….but we are all fabulous.
Someone very dear to me, who is extremely accomplished and a leader in his chosen career said that most of his success was down to a fortune of birth. He had been lucky enough to be born into a country where child mortality rates are low, where absolute poverty is rare and where education and healthcare is provided for all. He went on to say that no doubt there were many equally able people as him, who had not had the same fortune of birth; people whose lives were derailed by famine, war, disease or natural disasters. Even within the UK there is massive disparity between those who are born into families with more and those born into families with less, between those who are born into stable loving environments and those who are not.
This modest and thankful way of seeing the world and his achievements moved me a great deal and started considerable reflection.
If the path our lives take is so heavily influenced by the accident of our birthplace – something random and beyond our control, surely those of us who are given a head start by fortune of birth have a moral obligation to try to even things up a bit and to redistribute some of our relative wealth.
Peters Projection map of the world
To find out how much better off you are than others in the global community, there is a calculator here: https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/how-rich-am-i/. This calculator also tells you how you’d compare if you donated 10% of your income, which is what the Giving What We Can Community pledge to do.
10% can sound rather daunting of course and if you a low income relative to UK standards then this can seem unrealistic. Another website called The Life You Can Save and which has evolved from the book of the same name by Peter Singer suggests a minimum 1% contribution and provides a calculator here: http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/take-the-pledge which suggests how much you might consider giving based on your country and income.
The two sites I have mentioned are part of a movement called Effective Altruism which I have been reading about recently. Among other things this movement proposes donating money to charities which have been proved to do the most good with the money they receive (for more details see here: http://www.givewell.org/effective-altruism?gclid=CL-W64bu4MsCFVEo0wodjeMDfg).
There’s lots I don’t agree with – the proposal that we should take the best paying job we are capable of taking even if you hate it (if you have a brain don’t become a professor work on Wall Street instead), so that you can donate even more money to charity. This seems to be crazy in so many ways – if you have the choice to be happy and fulfilled in a lower paid job, then while you may have less to give to charity you will have more to give to the world around you and are more likely to be a better partner, parent, friend etc. Not to mention the risk that exposure to the values of people in money driven jobs may well divest you of the principles that led you to take the job in the first place and who’s not to say that as a professor you might have inspired a future world leader who works toward world peace?
I also believe that donating ones time should not be overlooked – an option for people who are time rich but cash poor: those who are unemployed or retired for example. Actually in my experience donating ones time is also practised by those who are time poor but there is no doubt that for the people whose lives they touch, a real difference is made.
To my mind, it doesn’t really matter how we do it (although if you are donating money, do make sure it’s in a tax efficient way through Gift Aid or Charities Aid Foundation https://www.cafonline.org/) or how much or little we give, but I do believe that we all have a duty to make the world a less inequitable place than it currently is.