Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Interesting - read it all here.

John Derbyshire: "I have not, in fact, sent anything to the tsunami victims. I don't say this with any satisfaction, though I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either. Some numbers of my tax dollars are there in Uncle Sam's package. That'll have to do. It's not that I'm uncharitable. I don't think I come up to the old Wesleyan standard of 'Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can,' no more in the first two clauses than the last, but I write a check now and again. This past few weeks I've sent 50 bucks to the Marine Corps League and $200 to a building appeal by my church. I've diverted one small income stream to a medical charity in memory of a friend who died last month. It's not much, but from a modest lower-middle-class income, it's not nothing.

So why haven't I given to the tsunami funds? Because I haven't been sufficiently moved to. Why not? What claim do the Marine Corps League, the Episcopal Church, and the Lahey Clinic have on my meager charitable impulses that the suffering people of south Asia don't have?

The short answer is that the south Asians are too distant and too foreign. The way human beings are made, we give up most of our interpersonal emotions to our families and friends. What little is left we spread among people, or causes, with whom we feel some natural sympathy. Most of those are going to be close at hand: our church, our political party, our school funds and youth groups, our associations of common interest. Obviously Thai storekeepers and Sri Lankan peasants don't fall into any of those groups."

I find that I agree with Mr. Derbyshire on this point. Assuming all the money promised by world goverments makes it to South Asia, I'd prefer to support local charities and keep my money in the area.

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