Response from Chomsky

Each of us has finite time, resources, energy. Even if we devoted 100% of it to helping the needy, relieving suffering, etc., we'd have to make very painful choices, ignoring a huge amount that ought to be done. And no one can spend anything remotely like 100%, so the choices are harder, but inevitable. There's no general answer possible as to how to make them.

I once drove to a protest demonstration in New Delhi with a woman who really had devoted something like 100% of her time and energy to these endeavors. She had given up a professorship at the university in New Delhi to live in a deeply impoverished village in Rajasthan, living in poverty of a kind we can barely imagine, trying to work mostly on women's issues in a region where the oppression of women is grotesque. In India, even in the richer parts, if your car stops for a traffic light, you're likely to be besieged by utterly miserable people pleading for a coin. I noticed that she sat completely stolid, not even looking out the window, and she advised me to do the same. It's not that her heart is made of stone. Quite the opposite. She knew that she couldn't give a fraction of them anything meaningful, had chosen to devote herself to their misery in different ways, and understood that unless you pretend you do not see, you'll tear yourself to shreds, helping no one. In other circumstances, she would have given everything she had to some beggar.


That doesn't answer your question. Nothing does. You'll just have to decide for yourself, as each of us must, which is the right way for you, of the many we have available to us.


Noam