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On “Save the Darfur Puppy”

In Nicholas Kristof’s "Save the Darfur Puppy," he writes of recent studies that might explain why good people aren’t moved by genocide. "Time and again, we’ve seen that the human conscience just isn’t pricked by mass suffering, while an individual child (or puppy) in distress causes our hearts to flutter."

Here’s my comment (and you should check out all the comments):

Americans’ respect and compassion for individuals over groups is also ever-present in our relationship with animals. That one pig who falls off a truck on the way to slaughter, or the one cow who escaped, finds allies in people calling for their capture and release to a sanctuary. Then those same people eat different cows and pigs for dinner: ones whose eyes and whose terror they haven’t personally witnessed. Over ten billion animals are slaughtered in the US just for food, and we have no biological necessity to eat their flesh and blood. People close their eyes to that, as well. (Meanwhile the solution to it doesn’t involve spending any more money.)

I’d also add that because the texts of our religions are full of stories of mass slaughter that appears to have a rationale (the name of God or the desire for land and its resources), we are indoctrinated–early on–that there always has been mass slaughter (and we might conclude that there always will be). I don’t find genocide that baffling, as the human capacity for greed and evil seems boundless.

Finally, as a philanthropist, I educate myself on each issue of interest, where my money is going, how much of my donation goes to the cause and how much goes to administration and fundraising, and how the organization measures success. Unfortunately, most people are never educated on strategies for giving, and they end up making impulsive decisions based on emotion rather than wise decisions based on the realities of the nonprofit world.

Looking into the eyes of a child–or a hawk or a puppy–and then writing a check is not bad, but it will undoubtedly result in other causes suffering because they lacked the requisite personal emotional connection we humans seem to need in order to act.

Check out Kristof’s piece, as well as the study he sourced from, and think about where you stand.

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