Rhetorical Analysis on Peter Singer’s Article: “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”
From an ethical perspective, it is immoral to redecorate your house, take a cruise, or acquire a pricey new suit because that money could be donated to save the lives of children suffering from starvation or curable diseases in vulnerable societies. This is what Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher, believes is the ordinary American’s obligation to the poor in the world. In one of his articles, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, published in the New York Times Magazine, Singer argues that every ordinary American has an opportunity of contributing towards saving the lives of children threatened by easily preventable diseases by donating to organizations such as Oxfam America and UNICEF. Singer begins the presentation of his assertions with stories related to the ethical situations that demanded the individuals involved to take actions that would save the lives of children. Through the presentation of these stories, Singer attempts to appeal to the ethical understanding of a reader with regard to his or her responsibility towards the poor.
In the article, the author sets the stage through the presentation of a specific scenario in a Brazilian film, Central Station, where a woman named Dora acquires an opportunity of pocketing $1,000 by persuading a homeless boy to follow her to an address she was given. She was told that a wealthy family would adopt the boy, but she later realizes that the child would be killed, and his organs sold for transplantation. In the film, Dora redeemed herself from possible criticism from the public by deciding to save the boy. In the second scenario borrowed from his book Living High and Letting Die, Singer presents a situation where Bob, a retiring civil servant, invests most of his savings into a highly valuable car, Bugatti, but he is not able to insure it. On one occasion, when he is out for a drive, he parks the car at the end of a railway siding before going for a stroll. While taking the walk, he notices a runaway train running down the railway track with no one on board. Down the track, he sees a child who is likely to be killed by the runaway train. Bob can only save the child by throwing a switch that will divert the train towards his Bugatti. He decides not to throw the switch, the kid is killed, and Bob continues enjoying ownership of Bugatti.
Singer uses these scenarios with the objective of probing the intuition of a reader about the extent to which it may be wrong to live lavish and happy lives without giving substantial amounts of money to help the needy that are starving or dying from treatable diseases. He uses expert assertions to convince a reader that it is possible to make substantial contribution to the poor through an average of $200 in donations. This estimate is arrived at through an in-depth deliberation of the costs of raising the money, administrative obligations, and the cost incurred in delivering aid to the most vulnerable.
Throughout the article, Singer uses strong sources that improve his credibility and appeal to the ethical and emotional component of a reader. The sources include expert opinion on the average contribution from every ordinary American. He asserts that the United States government has not been able to meet the expected 0.7 percent of its gross national product in the form of aid to the United Nations. This makes it the responsibility of an ordinary American citizen to contribute more than the fair share as a way of securing the future and health of vulnerable children.
Adding to the emotional and ethical appeal, Singer points out the danger of drawing moral conclusions from the facts presented by evolutionary psychologists who assert that by nature, human beings are not sufficiently altruistic. From his perspective, Singer asserts that from a moral approach, altruism requires human beings to always do that what they consider the right thing. The first step toward realizing this objective is by knowing what should be done to ensure that the lives of other people are also comfortable.
Ethical situations from Singer’s perspective always present those involved with a type of dilemma. Bob, the owner of Bugatti, must have wondered why he was placed in a situation where he had to choose between saving the life of an innocent child and sacrificing all his savings. From the perspective of the author, Bob’s situation is what every member of the American society faces every day. In the world, there are many children in need of better living standards and health care.
Singer makes a strong appeal to the emotional component of his reader by arguing that it is not possible to conduct an opinion poll on the morality of a situation. He succeeds in convincing his audience that while engaging in lavish lives, it is always important to remember that there will always be a child somewhere in the world whose life would be saved by a $200 donation. This makes it an obligation of every American to develop a culture of giving to the poor.