LOVE, MORALS and THE WORLD’S CRISES
I love to love. But I also love to hate. I love to get jealous. Love to judge and love to excuse the most horrid acts as the product of “human nature”. Killing a child is detested, but killing the child’s murderer is accepted. In fact, I’d greatly enjoy doing it myself, no matter who the child was. I can imaging the intoxicating satisfaction this justifiable revenge murder would bring. On a less morbid note, snapping at a child can be brushed off as just an adult being tired. The emotions the child feels in that moment, being the object of the unjustified disrespect, are considered insignificant, that is, if the adult even bothers to remember that those emotions take place. Snapping at a boss is considered to be akin to some grave sin. Of course, job equals livelihood while child equals expenses, responsibility and the burden that comes with it. But if the question “What’s more important: a child or a job?” is posed, somehow the more compelling answer is “A child, of course”.
Can humans live up to the moral standards that they themselves created? If it is believed by some, that the world will be a better place if people constantly strive to reach those said standards, should we blindly trust this opinion? Or should we, perhaps, concentrate more on whom this responsibility lies?
Concrete example: this essay is written in 2021, the year when the famous billionaire Jeff Bezos flies to the space with fellow privileged passengers. I do not know much about this, the only other thing I’ve read about it is that one of the other passengers is my peer, Dutch guy whose rich dad bought the ticket to this life-changing (or so they say) experience. Anyway, the whole affair took up a lot of online space, part of which was in the form of a song “Jeff Bezos” by Bo Burnham. Some might say that’s the only good thing that came out of this situation. But back to my point: on the one hand we have a super-rich guy who finances his journey to space; on the other hand we have multiple humanitarian crises ongoing. I’ll take the suffering people in Yemen as the example, purely because the calls for donations through the ads on YouTube are engraved in my mind at this point. Now lets list out the arguments in defense of these two opinions: J. Bezos should’ve used his wealth for the greater good, which I will conveniently encapsulate in the word “donation”, although it is only due to my lack of knowledge and space in this particular essay, otherwise, I am sure money, being the powerful tool that it is, especially in the amount needed for a trip to outer space, could be used in other ways to help alleviate, for example, crisis in Yemen. The other opinion is: nobody has the right, both legal and moral, to decide the ways rich people should spend their money, unless it has the potential of harming others.
So, to put what I’ve just written in simpler words: first opinion condemns J. Bezos’s decision, and the second opinion is neutral. Now, argument for the first opinion: “with great power comes great responsibility”. Presuming that the “great power” cannot be earned solely by one person without any kind of cooperation from others, the bearer of this power then, naturally, has the responsibility to repay the debt to, as we like to say symbolically so much, “society”. But what does it mean in practice? Who gets to decide the way it should be done? Can even the reasonable, rational guidelines be made at all? Sure, we can say: “You’ve got more money you’ll ever be able to spend, so go buy food, build hospitals and send aid to hungry, exhausted innocent people in Yemen”. Some might say that it wouldn’t solve that specific problem anyway, as the nature of Yemeni crisis runs deeper and the people’s suffering is just the symptom, but not the cause. I do agree with that, but I would like to state this: saying it is just a pathetic attempt to avoid taking a helpful action. Let’s imagine that with the money J. Bezos poured in his dream, he could’ve made lives of thousands of suffering people better for a day. Just for a day, a five year old with bloated stomach and sunken cheeks could be treated in the hospital, receiving all the medical help she so desperately needs as the mentioned ads in YouTube tell us. For a day, her mother could have three full meals, knowing that her child, if not saved, can have her pains numbed resting in the white hospital bed. But I doubt J. Bezos saw this ad. They are shown for ordinary people, who generally awkwardly skip them to watch some vlog and forget about it seconds later. So, it would help just for a day, compared to flying to space. Do you think it’s worth giving up experiencing zero gravity? I have no doubt it is. In fact, when I think this way and then think of J. Bezos’s face, it becomes oh so detestable. How dare he turn his back on the world’s pains? How dare he live his dreams while some children will never get to live even the boring life of an office clerk? Like this, J. Bezos slowly seizes to be just another fellow human being to me and becomes the symbol of his wealth, or rather of what he decides to do with it.
Now let’s take a look at the argument in favour of the second, far less passionate opinion: J. Bezos’s wealth is in his possession and so is the decision over spending it. Let’s scale it down to something that’s easier to imagine: say that you have twelve euros. You see your favourite overpriced cake and decide to buy a slice after your shift, which is going to cost you ten euros. But while at work, they say someone among your co-workers has a birthday that week, so they ask each of you to chip in ten euro. Fast forward to the end of the shift, you’ve got no cake, and two remaining euros are, but an annoying reminder of the present for someone you don’t know, which will most likely be mediocre anyway. Now, you could save yourself the disappointment if you just said you didn’t have cash on you. And you’d get that cake. I realise that this argument is flawed, as any one of such kind, but I hope it helped to get a little more perspective on what’s being discussed. So why should society have the right to pressure someone to spend their money in a certain way just because they have it? True, the ridiculous amount like that doesn’t make sense to be kept for yourself except to entertain one’s ego, but the ownership of it still belongs to one person and so the decision over spending it has no reason to be collective. Unless it does. What if we stopped with never-ending philosophical debates? What if we just created an international law, where a certain threshold would be named and whoever reaches and goes over it automatically has a chunk of their wealth become part of some sort of non-profit organization’s budget? Of course, it’s not going to be perfect. But people are often much more forgiving of the imperfections that have the potential to be beneficial to them and when it’s not the case they make a fuss. Calm down. I will take the liberty of saying we should not care to pay attention to this fuss and brush it off. If we can ignore child’s emotions (as in the example in the introduction), ignoring emotions of a man-child should be just as easy and far less wrong. The problem is, such ideas are always stalled by ruminating discussions, by sneering remarks of how “unrealistic” or “idealistic” they are and the burden of moral responsibility is continuously being placed on the “society”, that turns out to be an average Joe. Yes, Jo doesn’t need to survive on diluted sugar in water all day, but he likely has a loan to pay off from going to university which was taken out in believe it’d make finding a job easier if he had a degree, but soon enough was proven to be a white lie. Joe also has a car, which he needs, but the maintenance of it takes its place in the budget. He also may try to create a family. The thing is, among all this hustle and bustle of his privileged life, hardly any capacity, moral, emotional and financial, is left to make any significant change in poor children’s lives. And yet, he still donates sometimes. And, in part, it is thanks to those average Joes that the crisis is a little less horrifying. But imagine what difference could be made if it was Jeff instead of Joe.
Lastly, I believe we as a human race have come to the point in history that could be compared to lower middle class in my own home country — Ukraine. Majority of people there can be defined as a (roughly) middle class — the wretched stagnating condition when they have just enough means to get by and not to be anxious to get more in fear of going hungry and cold, but simultaneously they are afraid to lose whatever comfort they already have if they try to reach a higher status as it requires certain sacrifices. Same thing with modern societies: it all seems to work. Sure, there are problems, but while they are contained in those several “problematic” parts of the world, the rest won’t bother to take any radical action to change it.