I was about to post this week on the subject of Mr Philip Green and pension fund deficits when my e-mail pinged that Mr Money Moustache had posted a new entry in his blog. I’ll admit I’ve not been reading MMM as much as I used to – and he doesn’t post as much as he used to either these days – but I surfed over to see what he was on about.
I do assume that most people who read my blog have a familiarity with Mr Money Moustache as a guru of the FIRE movement, but this week he was focusing on giving money away as opposed to saving or investing it, and it’s quite a substantial amount of giveaway too. As part of his “abundance” philosophy, he’s giving 100k to various charities as a facet of trying to practice what he preaches. As a thinking “dude”, however, he has selected the most “effective” charities to receive a slice of his money (demonstrably, some charities are a LOT much more effective at spending the money than others).
Personally, I still think that I’d find giving this amount of money to charity as hard to do, even if my blog was coining in the $400k that MMM states that his is. I watched the Peter Singer video on TED that he’d posted and, I don’t know, I kind of thought I should have been more moved and motivated than I was at the end of it. I get the arguments, but somehow it leaves me a bit cold. I “understand” that the walking past a child dying in the street is no different, morally, from sitting here in the Costa Coffee shop where I’m writing this, knowing that 19,000 kids will die today around the world, albeit unseen and unheard of by me. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who couldn’t give a toss about this situation, but then again, what can I point to as evidence against it?
I’m a bit more affected by the Gates’ Foundation slogan that “All Lives Have Equal Value”, which pushes you to acknowledge that the fathers and mothers of those 19,000 kids will today feel the same grief over losing their child as those of us in the cushy West would if we lost ours. If I force myself to think about that, and the fact that I could do something to possibly alleviate some of that pain, shouldn’t I take some action?
I tell myself that I don’t give to Oxfam and the like because it’s hopeless or ineffective or because I suspect my cash will go to pay for their layers of white collar management. What’s the point of encouraging this, and what am I trying to prove anyway? I have my own financial commitments to my own family, surely that’s primary? I can’t “afford” to be charitable and anyway, I donate so much in tax I feel that my government should put their shoulder to the “international misery” wheel. I know this is a fairly ridiculous position that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, but generally I do believe that it’s the “root cause” of the misery that needs to be tackled, not the symptoms. The corrupt leaders, the squandering of the donations, the bandwagon of International Aid and so on. I might be right on this, but the same questions arise: if I think such things are an outrage and shouldn’t be going on, what am I doing to change any of it?
These are near philosophical questions, and they’re psychological questions too. I watch Peter Singer lecture us and wonder what he’s getting out of it? Is he just “holier than thou” on an epic scale? Why just he doesn’t get on with giving his money away, if that’s what he wants to do? Why broadcast it to the world? When he puts up the picture of a young, healthy man who has donated one of his kidneys so that he can save some lives, my first thought is that this young man just isn’t thinking straight. What point is this youth trying to make, and why? I find it difficult to take at face value as a selfless act of altruism. “My arse”, is my initial response to that, followed by, “He’s getting something out if it for himself”. I don’t know what that is, exactly (actually, I don’t even know if it’s true!) but I can’t help but ask the question. That’s the utter cynic in me, clearly, but I’m sorry, I can’t help that.
I posted a comment along these lines on the MMM site, where I concluded that perhaps the most important point of Mr Singer (and of MMM telling us about the cash he’s giving away) was that maybe it will inspire others to do likewise. I’m not about to immediately sit down and start writing cheques myself, but I’m going to read Singer’s book and try to give some thought as to what might “float my boat” in terms of helping others. It might come to nothing, but that’s okay, I’ll be no worse off than I am today if that’s the case. But maybe, if I find inspiration through putting some thought and action into the subject, some other less fortunate people might find themselves slightly better off as a result.
And what would be in it for me, I hear you ask? I’ve no idea, I suppose, unless and until I try it. Plus it may be more fulfilling than just ranting cynically into the blogosphere about “Sir” Philip Green.