But, our tendency is to continue in our own patterns of consumption.
Lines of argument which I encounter
My using goods and services is not the cause of others suffering. There are, or could be with better management, enough goods and services available.
Line of response: False. There is a whole "limits to growth" argument which shows that the environment cannot bear the continuation, and particularly the expansion of current production and growth patterns. This is in two areas:
My using goods and services is not the cause of others suffering. Were I not to use what I do, it would make no difference to others. There is no way to distribute the little bit I might spare.
Line of response: False. It can be demonstrated that a significant portion of our consumption relies on a subsidy of land, labor, natural resources or the political freedom of others. The amounts that any one person uses may well be small, but one still causes misery with that amount, and one supports the social, political and economic world and national orders which allow or demand that harm.
My using goods and services is not the cause of others' suffering. The primary reason for suffering is within other countries. "They" (the power elite in other countries) cause this misery.
Line of response: The United States, as one of the world's largest consumers has a long history of oppression to other lands to support that consumption.
My using goods and services is not the cause of others suffering. The primary cause is the suffering people themselves. (Variations)
There are too many of them--irresponsible reproduction.
They are too lazy, or ignorant, or wicked, or some combination of these.
Whether I use goods and services is irrelevant. Humans have always been in competitive struggle for survival. The poor always have and always will be with us. My own becoming poor would not solve the problem and is contrary to both nature and my desires.
Line of response: There is tremendous historical evidence that those in misery are relatively helpless to respond. Those in privilege often have and use economic, social, religious, political and military power to keep others in subjection.
My mind says change, but:
There are variations on this argument:
Line of response: This is a wonderful beginning. But, to not follow through and find out more is a serious moral failing.
Line of response: A moral cop-out. If morality means anything, then it means precisely that we have a duty -- to whomever or whatever one defines as morality -- to self, to society, to others, to a God, or several of these simultaneously.
One objection, which I've recently encountered, is quite provocative and new to me:
As I've argued in another place, one of the difficulties of those suffering non-voluntary simplicity is that they suffer injustice, but don't believe they can do anything about it, find themselves helpless and end of frustratingly tolerating injustice and either misery or and non-voluntary simplicity.
The objection, which I would call the BAD FAITH SIMPLIFYING argument runs as follows:
Many people are in fact living in non-voluntary simplicity. In this simplicity they feel not only the material lack, but also the helpless of their situation. One way to cope with this sense of hopelessness and powerlessness, it to make voluntary economic simplicity into a virtue. In doing so such bad faith relieves the person from the obligation to address the offending social evils and social structures which cause such powerlessness and hopelessness.
Line of response. This is a tough call. There is a lot of truth in this objection. One would seem to need to work at both the level of the political, struggling to change unjust and oppressive social structures, but at the same time, one must survive in the meantime and at times only economic simplicity can allow one to achieve that. It's a lot to demand of a person that they embrace both of the demanding positions at the same time, but it may well be what a reasoned analysis of the situation calls for.
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Bob Corbett email@example.com