Go F… Yourself!
I went to see Peter Singer a couple of nights ago. He was talking about his latest book, The Most Good You Can Do. Singer introduced the concepts of Utilitarianism and of Effective Altruism.
In very brief terms, utilitarianism is the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority, the doctrine that an action is right in so far as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.
As a utilitarian, what matters to me are the actual consequences of actions in general, not particularly the moral dogma or the ideology behind them. I aim at promoting happiness and diminishing suffering in the world in some ways.
Singer went on to explain Effective Altruism, a philosophy and social movement that applies evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to improve the world. Effective altruists aim to consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact. For instance, he invited us to support the Fred Hollows Foundation or organisations that provide de-worming medicine in places where they cannot access it.
Below are two websites I strongly recommend in order to find effective charities (and keep scrolling, the article continues below!):
There are over one million charities in the United States alone. Make your donations as effective as possible in the…www.thelifeyoucansave.org
Peter Singer explained that a number of recent psychological studies indicate that people who donate (money or time) and who care for others generally live happier lives than people who spend all their time and money on themselves.
Clearly, there is no competition about who can give the most and there is no incentive in giving more than you can afford.
The night went on and Singer interacted with Dr. Linda Barclay and various members of the audience. At this stage, I’d like to talk about how he inspired me on the night. I had read up on Effective Altruism and was fairly familiar with it. What inspired me on the night was Peter Singer’s ability to listen to what others are saying and give a clear and pleasant reply.
Instead of nit-picking assumptions and correcting others, he would pick the core of a question and provide a coherent answer, often argumented with facts and figures. He was not confrontational.
Of course, the audience was largely supportive of his work, having paid to come to see him and listen to his discourse. Still, I believe there is a lot to be said for the ability to focus on your main point without getting totally side-tracked by petty arguments. I want to further practise the art of answering without confronting. It’s hard.
I find it especially difficult when in familiar territory, when I don’t expect certain types of judgement or prejudice. Frustration is a #$%&!
I recently told a friend to go fuck himself as he was comparing vegetarians to rapists, talking about a dedicated activist who allegedly may not always be 100% vegan… Indeed, the judgemental intolerance I encounter at times in animal circles can make me sick. Turns out this was a misunderstanding. My next article is going to be about welcoming everyone to care for animals rather than focussing on a tiny club of “good people”. And why I love Animals Australia ☺. Clearly I should have invited him to ask himself whether he was being effective and reasonable and I should have ended with “best regards”.
Anyway… on the topic of Effective Altruism and the animals, I kindly recommend this piece: