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Why focus on Gaza when people suffer elsewhere?

When I’ve been standing up for animal rights, I’ve often been challenged with; but why are you standing up for dolphins, when what happens to farm animals is much worse? Why are you protesting at the circus when children are dying? This is happening with the Gaza situation too. Why are you making an issue here when Syria is much worse? Why are you complaining about this when wars happen all the time? I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of argument. A term more technical than ‘daft’, possibly. For anyone that would like to level such an argument at me, my answers are much the same for this as for when I’m campaigning for animal rights;

a)  because I stand for this today, doesn’t mean I don’t stand for anything else, but sometimes I choose to focus my attention – because it really is very difficult to try to deal with everything that one cares about. There are many reasons for focusing on Gaza right now – and the collective interest is a part of that, because numbers give us more power to effect change. However, I would hope this doesn’t mean that people forget about Syria, Ukraine, Tibet, Sudan, or the still missing girls in Nigeria (not an exhaustive list.)

b)  it’s not a competition. Awful things are happening all the time, awful things that could do with people’s attention. Yes, I know all about utilitarianism, I study philosophy, but for me, it’s not always about where are most people/other animals suffering, or where can I make the most people happy. I don’t view peace and happiness as purely a numbers game. One elephant suffering in a concrete enclosure is as worthy of attention as hundreds of elephants being gunned down in Africa. Because every life matters. My fervent hope is that each cause attracts notice and support from somewhere. There are billions of people in this world. Enough of us to give our attention to many causes.

c)  this is what I’m standing for at this moment. Because I choose to give my time and attention to it. What cause could you be standing for yourself, instead of spending your time and energy arguing with me? If you do already have a cause, brilliant, go take some generative action. You’ve scored your points against me, got that out of your system, now go do some good.

d)  in my view, every act of compassion is important to overall world peace and happiness. Even if all you do today is move a snail off the path, or choose to buy Fair Trade coffee, you are making a difference. I’m not going to ask you why you moved that snail whilst whales are being slaughtered in the Faroe islands, or why you bothered to buy that coffee when you have a plastic carrier bag. I’m going to be grateful that you’re clearly one of the world’s good guys doing whatever you can for a positive world for all.

 

What small act of compassion will you do today?

 

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