Help no one if you can’t help everyone?

All right, we’ve all established that PETA are assholes for willing to pay water bills of destitute Detroit families but conditional on their going vegan, and Salvation Army are assholes for (allegedly) refusing to help gay people. And it’s pretty clear why we would think so: by doing this they would put their political platform above the lives of people. It’s a valid notion, except that whoever notes that does exactly the same. Egalitarianism is a very very good position to hold, but it’s a position; lives are more valuable than it. A wold in which PETA just pays everyone’s water bills is definitely nicer than ours, but ours is still nicer than the one where PETA doesn’t pay anyone’s water bills. Non-discriminatory charity > discriminatory charity > no charity at all. Whatever they do with these bills is not only a strong net positive over doing nothing, but also a strong net positive over what most people and organizations are doing (that notion, of course, doesn’t apply to their “liberation” actions). One may argue that no one is proposing to shut down the whole project, but rather to extend is to everyone – but let’s get real: they may have neither funds not incentives to do so. If the choice is between not paying anyone and paying vegans only, I choose the latter.

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3 thoughts on “Help no one if you can’t help everyone?

  1. There is one crucial difference between PETA (to which I’m fairly sympathetic on this particular point, though not in general) and the Salvos: PETA raises money by telling people that they’re going to further the cause of animal rights, not by telling people that they’re going to pay off water bills. The Salvos raise money (primarily) by telling people that they’re going to help the less fortunate, not by telling people that they’re going to promote rigorist Christianity. PETA’s refusal to pay water bills unless people go vegan is in line with what they told people they would do with the money those people were giving them; the Salvos’ refusal to help the less fortunate if they’re gay is not.

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    1. That’s true. In addition, homophobia is a recognized form of structural oppression, while discriminating against non-vegans is not. However, it seems to me that in general people become angry when you start helping the less fortunate discriminately. Even triage is widely considered a hugely morbid (although necessary) act.

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      1. Yeah, I may be unusual in this respect, in that I see helping some people as better than helping none, as long as you’re quite open about who you will and will not help both when you’re fundraising and when you’re advertising your services. I’ll happily defend distributing soupe identitaire as not only a right of the distributors, but a moral good, albeit one of perhaps dubious motivation.

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