Rescue: The Paradoxes of Virtue
3rd Social Research Conference November 17-18, 1994
Confronted with the suffering of others, whether caused by natural disaster or intentionally harmful human acts, our moral obligation seems self-evident. We must make an effort to rescue the imperiled. Today, however, feelings of compassion and stirrings of conscience are simply not enough; the actions of a single individual whose conscience is stirred are unlikely to make a difference. Rather, large-scale humanitarian assistance programs and military interventions are called for. Furthermore, if voices are heard and large-scale actions are undertaken, those who express moral outrage are the least likely to risk their lives by intervening. So intervening becomes difficult and no longer simply a matter of moral imperatives but political responses as well. Who has the responsibility to intervene and the power to do so effectively? What are the limits of this responsibility? Who enforces it? The closer one looks, the harder these questions become to answer, which may explain why so little is done and so many continue to suffer at the hands of others.
To order the related issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly