues. And it doesn't mean one is better or worse than the other. If you think that well I'm sorry that some privileges aren't attainable for others as they are for you and you can't damn see that.

And this is not to say that people who do face frequent life hindering problems can't make a difference.
I am not sure how I feel about the Singer article, but as this is supposed to be a reflection, I'll try to put my thoughts out here. On one hand I do agree with Singer in that a solution to the dilemma needs to be found, but I don't think his approach to solving it is a good idea. He seems to get caught up on the small details, and keeps going back to the idea of the 200$. I think it was the 200$ that really stuck out to me as strange. It was an estimate for a small scale donation, yet he continued to use that in figures on a much grander scale, and he is vague on what that 200$ means. Is that just for necessary vaccinations? Will that include food, clean water, clothes, protection from harm, etc? It seems unlikely that that small an amount of money would fix anything, let alone world poverty. 

And equating human life to 200$ is really iffy in the first place. Just because you save a child from one problem doesn't mean you have saved them from all, and I think the idea of expressing an individual person as just a number dumbs down the issue and takes away from solving it in the first place. Throwing money into a charity by guilt tripping people and claiming that they will have to give up a large portion of their income in order to be a decent human being is like trying to fix a burst pipe by convincing people to buy Dixie cups to catch the water. We need to replace the pipe, so to speak, or at least whip out the duct tape. I am not an expert on this by any means, and I really don't know how to help a developing country or fix poverty, but I think that the way to fix it really isn't going to be in small scale donations, but in promoting education and industry. To do that, I agree that we need to do something big, like he kind of gets at near the end, but he tries to make it too personal. He seems to get the idea that the phrase "it affects everyone" means that everybody has to take it into their own hands individually, rather than working together. I think that my main problem was the way he kept using semantics to make it seem like it was the reader's fault, when I think he should have been calling for change at a higher level, something greater than just donating money.

How do we deal with Suffering?

When we think of suffering we instantly think of something bad. We all want to be happy and the thought of suffering itself makes us angry. However, suffering is not only inevitable but it is something that must happen to you at some point in your life. We are incomplete without it. There's an old saying that says, "Without ugly there can't be any beauty". That applies directly to suffering. Without bad there can't be any good, without good there can't be any bad. Without suffering there can't be happiness, without happiness there can't be suffering. There is obviously a line that must be eventually drawn to determine whether or not your suffering will be helpful at some point in your life. The Holocaust was an event full of suffering and absolutely nothing good came out of it. When I use the word 'suffering' I am referring to our own individual struggles such as being sad, depressed, lonely, etc. 

An example of suffering is from the movie "Inside Out." The main character of the movie is Riley. Riley is a 12 year old girl who is generally happy until she moves to San Francisco from Minnesota. She misses her old life and it starts to make her sad and she distances herself from her parents. All these emotions cause Riley to suffer. Suffering drives her to the point where she attempts to take a bus back to Minnesota. This doesn't work out and when she confronts her parents, she cries, because she is suffering. Seeing this, I thought her suffering would only get worse, but eventually Riley became happy again and adjusted to her new life in San Francisco. Her suffering was necessary in order for her to be happy again. We all need some level of suffering to appreciate our happiness. 

The Failure of Singer

Peter Singer is not human. Now wait, that isn't an insult, it's simply the driving force behind his argument in Animal Liberation and his ridiculous essay on giving. You wouldn't call your cat cat, you wouldn't say, Tiger is cat. No, you would say Tiger is a cat and in that same way Peter Singer is a human, but still not human. He is human only in the way that human is a species of animal not in the fact that is a core part of his self.

Why is this distinction important? Because it reveals the true flaw in his argument on giving. Peter Singer said in Animal Liberation that we all need to stop eating meat because animals are on the same moral plane as us. But wait, have you ever seen a bear eat a piece of fruit instead of a grub because it wanted to alleviate the suffering of said grub? Or have you seen a horse care for another dying horse? No, you haven't. Why is that? Because humans are the only species that gives to those of their species in need. And why is that? Because they are on a higher moral plane.

At this point we have reached an impasse between Singer's two arguments. One is that human and animals are on the same moral plane and the other is that humans need to give more because their moral plane dictates it. These don't mesh. Either we need to be able to freely hoard our money spending it only on vegetarian delicacies or we need to be able to eat meat while giving all we can. Either we are better than animals because we give and can feel justified in eating them or we should accept our lower place among them, creatures that don't give, and eat only plants. 

Singer forgets that a philosopher such as himself needs to make sure his theories mesh and in this case they clearly don't. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to solve world hunger

In his article about poverty, Singer suggests that everyone who has more than what they need to survive should donate all of that extra money they have. However, a never-ending donation loop will form as those who were middle class gave up everything extra and became poor like those they were donating to. And the people who were poor will become middle class with all of that extra cash they received from former middle class. Long story short, those who have more than what they need to survive should not give up everything extra, they should only give a proportionate amount.

If a set amount of money can be calculated so that every single person had that much money, no more, no less, then the world would be at an equilibrium, with no separation of classes, and no poverty. However, as soon as one person gets a dollar, and one person looses a dollar, it's anarchy. The equilibrium could be set off by a penny. Not to mention how boring it would be if everyone had the same amount of money.

So no matter how Singer puts it, there is no way his proposal would solve any problems. If everyone donated the proper amount to just survive, then there would be imbalance in the opposite direction, or an equilibrium that could never be maintained and could only destroy the economy. 

Instead, an amount of money should be calculated for one person to survive on for one day. Then everyone with more than that amount has to donate enough to fill that gap for others depending on how far they exceed that number. For example, if the calculated number was 5, and Fred had 2, Donna had 7, and Amber had 9, Donna would donate 1 to Fred and Amber would donate 2. They would then have 5, 6, and 7. Fred would have enough to live off of, and they would all be closer in wealth. If this proposal were to be carried out, there would be a lot smaller wealth gap, and people in poverty would have enough to live off of and pick themselves up from. Everyone would have a better opportunity to diminish the wealth gap even more, without reaching an artificial equilibrium.

Why Leaving The Decision Up to Humans is a Bad Idea

Peter Singer's article, "The Singer Solution to World Poverty", in the New York Times was beautifully written, taking a moral stand against the the uncharitableness of affluent humans. Except uncharitableness is, well, human. Giving to those in need whose circumstances are ordinary is simply not human. Most people pass by the homeless person begging on the street because he is ordinary. As people become used to the sight of homeless people, their sympathy for them wanes.

Humans are victims of probability neglect. We don't give proper weight to world crises that affect the most people. Instead, we focus on the crises that are in the public eye. People are more afraid of terrorist attacks than car crashes partly because terrorist attacks are publicized more. The same goes for charity giving. People give more money to endangered species such as the panda because these species have more of a public following. Public following, however, does not translate to the specie's relevance to sustaining a healthy environment.

Finally, as crises fade into the past, people forget about them even as the people affected by those crises are usually still in desperate circumstances. After Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, Americans demonstrated their charitable side with an impressive number of donations. Of course, these acts of giving were spurred by the news reports of Puerto Rico's crisis and the unordinary nature of the disaster. After news coverage passed by, donations diminished. Now few people are donating to Puerto Rican relief even though most Puerto Ricans still lack working electricity and other basic needs.

Instead of Singer's attempt to guilt trip the readers of the New York Times, most of whom will quickly forget his article, humankind should approach charity giving from a different perspective: forcing people to do it. This practice isn't unheard of; in fact, it's engrained in our society. We tax people, and we should redistribute a greater portion of that tax-generated wealth to humanitarian aid. Simple. This approach is so much more effective because it transcends the nuisance of human nature. Government entities can better assess the crises that need the most aid than the average person, no matter how adamant that person might be in her philanthropic abilities. Government agencies are also less prone to forget issues that have passed in the news cycle. So, Puerto Ricans can continue getting the aid they deserve even though their problems are not currently in the public eye.

So instead of concerning yourself over how you'll spend your next dollar, let the government do it for you by taking a little percentage of that dollar and giving it to those who need it most. It's time for some big government to come back into our lives.


Long story short, my parents grounded me this past Wednesday. I am not allowed out, and I don't have my phone or the car for quite awhile. Some of you may have just gasped or shook your head, as you have experienced a similar type of "cruel" punishment from your parents. Yes..I appreciate the empathetic thoughts because at first I was DEVASTATED as well… then I read Frankl's memoir Thursday night.

"Perhaps it can be understood, then, that even the strongest of us was longing for the time when he would have fairly good food again, not for the sake of good food itself, but for the sake of knowing that the sub-human existence, which had made us unable to think of anything other than food, would at last cease" (Frankl, 43).

While this was not his intention, I read this excerpt from Frankl's memoir and ended up feeling frustrated with myself for being so upset by my minute problems. The guilt I had with myself was overwhelming.

It is undeniable that people in our community suffer great grievances. However, I feel we believe little petty grievances commends suffering. Many of us can get caught living in our own bubble, especially in Oak Park and River Forest; we have a roof over our heads, and attend a well known school. I believe we get held up by small annoyances, because we are more or less used to suffering being in the form of smaller grievances. I honestly thought I was having a rough time without my phone, but in the grand scheme of life, that is not suffering at all. It is simply a disadvantage or little challenge in the road. However, due to our society and privilege, many think losing your phone, not getting enough likes on instagram, not dressing cute enough for school, etc. are all what seems like the end of the world.

While Frankl's memoir was intended to inform, I read this excerpt in a timely coincidence, and am now reflecting on how I reacted earlier. I believe many of us could use a daily reminder of the bigger picture of the way we live to keep from overreacting to minute problems.

Lear's Lesson

Throughout the play, the characters show a range of emotions. Lear, specifically, is characterized as the senile old man is who not to be taken seriously or respected. But, in his monologue in Act III Scene IV with Kent and the fool, I believe that Lear professes some of the more worthwhile sentiments in the entire play. If nothing else, he communicates the idea of empathy - an emotion that has yet to be expressed by any of the characters in King Lear.

Lear not only puts others above himself by insisting that Kent and the fool take shelter before him, but also begins to be truly empathetic when realizing what the lives of the less fortunate in his kingdom are like. Lear states, “Poor naked wretches, whereo’ver you are / That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, / How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, / Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you / From seasons such as these? Oh, I have ta’en / Too little care of this!” (III.iiii.28-24). Lear experiences the brutal forces of nature, really for the first time in this passage, and it is what causes him to feel for the homeless and realize he should have done more for the them as king, because now he knows what it feels like to be one of them.

For me, this monologue by Lear and this realization are one of the most important moments in the play so far. Suffering is a theme throughout the play, but it is not until this speech that Lear makes a concrete statement on how to begin to understand others’ suffering. Lear’s empathy here serves to show that he is still a coherent man worthy of respect, and that he is multidimensional enough to put himself in someone else’s shoes and try and understand how life is for them. Everyone experiences varying levels of suffering in their lives, as shown by the excerpt from Frankl’s book. And, one cannot truly know the magnitude of another’s suffering until they exercise some empathy and try and see the situation through their eyes That is what Lear does here for the first time, in a moment of clarity for both himself and the reader.

Why can't we just give it all up?

The Singer Solution to World Poverty, definitely makes me feel bad about myself and the lifestyle I live. I always have thought about how life would be different if I didn’t have all the things I did and now I know. If my parents wouldn’t have took the time to spend $1,000 or more on some tv then 5 or more children lives could be saved. Singer I believe does a really good job setting up his argument by showing how we are no different really then the people he describes in his examples. He really sends you on a guilt trip, which can make you aware of the problems associated with poverty or make upset that he is judging you for the life you live. However, we need to be judged and from those judgement we can learn something.

Do we need a big screen TV, a new car, technology, and to eat out all the time? No, we don’t, but I don’t think it’s that easy for people to just give it all up. If it were, I think the world would be in a much better place and be more economically equal if it were. People just don’t see the problem as being that simple and easy. For some, they don’t even realize the privilege that they have and others choose to say it’s their(people in poverty) problem or their fault for being in poverty. However, you can judge a book by its cover and the story is different for everyone. I would believe most people just fall into this never ending cycle of poverty. A child is born into poverty, is significantly disadvantaged in education and skills, struggles to get a job, so then they fell to escape the poverty cycle. I believe, if we all just gave up some of the privilege we have, the world would be so much more equal in all aspects. 

Now, I say this but do I actually follow it? Yes, but no. The world is such a competitive place and you can either eat or be eaten. I want to chose to eat, but I also want others to eat with me. I don’t want to feel like I need certain things to survive or fit into the norm, but I do. I still give back to those that are less fortunate by donating and volunteer. However, I feel like it isn’t enough and I could do more by giving up more like Singer suggest. Although, I feel this way I just can’t help but also feel I need things like a new phone or something. Why can’t humans just ever do the right thing?

The Singer Solution to the World

When I began to read "The Singer Solution to World Poverty", I had the initial reaction of kind of distancing myself from Singer and his ideas, but as I got further into the article, the more I was intrigued and the more that I began to see, accept, and analyse his reasoning. Although I believe that his comparison between choosing to not pull a lever to save a child at the expense of a prized possession and not giving at least 1/5 of your income to help those who are impoverished was a bit stretched, I understood the point that he was getting across through that use of hyperbole.

I think that donating to charities is important, but I think that there are also different ways to help others. While I understand Singer’s point when he said that a family only needs around $30,000 to take care of all necessities therefore, families should donate all of their other income, it is extremely unrealistic and improbable that it would ever happen. One thing that this statement kind of reminded me of is this comic that was in the New Yorker when I was little. My family likes to keep comics and put them on the fridge, and one that’s been on fridge probably as long as I can remember is a giant building that says ‘wants’ and a much smaller one next to it that says ‘needs’. It’s always served as a reminder to me that while treating myself every once in awhile, helping others and ignoring some wants for the benefit of others is necessary.

When I finished reading, I began to think about the reasons that Singer would make the article so extreme, and I came up with one that I believe is a good argument. I think that in some ways, the extremes, even if they are exaggerated a bit, are necessary to make people see both the profound issue and how everyone can truly make a difference. In AP Gov, we’re talking about political participation and how the U.S. has such a low participation rate, and I think these two relate, once more people start to get involved and knowledgeable, change will begin to show on a state and even national level.

Relating back to suffering and The Tragedy of King Lear, I agree with many people that have posted already that have said that suffering is too commonly referred to as a negative thing and that it should be analyses more carefully. In addition, I agree that suffering is relative and that no one can truly compare their suffering to that of another. Everyone reacts differently, and even if we remain as open minded and attentive as we can, suffering is something that I think is practically impossible to compare. I really enjoyed reading the excerpt of Frankl and the article about Singer and I think they opened my eyes.

Sing a Different Tune

Throughout reading Singer's evaluation of any one humans generosity manages to make those that give and those that don't really rethink generosity. In day to day activities we see ads on TV, the computer, or even signs made by those in need asking for money. However, when we see people giving money to those in need or to programs that will help aid those in need, we view these people as generous, kind hearted people.

On the contrary Singer argues that it's what you don't give that you should be conscious of. So that nice meal you bought with your friends over the weekend, instead could of been used to help save a kid's life. Although, Singers analysis is rather morbid and I think very critical it really gets one thinking about their everyday actions and their habits. It opens peoples eyes, and poses the question "Do I really need this?" or "Do I have to go out to dinner tonight?". However, I don't agree with Singer's opinions on how people don't give enough, and how he puts the burden of  not giving enough on those that give. I believe that every little bit donated to any program or individual in need is beneficial, and those that give should not have to deal with ridicule Singer provides in his evaluation.

A Solution to World Poverty - or a Continuation of the Status Quo?

Peter Singer's "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" was, to say the least, an interesting read for me. His provocative central claim is something I'm still thinking about now, and I know it'll be in the back of my mind for a while. Overall, the article made me consider my own ethics, and the way they can be improved. However, it ultimately led me to a deeper inquiry. My response to Singer would be, "To what extent is it the responsibility of an individual to remedy problems like world poverty?" If I donate all my money to saving children in poverty, am I not contributing to the deaths of, say, children with chronic illnesses? Where does my moral duty start, or end?

I found it interesting that in Singer's article, there was only one paragraph that focused on various governments, comparing the gross national product of certain countries. Additionally, he mentioned "wealthy" and "comfortably off" Americans, but neglected to write about those who are grossly rich - so much so that, in 2017, they could have ended extreme poverty seven times over.  By turning the vast majority of the attention onto the "average" person, what happens to the people and institutions that most directly contribute to world poverty? In this way, Singer's argument is worded most like many popular campaigns for 'saving the Earth.' It's too easy to tell people to recycle or turn off the lights when they leave a room while neglecting to recognize that the vast majority of pollution and exploitation is done by big businesses.

Yes, institutions are comprised of individuals. Additionally, I do not ask this question to absolve myself or anyone else of responsibility for world poverty. I understand that I'm complicit in these systems. I'm fortunate enough to not worry about if I'll have enough to eat every day, and I know that my lack of understanding of hunger from a personal standpoint has prevented me from donating as much money as I should to hunger relief organizations in my life. There is always room for self-improvement, and to exclude oneself from donating will achieve nothing, as Singer states. My purpose for writing this is to create more of a dialogue, and I'm always open to new interpretations. But for right now, I wonder how different this discussion of world poverty would be if the people with the most power could utilize both their financial and practical resources to end it, as well as the rest of us. Addressing this issue from an institutional standpoint may be a more effective solution.

Needs Vs. Wants

After reading Peter Singer's, Solution to World Poverty, I felt guilty. It was insane to see how ridiculous the scenarios he wrote about and how they apply to everyone in our society. While there are people like us who live in a wonderful town and are somewhat privileged, their are people around the world who do not get to experience the same lifestyle as us. Singer's argument really struck with me because he focused on the fact that the privileged people in our society need to be giving back to the community and helping the less fortunate rather than turning a blind eye to world hunger and poverty. While Singer's argument hit me with guilt, I believe that some of his argument is valid and the other part is incorrect.

In his article, Singer believes that people with excess money that are being spent on items that they do not necessarily need should instead be given to help end poverty and world hunger. I think that Singer is right in everybody should be giving money to various organizations in order to help end these problems in our country. If the privileged people in society continue to not realize the importance of donating to this cause, the world will experience and even greater economic and social gap. People will continue to be hungry, without a place to stay, and without the proper care to survive. If people continue to not donate and help solve these issues then more and more people will die each day because another family wanted to buy a lake house or a new car.

With all this being said, there are some points to Singer's argument that I do not agree with. While I believe that everybody should be giving a portion of their money to help end world hunger, I believe that people also have the right to spend some their money on things that they want because they have earned the right to do that. People have earned the right purchase that new car or buy that bigger TV because they worked hard for it. If people had to give all of their excess money to help these world issues, then people would not work as hard and care less about their job. I also believe that when people are giving their money to these issues, there money should be used in a way that gives them the most "bang for their buck". Their money should be spent in a way that helps the most amount of people possible.

While Singer's argument is convincing and fills you with guilt, you have to look at the whole picture. Yes, everybody should be giving some of their money to help end world hunger and poverty but it should not be all of their money. It is also very hard to make everybody give some of their money. Their will always be people who will not want to give any of their money away and it would be very hard to create some sort of law where you have to give money to these charities.

Solving World Poverty ?

In response to Peter Singer there seems as though there are two arguments. Which is based around but not limited down to the two factors of the ¨ Solution to World Poverty¨ in illustrated forms. The first is of a women who is given the opportunity to pocket one thousand dollars and all she has to do is persuade a homeless nine year old boy to an address she has been given. She does just and in return she delivers the boy gets the money and buys a television and settles down. In the end she decided to redeems herself by being prepared to bear considerable risk to save the boy. Then you have the second illustration of a man named Bob whom owned a Bugatti which he had not been able to insure but was his pride and joy. He knew that with the rising value market that he would always be able to sell it and live comfortably after retirement. One day after he was out for a drive he parks his car near the end of a rail road siding and goes for a walk up the track. Soon after he sees a train coming ahead and boy at a far that is in danger way. Now he could have thrown a switch that could have diverted the train but that means that his car would be destroyed. In the end he decided to save his car and the young boy lost his life.

Reflecting on this you have to take into consideration one of many questions arise as to what do we do when we witness another person suffering? I can not say that it is as simple as one reasoning verses another. When you think deeper into the situation the real question that would arise would be as to why do people decided to do the things that they do and the reasoning and process. For example when you take the man and the little boy, The situation could be looked upon one way most likely. Which would either be that he is completely selfish and only value material things over life. What he should have done was thrown the switch and saved that little boys life. Some point we have to come to the realization that people do what is in the best interest of themselves even if it means the taking of someone else life verse the woman whom decided to face whatever consequences might come with her recusing that little boy. 

I would say the over arching point is that as humans it is natural for us to judge others based on their decisions because though it might be a reflection of who they are it does not define who they are as a human being. I do not think the real question is how can we solve world poverty but when will be more open into helping those see a different way of thinking to possibility solve world poverty.

Westernized Inefficacy

I first read Peter Singer's philosophies during my sophomore year of high school; when I myself grew increasingly more confused as the semester of Philosophy went on. I read words I swore had to be from a completely different language and spoke about seemingly impossible concepts like identity after time travel, the morality of cloning, and obviously, sending off one's income to an unseen place in order to equalize global wealth disparity and protect human rights.

At the time, I heavily gravitated towards Singer's strictly Utilitarian outlook on the way our global society should be. He argues what is best for most is the correct moral option. In this case, sending off what money you have as extra is not only the "right" thing to do, it is the morally necessary thing to do.

Obviously, questions arose about the logistics behind the donating ideology. How does one know when their money becomes want versus need? How do I go about choosing, if one option is more appropriate, but more expensive? Would that be indulging? Where is the line between keeping the material happiness while doing good for the world?

Well, as you might imagine the hesitence I had to ask questions in such a class as honors philosophy with Mr. Goldberg, I never spoke up about these what ifs. SO- having taken two years worth of personal online inquiry into Singer's philosophies, I have sort of come up with a take of my own.

His principal is one I agree with, that people (he points out many from Westernized areas) who have enough disposable income to indulge, should donate this income as it is a moral obligation for one human to help another human. Where my doctrine branches off is that each person with disposable income should be able to rationalize how much this means, and how much each person should donate individually.

An obvious, and probably detrimental problem arises with my take. If each person gets to individually decide HOW much of their disposable income to donate, many would just argue their indulgence is a necessity, and not a interchangeable desire, thus finding loopholes in order to donate a smaller amount. I fully respect indulgence when it is in moderation, and in control of the person doing so. The only way my take works is if each person with enough disposable income acts in two ways. One being, the person must hold themselves up to this moral obligation (thus agree with it), and two, they must also moderate their desires.

In a perfect world, sure, this is permissible with everyone. However, in a perfect world, there also wouldn't be socio-economic disparities and exploitation of human rights that need aid. So my philosophy is at a stand still in this sense.

My final point is that I entered my Philosophy class thinking cloning sentient beings and time travel were hypotheticals that I spent 48 minutes everyday debating over for no serious reason. However, cloning is an important technological development and time travel has been a debate forever, so Singer is not far off with his aspirations. No matter how radical his ideologies are, there is a new and strongly supported idea that only he has brought so much attention to.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Lean on Me

We tend to take on the burdens of those we love. Seeing someone you care about suffer can trigger a visceral emotional response, even if the source of the suffering couldn't be further removed from you. It seems only logical then to help out whenever one can, even if it means putting yourself in a similarly painful position. Enduring the pain yourself is manageable. You know how exactly how bad it feels and you can force yourself to cope, whereas watching a friend suffer creates a great feeling of hopelessness. We like being "in control" of the pain. Perhaps this willingness to suffer in place of a loved one is central to our humanity even.

This raises the obvious question, what about Frankl? Clearly he relied on his fellow prisoners for comfort, yet none were in any state to help each other. Rarely does any Holocaust story involve a selfless sharing of bread or bold assistance in an escape attempt. Quite frankly, doing so would be a death sentence. Instead Frankl and the others are forced to silently suffer together, unable to ease the burden of the man next to him in any tangible way. How does one stay sane in such conditions, forced to watch their compatriots go through endless turmoil? The cynical interpretation may be that the men simply "shut down" mentally or entered a sort of "survival mode", acting only towards the primal goal of self preservation. I'd hope there's something more to it then that.

It seems every Holocaust unit involves at least one well intended but ultimately naive rant about how "I just can't understand how such a horrible thing could've happened!" when there are in fact very definite reasons why, reasons the individual may be afraid to accept. I instead find myself grappling the question not of why 12 million were killed, but of how the remainder survived. The ending of Frankl's passage gave some small insight, specifically in the descriptions of prisoners calling out the beautiful scenery to one another. Watching the sun set while being worked to death provides no physical relief, yet it seems this may be a case of "it's the thought that counts". The simple act shows the prisoners that at least one among them cares enough to make some small effort at giving them momentary happiness. This leads back to my earlier statement about the desire to help the fellow man. I'd like to think that maybe we can help each other by simply showing one another that we care and that we're in this together, regardless of whether it truly changes the situation.  Perhaps this gives much needed confirmation that even when reduced to subhuman conditions, we are still more than animals. The desire to help one another in even the most insubstantial ways shows an inherent good in all of us.

Singers is Singing a Song of... Guilt?

Let's all face the facts: Singer really hit us with guilt. We all know we are so privileged and lucky to be living in such a wonderful place as Oak Park or River Forest, but reading Singer really reiterated this privilege by explaining that our luxuries should be dispersed to the people who really need it. Whether you completely side with Singer, or whether you completely don't, I personally believe that some of his argument is valid, while the other part is not.

Singer explains that those privileged enough should give back to the poor. I truly believe this is the case. For example, a non-forprofit organization may be giving families food and shelter, but this organization cannot do it alone. Instead, they are funded by outside resources that provide them the money and means to continue their mission. Without people's ability to give back to those in need, the world would see an even bigger economic and social gap than the one present today.

Yet, I don't completely understand Singer's logic in his argument. In order to progress as a society, we need money. Money fuels our research, our investments into start-up companies, and our ability to provide for others. For example, if we as privileged gave out all our extra money (i.e.: savings, investments, etc.), we would eventually run out of money for ourselves. Then, who would help who? Everyone would fall into the inability to sustain themselves. In addition, if people gave all their extra money to those in need, how would our progression as a society become affected by it? Who would pay for the research materials needed to advance into things such as medicine and technology?

While Singer makes a compelling argument, and his ethos radiates guilt, I think that it is important to fully consider the effects that Singer's argument ultimately entails for not only ourselves, but for society as a whole. I truly believe that there needs to be a healthy balance between providing for the progression of our society and our ability to give back to those in need.

What is Necessity

In The Singer Solution to World Poverty by Peter Singer, the author make the argument that any money not spent on necessities should be donated. While Singer's argument is compelling and guilt-inducing for those who have failed to see the irony of their so-called "values" and morals," I take issue with one specific word: necessity. Singer's argument contends that because there is a huge disparity between those living with a surplus of luxuries and those who cannot afford such basic amenities as clean water, those with "extra" should give until they cannot. However, what, exactly, is "necessity." In a county that is characterized by its excessive monetary focus and its reputation for self-absorption, how can a person identify what is need and what is want? Where do you draw the line between frivolous and required?

The primary example that comes to mind is mental health. In the past two years, 59 million Americans have sought some form of treatment for psychological health and invested over $200 billion in treating mental health conditions.  Psychiatric health does not make up one of the tiers necessary to life: food, shelter, water, or air. However, for the millions who are suffering from mental health conditions, the results of going without aid could be just as fatal. Would Singer say that Americans should forgo medication and treatment for mental health conditions? Would he argue that because many other communities don't have access to such a luxury, those who do have it shouldn't pursue it either?

Another example that comes to mind is education- whether it be the hefty price tag of private schools to the astronomical costs of preschool childcare. Again, education does not fall under the category of water, food, shelter, or air, but it is what ultimately propels innovation. Without education, society would stagnate. If a parent has the choice to send their child to a school with mediocre teachers and a poor curriculum but chooses instead to send them to the expensive academy with the Ph.D. professors and the brand new textbooks- are they being frivolous?

I do not personally know how I feel about these sentiments- I am indecisive as to whether Singer is implying that things such as mental health and education are indulgences, and I am even more indecisive as to whether I believe if it is true or not. I see arguments for both sides, but I wanted to play the devil's advocate and hear the opinions of my fellow peers on the subjective opinion of "necessity." 

The Animal Abuse Commercial

The Animal abuse commercials. We've all seen it. Its engrained in our minds. Even when said, I can hear the song "In The Arms Of An Angel." The commercial is easily classified as a guilt trip. But we can't help but pay the $10 and get the package with a t-shirt. In regards to Singers idea of giving, this is what you're supposed to do. You give and give until you can't give anymore. I don't really side with this. I feel like you should keep some money and resources to yourself. Yes, it is fantastic to give and to further the human race. But sometimes it is ok to be selfish. For example, if you see a homeless man, and you know you have to get gas money with the $20 that your mom gave you. You won't be giving that $20 to the homeless man. Yes, it may be bad and yes reading this may make you say, " wait a second...HE'S SO MEAN!" But realistically, I am right. And it's not just me that does this. I know many people that do, sometimes because they need gas money or money for food, or because they wish to keep their money to save. But in all reality, we do need to help each other out once and awhile. So next time the commercial comes on, I'm asking my mom for her wallet. Singer got to me.

Jeez Dude, ¨Thanks¨ for Killing Three Billion People Minus One

In Singer´s evaluation on the nature of charity and suffering, he manages, in few short pages, to both make us hate ourselves even more than we already do and discredit the value and appreciation of generosity in the modern world. In an attempt to be edgy or controversial, Singer presents to us an article that screams at us to donate more, while somehow managing to be completely devoid of the compassion, humanity, and appreciation that is the foundation of charity and giving.

Let´s say we are presented with impoverished child ¨x,¨ ¨y,¨ and ¨z¨ thousands of miles away from the ´comfy´ lives we live.  I could and donate $600 to ¨save¨ them all this instant, end of story. In the eyes of my peers, I would be a saint. I could donate $400 to save two of them or $200 dollars to save one and I would still be perceived as deservedly generous.

In Singer´s article, however, he seems to suggest that donating anything less than that $600, would be selfish (assuming it is a sum of money unnecessary to my own survival). From my eyes, when I donate $200 dollars, I am saving 1 child. Singer, however, would argue that by only donating $200, I am ¨killing¨ two children. This criticism is more absurd when you realize there are not just 3 but in fact 3 billion impoverished people in the world. Being shamed to the extent which your generosity is displayed like Singer berates us for completely undermines the compassion you are showing to give to the needy in the first place. Imagine how disheartened and underappreciated you would feel if, after making a $200 donation to UNICEF, you receive a snide, sarcastic letter in the mail saying something along the lines of:
Jeez dude, ¨thanks¨ for killing 3 billion people minus 1
Or after you generously place $10 in a donation box by the cash register at a 7-11...
Look at you Mr Generous, saving one-twentieth of a life when there are sixty billion twentieths of lives left to suffer.
Singer uses the hypothetical train and Bugatti situation, in one variation, to ask how much of an individual sacrifice would be justifiable for saving an impoverished child´s life (A finger? A hand? An entire arm? A life´s savings?). Whats to be said about my $200 being used to save child ¨x¨, ¨y¨, and ¨z¨ for 16 months each rather than saving any single one of them for 4 years? How do we compare days of lives to full lives like Singer compares sacrificing extremities for them? After all, The ways to divide up a $200 donation are endless. Is ¨saving¨ 1,460 people for one day more ¨valuable¨ then saving one life for 4 years? How about ¨saving¨ 35,040 people for 1 hour? This factor is ultimately left up to the procedure of the individual charity.

But wait, by Singer´s logic, do we now ridicule these generous charities for being judge, jury, and executioner with people´s life just like he seems to criticize Bob for choosing to save the Bugatti over the child? UNICEF is at the same hypothetical turnpike of the railroad as Bob, only this time, instead of a Bugatti on the other end, there stand 1,460 starved individuals a day´s worth of track away. Much like Bob choosing between the Bugatti and the boy, lives are still at stake pending the beholder´s decision. You may be thinking that the two situations are different because UNICEF has to kill someone while Bob doesn´t. But what if Bob had been planning to sell his 2.5 million dollar car to donate to charity. That is over 12,000 lives that could be saved, or alternatively one child. There isn´t a right choice when faced with this situation.

Even if Bob kills the child to keep the car for his own gain, I challenge Singer to look Bob in the eyes and give him the finger as he drops a dollar in a homeless man´s McDonald's cup the next day, or opts to add $2 to his CVS bill to provide antibiotics for 5 kids in Africa. The point is, there are a bunch of absurd hypothetical involving extent of generosity, selfishness, lives saving, and fragments of lives saving. My analysis intentionally and satirically, dives into many hypotheticals, much like Singer´s article seems to become lost in them. We can ridicule people for their choices when faced with impossible or implausible situations, or for not giving everything they can to help others, or we can all be thankful for their kindness and humanitarian intentions. And I don´t mean this in an uptight, ¨be happy that I´m giving anything at all¨ kind of way. I´m just here to point out the very nature which charity is built on, and something that Singer fails to mention at all in his article; the spirit of giving.

So Singer, maybe I go donate some money. Maybe it´s not a life saving, or maybe it´s not even $200, but when I do, you can sure as hell bet I will feel good about doing it. Helping someone in need and feeling good in doing so, absurd! How dare I feel proud for a commendable act of generosity. Maybe the best method to get people to do good isn´t by making them feel horrible about themselves. In the end reader, I just want to remind you that your charity is a light to your humanity and an agent of good, just in case you forgot that fact while being berated by Singer´s article like I had.

Good or Bad

     Everyone suffers in some way; unhappiness and suffering is inevitable. We all experience it some way, shape or form, whether it be form the smallest inconvenience to something that we think might end us. Now that we know we can't avoid, should we see it as a good or a bad thing? I am in no way saying that going through bad things is a good thing but maybe we can put it in a lighter light. Instead of viewing unfortunate events as terrible things that off put our mood we may be able to change that(of course grieve and feel our emotions) but also see how it may change us for the better for example making one stronger as a person or viewing things more openly in the future.
     Therefore, should we allow suffering which is inevitable to affect us as deeply as we let it. I don't think that is our best option, why not try to see the better in things before immediately allowing it to destroy us. We can use it to our benefit by learning things from it and becoming smarter and stronger.
     Like in Frankl's heart-wrenching story of the holocaust survival, he didn't allow the terrible things that happened to him bring him down on a daily basis, although it did affect him deeply, he used that time to become more in touch with himself and to get to know his surroundings.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Everyone suffers in life. Whether it is having divorced parents, getting dumped by your best friend, or having a mental illness- life is hard. And while there are definitely degrees of suffering, I believe that no one person's suffering is lesser than someone else's.

I would never compare Frankl's experience in Auschwitz to my struggle with an eating disorder, but I think both incidences are just as significant. As individuals, we are affected by things in completely different ways and something that seems trivial to me, can mean the end of the world to someone else.

Anyways, now that we know that suffering is inevitable- the question is what does suffering do to us? Does it make us stronger? Does it make us resent the world? How much suffering is too much? Is there such thing as too much suffering?

While there is no definitive answer to these questions, I think that they are important concepts to consider when discussing human suffering. From my experience, suffering makes us stronger. After having been in and out of hospitals for various mental illnesses, I know that I am capable of anything. While my past does not define me, it does demonstrate my strength and courage.

With that said, I do think that at some point, humans can break. When the suffering intensifies to the point where there is no end in sight, we do sometimes give up. I don't really know what parts of a human determine whether or not they will give up, but to some extent, I think you are born with strength. Frankl is one example of a strong individual. There were definitely more men and women like Frankl in the concentration camps, but there were also men and women who gave up and succumbed to their demise.

The concept of human struggling will never be "solved," but since suffering is seen all around us, I think that it is important to discuss.

Singer's Silly Solution

The response to "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" from an average reader:
I donate money to charity yearly!
What I do with my money has no affect on poverty on the other side of the world.
No one else gives all their "extra" money to charity, why should I?
How will I know if my money even gets to the planned target?
I deserve a new pair of shoes! I worked hard for my money!
But do the poor people in the world not work hard?
Do they not deserve as much as I do?
They are not inherently better or worse than me.
But how am I expected to give all my extra money away?
What even qualifies money as extra?
Is college extra?
Is law school extra?
Is spending money raising a child extra?
Does this mean I am a bad person?
But I deserve to use that money that I work hard to earn!
There is that word again.
Poor people don't deserve poverty.
But I deserve that new pair of shoes.
I should probably start to give more to charity.
If I can save a life, I am willing to pay that 200 dollars.
But I will not sacrifice my own quality of living.
Maybe I will give a little bit more away.
But I'm still going to buy that new pair of shoes. 

Good or Bad... Hard to Say.

Here's the thing; the idea that we can all label a situation as "good" or "bad" can often eliminate the curiosity and open mindedness we experience as we see things that come to us. Do you remember when we were young, and you would watch the world and not know any context, and you just didn't know what to think about it? All you knew is that people fought sometimes, but other times they hug and smile. What if we all saw that now, as adults who have known the bitter context of the world for awhile now? Maybe then we could retrieve some of our own humanity. As soon as we label things "good" or "bad", we forget all of the things in between.

I guess what I am trying to say is that suffering is part of the human condition and if we label it as "bad" we tend to not see all the good that comes from it. It makes us stronger when someone tells us no, or when someone says we are not proficient enough at something. Suffering is "good" and "bad", and so many other words that no one could possibly quantify!

That is why when we are faced with suffering, the best solution is to be impartial. The only way to find out how something effects us is to wait and give time for the results to set in.

Think about it this way: When a person faces adversity, in the short run they respond to it as something terrible and say they do not want to go through the obstacles necessary for true accomplishment. Eventually, people tend to look back on adversity as a teachable moment that has helped them overcome present and future impediments.

So why continue to label suffering as "bad" right away only to find out it has made you a better person? Seems to me that we all need to stop closing off our perspective in a repetitive process that only leads to more anger. Instead of saying "THIS SUCKS!" when you feel like things are not going your way, why don't you just say "good or bad... hard to say."

The Stories That I Live For

I have never been a huge fan of sitting down and reading a book. We all have to read books for our classes in school, but outside of school it seems that I lose the will to pick up a novel. It may be sad, but it is true. I can barely get through a book on my own without getting bored. Although, there is something different when it comes to reading a certain type of literature. In eighth grade, I had my first truly enriching reading experience. The novel we all read was Night by Elie Wiesel. I remember only being assigned a few chapters a night for homework, but all I wanted to do after I completed the assignment was dive deeper into the depths of the book. Non-fiction readings along with autobiographies always seem to have a strong hold on me. Truthful stories that are hard to relate to bring me to my senses and access my emotions. Ever since reading Night, my love for reading had once again diminished, until this past week. 

When we were all assigned Man's Search for Meaning, the first question that popped into my head was how many pages the reading was. Now, only a few days later, I look back at myself and a feeling of embarrassment washes over me. My love for reading had gotten so low that all I wanted to know was how long the assignment would take me, just so I could get it over with. Reflecting on this, I have learned a valuable lesson. Never take a single reading for granted because they all contain an important message. 

As I began to read Man's Search for Meaning, I was engaged instantly. I was first drawn in as Frankl described the suicidal thoughts that were looming in every prisoner's minds. According to Frankl, "There was little point in committing suicide, since, for the average inmate, life expectation, calculating objectively and counting all likely chances, was very poor,"(31). In this moment I was astonished. Frankl makes it obvious that committing suicide is pointless in the concentration camp, because they are probably going to die soon anyway. The thing that pulls me into this passage is how opposite my life is to his. I have never been in a position where everyday death is breathing on my neck. That feeling is unknown to me, and the unknown entices me into the text. Furthermore, another significant passage from the excerpt is an example of why texts such as these make me love reading. Frankl begins to describe a fellow prisoner who was having a horrible nightmare. Being a psychologist, Frankly wants to wake him from his dream because he knows that nightmares are terrifying to the mind. Although, Frankl pulled his hand away because " dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him,"(41). Personally, I could read this passage over and over and never be disinterested. The vividness of the imagery Frankl uses makes me feel as if I am there with him in that mud hut. I too, am watching the fellow prisoner as he is being terrorized by his nightmare. 

Clearly from this blog, it is obvious I am not a huge reader. I don't scrounge the library looking for a new book, or read a novel instead of watching TV. Although, readings such as Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning and Wiesel's Night are the one's I cannot put down. Reading these texts put you into a different world and make us reflect on our own lives. They teach us lessons, such as not to take ANYTHING for granted and that we do not know what we have until it is gone. These stories, are the ones that I live for. 

Becoming Bitter or Better from Suffering

Suffering is an inevitable part of life. It is how we chose to view our suffering that can change its meaning. Of course, in itself, suffering is certainly not good. However, it can be turned into a good deed, a moral value, by the way a person perseveres through it. Therefore, suffering has AND can have meaning if it changes someone for the better. However, there are a good number of people out there who view suffering as nothing more than a burden. Many people will not choose to find meaning to it, making their suffering senseless instead of making sense of suffering.

To suffer is to show that we are human beings and that we all go through some amount of suffering in our life. What distinguishes ourselves from others is how we deal with it. Although no one can truly understand your own suffering, we can rely on ourselves to help cope with it by finding purpose in it. How we choose to deal with our suffering can play a significant role in how we deal with future experiences. We can either become bitter or better from our suffering.

Suffering offers perspective. While we cannot fully comprehend others suffering, we can empathize with them and support them. With a positive perspective on suffering we don't only help ourselves but others as well.

A big factor in recognizing how to deal with our suffering is to realize that the solution is internal rather than external. Sure, relying on external things to deal with suffering may ease the pain for a while, but when it comes down to it, those external things are only temporary. To find meaning in your own suffering isn't develops over time, I believe. You can't expect to experience suffering and immediately know how to deal with it. It's all about growing and how that growing can be a positive impact for you.

Through suffering people can become stronger but not all suffering can be beneficial.

an obvious comparison

Probably the most obvious comparison to the Frankl excerpt would be Elie Wiesel's night as they both deal with the horrors and atrocities of the holocaust. Both pieces also discuss the the emotional response to such a horrifying reality. When reading the excerpt from Frankl, I was struck by his experience of becoming apathetic as a way to deal with his reality. I connected this to a statement that a classmate made when I was reading Wiesel's Night in 8th grade. My classmate stated "I know that the holocaust was terrible, but why does it not seem that bad in night". This statement really stuck with me as at first I thought it was a kind of horrible thing to say about someone's experience during the holocaust, but know I think I understand it. In Night, the language used was very plain and not particularly emotional. But I think that was because like Frankl, Wiesel developed apathy to block out the horrors he was experiencing during the holocaust. I also believe that is what makes the book so disturbing, that not only would a group of people be systematically murdered by other people, but the people who were exposed to this became normalized to this kind of behavior, something truly disturbing about human nature.
One of the greatest abilities of human beings is our ability to adopt to vastly different situations and environments. But this is also our most wicked curse. As shown in Germany, and much of Europe during the second world war, the Jewish people were murdered in the millions. Many people who were not Jewish, but knew about what was going on chose to be apathetic towards the plight of the Jews and stand by as they suffered. The people who were interred in the concentration camps, as shown in both the Frankl piece and Wiesel's Night also became apathetic in response to their own suffering and those around them.  I am not blaming concentration camp survivors for losing empathy, I understand that was a way to survive a terrifying situation, but is still scary.: that people (on both sides) can lose empathy so easily.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Suffering for Others

While suffering is by no means a welcome or pleasant experience, to say the least, it is viewed as essential to being human. We all suffer at some point in our lives, though the degree to which we do is by no means the same. Some say that ignorance is bliss, but I believe that it is just close-minded and selfish. Even the most sheltered people cannot stay protected, in the majority of cases. The current order of the world demands suffering and pain be present in our daily lives, if not our own pain, we see the pain of others.

If nothing else, suffering allows for greater empathy, by suffering ourselves, we can more closely identify and feel for with others. While in most situations we cannot understand completely what someone else is going through, by having suffered at some point in our lives, we are a step closer to being able to be there for them.

One of the hardest comparisons I believe can be made is comparing one person's suffering to another's, because suffering is relative. Similar to many other situations, we believe our suffering is greater than our neighbors because humans are competitive creatures who want to be the best, even if being the best is really being the lowest. In order to make ourselves feel more justified in our pain we compare ourselves to others, even though we can in no way understand what they are going through.

Even if we think we are going through the same thing as someone, say you both have a beloved family member who has cancer, we still cannot compare our suffering to them because the same situation does not mean the same thing for every person. We do not know what goes on inside the heads of the people around us, we cannot be cocky enough to believe that we know how they are feeling.

I am not saying that we cannot try to understand people, we can be empathetic and supportive to those who are struggling. We cannot push them to think that their suffering is nothing or stupid, we have to be there for people, even if we do not understand. I think that if as a world we can become more empathetic and simply kind, then we will see change.

Friday, January 26, 2018

What makes us happy?

In his New York Times piece about charitable giving, Peter Singer argues that a person should donate everything that is not completely essential to their existence. If $200 can save the life of a struggling child overseas, then if you have the means, why not donate $1,000 and save the lives of five children? What is stopping tens of thousands of Americans from donating just $200 dollars to UNICEF or Oxfam America? This question has been rattling around in my head since Bernie read Singer's article to our class on Friday morning.

My first thought was that people want to be happy. Giving away $1,000 to charity means that you may not be able to spend as much money on the things that you identify as making you happy. This ideology, while perceivably selfish, is the reason that many Americans choose not to donate even if they have the means to. And to be completely honest, it makes sense. If you do a hard week's work, you will probably want to spend your paycheck on something that will benefit you personally and bring you at least some level of happiness: an expensive dinner, a new pair of shoes, a luxury car, etc. This ideology seemed reasonable enough, but then I thought about a psychological theory called "The Hedonic Treadmill."

The Hedonic Treadmill is basically the idea that we get more satisfaction and pleasure from the anticipation of buying a new material item than we do from actually having it. For example, if you were to save up and buy a new pair of sunglasses that you've been wanting for months, when you actually make the purchase, the satisfaction gained from having them is short-lived and possibly disappointing when compared to the anticipation of the purchase itself. We then attempt to negate this disappointment by selecting a new item of desire only for the cycle to continue, hence the treadmill analogy. 

So this raises the question: How much happiness can we really get from spending that hard-earned paycheck on a fancy new pair of shoes?

The answer to this question can be found in numerous studies following the correlation between charitable giving and happiness. These studies show that the more you give, the happier you are and the more fulfilled you feel. MRI technology shows that donating to charity actually causes similar brain activity as eating chocolate or having sex. With this in mind, giving that $200 is actually mutually beneficial both for you and the starving child overseas.

So the next time you go to spend an excessive amount of money on something that you really don't need, ask yourself: Do I want to be happy?