Why Do We Help People?
Stephen Colbert, at the end of this clip from testifying at a 2010 Congressional Hearing, answers this rather interesting question: why does he take the time to highlight the plight of migrant workers?
This works for me sometimes, but I recently found myself asking that question when tackling a particular problem somewhat outside my usual range. It was not an issue on which I am usually active. I had not intended to address it. I mostly intended to pull together a briefing for some groups I thought would be interested primarily as a solidarity thing.
But now I've taken a bunch of time before disappearing for Passover (and you better believe it is otherwise overbooked) to do a couple of FCC meetings on this and try to straighten it out. So I asked myself, why was I doing this.
The answer I came up with actually comes from Lois McMaster Bujold's character Ivan. In learning the shape of the problem it just seemed so . . . . wrong. Worse, it was stupid wrong. There is no good reason for the people who are going to see their phone bills potentially double over 2 years to have that happen. And, with a modest amount of effort, I may be able to help correct that (or at least mitigate it).
With all the crap in the world, having a bunch of people steamrolled for no good reason just seemed, well, offensive. It annoyed me. To quote Ivan, "this is just . . . really wrong."
Useless bad crap happening to other people offends my aesthetic sense. Good things happening to people is aesthetically pleasing. It is worth some modest effort to create a happier world. Not for any noble reason, but from the purely selfish reason that it makes the world prettier for me.