There was a recent call for paper for the Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) Anniversary Workshop. The papers were asked to address the following question:
Many individuals in affluent nations are aware that a vast number of people live in conditions of severe poverty. Yet they are more likely to go to the movies or to buy an expensive sweater than they are to give their money to humanitarian aid. The question arises, how can individuals be motivated to act on their duties to aid the global poor?
A broadcast late last year on Radio National’s Life Matters show which interviewed people on the subject of “Gifts”, both people who had given and those who had received gifts, seems to shed some light on this issue. A common theme amongst those who were interviewed was that the lives of the people giving the gifts were just as enriched as those who had received the gifts. Stories were told again and again about how the giving of a certain gift, whether it be money, time or something else, had changed their lives for the better.
It seems that this is something that policy makers might want to take into account when contemplating the question of how we might motivate a greater number of individuals to give to those less fortunate than themselves. All around us are messages on how to lead a healthy and happy life, the good life….quit smoking, exercise, don’t drink too much, see our friends and family, relax, meditate, have a good work ethic. If we could encompass into these messages the notion that “giving” was also part of a happy life, a good life, perhaps we could create a culture that paid more attention to how and when we give and which would encourage this as a part of life. This may then change the nature of “giving” from an act done by a few in society, to act which everybody makes efforts to incorporate into their lives, in the same way they make efforts to be fit, healthy and happy.
To find out more about the ASAP conference see here: http://asap.betaelements.net/projects/moral-psychology-and-poverty-alleviation/