Archive for July, 2011

why should i care?

July 15, 2011

anyone who watches the colbert report with any frequency
will also hopefully have been a bit discomforted by how often
he leaves his guests baffled with the simple “why should I care”
argument.

speaking about soaring food prices in developing nations,
the guest could only comment that it was such a horrible argument
that she “couldn’t even go there”,

while colbert, though hopefully being sarcastic, is in fact
raising a question that has to be addressed if one is ever
to get beyond “preaching to the choir”.

the recurrent failure of guests to be prepared for this question,
regarding economic equity, resource access, human rights, health care, climate, etc.
demonstrates 1.) an embarrassing lack of preparation for
the kind of interview they are about to encounter, and
2.) a regrettable failure of liberal arts education to even
promulgate the kind of critical argumentative skills
that it presumably proposes to.

in an attempt to remedy such shortcomings,
i’d like to try to list a few of the obvious rebuttals
to such explicit self-centerness.

A.) You should care,
because even if you are comfortable, content, and well-fed now,
the consequences of these events will most likely affect you
or someone you care about negatively eventually.

B.) You should care,
because knowingly letting others suffer,
when one can take some action to reduce that suffering,
encourages others to let you suffer.

C.) You should care,
because demonstrating compassion and generosity,
will give you legitimate reasons to be proud of yourself,
maintain more secure relations with more trustworthy kinds of people,
and sleep better at night.

D.) You should care,
unless you are really willing to tell your children,
that you don’t care about how cute penguins and polar bears are,
or how innocent starving children are,
or how needy elderly and handicapped people are,
just because they don’t offer any practical benefits to you,
if you really aren’t afraid of them looking at you like a monster.

E.) You should care,
unless you really aren’t bothered by the sight of
sick suffering people starving, and wouldn’t mind living
in gated communities surrounded by sick contagious criminal beggars.

All these arguments essentially rely on appealing
to the selfishness of the opposed party, more or less practically,
and though especially the last could well be accused of being
an absurdly slippery slope fallacy,
it merely intends to use the extreme to make the more graded argument
that our environments impinge on our comfort and happiness
even when they are outside our immediate circle of family and friends.