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Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum Ethics III,” Migrant Thread
Jack Marshall -- ProEthics, Ltd. Jack Marshall -- ProEthics, Ltd.
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Alexandria , VA
Tuesday, January 01, 2019


Mea culpa: I am only now catching up on all of the 144 comments in the December 19 open forum. Once again, the commentariat here covered Ethics Alarms with glory.

The first Comment of the Day from that post comes from a non-U.S. commentator, one of several here, whose perspective is often contrarian but always well-stated.

Here is Andrew Wakeling’s Comment of the Day on the post on the immigration/migrant thread in the post, Open Forum Ethics III:

There is something unsettling about foreigners (or rather those outside our community being accorded ‘rights’) that impose on ‘us’.

Migrants are drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean and obtain a better life in Europe. I don’t blame the migrants for trying and some of them may well be escaping quite dreadful conditions. And as a European (at least until March 2019) I broadly support sustainable collective decency, admittedly being quite unclear how this should be done. I am not therefore unsettled by a European Court ruling that migrants rescued by EU vessels must be taken to a safe port. That seems to me to be a quite reasonable codification of a collective decision which I assume (without great confidence) has some democratic legitimacy. (ie. ‘We’ have decided.)

But I am more than unsettled by the claim, as in an NYT opinion piece today that migrant drownings show that: “European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation.".

Of course such unsettlement risks me being marked out as an uncaring fascist, and at least in my mind this really isn’t the case. I don’t easily accept that ‘you’ (a foreigner outside my family and community) can have any ‘rights’ that impose an obligation on ‘me’. That does NOT mean I will necessarily refuse to help you. I want to be a decent charitable man, and I will within reason finance my family and community to so act.

There is a very practical as well as ethical angle here. It is unclear to me why the ‘Good Samaritan’ helped the distressed traveller. May be he was always ‘good’. Maybe he had just won Lotto. The important point is he ‘helped’ while others didn’t ; and it cost him. His charitable act should not place any obligation on him, or others, to help the next distressed traveller. The ‘cost’ of helping ‘one’ must not be inflated to an obligation to help the many. The tendency will then be an unavoidable drift to meanness and away from charity. All will lose.

ProEthics, Ltd.
Alexandria, VA