With the HP fervor going around, perhaps there is no one out there to read this anyway. I have been haunted by a few things from a discussion we had on this blog months ago now, especially after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains. The first was Peters statement that everyting we do, we do to serve our own needs, and the second was Liz’s statement that we are basically selfish. In all fairness, I’m not exactly sure what Liz means with her statement. Finally, J.E.’s statement that genocide and benevolence are both evolutionary means to advance a group.
The thing that has made me uncomfortable about Peters statement is that it seems that every action can be defended as serving a need.
The thing that I have been wrestling over with Liz’s statement is that it can be taken to imply a sort of determinism that denies freewill, which I’m not sure I’m ready to give up yet.
J.E.’s statement may explain why I would make sacrifices for friends and family, but it explains nothing about a character such as Mother Teresa, Paul Farmer, or Simone Veil. I also think that IF genocide can be argued as an evolutionary process, I would in turn then suggest that evolutionary processes, at such times, should be resisted. This thinking is what led some of the Nazi ideas of Eugenics to take hold in the United States during the forties.
I want to make myself clear. This is in no way to be seen as an attempt to convince anyone of anything. It is merely my attempt to try to understand things more fully.
At any rate, I’ll be dipping into the Moral Animal after the Berger book. My sister Kathleen heard Dawkins speak at K.U. a while back and we had a good discussion about his book, I think it’s called The Selfish Gene. I have not read it, but may yet. Though admittedly, I have other things to do.
I feel that Paul Farmer has had thoughts about these kinds of things from quotes of his in the Kidder book. I originally said I wasn’t going to quote the blasted book, but who am I kidding. No one is planning on reading the book any time soon and no one responded to Farmer’s article I posted a link to a while back. So here’s the quotes.
“‘If you’re making sacrifices, unless you’re automatically following some rule, it stands to reason that you’re trying to lessen some psychic discomfort. So, for example, if I took steps to be a doctor for those who don’t have medical care, it could be regarded as a sacrifice, but it could also be regarded as a way to deal with ambivalence.’ He went on, and his voice changed a little. He didn’t bristle, but his tone had an edge: ‘I feel ambivalent about selling my services in a world where some can’t afford to buy them. You CAN feel ambivalent about that, because you should feel ambivalent. COMMA.’
This was for me one of the first of many encounters with Farmer’s use of the word COMMA, placed at the end of a sentence. It stood for the word that would follow the comma, which was asshole. I understood he wasn’t calling me one – he would never do that; he was almost invariably courteous. Comma was always directed at third parties, at those who felt comfortable with the current distrubution of money and medicine in the world. And the implication, of course, was that you weren’t one of those. Were you?”
And then this, perhaps most challenging from Farmer:
“‘When others write about people who live on the edge, who challenge their comfortable lives – as it has happened to me – they usually do it in a way that allows the reader a way out. You could render generosity into pathology, commitment into obsession.That’s all in the repertory of someone who wants to put the reader at ease rather than conveying the truth in a compelling manner.'”