What would you do?

It’s a regular tuesday morning and you are on your way to work. There is a duck pond near your home that you always pass but rarely take much notice of it. This morning however something catches your eye. There is a child splashing about in the pond. He seems to be in the shallower area but it seems very odd to see a child in the water at all so you take a closer look. The child is young, a couple of years old, and clearly doesn’t know how to swim, he seems to be having trouble keeping his head out of the water.

You look around and there is no one else there. No mum, no dad, no baby sitter, just a little boy trying to catch his breath in the cold morning air. If you don’t go in and pull him out he will probably drown. Getting in to the water is safe for you, you are much bigger and will be able to stand easily, but you are wearing new clothes, and you will surely be late for work if you stop. What would you do?

This is what is called a practical ethics question, a question which tests your ethics and morals in practical situations. In this particular situation would you value your new clothes and being on time for work over the life of a child. Of course you wouldn’t. Hundred of students over hundres of courses have been asked similar questions. What would you do? Almost every student would have answered, save the child! Save the child! 

Let’s try another one:

It is a tuesday morning and you are on your way to work. There is a young boy in Ghana who is dying of malaria. He is suffering a very slow and painful death. His parents are too poor to take him to the hospital. They want to help him but they cannot afford to ease his suffering. It would cost you less than what you spend on a week on coffee’s from your local cafe to save his life. Will you?

27,000 children die every day not from sickness, starvation and malnutrition but from poverty. And it takes so little to give something, to sacrifice something that you want for something that they need. I know many of my friends and family feel poor, I too at times feel poor, it’s part of our conditioning. But poverty in the western world (in most cases) is relative. You feel poor because you can’t afford many of the things you see on TV, you drive an old car, you can’t afford ot eat out at that new restaurant, you can’t pay your rent (because you spent your money on other things that you don’t need), you can’t buy those amazing things that you saw on TV that you really want – but you do have a TV, in fact you may have more than one. Many people claim their relative poverty on not being able to donate to charity… but really, everyone has something that they can give.


2 of the 1.4 billion, Chandigarh, India

There are 1.4 billion people in the world who are living in extreme poverty. Poverty that is defined by the lack of the ability to provide the most basic human needs for themselves and their families. There are roughly 1 billion people in the world who are living at a level of extreme wealth that has never been seen before, people who buy their own private jumbo jets, people who build palaces and have a car for every day of the week. But you and I aren’t either of these people. We are a part of the some 5 billion people in between. We were lucky to be born into social and economic conditions that allow us rights, that allow us security and allow us to have food on the table every night. Just because you are not rich doens’t mean you shouldn’t give.

We have an intuitive belief that we should help others in need, you would have saved that child wouldn’t you? The one who was drowning? We are morally obliged, it’s built into almost every one of us. But, when we can’t see the child our moral compass is not quite so reliable. It’s certainly something to think about… Where does your moral compass lie?

These are the easy questions, and the solution is simple, change. Give the sacrifice is small, it wont affect your life but it can change the life of someone else, someone who wasn’t so lucky as you were on the day they were born. There are much more difficult questions.

An ethical question, that I am not ready to face is the following.

Your country is at war. You and your community are in hiding together from the soldiers who have come to kill you. They are approaching, getting closer and closer, you hold your baby in your arms. Your baby is about to cough. You have two options. You can put your hand over your baby’s mouth, smothering the child or  you can let it cough, giving away your location and the soldiers will come and kill you, your baby and your entire community. What would you do? Your baby? Or your whole community?

 It’s certainly something to consider… maybe it’s easier just to give to charity and save a life.

Barefoot Inked – I know what I would do.





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