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The Forum > Article Comments > The causes of incalculable human suffering > Comments

The causes of incalculable human suffering : Comments

By Mirko Bagaric, published 23/4/2007

Thirty-two dead at Virginia Tech; 100 civilians killed daily in Iraq; 30,000 people who die daily of starvation.

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That, I'm afraid is the way it is.

Over 40 years ago the Readers Digest published a survey on integrity thresholds. The subjects studied were those heros who risked their own lives to save Jews they had never met.

The rough conclusion was that about one in five of any population have unshakable integrity. They just know what is right and do it. This behaviour had nothing to do with childhood religious training or the lack of it. A characteristic of the one in five was that they always questioned authority. At the other end of the scale - those with the lowest integrity threshold - revered authority.

It is all in our DNA. No thought or feeling is possible unless particles move i.e. molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles. When and where they move is determined by what the organism's DNA permits.

Lament as much as you like. That is the way it is.
Posted by healthwatcher, Monday, 23 April 2007 8:59:03 AM
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It seems to me that Western nations have been trying hard to "help" Africa since the end of colonialisation, motivated by genuine humanitarian sentiments as well as our guilt over the wrongdoings of the past. After more than 60 years however, we are perhaps becoming disillusioned and are collectively coming to the conclusion that it is not possible to help those who are neither able, nor it seems, willing to help themselves.
Pouring money or food over Africa is not, by itself, going to solve Africa's problems. Africans must get rid of the inferiority complex and sense of helplessness that are the legacy of colonialism and recognise that they can, and must, take their destiny into their own hands.
Posted by CitizenK, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:42:24 AM
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"But rights are nonsense".

Is this guy serious? The individual must be regarded as having a fundamental set of rights . . . the right to direct their own life, the right to liberty, a sphere of personal sovereignty, and the PURSUIT of opportunity . . . or else democratic government and due process are non-existent. We are all entitled to these basic rights simply because we are human, and as long as we do not deliberately inflict physical harm or fraud on another person. That is why we have laws that are supposed to protect individuals from the demands of a vindictive and fickle majority, while still allowing the majority to democratically decide social policy within a specific constitutional framework.
Whatever happened to the idea of individual responsibility for one's own actions? I am individually responsible for the consequences of my own choices, the choices I make as a voter in the democratic process, and the policies of my own government which result from those choices. I am not responsible for the personal decisions of a corrupt and psychotic dictator in Africa or the Middle East, or the genocide or starvation their decisions inflict on their own people. I contribute as best I can to the relief of their suffering. But that is my own personal moral imperative. It cannot and should not be imposed on me by some coercive "moral" demand to sacrifice my own liberty and the fruits of my own honest labor in order to satisfy the perceived needs of other people who, collectively, have made foolish and dangerous decisions about their own destiny. Some people will die, be murdered, starve, be persecuted or fall to disease . . . regardless of how compassionate we in the developed world may try to be. We can only throw a lifeline to "drowning" people for so long. If they continue to throw it back or waste it while jumping back in to "deep water", and making the same mistakes over and over because of an emotional attachment to some cultural or religious pathology, are we really responsible?
Posted by sonofeire, Monday, 23 April 2007 12:37:53 PM
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According to our belief system, all human life is equal. Not everyone thinks like we do.
Events such as that which occured in Virginia make the news because they involve individuals with whom we share a similar belief system and it (the shooting) is relatively strange and uncommon to us.
Not so in places where self-awareness is discouraged and it is common to serve religious cause to the detriment of the individual, such as we witness in Iraq, daily. Sure, there are innocents involved, but it is not uncommon practice. Different belief system.
The tsunami was natural event. No-one to blame. No dictator, no religion. The 'maxim of positive duty' certainly applied there.
Who stepped up when Queensland got nailed by a cyclone? No-one. Gosh, fancy that. No-one needed to. Perhaps our right to develop contingencies for such an event helped us.

Rights are not nonsense. Any person living responsibly within the community boundaries defined by legislation and implied civil regulation has implicit rights. Explicitly, the Australian constitution, I'm led to believe(subject to correction) provides only one right for the citizens of this constitutional monarchy and that is the right of uninhibited/unrestricted travel whilst on lawful business.
The communists tried building a "fairer" world. Failed.
Our compassion extends to all who are suffering. Our ability to help is affected by their willingness to help themselves.
Feel as guilty about the developing world as you like Marko. Don't forget that we've developed over time as well. Gone through all the same challenges. Came through. Not a good enough example? Too bad.
Posted by tRAKKA, Monday, 30 April 2007 1:16:37 PM
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