The New York Times Magazine published “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” in 1999. Singer is emphasizing and implementing that we should “willingly donate to charity the portion of our income not spent on necessities.” (Singer, 400) He says that we should be socially responsible. Then he asks the question, what is the difference between us buying unnecessary things and a person who sells a homeless child to an organ peddlers.
Singer says “In the end, what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who has a TV and upgrades to a better one- knowing that the money could be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids in need?” (Singer, 401) Singer admits that there are several differences that include the cruelty and the heartlessness that one must acquire in order to sell a homeless child to an organ peddler. Nevertheless, Singer thinks that they are in some sense, the same. He says “Yet for a utilitarian philosopher like myself- that is, one who judges whether acts are right or wrong by their consequences- if the upshot of the American’s failure to donate the money is that one more kid dies on the streets of a Brazilian city, then it is, in some sense, just as bad as selling the kid to the organ peddlers.” He starts the statement by saying that he is a utilitarian philosopher. To understand his point of view better we must define and go more in depth about Utilitarianism.The Utilitarian theory founded by John Stuart Mill aims to maximize happiness for all conscious beings. Utilitarianism believe that the only thing of intrinsic value is “happiness.” Since Utilitarians put a person’s happiness before all, then there is no difference between my happiness and yours. That being said, we can get an idea of where Singer is coming from and why he thinks they are in some way the same. The poor deserve happiness fairly and equally. Therefore, it is not our right to prevent them from having that “happiness”. I do agree with what Singer say but to some degree. I agree that we should “willingly donate to charity the portion of our income not spent on necessities.” The reason behind me supporting Singer’s suggestion is that I myself believe in that as a muslim, a person who follows Islam. Islam comes from the world “salam” which stands for “peace” in arabic. In Saudi Arabia, everyone follows the same religion and the government’s constitution comes from “Qur’an” which is the Muslim’s bible. Every muslim has to give “Zakat”. Which is giving 2.5% of one year’s total wealth. One has to obtain a certain level of wealth before he is eligible to give Zakat. In the Qur’an it says “True piety is this: to believe in God, and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets, to give of one’s substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveler, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the zakat.” (Qur’an 2:177) Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Perhaps as a consequence we don’t have homeless people. We have poor people of course but no homeless people. It is applied to the rich and the poor. Therefore, I do agree with what Singer is suggesting. However, it is a bit harsh to say that it’s the same as selling a homeless child. Putting the blame on the shoulder of everybody who has money is too much. The author gives that example to clarify that those who have the ability to give can save lives. They are ignoring the fact that they can help the poor and the needy. They are ignoring the fact that they can be helped. Hence, it is unethical.
Singer mentions an example to elaborate on his point. He says “how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant? But wait. The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! True, you weren’t planning to blow $200 tonight, but if you were to give up dining out just for one month, you would easily save that amount.” (Singer, 403) Nobody can argue or deny what Singer is saying because it’s true. Almost all of us have thought about that question, this money I am about to spend can save lives. To think about the children who are dying from hunger and dehydration. Yes, it is absolutely one of our responsibilities. To do exactly what Singer is suggesting, to “willingly donate to charity the portion of our income not spent on necessities.” Because it is on the more fortunate to give the less fortunate. Moreover, a recent study was issued to indicate the distribution of wealth (Oxfam report.) It says that by next year, the global wealth for the richest 1% in the population is equal to the rest 99%. If the 1% of the world’s population agreed with Singer and I. Then there won’t be poverty. Even if not diminished at least its reduced. If the wealthiest 1% gave a portion of their wealth, 2.5% for example. The impact of that will be huge. Not specifically to poor people but to all humanity.
All in all, I believe that Peter Singer’s solution to world’s poverty may help. However, Islam has the solution. As the author said, “But one doesn’t need to embrace my utilitarian ethic to see that.” Whether one follows Utilitarianism, Individualism, or Kantianism it doesn’t make a difference. Because poverty is a reality. A reality that we can have an impact on. As the messenger of God, prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said “Whoever pays the zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him”. The Zakat Foundation of America enables a person to give a donation, to calculate zakat, and to sponsor an orphan. To conclude, I believe in Singer’s solution.
Bloom, Lynn Z. Arlington Reader: Themes for Writers. Place of Publication Not Identified: Bedford Bks St Martin’S, 2013. Print.
“Zakat.” Muslim Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
“Richest 1% Will Own More than All the Rest by 2016.” Oxfam International. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015