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Distant Suffering Essay

1612 words - 6 pages

1We all watch the news and see the suffering of millions of people. Morally, are we obliged to save them? A global address of empathy has extended and developed among the media and the citizens of our society. Today, it frames our everyday thinking about violence and conflicts in the world.In today's politics, there is an increasing emphasis on the suffering of people in wars and distant crises. Worldly compassion is considered morally right and the international community denounces "crimes against humanity." More and more people are getting involved in humanitarian aid agencies and NGO's. The media is exposing more and more pictures of distant civil war victims, genocide, killings and in general play a large role in publicizing human suffering. The real question remains the same, are we, as an audience expected to respond to the media with compassion and commitment?Several empirical studies have been done to see the spectators' reactions to explanations of the media exposure of distant suffering. One specific article focuses on innocent victims of different types of violence. According to Nussbaum, compassion is what makes people want to take the action necessary to make a difference. Compassion, unlike altruism or empathy, stems from within humanity rather than religious responsibility. It our duty to act on their compassion for our fellow human beings according to Nussbaum's article.Others believe that the media in fact fosters global compassion. Many examples are present such as the political reactions to the CNN coverage in the recent Afghanistan War. American authorities were pressuring the media to refrain from reporting civilian casualties. It is because they didn't listen that the world is more aware of what is truly happening. After all, television plays a key role in giving us information. Photographic media are the closest and most truthful depictions of reality. According to BBC war reporter Martin Bell, the reporting "has changed fundamentally" from mainly reporting military strategies and weaponry, to reporting with a greater focus on mankind-"the people who provoke them, the people who fight them and the people who suffer from them." When audiences watch the news, they are more inclined to do something to help merely because they know about what is going on.Peter Singer on the other hand, doesn't think it is necessary for humans to have a certain emotion drive them to take responsibility. He feels that it is our duty to give. In his view, humans ought to save the lives of strangers when we can do so at relatively low costs to ourselves. He makes the radical claim that if we are living comfortably while others are hungry or dying and we're doing nothing about it, there is something fundamentally wrong with our behavior. Why should we do this? Singer says, "simply because we can." If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, we ought to do it.However, is Singer too demanding? His moral standing is rather seductive,...

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