Today I’ve been thinking on the question: why actually care? Why is development, sustainability, justice, human rights so important to me? Why cannot I just let people in Africa starve? At last, I am living a convenient life in Middle Europe. Poverty? I don’t think I’ll ever experience any. Global warming? I won’t live long enough to experience any remarkable effects in “my” climate zone. Justice? The country I live in is just, at least in comparison with the many authoritarian regimes in the world. Human rights? Mine are respected.
So: why? One answer I found today while reading the last issue of a small magazine for sponsors of Medicins sans frontieres. There were atricles about malaria and about child-bearing in the poorest regions of Africa in there. I just cannot stand reading about suffering, wholly innocent children (adults as well, but since I have a child, suffering children wake stronger emotions in me) in the developing world without becoming emotional. Angry by that matter. Perhaps it is silly, but while reading it I would like to smash the unjust economic and political systems of the world that allow something like that happen. Of course, revolutions aren’t of much benefit – it is just a strong feeling coping with my rational, cold reasoning. After a few seconds, the wish to smash anything is gone. But the underlying insight that something is wrong, that this cannot go on in the way it does – this insight remains there. And I am commited to do what I can to help other people. Not because it is of any merit to me (except the merit of peace of conscience). But because it is a pure coincidence that I am living in the richer, juster part of the world and thus am able to help others. And it is what makes us humane – that we act out of pure empathy. No matter in which way – whether (in my case) through giving the money I don’t need to organizations like MSF, or learning and (later) working as an economist in the hope to contribute to the reforms our economic system needs to be just, or whatever.
What counts is the step from the recognition that something needs to be done to actually doing something. And that is, unfortunately, not as frequent an insight in our society as I would like it to be.