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Why I am exhausted…

So, I am trying to deconstruct my thoughts and feelings now.

Core question: Why am I so exhausted?

Factors:

* Work. Work has been busy, no doubt about that. Not only has there been times where
* My part time studies. I have attended classes, and I have read. But not enough. The fact that I was behind on my reading stressed me.
* Lack of vacation. I realized that during easter, I was stressing about one RFP if I was not actively working on it. During the pentecost weekend, I was sweating over another RFP. I haven’t taken one vacation day from January until end of June.

I can’t blame anything on my family. Things are fine in the family, besides when I feel that I work too much and am too little present for them, with them.

Oh, another thing:

* The Haiyan super-typhoon. This happened November last year, but it emotionally stayed with me for months and months…

Vacation 2014

Finally.

Finally I am starting my summer vacation for 2014. It will be 4 glorious weeks. Not because we will be going supremely exotic places (2 weeks Norway, 1 week Berlin, 1 week Copenhagen), but because I needed this vacation. I needed it so badly.

This spring has been rather tough. Not because I really have been supremely busy, but there has been quite a bit going on, with work, part time studies at BI, and other things. I have been thinking a lot about the years ahead, and planning, plotting, scheming. Nah, not really, but I have really been spending a lot of energy making new mental structures, and tweaking my reaction pattern.

4 weeks.
30 days, including this first weekend.

What I want to do, but I am not sure if I will manage, is to create a video for each day. Really force myself to just do it, just create a video per day, starting tomorrow Saturday June 28th. I will spend a few hours tonight planning these videos, the concept behind them, and make the structure for some of them.

4 weeks. 30 days. A whole month!

This will be a vacation to remember. One for the books. I will make certain about that, if nothing else. :)

Making videos for a new year

It’s June 1st, 2014. I made a pledge to myself some days ago that I will make videos for the next year. Most of these videos will be private, and only distributed to family or close friends, while others will go here on dltq.org or elsewhere.

Here is a video edited today, from footage from last night. The edit is pretty rough – I am still learning Premiere Pro.

After Haiyan Working Title

“After Haiyan Working Title” (AHWT) is the working title for one of my projects in 2014.

I remember the night to November 8th 2013. I was online, gathering information about Haiyan/Yolanda. At about 1 AM my time (8 AM Philippine time), I started recording my screen. Here is the screencast (22m 36s):

We knew in advance that this typhoon would be deadly. As news started to trickle and later pour out of Tacloban and other parts of Leyte, we realized just how deadly it was. How many houses that were destroyed, homes shattered, lives lost.

My wife is from Guindulman on Bohol, an island to the south-west of Leyte. I was worried about Bohol, but I knew that Bohol would not be the worst hit by this super typhoon, being south of the projected path of the typhoon:

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But I worried about Samar and Leyte.

So, after the media started flodding the city of Tacloban and reports came out in the thousands, we all knew. We cried, despaired, or was numb, trying to fathom what happened here. I remember a few days after the event thinking “Oh, cmon guys, don’t fall into the same old narrative patterns here!”, speculating in when the journalists from the CNN, BBC, Aftenposten and countless others would be called back. When the “Story was over”, so to speak.

Fundraising happened, like it did after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and other similar events. The whole world was feeling with The Philippines on these days, and money poured in. How much? I don’t know. But I suspect that at least US $150 million was raised in total, from governments and private organizations/people.

On November 14th, I posted this to my Facebook wall:
tumblr_mwyt96LX3Q1t4ngjeo1_1280

The last paragraphs of my post was:

Now that the whole world is typing headlines about Tacloban and other affected areas, aid is rushing in. Let’s learn from Haiti, and other crisis areas. Let’s point some of those cameras on Tacloban AFTER the main interest is gone. When the newness of this massive tragedy has passed, and the cameras have been turned off. When the people who lived near the shore are once again returned to just being numbers in our mind. Mindnumbingly large numbers.

I have decided that I want to get involved. Not now, when everyone else is focusing on this, but after 6 months. I will next week start a small organization that will propose a project for “Windows out of Tacloban”. To use the videoblogging meme and let some of the people in Leyte report themselves on what is going on. Not just so that we may feel pity with them (pity is cheap), but so that we also can see opportunities. Opportunities for making things happen.

This organization will have members from Norway and The Philippines. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I still don’t know how we will do this, but I think the idea can be interesting. Worth the effort.

And I started planning. Thinking. How to do this?

I decided quickly that even though my timeline was for 6 months and onwards from the typhoon, I should start earlier.

I had been friends with Lester Tabada on Facebook for a while, and I contacted him. He pointed me to Fae Esperas, who had written this piece a few days earlier.

I contacted Fae, and I asked her about her situation. Would she want to be involved in a project where she would be commissioned to write articles from Tacloban? She was interested, and in December she wrote four articles that can be read in PDF format here.

December was the month of preparation and figuring out what this will be, and now in January 2014 I will launch this.

The website at www.afterhaiyanworkingtitle.com will be up within a few days. We will have more articles, and this will be a project for all of 2014.

The project will be run as a corporation, a business. I like volunteer work, and I like that people do things out of love. But I think that what we need is more trade in the world (not just aid), and thus, here, we will have a business model around these articles.

The goal is not to have profit, although a profit would be nice. The goal is to create something sustainable.

There will be writers. They will be paid money for their work, be that a written article, or a video, or pictures.
There will be readers. Some will not enter economically into this project, but will just read the articles, think about the questions posed, and wonder how these stories will develop.
There will be subscribers. They will pay a monthly fee ($ level not decided yet, but the market will dictate the price to a large extent), and they will then have access to additional premium content, as well as other benefits.
There will be donors. People who basically just want to support a cause such as this.

I prefer subscribers to donors, actually, as much as a donation is welcome. Readers are of course also welcome – we want to spread the work that is created in this project.

So, here it is, a project for 2014 for me: AHWT!

To be continued…

Peter Singer @ TED

effective_altruism

The Life you can Save

Finding effective organizations: Give Well

Peter Singer and the Moral Dilemma

Kristin Solberg, a Norwegian journalist whose work I follow, tonight wrote a piece where she talks about the moral dilemmas we meet.

She refers to Peter Singer and his Thought Experiment on the drowning child. I have gone through the experiment now. In bold are my answers.

The Scenario

Your route to work takes you past a shallow pond. One morning you notice that a small child has fallen in and appears to be in difficulty in the water. The child is crying in distress and it seems is at risk of drowning. You are tall and strong, so you can easily wade in and pull the child out. However, although you’ll come to no physical harm if you rescue the child, you will get your clothes wet and muddy, which means you’ll have to go home to change, and likely you’ll be late for work.

In this situation, do you have a moral obligation to rescue the child?

A: Yes
B: No

Good. That seems as if it must be the right answer. Peter Singer has stated that his students, when asked about this scenario, unanimously respond that they have a moral obligation to save the child.

Okay, now suppose that there are other people walking past who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so. Does the fact that they are not doing what ought to be done mean that you’re no longer obligated to save the child?

A: It makes no difference. I still have a moral obligation to save the child.
B: It makes a difference. I’m no longer obligated to save the child.

Good, that response shows you’re clearly the sensible type.

Let’s recap what’s going on here. You have come across a small child who having gotten into difficulty in a shallow pond is crying in distress and possibly at risk of drowning. You have accepted you have a moral obligation to rescue the child even though by doing so you will muddy your clothes. The issue we’re now looking at is whether your obligation to help might be cancelled in particular circumstances.

A Degree of Uncertainty

Let’s imagine that there is some uncertainty attached to the situation. You know you’re not going to come to any harm if you attempt the rescue, but you can’t be sure that your efforts will make any difference to how things turn out. This is partly for the counterfactual reason that if you don’t intervene, then it is possible that somebody else will do so, thereby bringing about the same result (i.e., the rescue of the child from the pond); and it is partly because it is possible that by the time you reach the child, it will already be too late.

It is important to be clear about the precise situation here. You have good reason to suppose that your intervention will bring about a better outcome than would otherwise be the case, but you can’t be sure about it. The question is – does this element of uncertainty mean you’re no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue attempt?

A: I am still morally obliged to attempt the rescue
B: This element of uncertainty means I’m not morally obliged to attempt the rescue

Good grief, really? If there is a moral obligation to help the child, it seems very odd to think this would disappear just because we can’t be absolutely certain any particular intervention will be beneficial, particularly if we have good reason to think that actually it will be beneficial. Still, have it your own way. But you should know that this activity is now officially putting you on the naughty step.

The Old Bike

Now let’s consider another variation on the basic scenario. It so happens that you cycle to work, and the pond is located in a park where you know a gang of bicycle thieves operates. You don’t have time to lock up your bike, and you know that if you leave it, even briefly, to rescue the child, there’s a good chance that it’ll be stolen. It’s a battered old bike, it doesn’t hold any particular sentimental value to you, and you can easily replace it. Does the possibility your bike will be stolen while you’re saving the child mean you’re no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue?

A: It makes no difference that my bike might be stolen, I still have a moral obligation to save the child.
B: It makes a difference that my bike might be stolen. I’m no longer obligated to save the child.

Good, that is surely the right choice. It is hard to think that possession of a battered old bike could trump the life of a child in a moral calculus.

Multiple Rescues

Now let’s imagine that this is not the first time you’ve come across a child strugging in an expanse of water and seemingly at risk of drowning. In fact, only last week on your way home from work you heard cries as you passed by a local reservoir and when you investigated you found that a young boy had fallen in and was struggling to drag himself out. Happily, he was quite near to dry land, so you were able to reach into the water and pull him out, albeit you did ruin your work shirt in the process.

Does the fact you saved a child’s life last week mean you’re not obliged to go ahead with the rescue this week?

A: It makes no difference that I saved a child’s life last week, I’m still obliged to go ahead with the rescue this week.
B: It does makes a difference that I saved another child’s life last week. I’m not obliged to go ahead with the rescue this week.

Surely you can’t mean that!? You think that because you dirtied your work shirt rescuing some kid last week that now you don’t need to help a child who may well drown without your intervention? That’s harsh! Okay, well we’re very tempted to deprive you of your favourite tea time snack, but since we’ve already put you on the naughty step, we’ll give you one more chance before punishing you further. But be warned, don’t try our patience again!

Okay, we’re now going to widen our focus a little to see whether this alters how you view the issue of moral obligation as it applies here.

Water Safety

It’s possible that you’re not aware that in the United States drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury/death for children aged 1 to 14 years. Does the fact that saving this particular child’s life won’t contribute towards solving the more general problem of water safety mean that you’re not obligated to save the child after all?

A: No, I still have a moral obligation to save the child.
B: Yes, actually it does mean I do not have a moral obligation to save the child.

Well, we’ve got to say we’re a bit disappointed with that response (not for the first time either). If you were drowning, and somebody was on a nearby boat, then likely you wouldn’t be best pleased if they responded to your cries for help by telling you that they had no need to rescue you because lots of other people were going to drown over the next year. Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you – rest assured that you will not be getting a Farley’s Rusk for your tea tonight.

A Matter of Geography

We have one final question based on this scenario. Would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself?

A: It would make no difference. I would have a moral obligation to save the child.
B: That would make a difference. I would not have a moral obligation to save the child.

Good, that’s a pleasing response, especially if one takes into account that the idea that we have a greater moral obligation towards those who are local to us – our fellow country people, for example – than to those who are far away is not uncommon (albeit it is hard to justify).

Final Question

Likely you’ll be pleased to hear that you’re virtually at the end now. We just want to ask you one further question, but this time it isn’t specifically to do with the drowning child scenario. Here it is:

Are you morally obliged to make a relatively small donation, perhaps to the value of a new shirt or a night out at a restaurant, to an overseas aid agency such as Oxfam within the next few days (and even if you have previously made such a donation, perhaps even recently)?

A: Yes, I am morally obliged to make such a donation.
B: No, I am not morally obliged to make such a donation.

The analysis is here quoted:

Analysis Summary

This activity is based on a thought experiment devised by Peter Singer that aims to show that if there is a moral obligation to rescue a drowning child (without sacrificing anything morally significant – i.e., at no great cost to the rescuer), then there is also a moral obligation to make a small donation to an overseas aid agency. As Singer puts it,

we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world – and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance.

This activity translates some of the objections that people raise against this sort of argument into the language of the drowning child scenario (more of which in a moment), and then uses your responses to each variation of the scenario to determine whether these objections are available to you, and on this basis calculates whether you should judge yourself morally obliged to make a donation within the next few days (assuming, that is, that you accepted that you had a prima facie obligation to rescue the drowning child).

As you can see from the chart above, we have calculated your Obligation Imperative to be 55%. This represents a weak obligation to make a donation to an overseas aid agency within the next few days. In your own terms, you should seriously consider making such a donation.

Then, we are given more prose on the next page:

The Drowning Child and a Moral Principle

Following Peter Singer, the drowning child scenario featured here tests whether people are willing to accept a principle that holds that if it is within our power to prevent something very bad happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, then we ought to do it (or, in the language employed in this activity, we’re morally obliged to do it).

If I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning it it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing. (P. Singer)
Singer argues that the principle itself is uncontroversial, but has very large implications. In particular, because it takes no account of proximity or distance, it means that it “makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor’s child ten yards from me or a Bengali child whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away.”

It follows, then, that if we accept this prinicple, there is a moral obligation to make at least a small donation to an overseas aid agency, because by doing so we can save the lives of people who will otherwise die, at only a very small cost to ourselves (i.e., at a cost that is not morally significant).

This activity starts from the assumption that this argument has prima facie plausibility. If you agree that there is an obligation to rescue the child, then it appears that the principle that (seemingly) motivates this judgement also obliges you to make a comparable effort to save the lives of children (and other people) living thousands of miles away. In other words, it obliges you to make a charitable donation, and to do so immediately, because the effect of delaying will likely be that people will die who would not otherwise have died.

However, there are various arguments that can be employed to push back against the notion that this principle can be universalized, and/or that it requires us to help people who live in faraway countries, so the activity introduces a number of variations on the scenario to see whether these arguments are available to you.

In your case, an Obligation Imperative score of 55% suggests that more than one push back argument is available. To find out more, you need to check out the next analysis page.

And on next page:

The Pushback Variations 1

1. Other People Aren’t Helping

This objection holds that one’s moral obligation to perform some action – in this instance, to make a donation to an overseas aid agency – is dissolved, or at the very least diminished, if it’s the case that other people are not fulfilling their moral obligations in the same regard. Peter Singer dismisses this possibility as being absurd. We tested where you stood on this issue by asking the following question about the drowning child scenario:

Let’s suppose that there are other people walking past who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so. Does the fact that they are not doing what ought to be done mean that you’re no longer obligated to save the child?
You responded that it made no difference that other people were not living up to their moral obligations – you were still obligated to save the child. This means it is not easy to see how you can deploy the “Ah, but other people aren’t helping” argument in an attempt to undercut the idea that there is a moral obligation to make a small donation to an overseas aid agency without being inconsident.

2. I Can’t Be Certain It’ll Do Any Good

This objection holds that one’s moral obligation to perform an action that will likely have a good outcome is dissolved, or at the very least diminished, if it’s the case that it is not absolutely certain that it will make a difference to how things turn out. At first thought, this argument does not appear to be persuasive – if something terrible is going to happen, it seems we have a duty to do our best to prevent it, even if we’re not sure our best will be good enough – but we attempted to discern what you thought about it anyway by posing the following question:

Let’s imagine that there is some uncertainty attached to the [drowning child] situation. You know you’re not going to come to any harm if you attempt the rescue, but you can’t be sure that your efforts will make any difference to how things turn out…It is important to be clear about the precise situation here. You have good reason to suppose that your intervention will bring about a better outcome than would otherwise be the case, but you can’t be sure about it. The question is – does this element of uncertainty mean you’re no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue attempt?
You responded that it did mean you were no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue. We do not find this response remotely plausible, however, it does mean you can consistently argue along the lines that you are not obliged to make a small donation to an overseas aid agency because you can’t be sure that your money is actually going to help anybody (which is not to say that the argument has any force).

3. Waste and Corruption

This objection, which is related to the previous objection, holds that the problem with overseas aid is that much of it swallowed up in waste, and sometimes even corruption, meaning that only a small proportion of any particular donation will ever end up helping those in need (with the large part likely benefitting people who do not deserve to be benefitted). This argument is empirically dubious – reputable aid organizations are not particularly inefficient – but the issue we’re interested in here is whether the argument even works in principle. We attempted to discern where you were likely to stand on this issue by asking the following question:

It so happens that you cycle to work, and the pond is located in a park where you know a gang of bicycle thieves operates. You don’t have time to lock up your bike, and you know that if you leave it, even briefly, to rescue the child, there’s a good chance that it’ll be stolen. It’s a battered old bike, it doesn’t hold any particular sentimental value to you, and you can easily replace it. Does the possibility your bike will be stolen while you’re saving the child mean you’re no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue?
You responded that this possibility made no difference – you were still obliged to go ahead with the rescue. It seems, then, that you do not think the mere fact that undeserving people might benefit as a result of an action that would be otherwise obligatory is enough to cancel its obligatory character. It follows that if you have good reason to suppose that at least some part of any donation you make to an overseas aid agency will end up helping those in desperate need, then you can’t argue, without pain of inconsistency, that the possibility that some significant proportion of your donation will get swallowed up by corruption and the like (if indeed this were true) cancels your obligation to make the donation.

And more:

The Pushback Variations 2

4. But I’ve Already Donated to an Overseas Aid Agency

This objection is quite straightforward. It holds that one’s moral obligation to make a donation to an overseas aid agency is annulled if one has previously, and perhaps even recently, made a similar donation. At first sight, this has intuitive appeal – surely one cannot always be under an obligation to make a charitable donation – but translated into the terms of the drowning child scenario, it’s a lot less clear that the objection works. To look at this issue, we asked you the following question:

Last week on your way home from work you heard cries as you passed by a local reservoir and when you investigated you found that a young boy had fallen in and was struggling to drag himself out. Happily, he was quite near to dry land, so you were able to reach into the water and pull him out, albeit you did ruin one of your work shirt in the process. The question is, does the fact you saved a child’s life last week mean you’re not obliged to go ahead with the rescue on this occasion?
You responded that it did mean you’re no longer obliged to go ahead with the rescue, a response that we found frankly baffling. Be that as it may, if you have in fact donated to an overseas aid agency in the recent past, then it’s open to you to argue that you have no obligation to do so now, because you have already fulfilled your obligations in this respect. In your own terms, you can make this argument even though you’re aware that by not making such a donation, there’s a chance somebody will die who would not otherwise have died.

5. Just a Sticking Plaster Solution

This objection holds that there is no moral obligation to perform some action, even if it would prevent a great harm, if it’s the case that the action doesn’t contribute towards solving the root cause of the problem that led to the situation that necessitated the action in the first place. We tested your views about this issue by asking the following question:

Let’s suppose that there are other people walking past who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so. Does the fact that saving this particular child’s life won’t contribute towards solving the more general problem of water safety mean that you’re not obligated to save the child after all?
You responded that it did mean you were no longer obligated to save the child, a response that did not amuse us, but it does mean you would not be inconsistent in arguing that the fact that an individual donation to an overseas aid agency is merely a sticking plaster solution to a very complex problem – assuming that this is the case – means that your obligation to make such a donation is annulled or diminished.

6. Love Thy Neighbours

There are a number of variations of this objection, but in essence it holds that we owe a greater moral concern to people who are in various ways proximate to us – for example, our neighbours, fellow citizens, and so on – than we do those who are not. Peter Singer rejects this possibility, arguing that “if we accept any principle of impariality…we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him).” We tested where you stood on this issue by asking the following question:

Would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself?
You responded that it made no difference, and that in this situation you would remain obliged to rescue the child. It seems, then, that you cannot consistently argue that while you are morally obliged to help a person who is drowning in front of you, your moral obligations do not extend to help those who are in similarly dire need in faraway countries.

And more:

The Drowning Child – Objections

There is the strong possibility that at least some people will object to being told they have a moral obligation to make a charitable donation to an overseas aid agency if (a) they think otherwise; and/or (b) they’ve not made such a donation and have no intention of doing so. In fact, they might just object anyway. So it’s probably wise that we talk about some of the more obvious objections to the analysis we’ve offered here. (And in all likelihood we’ll add to the list of objections as and when new ones come up).

1. I Don’t Donate Because I’m a Non-Cognitivist Crypto-Anarchist Virtue Ethicist

This objection is just that the test has failed to detect some incredibly involved and convoluted reason why a donation isn’t obligatory given a particular combination of responses.

The rejoinder is easy. Get a grip! It’s an interactive online activity, not an exercise in mind reading. Of course there might be some vasty complex reason why in any particular instance a donation is not morally obligatory. The issues raised by Singer’s arguments are still being debated, from which it is possible to deduce two things: (1) it isn’t clear that his argument – or, indeed, the version of it here – works; and (2) if you think you’ve come up with a knock down argument to show it doesn’t work, then (a) good for you; and (b) likely you haven’t.

2. How Many Drowning Children, You Say!? – Part 1

This objection holds that there would be some number of drowning children at which point any moral obligation to attempt a rescue would be dissolved. So, for example, while it might be true that if you had saved a drowning child last week, you would still be obliged to save a drowning child this week, it might not be true that if you had saved 100 drowning children in the last week, you woud still be morally obliged to save the 101st. The point of this objection is that if you’re already making a regular donation to a charity such as Oxfam, then it’s not obviously the case that you’re obliged to make a larger donation simply because by doing so you might save additional lives.

This is undoubtedly a complex issue. However, there are a couple of things that can be said. First, most people are just not in this situation: unless you’re giving away a significant proportion of your income, the burden upon you is much closer to that exerienced by the person who has to rescue a drowning child once a week than it is to the person who saves 100 children every week. Second, although the situation where you’re constantly coming across drowning children, and having to choose whether to save them, is undoubtedly dystopic, it is at least arguable that if a successful rescue has marginal utility (i.e., it prevents more suffering than it causes, where your suffering, and that of your dependants, is part of the calculus) , then you do have obligations in this regard (though working out exactly how this cashes out in the sort of situation we’re talking about is monumentally complicated).

3. How Many Drowning Children, You Say!? – Part 2

A related objection holds that if one kept coming across drowning children, it would demonstrate that simply rescuing children wasn’t working, and that another approach is required. The point here is that merely donating to an overseas aid agency isn’t necessarily morally obligatory, because actually the extent of on-going suffering shows that some other approach is necessary.

There is something to this argument, of course, but it isn’t obvious that it gets people off the hook in the context of this activity. Partly because the test dealt with this sort of argument by asking a question about the wider problem of water safety: if you responded that it was still obligatory to rescue the child even though it wouldn’t solve the wider problem of water safety, then it isn’t clear that you can invokve this sort of argument without being inconsistent. But also because it’s entirely possible to donate to an overseas aid agency that doesn’t merely opt for a “sticking plaster” solution to the problem of suffering, but rather looks to facilitate wider structural changes. In other words, you can choose a charity that best fits with your broader view of these issues.

4. Hang On a Minute, There’s No Way of Knowing That My $50 Dnation is Going To Save a Life

This objection is that acting at a distance via an overseas aid agency is not the same as saving a drowning child through your own actions, because in the former case you can never be sure that any donation you make will actually save a life.

Again this objection has some force, but isn’t decisive. The first point to note is that the test dealt with the issue of uncertainty, which means that unless you claimed that uncertainty annuled your obligation to save the child, it’s not easy to see you can invoke uncertainty in the case of overseas aid in order to argue that a donation is not required.

Moreover, even if you think that uncertainty is a relevant moral factor here, it doesn’t follow that in this sort of situation it would simply cancel your obligation to make a donation. So, for example, perhaps the fact you can’t be sure that a small donation made to a large aid agency will actually save a life means that you’re obliged to make a larger, targeted donation (where it will be easier to see its results).

There are complexities here, of course, but a couple of things are certain: (1) if people stop making small donations to overseas aid agencies, then more people will end up dying; and (2) a small amount of money can make a real difference (for example, a common estimate is that $50 will provide a single person with clean water for three months).

5. Overseas Aid Agencies? No thanks.

This objection is straightforward enough. It holds that overseas aid agencies are not the best way to deliver aid, that they’re inefficient, sometimes corrupt, etc.

Obviously, it is true that overseas aid agencies are not perfect, that there are inefficiencies in the delivery of aid, and so on. However, it is important to note, as Peter Singer points out, “that even if a substantial proportion of our donations were wasted, the cost to us of making the donation is so small, compared to the benefits that it provides when it, or some of it, does get through to those who need our help, that we would still be saving lives at a small cost to ourselves – even if aid organizations were much less efficient than they actually are.”

Moreover, in the terms of this interactive test, the objection lacks force unless your response to the stolen bike version of the drowning child scenario indicates that you think waste and corruption function to dissolve our moral obligation to give aid.

Summing Up

Of course, these brief words do not constitute a definitive rejoinder to these objections. However, they do show how such objections might be handled, and also that the complexities of these issues mean that likely there aren’t straightforward knock down arguments that demonstrate that Professor Singer’s thought experiment doesn’t show what it is designed to show; namely, that we are at the very least morally obliged to make a small donation to an overseas aid agency.

2013 in review, 2014 incoming

2013
2013 has been a mixed year. It has been bizarre at times, utterly enjoyable at others.

It started on January 2nd where I visited the BI business college here in Oslo, and during that day making the decision that I need to get back to studies sometime this year. And in August I started studying for my Bachelor of Management at BI. It is part time studies, meaning that this will take a while. But I have started!

At 12:28 PM on January 16th, Bizarre came when I saw this on my cell phone:

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I remember my first thought: “Algeria? Isn’t that where uncle Tore works? Naah, can’t be.”

I sms’ed my aunt, my mother’s wife, and asked her if her husband Tore is involved. Her reply “No comment” said it all. “Ok, here we are”, I thought.

I remember 9/11 and 7/22, my intense interest in the news, my wish for more information, trying to find a pattern behind it, understanding it. This time, I kept paying attention to the news, but otherwise I just felt numb.

The next day, on 17th, we had a sales gathering at work at a hotel near the airport. I went there, but I wasn’t happy. Here is a picture I took at the hotel at one point:

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I was going through hell. No, he wasn’t my father, and we had not spoken a lot those last years actually. But neither was he simply another Norwegian. He was the father of my cousins, wife of my aunt, and a man I respected a lot. For his calm appearance, for his no-BS approach to things.

But I couldn’t share my pain. My cousin, Heikki, was a minister in the Norwegian government at the time, and if it came out that his step-father it would seriously impact the situation negatively. So I kept my mouth shut online until it finally on the next Monday was published that he was one of the people missing.

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And then this confirmation that he was one of the people killed.

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Well, it was nice to finally Know, but the Knowledge broke me.

***
I attended his funeral on February 15th. It was a good ceremony. I was so happy that my aunt had made certain that no media was present during the funeral, and that after the funeral, outside the church, they showed restraint. I sent a silent thanks to the journalists on that day.

I tried to move on, and I thought I did, already after a few weeks. But this kept lingering in the background, and it has affected my whole year in ways I have a difficulty even admitting to myself, much less to colleagues or friends, or my family/relatives. He was married with my aunt, not my father. “Who am I to react so strongly?”

Nightmares of islamic terrorists with a knife. Of being in a SUV along with other hostages that got blown up by Algerian military forces.

And I started to hate islamists. Really loathe them. And – to make things worse – I started feeling bad emotionally whenever I saw some random muslim in the streets in Oslo with long beard and traditionally Islamic cloathing. I never made any outburst, of course, and I didn’t start writing about “the Dangers of Islam” or shit like that. But I felt bad, and I felt guilty for feeling bad, making things worse.

On the evening of February 15th, I thought about my life. I was 34 at the time, I work as a Solutions Architect in a telecom company with HQ here in Oslo. And as much as that is useful for me personally (stable income and a work I enjoy) and hopefully also for the company I am working for, it doesn’t change jack shit in the world. I am not building new structures that matter.

So I asked myself a question: “Is this really where you want to be, Raymond?” I told myself no, not at all. But this stage of my life is important, the stabilizing, the paying down my student loan and other debts, and also having on my CV a part of my life that is a career, where I gain skills in a field and evolve within that field. I missed my years of being more innovative, more tech-oriented, more publicly outspoken. But I didn’t miss the unstable life, the constant hunger for funds for more travelling, a new gadget, or more necessary items in life.

So I told myself on that evening that whatever happens, I will not quit this workplace for the next two years. I will make the most out of it, and I will evolve as a Solutions Architect and a customer-centric person. I will try find a niche for myself in this sector, and then on Feb 15th 2015 I will decide what to do.

***
The rest of the year wasn’t as eventful as that first month. In March, I went to London for two weeks for training in Verint technologies, in preparing for our company’s upcoming partnership with that company. When a colleague at worked asked me if I wanted to be a candidate for the position as a member of the Board of Directors of our company as an employee representative, I thought about it for a few minutes and then said yes, sure, I will be a candidate. I ended up winning the popular election along with another candidate, Helena, and we joined the Board for two years.

In November, Haiyan/Yolanda struck, and my wife’s home country The Philippines was seriously hit. I tried to figure out what I can do. I decided that my interest was in stories, so I ended up spending December preparing for an upcoming project, that hopefully will gain some traction next year.

I worked on customer cases during the year. I learned. I tried to keep my emotions aside, but I noticed at times that yup, this January’s events still affects me.

I have become more impatient with myself, where my impatience for others is something I try to reduce. “Be the change you want to see in the world”
I have also become more results-oriented, which is a good development for me. What matters is the results, not your or my intent.

I have realized that I need to grow a lot. I need to become more structured, methodical, knowledgeable, diplomatic and tactical.

I also need to be a better family man. I can’t let my wife and kid suffer because I have some important RFP at work, or I am busy with other things. So this autumn I cut down on my activities, deciding to quit local politics here in Oslo that I entered two years ago. In those two years, I was first President of my local chapter of my party for a year, and then Vice-President. Good times, and it gave me a lot of experiences that are useful.

2014
Looking back, looking forwards. It is almost 10 PM here in Norway now, two hours before the new year arrives.

What will I do in this coming year? I might blog more here on DLTQ.org, for one. I will still work as a Solutions Architect for the same company, being in the pre-sales phase of the customer lifecycle, supporting the sales people. I will be part of winning some bids, and celebrating that, and losing others, and learning from that. I will do more discovery workshops for customers. I will hopefully travel more.

I will definitely learn a lot this new year.

I am ready to leave 2013 and let the past be the past. Forward!

Make good art, on bad days and good

117

i don’t get it.

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morning

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