Today, the topic we’re touching is on unequal socio-economic statuses (SES), from there questioning if altruism exists, if that matters and if people have a moral responsibility to help the less fortunate.
A little background before I start rambling, a comic and a series of cartoons for readers to have a look at:
Comic: Pencil Sword – On a Plate
A collection of cartoons: Equality, Equity and Justice
Lastly, a video that might be more applicable at the end of this page is: Kurzgesagt – Egoistic Altruism
Today in GP class we were talking about SES and how they stratify society.
As I listened to my classmates speak I had this trippy thought that maybe, we think it’s not a problem because we are the problem.
While we may not immediately think of “Where is this person I’m speaking to in terms of SES,” there are key indicators that sometimes affect your perception of a person.
Maybe, because we are of an admittedly and relatively higher-middle SES, we do not see this as a concern to us.
The thing that ‘On a Plate’ illustrates is how something that no one has a choice in, being born and where one is born, affects deeply how a person turns out.
Though we often champion people who turn their lives around, the rags-to-riches stories that we all seem to love so much because of their tenacity and sheer grit… this question comes again to mind.
“They are not the norm, right? So what happens to the majority who do not manage?”
People with unsupportive families, people with sick family members, people who need to support their own families and take up multiple jobs to supplant their family income just to keep food on the plates.
Are students like that disadvantaged? Without a doubt and I will fight anyone who tries to say otherwise.
They did not ask to be born in a family like that. They did not have a choice. Is this fair? What is justice for them?
I guess the question becomes, what is the responsibility of a government and society to the people who are less fortunate than the majority.
This ties into our cartoons.
Do you think that those of a higher SES have a moral responsibility to help those of a lower SES?
The general consensus (this word is inescapable) is ‘No.’ Recognising our greater ability to do things means we have the power to do so but does not saddle us with the responsibility and obligation to.
I’d like to generalise for a moment (though KI kids will strongly disapprove of my over-generalisation) and say that since the world’s richest, most powerful people haven’t divested themselves of their wealth to build schools and toilets and all sorts of things for the world’s poorest nations, that’s how the rich and powerful, members of the top tier SES in the world think.
They have the power to do it but do within their means as they feel.
This is our tie in to the ‘In a Nutshell’ video.
Also, a place where I sidetrack to ‘altruism’.
My KI classmate said that the concept of ‘altruism’ and ‘morals’ is over-debated and dry by now but hearing that makes me afraid.
When you say that, do you mean that nothing more can be learnt from even asking questions about those topics? Do you mean that there is no hope left in altruism and morals? I am afraid to ask because I know you will look at me and give me an answer that will be pc or patronising.
It is both my greatest hope and dread that you (of course you know who you are, since there is only one KI classmate I asked this today) will read this and wonder if I am who I appear to be.
‘Moral’ responsibility. I was discussing with a long-time friend of mine. While I don’t like responsibility I remember my fingernails rubbing against the fingerpads of my finger, a symbol of my discomfort in that cold lecture room as our teacher’s thoughts floated about in that voice and created this churning feeling in my gut.
When my other classmates said that “No, we are not responsible, because of our systems of meritocracy and democracy,” I resisted this natural urge to nod my head.
I want to divest myself of this sinking feeling in my gut and of the guilt that rears itself in my head and paralyzes me, also compelling me to write this piece.
I am a keyboard warrior with no basis in reality, an empty vessel filled with only whispered dreams and ideals incapable of feeding a starving man.
Having admitted that I am privileged to be able to go to school without worrying about money, transport home, spend my time as I like after settling a decidedly less-troublesome younger sibling (unlike say a single-parent family where raising a younger sibling would be a much larger workload), now what?
“So what?” was my question to that friend.
Money is the chief concern of families like that. Singapore has schemes to help, but are they enough?
More than the lack of bursaries or anything is the stigma attached to getting the help that gets to that friend in that circumstance. My friend suggests, and I agree that “People don’t want handouts or to feel like they are incapable or that they are lacking in some form.”
When we help people, are we trying to help them or are we trying to make ourselves feel good?
“Does it matter?” was the question raised in reply by a classmate of mine. She followed with, “If they are getting help and we feel good, isn’t it a win-win situation? So what, why can’t you just like helping people because it makes you feel good?”
I’ll get back to that in a while, but I’d like readers to entertain this thought of “How much does intent matter? Exitus acta probat. The end justifies the means.”
Keep that in mind, it’ll make more sense at the end, I apologise since this is getting long, I’ll continue this in another post,
To end off this lack of a conclusive anything, back to the thought of ‘Win-Win’, which ties neatly to ‘Egoistic Altruism’.
I am afraid to think that subconsciously altruism is motivated by selfishness.
Thank you though, to the classmates who held the doors today for us and me.
I hope that when I hold the doors, as I have for a while now, you feel happy the way I did – I was pleasantly surprised when the door didn’t close in my face.
At the same time, I am afraid that readers will be tempted to overanalyze why they held the door.
“Does the intent matter? Subconsciously or not? If an act of kindness was done with an underlying intent, does that make it no longer kind?”
I do not think so. And for that reason, I ask that everyone just be kind.
[If you’re still with me, please wait another 30 minutes where I do not do homework for pt. 2]