Nov 21, 2011

Book Review: The Life You Can Save

Australian philosopher Peter Singer writes this brilliant book explaining how it is the responsibility of all people to help all other people.

Singer starts off slowly by giving examples of situations in which a person would immediately jump to save another.   He then explains the plight of billions of people living under the poverty line each of which could be saved by the intervention of one person.  He outlines the stark differences between people struggling to live and those who have millions of dollars they don't know what to do with.  So why don't people help?

Photo Credit: Sarah Lee/Guardian

According to Singer, some don't because they believe they have earned to right to do what they want with their money, regardless of the country, class and situation that they were born into (others do not have these advantages).  Others are disheartened by the corruption that can be found in some countries where welfare money ends up lining the pockets of governing bodies instead of the people in need.  Yet others believe that the Government is already giving enough money (in 2011-12 Australia will give 0.35% of the Gross National Income to foreign aid).  Singer lists many other reasons and explains their flaws.

He then explains the psychology of why people don't give more.  Ever wondered why I am always telling people about my giving to charity?  Well it's because people are more likely to give if they hear about other people giving.  People also give more if they think that others are.  So don't be afraid to toot your horn!  Singer lists other reasons why people are less inclined to give; they feel disconnected by distance, they cannot relate to the problems, they are waiting for other people to help.  He goes into all of these in depth and I really enjoyed learning more about the human mind.

The last half of the book is dedicated to showing how we can change our society to one that cares about giving and sees it as a good thing.  Singer explains that we can give, but that we also must look after ourselves and our families.  I really do suggest reading this book and passing it on to friends.  It is what got me thinking that I could make a difference in the world.  And look, I've already raised over $2,500 since I started Kommoner, I give money monthly to Oxfam and I've made 53 Kiva loans so far!

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