Author Topic: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?  (Read 972 times)

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Offline Jag

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I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« on: June 03, 2013, 12:32:22 PM »
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the path of my life. Most of you are aware that I’m a college student in my 40’s, and that I have opinions about almost everything. What you may not realize is that I’m quite interested in your opinions as well. There’s a pool of knowledge here that I enjoy, and I’m after plumbing the depths of it for my own benefit. I admit freely that my hope is for this topic to help me make some decisions about my remaining working years, post-graduation (my aim is advocacy of some sort). With that in mind:

What is the role of America, as a world leader, in the lives of individuals in developing nations? How much responsibility do American individuals have versus the American government? What do we, as a country, owe the individual people of the rest of the world? Do we, in fact, owe them anything? Where does our individual consumer responsibility end? Am I obligated to lower my standard of living to direct those resources to people who were not fortunate enough to be born here? My lifestyle is far from extravagant, but still above that of a typical third-world resident – what should that mean to me?

I have several other topic ideas related to this that I’d like to discuss specifically with WWGHA members; this seems a good place to begin. Thoughts?

***I'm not sure that this is the best place for this topic, as I actually want to talk about social good apart from religion - mods, please relocate if this is not an acceptable place for this thread.
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Offline Nick

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2013, 01:37:11 PM »
There are lots of agencies that advocate for those around the world who have nothing.  Peace Corp is a good one.  I think the UN might be an avenue also.  They have lots of branches to help those who need it.  The US is in a strange place now.  We use to be seen as a good guy.  Now (with the help of FOX/Repubs) we are seen more as a greedy people who take care of ourselves and to hell with those not capable of helping themselves.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

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Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2013, 02:03:32 PM »
I agree that our reputation has suffered.  Do we, as citizens of an affluent country, owe something to those in developing countries? I'm not talking about disaster relief, I'm really thinking more about working conditions and aid in places with severe food shortages - and not so much the ones where the oppressive government is behind the problem (the local government, not ours). Those are political issues more than social ones, at least within the framework I'm talking about.

There have been several threads in the last few months that have touched on this issue and there seems to be some disagreement about what we "should" be doing and how we "should" treat the rest of the world. I'm after practical ideas more than philosophical debates that have no real application, although I expect a certain amount of that to occur if this topic takes off. This is something I can readily speak to on a personal level, but I'm very reluctant to try to apply that to anyone but myself.

For instance, I'm not entirely comfortable with "Feed my Starving Children" - this program feels like more of a band aid than a solution (although I do volunteer there and hope I'm not stepping on any toes with that observation). Are we actually helping or are we creating a false dependence by feeding people in countries that cannot produce or procure enough food for their citizens? Would education and access to birth control (let's sidestep the issue of culture for the moment) be more helpful by providing the means to limit the number of citizens that are born but very likely to die of starvation? I'm not suggesting a China-type population control measure and want that to be very clear. This is a serious question - I often think we spend too much money/resources fixing symptoms versus helping solve the real issues.
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Offline Nick

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2013, 02:30:35 PM »
Over population will be the death of us all.  But you have one hell of a fight with religion to suggest we try to control it.  More likely it will destroy us...but then Jesus is coming back...right!!!???
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

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Offline The Gawd

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2013, 09:11:23 PM »
I think we owe it to other countries not to exploit them and their workers.

Offline Traveler

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2013, 10:39:16 PM »
I like programs that help people help themselves. Purchasing a cow or goat or chicken, for instance, instead of just a bag of rice. Certainly birth control is also a good option, as well as education about such. I've heard of many countries where women are desperate for birth control, but can't get it, either because their husband is against it, or because its not available.

I believe that we have to get out of the bandaid solutions and into long term strategies to help communities to become sustainable. Dependency isn't good for any of us. But sharing, and education, and helping hands when needed is a very good thing for all.
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Online ParkingPlaces

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 12:10:56 AM »
Do we owe them anything? There are probably a lot of answers to that question. Personal opinion varies, and sadly, is more valued than actually useful responses.

Do we owe ourselves a simpler lifestyle so that our children have a fighting chance of surviving the environmental apocalypse we are creating? Yep. And if it helps others survive as well, that's a frickin' bonus.

But apparently what humans are best at is being selfish, and what we're worst at is giving a flying f**k about strangers. Neither of these traits bodes well for any sort of future, no matter which of us survive long enough to get there. It is typically egocentric of us to assume that since we drive SUV's and all the poor people in the world are stuck with riding donkeys that we will naturally be the ones that survive. And while our Magic 8-ball sometimes says "Signs point to yes", there is every possibility that the presumably carcinogenic filling inside said toy is biasing the answers.

Civilizations built on greed, and busy assuming that the suffering of others is irrelevant, cannot last another 100 years. We do not have the financial structure necessary to calmly watch Manhattan and other metropolitan areas drown amidst rising sea waters. We do not have the ability to prevent ourselves from creating super-bugs and unintentionally icky GMO's. We don't the the capacity to handle huge the calamity of fires racing through new drought regions or to live near oceans once all the fish are dead.

So the question is not the one asked by the OP. The question is this: What could we have done different long ago that might have allowed us to actually be human instead of this parody of a living, breathing being that most of us have become.The best most of us will do is die curious about how different it could have been had we all cared about important stuff.

Important Notice: Don't ever catch me in a bad mood again. It could get ugly.  &)
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2013, 07:59:09 AM »
Gawd, I agree. Is there anything that ordinary citizens can do to help stop those practices? I find myself at a loss on certain items, like clothing - is it better to buy clothing made in the US because odds are good that the working conditions are acceptable? Or is it better to buy imported clothing because it's providing jobs to people in developing nations? Not putting you on the spot, but very interested in opinions on this.

Traveler, me too! Heifer International and Kiva are my personal favorites, because they aim directly at the source of the problem. I love the idea of providing people with the means to help themselves, and truly believe that those programs are more useful. They work on at least two levels - providing practical assistance, and not treating the recipient like a charity, but instead like a capable person who just needs a little boost.

PP, I realize that this can be a very touchy subject. I can't spend any more energy being angry about it, I have to take action of some sort - that's just the way I am. I have kids and a granddaughter myself and of course I worry about the future they face. That's part of why I'm asking these questions. I'm not going to look backward and lament the things that "could have been" - I'm looking forward trying to find my direction. That I can't possibly fix it all isn't enough reason for me to not help fix what I can, no matter how small my contribution.
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Offline pianodwarf

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2013, 08:14:34 AM »
This is something I struggle with a lot myself.

A few of my big things are going to science fiction conventions and attending the performing arts... combined, I probably go to 10 to 15 such events every year, but I often feel uncomfortable about it because I don't feel like I should have the privilege of being able to enjoy "Riverdance" or something like that when half the population of the planet lives on less than three dollars a day, even though I do also make an effort, thru various charitable donations, to make the world a better place.

It's not terribly logical for me to feel this way, I know, and I don't like it when my logic fails me.  Unfortunately, biology places limits on my brain functions.  *wry chuckle*
[On how kangaroos could have gotten back to Australia after the flood]:  Don't kangaroos skip along the surface of the water? --Kenn

Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2013, 08:38:03 AM »
Pianodwarf, I hear ya. I catch myself sometimes getting a bit defensive about it too. The fact that I'm NOT a developing nation citizen is purely an accident of birth and not something I feel guilty about - I had literally nothing to do with it. That doesn't diminish my desire to help, but I didn't (knowingly) make this mess and I refuse to be blamed for it. Blaming is wasted time at this point anyway - it doesn't get us anywhere and becomes another way to avoid taking action.

I get really worked up about this because I hate feeling so helpless. I firmly believe these problems can be solved, and I understand that human behavior (PP's post addresses this well) is a huge barrier. I also believe that there are enough of us who do care to make a real difference.

Yes, I'm ridiculously naive, and the world is very pretty when seen through my rose-colored glasses. So what? Seeing the good in people is a choice, and I don't think I'm making that choice often enough.

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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2013, 04:37:39 PM »
Some random thoughts on the subject...

The US sends lots of money overseas to help those less fortunate but has a cow when people cross the border to come here and try to improve their standard of living.

The gap between the richest and the poorest people within the US is obscene.  If we prioritized the poor in our own country over those elsewhere would our country be stronger?  If we took better care of our own would we be a better nation? 

There has to be enough wealth out there to help them.  Why is it that most of the people who seem to want to help are not really the people who have the most?  (With some exceptions.)

This is very snarky but --  the starving people that I was preached at about when I was a kid managed to grow up and have starving kids of their own... there doesn't seem to be any less of them.

Corny but true -- If you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day.  If you teach a man to fish he'll eat for a lifetime. 
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 05:10:12 PM »
What is the role of America, as a world leader, in the lives of individuals in developing nations?
The present role is the role that it has always been:
1. "How can they benefit the USA?"
2. "Will it look good if the USA does XYZ?" If it is and it doesn't cost too much money, do it.

True story:

I and a Swedish diplomat were at a refugee camp in the 3rd world. A US diplomat on the same mission came in. He had agreed to take those who spoke English and had had an education. Those were the only one the US ever took. The Swede commented, "Don't you ever think of taking the ill, or old or those who are not skilled?"

The reply was, "Nope, we leave basket-cases for you Swedes, you like them."

(I've got plenty more stories like that one, the most recent being advice from a US official about how little you can spend on prisoners and not actually starve them or drive them mad.)

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How much responsibility do American individuals have versus the American government?
You cannot have responsibility without power. You do not have power. Once, for one day, every 4 years you get to vote. That's it... That is democracy.

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What do we, as a country, owe the individual people of the rest of the world? Do we, in fact, owe them anything?
No, you don't. If the USA disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, the world would continue. You don't need to think of yourselves as "a world leader." Think of yourself as a guest in the same house.

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One large problem is  Where does our individual consumer responsibility end?

Probably at your front door. If you don't look after yourself, you won't be in a position to look after anyone else.

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Am I obligated to lower my standard of living to direct those resources to people who were not fortunate enough to be born here?
Do they have any responsibility to you?

If I were a touchy sort of person, I would take great offence at "people who were not fortunate enough to be born here" This is a large problem that the USA has: It sees everything from the USA's point of view, and the difficulty with this is that nobody else does.

The USA has a reputation for applying USA-centric solutions to problems in different cultures. This is like my coming over with a box of metric bolts and trying to force you to use them to repair your car and then getting upset with you when you moan about all the threads being ruined.

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My lifestyle is far from extravagant, but still above that of a typical third-world resident – what should that mean to me?
It means that, relatively speaking, you're normal.

I hope this has not come out as anti-American, I am far from that. I am also far from delighted with my government and European governments. I have been too close to governments, and they are not at all fairy-godmothers.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Online jaimehlers

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2013, 05:24:05 PM »
Like it or not, if everything were shared fairly and equitably in the past, we'd still probably be hunter-gatherers, or basic farmers.  Civilization has prospered mainly because people take advantage of each other (yes, and periodically faltered, but that's part of the price of doing business).  That's how entropy-reversal works.  We're not going to be able to change that.

What we can change is how we react to that inescapable fact.  Selfishness is what lets people get ahead in the world...but there's a difference between being selfish for seflishness's sake, and being selfish in order to accomplish something meaningful.

Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2013, 05:48:35 PM »
Some random thoughts on the subject...

The US sends lots of money overseas to help those less fortunate but has a cow when people cross the border to come here and try to improve their standard of living.

The gap between the richest and the poorest people within the US is obscene. If we prioritized the poor in our own country over those elsewhere would our country be stronger?  If we took better care of our own would we be a better nation?

There has to be enough wealth out there to help them.  Why is it that most of the people who seem to want to help are not really the people who have the most?  (With some exceptions.)

This is very snarky but --  the starving people that I was preached at about when I was a kid managed to grow up and have starving kids of their own... there doesn't seem to be any less of them.

Corny but true -- If you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day.  If you teach a man to fish he'll eat for a lifetime.

All very good points, and I almost think the bolded part deserves it's own discussion. I often wonder if that approach isn't the better long term strategy. Then I pay 5 minutes of attention the the news and remember that we elected this Congress, so maybe expecting change from government is a bad idea.

As to your snarky bit, that's a big part of why I find this topic so troubling. What's being done in these situations (whether by the US or any other country) is not slowing the population growth at all so I question what exactly they are trying to accomplish? Just encouraging people to continue giving birth without simultaneously ensuring that those birthed have a decent shot at mere survival is ridiculous but seems to be the outcome of far too many government run interventions.

I caught a brief little bit yesterday on MPR about food production and how agriculture practices can be changed to be more efficient and less fossil fuel dependent. There are interesting things being worked on in Singapore utilizing a structure similar to a ferris wheel, of all things. See more on that here: http://www.theworld.org/2013/06/to-increase-local-food-production-crowded-singapore-goes-vertical/   I'll take my hope for the future where I can find it.
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Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2013, 06:41:25 PM »
What is the role of America, as a world leader, in the lives of individuals in developing nations?
The present role is the role that it has always been:
1. "How can they benefit the USA?"
2. "Will it look good if the USA does XYZ?" If it is and it doesn't cost too much money, do it.

True story:

I and a Swedish diplomat were at a refugee camp in the 3rd world. A US diplomat on the same mission came in. He had agreed to take those who spoke English and had had an education. Those were the only one the US ever took. The Swede commented, "Don't you ever think of taking the ill, or old or those who are not skilled?"

The reply was, "Nope, we leave basket-cases for you Swedes, you like them."

(I've got plenty more stories like that one, the most recent being advice from a US official about how little you can spend on prisoners and not actually starve them or drive them mad.)

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How much responsibility do American individuals have versus the American government?
You cannot have responsibility without power. You do not have power. Once, for one day, every 4 years you get to vote. That's it... That is democracy.

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What do we, as a country, owe the individual people of the rest of the world? Do we, in fact, owe them anything?
No, you don't. If the USA disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, the world would continue. You don't need to think of yourselves as "a world leader." Think of yourself as a guest in the same house.

Quote
One large problem is  Where does our individual consumer responsibility end?

Probably at your front door. If you don't look after yourself, you won't be in a position to look after anyone else.

Quote
Am I obligated to lower my standard of living to direct those resources to people who were not fortunate enough to be born here?
Do they have any responsibility to you?

If I were a touchy sort of person, I would take great offence at "people who were not fortunate enough to be born here" This is a large problem that the USA has: It sees everything from the USA's point of view, and the difficulty with this is that nobody else does.

The USA has a reputation for applying USA-centric solutions to problems in different cultures. This is like my coming over with a box of metric bolts and trying to force you to use them to repair your car and then getting upset with you when you moan about all the threads being ruined.

Quote
My lifestyle is far from extravagant, but still above that of a typical third-world resident – what should that mean to me?
It means that, relatively speaking, you're normal.

I hope this has not come out as anti-American, I am far from that. I am also far from delighted with my government and European governments. I have been too close to governments, and they are not at all fairy-godmothers.

Ugh, I am so uncomfortable with this truth. I'm so uncomfortable with so much of this post because it's so dead-on accurate and I feel like an ass in some respects. I'm as guilty as anyone of only sort of getting it, but I'm putting a lot of effort into being better. Smarter. Less absentmindedly arrogant. Less all of it. Thus, the post and the sincere questions. The rebukes sting a bit but are deserved whether I like it or not.

Graybeard, I have the utmost respect for you - you've repeatedly been insightful on every topic you choose to weigh in on and I do appreciate your input on this one as well. I don't take it personally personally, if that makes sense...

I can't stop being a product of my culture but I can learn to be a better citizen of the world. So what to do? Where best to direct the sincere desire to lend some assistance of a meaningful sort and a willingness to learn?

Back to the topic in general:

Several other threads recently, here and elsewhere, have involved ... suggestions Americans are spoiled. Well, duh. So what to do about it? I can take the accusation, but I'd like some practical suggestions about how changing my lifestyle helps someone else, elsewhere. Should I convince my boyfriend to sell his house? We certainly don't need this much space for two of us, and I'm moving back to an apartment in a couple of months for school. He REALLY doesn't need a five bedroom house - how many offices and storage rooms does one guy need? He has a man cave already too!

But how does that help someone else? The house is still here, it's just occupied by someone else now. In our area, he would have to build a new house in order to have one appropriately sized for one person to live in. And what about after I graduate and move back? Do we sell the new one and do it again? Scratch that....

I already drive a fuel efficient vehicle and plan to buy a flex fuel one next, assuming I can afford it when the current car dies. Should I be looking at a scooter instead? I mean, it snows kind of a lot where I live, should I move to a warmer part of the country too? This seems to be the end result of the general idea being hinted at. Useful, huh?

That's what I was hoping to start getting out of this topic - practical suggestions of what can be done, by whom, and on what scale. Input from people outside the US who can frame it differently. Input from people who have been on the front lines. Opinions from everybody who has one and can tell me why. What's working? What's a miserable failure? Where do I begin trying to sort it out and decide where to aim?

To a certain extent, you have few choices but to play the cards you are dealt, I get that. But I'd rather not be quite so fatalistic as to not bother asking how I can help.
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Offline Quesi

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2013, 06:51:38 PM »
Ok.  I have a lot to say on this subject, but I have had a really shitty week, and this evening, to be good to myself, I went out to dinner and had a couple of cocktails, and I am not at my most articulate.  But I am going to give it a shot. 

First of all, we need to recognize that there is a great interdependency between all life on earth.  Those of us who live in the US eat food which is grown and harvested in other parts of the world.  We wear cloths made out of cotton that was grown and harvested in other parts of the world.  We use electronics that are populated by metals that were mined in other parts of the world, and we drink soda and eat soup that comes in cans that was mined in other parts of the world.  We use products that are assembled in factories in other parts of the world. 

We are connected.

When the food that we eat is harvested by people whose ancestors worked a piece of land for generations, but who are now living in a semi-feudal system in which they pay rent to sleep in hammocks on their ancestral land, and after 14 hour work days do not earn enough to buy enough food to feed their children, there is something wrong.  When we become dependent on metals that are mined by children, there is something wrong.  When the people who assemble our clothes work in factories that are dangerous fire traps, and when they die in massive numbers, there is something wrong.

We all do it.  If we live in the first world, it is really pretty hard NOT to do it.  But there are a few things that we can do in the sort term.

First of all, talk about it.  Talk about the factory conditions in Bangladesh,[1] the semi-apartheid systems in Guatemala, [2] or the Democratic Republic of Congo[3].  Most people don't know.  It is not that they don't care.  They really don't know that their lifestyles are contributing to death and abuse.

Secondly, buy locally when you can, or buy fair trade when you can.  Not everything.  There are no fair trade cell phones, and if you live in Florida, the local tomatoes are picked by workers who face exploitation similar to that in the third world.  But it is a start.  And talk about it!!!!

Thirdly, support fair migration policies.  We are all interconnected.  Very often, the circumstances that displaced workers in another country were caused by policies surrounding products that you buy. 

Fourthly, if you are in a position to invest in a 401K or other mutual funds, look for a "socially conscious" or "socially responsible" option.  Most investment companies have them now.

Finally, when you hear about corporate abuses, take action.  Sign petitions.  Talk to your legislators.  Write letters to the corporations.  You are just scratching the surface, but it is a start. 

Oh.  And most importantly.  Talk to people.  Talk to the guys who wash dishes in your favorite restaurant.  Talk to the day laborers.  Talk to the exotic dancers and the street walkers and the homeless folks.  They all have stories.  Some of their stories started here in the US, but for many of them, their stories started overseas. 

And post videos on youtube and facebook and forums.  Make sure stories are told. 
 1. Where more than a thousand human beings died recently, making a few hours a day in horrible conditions, assembling our clothing
 2. where Mayan people are forced to work their ancestral land, which has been turned into  monoagricultural farms serving corporations, or are evicted from their ancestral lands to accommodate foreign mining operations
 3. where civil wars and foreign invasions and genocide have all taken place in order to mine coltan to inhabit our cell phones

Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2013, 07:01:12 PM »
Like it or not, if everything were shared fairly and equitably in the past, we'd still probably be hunter-gatherers, or basic farmers.  Civilization has prospered mainly because people take advantage of each other (yes, and periodically faltered, but that's part of the price of doing business).  That's how entropy-reversal works.  We're not going to be able to change that.
That's not what 'm talking about though. I'm not suggesting that everything needs some sort of mass redistribution. I don't think throwing money at everything is a good answer. All too often that's what government intervention looks like to me. It's going to be hard to quantify a goal but I'm speaking on broad strokes about social ... boosts? For instance I like Kiva (micro loans to individuals with a 99+% repayment rate) but they change one life at a time. Worth it, yes, but can it be duplicated? Can that model be recreated by other organizations with the same outcomes?

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What we can change is how we react to that inescapable fact.  Selfishness is what lets people get ahead in the world...but there's a difference between being selfish for seflishness's sake, and being selfish in order to accomplish something meaningful.

Agreed as well. I'm not quite so starry eyed as to think that if we all just try a little harder we can all have <fill in the blank> and life will be ducky. I do think that expecting reasonable working conditions for people, just because they happen to be human, is a worthwhile goal. I think a basic education and immunizations as appropriate to the environment is another good one. I also realize that in many parts of the world, these things would be huge leaps forward.

I'd like to think that there's some baseline beneath which we can all agree that no one should have to exist.
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Offline The Gawd

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2013, 10:06:47 PM »
@Jag

its something I struggle with too. I dont think either option you gave is the best option for the reasons you noted. I think vocal pressure/bad press along with boycotts are the route to go. Sadly there is nothing any individuals can do, and the general public either doesnt care, or are unaware and wouldnt care enough to do something about it... and I am probably in there somewhere.

I think if companies that do keep their jobs here OR pay a living wage abroad would blow the whistle on those companies that dont then we could make educated decisions on what we wear. Personally I hope for the living wage abroad option.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2013, 02:47:22 AM »
Like it or not, if everything were shared fairly and equitably in the past, we'd still probably be hunter-gatherers, or basic farmers.  Civilization has prospered mainly because people take advantage of each other (yes, and periodically faltered, but that's part of the price of doing business).  That's how entropy-reversal works.  We're not going to be able to change that.
That's not what 'm talking about though. I'm not suggesting that everything needs some sort of mass redistribution. I don't think throwing money at everything is a good answer. All too often that's what government intervention looks like to me. It's going to be hard to quantify a goal but I'm speaking on broad strokes about social ... boosts? For instance I like Kiva (micro loans to individuals with a 99+% repayment rate) but they change one life at a time. Worth it, yes, but can it be duplicated? Can that model be recreated by other organizations with the same outcomes?

Possibly snarky too....but once you have elevated one individual with a micro-loan, do they then not take on the same "share" of responsibility for their countrymen?  If we're working on the "if you have more, you have responsibility" then it has to work all the way down. [/snark]

I'm right-behind micro-loans, but I think that what is really going to help is a vastly increased focus on the long-term.  Which means building and funding and supplying schools and colleges so that vastly more can be educated.  It means building and funding hospitals and infrastructure....and (and this is the crucial bit) doing it without charging the country the earth for it, and without then demanding tolls and fees and whatnot for the next fifty years, because all that does is push the poor even further down, AND build resentment against "The West" for refusing them access to healthcare etc.  (And I realise that by going long-term, and looking at the next generation, it means effectively sacrificing the current geneeration).

Unfortunately, it all comes down to money.  Companies will do odd bits as PR, but is there any construction company who would build a hospital in Kenya (for example) at cost, and not expect any kind of revenue stream from it once its up and running?  Any drug companies who would supply a constant stream of medicines (again at cost)?

It also means cancelling loans - or at the very least dropping interest on all current loans to 0%.  And that will have a honking big knock-on effect on interest rates and shares and savings in the First World.  Are we as nations prepared to accept a halving of share prices in return for a few African countries having the chance to get out of debt?  I'm not sure there are enough people prepared to make that sacrifice.

I empathised with Pianodwarf - I spend stuff on my hobbies.  All unnecessaries that make me happy, but should I have given all that money to charity instead?  I give some, but ought I to give more?  Can we justify keeping any non-essential income when there are others in the world without enough food (and heck, in the UK we have tens of thousands reliant on food-banks at the moment, so I don't even have to leave the country to find a deserving case).

I guess everyone has to make their own decision as to where the right cut-off point is.
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Offline magicmiles

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2013, 03:22:01 AM »
I actually find the whole concept of money difficult to understand. Obviously I understand it on the most basic of levels, but damned if I understand how money is 'created', so to speak. Most of the exchanges these days are electronic, and from what I've been told there is no actual gold or other tangible commodity represented by a nations currency. So how does it work? Does money have value only because everyone just...agrees that it does?

These are probably dumb questions which I'd be better off googling, but what the hell. Be my google, would ya?
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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2013, 05:12:16 AM »
Does money have value only because everyone just...agrees that it does?

Basically, yes.  Money is, and pretty much always has been, a fiction based on the value in trade that people assign to it.  Part of the reason I quit my accountancy studies was because the more I learned, the more I discovered how much a fiction it all is.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2013, 06:32:33 AM »
I'm not quite so starry eyed as to think that if we all just try a little harder we can all have <fill in the blank> and life will be ducky. I do think that expecting reasonable working conditions for people, just because they happen to be human, is a worthwhile goal.
I suggest looking at the world from the point of view of time. Assume that the US is living in the present but that, say, China, is living in the early-mid 19th century, Sub-Saharan Africa is living in the 12th century, and Northern Europe (excluding UK and Ireland) is living in the 22nd century.

Here's a copy of "The People of the Abyss" by Jack London: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1688 It is a story of the conditions of the lowest classes 100 years ago - we've come a long way in that time but how we have reached that point is another matter and one that is not open to nations today.

You will see that the conditions that Bangladesh 'enjoys' are those of the 15th century. This is the evolution of society. You simply cannot alter their social and economic model by imposing something that the population has not the money to sustain. In Bangladesh, the garment industry accounts for the majority of their exports. If the conditions and wages were on a par with Western standards, they would not sell anything and would quickly revert to the early Iron Age.

Quote
I think a basic education
Have a look at the percentage of GDP spent on education by the West - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_spending_on_education_(%25_of_GDP) - now compare with that their GDP is. The 3rd world countries do not have the sort of money we do. Think what resources and finance it takes to have every child able to attend a school within walking distance (say 3 miles) of their home. What poor family in Africa can afford that and can afford to do without the labour of a 9 year old?

Quote
and immunizations as appropriate to the environment is another good one.
Someone above has pointed out that this creates a situation where people who were starving have children who starve. Look at the size of the family in the 19th century - 10 children of whom 3 survived was not uncommon. In the UK, it was only after WW2 that the size of the family went down to 2.5 children of whom 2.49 would survive.

Quote
I also realize that in many parts of the world, these things would be huge leaps forward.

It really is essential to see the whole picture, sure, you would feel better, but would it work? Are people in the West willing to see their standard of living drop to 19th century levels? That's what it would take.

Assume that tomorrow, everyone's standard of living were that of the average American - how long would the supplies of fuel, water and food last? Earth is a zero-sum game.

Quote
I'd like to think that there's some baseline beneath which we can all agree that no one should have to exist.

Yes, and that baseline is dictated by Nature and human nature, once you cross it, you're dead.

We in the West do not do too badly, but if we spent less (either because we decided to or because we bought less because it cost more) 3rd World economies would fail.

Here's a List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capitaWiki The average is $17,161p.a. which is about that of Russia. They are the people who get an average standard.

Here is a distribution map: look where the majority of the world population is. There is not enough money to go round.


Finally, to show how hard it is to do the correct thing, you said,

Quote
I already drive a fuel efficient vehicle and plan to buy a flex fuel one next, assuming I can afford it when the current car dies.

To be able to even think about buying a car - any car, even a clunker - you have to be in the top 10% of the world's richest people. To think of a "flex-fuel car, you have to be in the top 2%.

And you are thinking about a "flex-fuel"??? You do realise that they are more eco-unfriendly than an ordinary car? You do realise that the raw materials for the batteries are produced using (i) labour in primitive conditions (ii) in very short supply (iii) The batteries are reliant upon electricity produced by non-renewable resources? (iv) the ingredients of the batteries are very hard to dispose of (v) You burn fuel to make electricity: for every 100KwH of fuel burned, the best you can get is 42KwH of electricity. Of that 42%, only 40% is turned into real power, this gives you 17% of the energy used to create the electricity. In a modern diesel, it is nearer 30%.

And if you went by bus with 40 other people, your personal carbon-footprint would be miniscule. But, like me, you're not willing to do that.

To continue my depressing mood, "There's nothing anyone can do." We have to wait until the rest catch up. And, in the scheme of things, they won't, there will always be more people with less than people who are (in their minds) comfortable.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 06:36:43 AM by Graybeard »
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Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2013, 07:57:13 AM »
Thank everyone for depressing the hell outta me. Graybeard, I looked at the wiki link and understand the point you are making. Frankly the rest of your post is too damned depressing to talk about right now. And don't misunderstand me please, I really do appreciate your input, even when you are telling me things I really don't want to hear. I'll follow up on the book soon - July is the soonest I can fit it in.

I do know it's not a simple problem and believe it or not, I also know that I'm being very idealistic. I don't want to accept these answers. That doesn't mean I don't agree, I just dislike it. A lot. 

Possibly snarky too....but once you have elevated one individual with a micro-loan, do they then not take on the same "share" of responsibility for their countrymen?  If we're working on the "if you have more, you have responsibility" then it has to work all the way down. [/snark]

I honestly don't know. That's what I'm working my way through trying to reason out. I'm not even sure I really agree with the premise that having more obligates me to give more.

Quote
I'm right-behind micro-loans, but I think that what is really going to help is a vastly increased focus on the long-term.  Which means building and funding and supplying schools and colleges so that vastly more can be educated.  It means building and funding hospitals and infrastructure....and (and this is the crucial bit) doing it without charging the country the earth for it, and without then demanding tolls and fees and whatnot for the next fifty years, because all that does is push the poor even further down, AND build resentment against "The West" for refusing them access to healthcare etc.  (And I realise that by going long-term, and looking at the next generation, it means effectively sacrificing the current geneeration).

Heartless though it may be, the long view is the only one that makes sense. Look at what we did to our own economy when we decided to measure by the next quarter rather than the next 5 years.

Quote
Unfortunately, it all comes down to money.  Companies will do odd bits as PR, but is there any construction company who would build a hospital in Kenya (for example) at cost, and not expect any kind of revenue stream from it once its up and running?  Any drug companies who would supply a constant stream of medicines (again at cost)?

These things don't actually seem all that far fetched (oh look, there's that damned idealism again  ;)). Regarding the drug company - it's already happening, although I admit I only know of one instance. A former co-worker is employed to manage supply routes from Atlanta to remote locations in Africa. They're supplying drugs that kill a parasite that causes blindness and is utterly preventable with two doses of a drug that costs just under a dollar per dose. The manufacturer is providing the drugs at cost, the foundation raises the funds to pay cost and deliver. Often the challenge is what is referred to as "last mile" - this usually means that there is no way standard delivery practices can apply. I'm not joking when I say that my friend often arranges deliveries by donkey.

Quote
It also means cancelling loans - or at the very least dropping interest on all current loans to 0%.  And that will have a honking big knock-on effect on interest rates and shares and savings in the First World.  Are we as nations prepared to accept a halving of share prices in return for a few African countries having the chance to get out of debt?  I'm not sure there are enough people prepared to make that sacrifice.

I empathised with Pianodwarf - I spend stuff on my hobbies.  All unnecessaries that make me happy, but should I have given all that money to charity instead?  I give some, but ought I to give more?  Can we justify keeping any non-essential income when there are others in the world without enough food (and heck, in the UK we have tens of thousands reliant on food-banks at the moment, so I don't even have to leave the country to find a deserving case).

Agreed. Is the US making enough of a difference overseas to merit continuing as we are, or would we be better off long term by attending to the needs of our own citizens first? LoriPinkAngel brought this up, and it's a good question. Also helps to remember that my employment goal is likely advocacy of some sort. I'm also seriously looking at the Veteran's Administration - that whole organization is a horrifying mess.

Quote
I guess everyone has to make their own decision as to where the right cut-off point is.

Of course. If this isn't clear, I'm honestly looking for everyone's opinion on this, specifically here at WWGHA, because there's a lot of intelligent people here who can see things that I do not notice - Graybeard has demonstrated that twice already. I recognize that I'm hindered by being an American in some respects and that it influences how I see the world, not always in a positive way. I don't enjoy being reminded that I'm being ethnocentric and/or arrogant, but without being told, I probably won't realize it or I wouldn't have done it in the first place. So give me a verbal spanking if I have one coming, but don't hold back your opinions. Idealistic, yes, but not fragile.
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Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2013, 08:06:11 AM »
@Quesi - thank you for weighing in, regardless of your BAC level. Yours is a voice I was hoping to hear on this thread.

I do everything you suggested, although I also realize (thanks to your post) that there are more opportunities that I'm not taking advantage of and will step up my efforts to speak up.

I've been thinking about this in particular: Oh.  And most importantly.  Talk to people.  Talk to the guys who wash dishes in your favorite restaurant.  Talk to the day laborers.  Talk to the exotic dancers and the street walkers and the homeless folks.  They all have stories.  Some of their stories started here in the US, but for many of them, their stories started overseas.

And post videos on youtube and facebook and forums.  Make sure stories are told. 


Make sure stories are told. THAT, I can do.
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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2013, 01:51:50 PM »
Talk to them...

That is one thing I have always done.  I once had a job where I walked to work through a not so nice section of town.  As a badass Army veteran in a perpetually bad mood I was not afraid to do this.  One day a well known obnoxious homeless character asked me if I had a light.  Being a suspicious sort I responded by asking him if he had his own cigarette.  This resulted in a very loud tongue lashing and me being called an "arrogant Caucasian brat."  Oops.  Well, for some reason he didn't give up on me we ended up having many more pleasant and interesting conversations.  He met me on the way to work and back many days and walked me partway.  One day I had a box full of homemade treats I was bringing to work for someone's birthday.  I gave him one as I would give any acquaintance - without a second thought.  But his reaction threw me a curve.  He was so thrilled.  It was as if no one ever gave him anything.  And I realized probably no one did.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2013, 03:32:27 AM »
One day I had a box full of homemade treats I was bringing to work for someone's birthday.  I gave him one as I would give any acquaintance - without a second thought.  But his reaction threw me a curve.  He was so thrilled.  It was as if no one ever gave him anything.  And I realized probably no one did.

Ther's a homeless guy that I see now and then - his name's Dave.  A couple months ago, he mentioned his birthdate, and I made a note and then couple weeks ago gave him a card (with money in it - I thought I couldn't give a homless guy a bit of cardboard).  But when I saw him after his birthday, he was over the moon, and showed me the two other cards he'd got (from a lady, and a hand-drawn one from her son).  I know he appreciated the cash, but I think the cards themselves meant more.

In other news.....after reading this thread, I went to The Humanist Schools Trust and donated enough for a scholarship for a child.
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Offline Jag

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #26 on: June 06, 2013, 08:01:22 AM »
^^^Thank you Anfauglir! I followed the link and read up on them - I can't manage a full scholarship right now, but if I spread it over a couple of months I can fund one completely.

Graybeard - I'm moving at the end of summer (for school) to a college town with lots of bus lines, unlike where I am now. I hope to get at least two more years out of my current car (a 14 y.o. Saturn - ya just can't kill 'em!), which should be manageable with better public transportation options. There's nothing available to me where I live right now - we're about 40 miles from either Twin Cities downtown. We have to drive halfway in to catch a train or a bus so we generally only use them to avoid parking hassles at events. Not at all opposed to using public transport, it's just very limited in Minnesota. One of the best things about visiting Washington DC was taking the trains everywhere. Thank you for pointing out that a flex-fuel vehicle is not as  good a choice as I thought. I wouldn't buy anything without researching it first, so I'll have to hope for improved technology by the time I'm ready to buy, or look at other options.
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Online ParkingPlaces

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2013, 02:02:31 AM »
The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the problem is this: The world is full of a bunch of nice people who, if left unhassled, would get along with each other fine. But then the world has a**holes, some of which want all the money, some of which want all the guns and some of which want all the power. It is important to said a**holes to keep things messed up, out of balance, f**ked in general and chaotic in order to create the conditions necessary for their accumulation of guns/money/power. These bad guys create more bad guys because some of us who are left in the dust start taking desperate measures. Toss in a few idiots for good measure and poof, the world is a wreck. Economically, socially, environmentally, etc.

Case in point: capitalism. Ostensibly providing for a larger percentage of the population and building value more than any other alternative, it is squished into an unrecognizable monetary morass by those participants who think it is a "winner take all" contest instead of a way to share the wealth. The obnoxious and the selfish march themselves into positions of economic power and manhandle every penny out there for personal gain. Which doesn't do the rest of us a whit of good.

All of which depresses the trampled masses. And makes the problem worse. Both because we're too sad to do anything about it and because we're helpless anyway.

On top of that, we Americans are better at pretending that we have all the answers than all the other countries combined, so hey, of course we're proud. Our denial is bigger than your denial.

We humans evolved with cooperative talents. And we evolved some mucked up version of the survival of the fittest meme. Those two properties are not compatible. Success is contra-indicated.

On the other hand, at least all the calamity gives us something to read about on the Internet besides kittens. So it's not all bad.



Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline The Gawd

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Re: I got mine, must I provide yours as well?
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2013, 07:15:02 AM »
@PP - Ive said it before capitalism is a HUGE problem, but one that I just dont know how to fix. It GUARANTEES a segment of the population will be poor.