In the article “TheSinger Solution to World Poverty,” utilitarianphilosopher Peter Singer adopts a remedy to the disparity of wealth among theworld population. Singer believes that to save lives lost as a result ofpoverty due to circumstances such as, malnutrition, dehydration, and illnesses,wealthy Americans should donate money to overseas relief organizations (Singer860). Singer explains his theory by stating whatever money you’re spending onluxuries, not necessities, should be given away (Singer862). Certainly, obliged bythe sincerity of Singer’s belief, I am still cautious to give away all my earningsafter reading this article. The clear omissions in his argument make his petitionfor aid feel demanding. Singer’s proposition fails in his neglect ofpersonal responsibility and free will, by obligating his readers to adopt hisproposal.
Peter Singer voices his opinion as if the situations causingthe suffering of those in poverty or the pain itself is the liability of hisreaders. For instance, he attempts to prove that those in a position of dangeris the responsibility of anybody aware of the situation. Yet, there are peoplearound the world in harm and danger at all times. His idea is essentially thatwe all become saviors devoting every resource to ease the pain of mankind. Evenif we were, which troubles are we most compelled to solve? According to theUnited Nations, 2011 report, Honduras has the world’s highest murderrate in the world (CNN.com). Because I’m currently aware of this situation is itmy responsibility to help lessen those murders? Is dedicating myself toreducing Honduras murders more or less important than saving third worldchildren? What Singer’s argument lacks are the basics of free will which are significantfor civilization to exist.
Instead of holding individuals accountable for theirsituations and allowing citizens to choose how they will contribute to humanity,Singer places the problems of those individuals into the hands of thosecitizens and concerns them more. Inthe poem “Museedes Beaux Arts,” Audenillustrates the indifference of humanity to individual suffering with the useof two paintings. Like Singer, Auden fails to see the value in suffering. Hedoesn’tstop to imagine the people’s opportunities inherent in their challenges. His onlythought is to remove what he sees as the problem. Furthermore, Auden never evenacknowledges that there might be issues underlying human suffering which gobeyond saving a drowning child that need to be addressed before putting otherlives at risk.
Instead of doing the more difficult task of concentrating on theinitial cause of the problem, Auden wants to figure out why humans are apathetictowards other people suffering. Both authors solutions are black or white.Either you’re putting your life in danger or you allow people to die becauseyou hold the value of your own life greater than those in need. Nobody wants tosee people suffering, but you cannot tell someone that it is their moralresponsibility to stop it.
Another fact both writers fail to take intoconsideration is the truth. Both Singer and Auden fail to stop and ask, “Am I the rightperson to try and solve their problems?”, or even, “How can I help them find a solution?” To me, thisshows incredible arrogance to think that you hold the resolutions to the painof people thousands of miles away. If you don’t understand the full scope of theirtroubles in the same way they experience them, how can you even begin to thinkthat you have a solution? Perhaps, both writers “outside looking in” resolutionswill only produce more of the problem. “The Boy Died in My Alley,” written by Gwendolyn Brooks symbolizesthe problem of personal responsibility. In the poem, the cause of the death ofa black boy remains unmentioned. Indeed, no possiblecause is ever thought about.
Brooks encourages readers to consider the variousways in which young black men suffering end up dead. The narrator accepts asorrowing responsibility for the death of the boy, and in doing so demonstratesthe dreadful consequences of failing to act against cruelty. Moreover, thenarrator insists upon accountability, not self guilt.
Without individualresponsibility no moral theory can even exist. For example, Peter Singer feelspersonal guilt over the predicaments of impoverished victims around the world.Instead of putting the blame where it belongs, Singer attempts to circulate hisown mistaken guilt by getting readers to share it with him. Though, Brooks understandsthat the situation is really out of her hands. For instance, there is no wayshe could confront all the killers to stop them. If the perpetrators are notheld responsible for their actions, how can anyone else be to blame? The mainproblem with Singer’s solution is his suggestion that we “might” be able to help people in poverty, however, heis obligating his readers to solving the problem. You cannot morally requiresomeone to a solution for a problem that they did not cause.