On Reason and Humanity

January 27, 2010

Sounding reasonable doesn’t make you reasonable. Being “logical” doesn’t make you humane. And being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian doesn’t make you anything but craven for attention.

Former NBA basketball player (and I use that term rather loosely) Paul Shirley recently penned a long and elegantly written statement on the plight of the Haitian people. Unfortunately for Mr. Shirley, “long” and “elegant” are not synonyms for “knowledgeable” and “insightful.”  If nothing else, it would have behooved Mr. Shirley to have done some research into his assumptions before foisting his nonsense on the rest of us.

The bitingly humorous take on Mr. Shirley’s work has already been done (and done extremely well) by the Kissing Suzy Kolber blog.  I will, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, be taking a wholly different approach (albeit rather long) to the matter.  For the record, I do not and could not disagree with respect to the idea that money donated to the Haitian disaster relief effort should be distributed and utilized in a way that rebuilds the impoverished nation with an eye toward protection from major natural disasters such as last week’s earthquake that has claimed at least 150,000 lives. That is, I believe, generally incontestable. Dialogue is important, especially when the amount of money that has been donated is inevitably billions of dollars.  We need to be sure that relief goes both directly to people and insures against future catastrophe.

That being said, while Mr. Shirley’s piece may make some academically and philosophically interesting points about self-sufficiency and aid, it is also fundamentally wrong in several respects, which undermines his credibility on the subject.

Take, for example, his comments on the homeless at the beginning of the post:

“I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him.”

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