Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Needs, wants and personal responsibility.

Occasionally I have a light-hearted conversation with a friend about what we really NEED in life. That conversation is usually precipitated by either he or I fantasizing or drooling over the latest hi tech gadget or automobile that neither of us should buy. After consideration of our place in the world (our being comparatively wealthy Americans) do we have a responsibility to others in the world who are less fortunate including those who can't or wont help themselves? Humanitarians immediately say YES while utilitarians might not always agree. The followers of Neitzche say of course not, but we know that in practice, we have a system that falls somewhere in the middle. When asked, most people would probably describe their self as being a reasonably generous person. Those same people however will walk right past a beggar on the streets with a distasteful look on his or her face. This person representing the general public may occasionally contribute to a charity or program benefitting a hunger cause in a third world country or may give offerings in their local church, but is that enough? How much are we required to do for others if at all? Obviously this is based on opinion which is guided by perspective, but what responsibility do we really have? Why can't we just live and let live and enjoy the fruits of our own labors? Why should we help those who won't help themselves either due to ignorance or apathy? If we do live solely for ourselves and our own interests, then at what point does it become irresponsible? When we're in DEEP debt or when we become a burden to "the system"? There are arguments to be made here for many points of view, but my personal perspective is that we shouldn't protect people from themselves. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other addictions, I don't think they should be outlawed as long as it's legalization doesn't pose a threat to the physical well being of the public.
I dont' agree with smoking, but I don't think it should be outlawed completely. I think people with drug addictions need to treat the root cause of the drug use not the symptom as modern western medicine attempts to do. (usually with drugs) I don't think we should let people starve when we can help them, but I also don't believe we should support entire generations of people who will not help themselves by learning to support themsleves and their own societies by limiting the birth rates. We all know that there are benefits to being disciplined. Benefits of not eating too much or the positive effects of sticking to a disciplined work out routine, or the benefits of saving money for whatever reason. At what point does discipline become too much? At what point does self gratification become too much? Of course some of these points/questions are at the center of our core philosophies, but I'm interested in hearing others opinions on one or more of these matters and why you think that way. Let me know!

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