January 28, 2014

The Belief in the Other Man’s Wallet

We recently watched a documentary, The Belief in the Other Man’s Wallet, on a non-eventful Saturday night.  Well many of the ideas are ones that continually struggle with, it was a thought-provoking film that made us rethink our personal approach to interacting with those who have less economically.

“Whatever stereotypes are floating around in your head about what poor people are like, test it out, go meet some. I think if we knew more poor people, if we walked with more people, it wouldn't just be about the money. And I suspect and the end of the day relating to a poor person may actually be more transformative for them, than the money you give them.”

Here is an exert about the film from their website:

Imagine you’re walking through a park on your way to work. Across the way, a small boy is drowning in a pond. You could wade into the pond and save the child, but you’re wearing a $200 pair of shoes and rather not ruin them. So you pass by the child, allowing the boy to drown.

The reasonable response to such a story is moral outrage. But noted philosopher and Princeton Professor Peter Singer argues you're just as guilty when you purchase luxury items. Instead of going on vacation or even buying a $5 latte, you could donate the money to a non-profit that provides vaccines, medicine, or other life saving treatments to one of the 8 million children who die each year from preventable diseases. Choosing not to purchase a $5 cup of coffee could save a child’s life.`

To some, Singer’s solution appears too simple. There are too many steps between a small purchase at a coffee shop and a hungry child in the slums of Kenya. To others, the solution is as simple as donating used clothes, buying a pair of TOMS shoes, or traveling to Haiti to help build new homes and schools. But do these solutions help or only reflect an American understanding of prosperity?

The Belief in the Other Man's Wallet is a 45-minute documentary exploration on our moral responsibility to those in poverty. It tracks the stories of philosophers, economists and aid workers when the world asks for our help, and good intentions are not enough.

We hope that you take the time to watch this film and more importantly think about the ways in which your day to day choices affect those around the world.

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