Friday, December 10, 2004

Human Rights (apparently, it only needs a day)

People are starving, people are being raped and people are being tortured. We know it is going on, yet what do we do? Self-report or otherwise, if we measure behaviour it would seem that not many people care. There are numerous specious arguments available, but they are exactly that, fallacious. What part of your life is worth more than the whole of another’s? If you are one of the very few people that could actually claim a true inability to help, then this does not apply to you. Alternatively, if you can help but truly don’t care and contentedly admit this, then I’m saddened. I’ll keep trying, but the mountain is that much higher. In this world, it would seem you either have to write a letter or send some money if you want to help. Admittedly, those are the best courses of action, but there is also one’s lifestyle. Did you need what you just bought? Do you know how that clothing company treats it workers? Where do your resources come from? Who makes your stuff? How are they treated? Do you have any idea?

You are not separate, this is a zero-sum game; you only win by someone else losing.

You’ve heard it before, “You can make a difference.” You’ve heard it so often because it's actually true. I don’t know how much I can change, but I want to be able to look into the eyes of a person who’s continued deplorable subjugated existence is not only condoned by my culture, but supported and say, “I’m so sorry. I did what I could.”

Watch this
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch (statement)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I disagree when you say "You are not separate, this is a zero-sum game; you only win by someone else losing."

An iterated PD isn't zero sum, you win the most when you cooperate. Does Gauthier's constrained maximizing and mutual advantage theory mean much to you? :)

I'm know I'm nit picking, but I think it's important.

If someone else really has to loose - in the truest most extended version of that - then I do choose me - I don't think anything else is rational.

But, thanks God that's not how it is. For us to win (exceping perhaps some very mentally broken human beings) in the truest most extended version of that - we cooperate.

It only makes sense, if our species is going to survive. Unfortunately, we're not quite long sighted enough.

Sorta related, I really like the idea of government and laws based on MA and evolutionary fit. Teach people evolution and game theory and we should see a little farther than we do now.

Anyway, that's what I think - obviously. :)

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woops, just realized that's vague. I meant to say 'I do choose me over them' so... I'll win and they loose.

12:37 PM  
Blogger That which is called Darren said...

First off, thanks for the commentary, debate is (almost) always good. I was somewhat amused that you clarified a point I understood, but not PD, Gauthier’s theories or MA; none of which I understand nor have the time to look up right now. :P

When I was trying to pinpoint the source our disagreement the only thing I could think of was context: who is my audience and what we are measuring. Any thoughts?

Who is the audience for this blog? Probably only some Canadians who know me or know of the blog through friends. Either way, these people have access to a computer, which puts them in the different socio-economic status than most of the world. So the argument mainly applies to the developed worlds. For others in developing countries to achieve some of ‘happiness’ that comes to us so easily in the developed world, we would have to radically restructure our whole economic system (not a bad idea btw). Most people would not be willing to give up a significant part of their land, water, power, meat, entertainment, hobbies, possessions…etc. In this context, we win by someone else losing. People here would be less happy, would ‘lose’ by cooperating and diverting most of their unnecessary resources to cooperate with the others in need.

Alternatively, if we are measuring the ‘contentment’ of all, of course cooperation makes sense. I’m trying to make that my reality, but that is not reality (sadly). Try to show me how your points make sense.

I agree that evolutionary models show that cooperation works and that more people should be exposed to game theory. But I think you forget a big point. There really isn’t much of a punishment for defecting when the defector has little power. The people being exploited have only recently been given a voice and exposure. The only ‘punishment’ thus far is guilt when we find out about it. People hear of terrible working conditions, they know people are starving, they know people are being tortured and what do they do? They go buy some ice cream or alcohol to consume while watching reality TV because they’ve had a ‘hard’ day. Someone who is eating bread made out of rocks and grass would find that laughable before they started crying, if they had the energy to do either. (The attack on the States and increasing global hatred is a kind of punishment, but the US has just kept ‘illogically’ punishing and made things worse. It might hurt them eventually, but they will all still drive their SUV’s to Starbucks).

As for choosing yourself to lose, you’ll have to help me understand the details of your point because from where I’m sitting I don’t see it. Have you ever seen a movie? Movies are wonderful examples where millions of dollars are spent to entertain ‘rich’ people. Often movies or TV shows will involve the destruction of things. Why? Because we’d rather see something blow up than give that money to homeless (my apologies to those who write letters to executives stating exactly this). What do you eat? Only what is necessary for a healthy existence? How much clothing do you own? The perfect amount that maximizes the washing cycle? All made in Canada from factories with good conditions? What about ‘leisure time?’ Wouldn’t it be better for you to ‘lose’ this time and spend it fighting for human rights? The only defensible argument I can think of is: Engaging in unnecessary activities in turn enables you to be more productive when helping others ‘win.’ I’ve never met anyone who does this fully completely. (I don’t know if people have the processing power.) Another topic of discussion is whether people should sacrifice completely or not. Do we want depressed Canadians and happier people in the Congo? Well… what are you measuring? Your happiness or the existence of another human? This is the stuff I end up thinking about daily. I admit that my words are more pessimistic than usual, but these are the hurdles to overcome for change to occur. I still think it is possible, but it sometimes seems less plausible. :( Additionally, nearly everything is on a continuum, so I don’t mean to completely invalidate the efforts you are making. I just wanted to point out that we all have our line in the sand.

People do not take what they need; in our society most have the ‘privilege’ of taking what they want.

2:59 PM  

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