Abril 22, 2008

Watering the Garden

A few things have come to my attention lately concerning... well, concerning "doing the right thing" as just an individual. In other words, what do us normal everypeople do about our part in the wrongs of the world?

A very interesting philosophy professor from Auburn U, Roderick Long, has written a very well-thought essay about this (sadly only in Microsoft Word format, I'm not sure why it's not just HTML). In it he writes about collective responsibility and whether one citizen, consumer, or whatnot is obligated to do something, anything, about big problems like global warming or war. I urge you to read your way through the whole carefully crafted argument, but he ends up with the conclusion that we don't all have to do everything, but it is all of our moral duty to do something about some things, and it's up to each of us to decided which things you will work on. In other words, you may disagree with me and choose to continue paying for war, and/or you may choose to continue driving a Hummer H2, but you have an obligation to be doing something about some collective ills that you're a part of. He also concludes that it is moral and right for governments to compel their citizens to do their part to right collective wrongs.

Just a few days after reading that my attention was drawn to a piece in the New York Times magazine along similar lines but with more specific conclusion by the well-known cooking and agriculture writer Michael Pollan entitled "Why Bother?", something that I understand was going around the blogosphere and forwarding circuit a lot yesterday, so maybe you've seen it already. If not, you should read it. A key side-point that he makes is, when did the idea of "virtue" become something to ridicule and look down on in our culture?

Also in the grey lady was a teaser for a little video conversation about morality and citizen responsibility, the complete version of which is at an interesting little site called Bloggingheads, in which experts and pundits face off against each other and we get to watch it in split-screen.

It's too early to say but could this be a new mini-fad? Maybe this is wishful thinking but what if, somehow, doing your own little part to save the world became some kind of fashionable? What am I thinking... I fear that only if there's a way to frame it in terms of self-interest and greed will selflessness and altruism ever become that "cool"...

Posted by steev at Abril 22, 2008 10:50 AM