Oh dear. This feels very college-freshman-philosophy-class here. I guess I'm regressing.
You know I love dogs. I was raised with Rebel, and Penny and Maggie and they were part of the family. Penny was my only sibling after Lynn abandoned me for UNCW, and the family member, by far, that I missed the most when I left home for Georgetown. When I was working part-time for Perfect Sense Digital, I spent 8 hours a week working for Animal Care and Control in Brooklyn walking shelter dogs that would be euthanized in a couple days. I like most dogs more than most people.
|This is a stray dog literally inside Humayun's Tomb. They are EVERYWHERE.|
In Delhi there were stray dogs everywhere. It was one of the first things I noticed on the taxi ride home from the airport with Sravan at 3 AM. Everywhere on the highway. Plenty in the street in front of the Dimagi flat. I easily passed 50 of them on my 15 minute walk to work in C block Vasant Vihar.
|This is an advert for a fertility clinic posted on an electric transistor in Visant Vihar.|
Vasant Vihar is a bougie ambassador neighborhood where some of the ex-pats are walking pets on a leash. There is a pet store selling dog and cat food and toys. And right there out front of the store for your disjuncture-seeking brain there are innumerable stray dogs. Cute fluffy dogs with horrible open sores and flies in the sores like a Steinbeck novel. And the pets on the leash. And the stray dogs hit by the insane traffic but not killed and dragging their wasting paralyzed hind-quarters behind them for a few more days until they starve. And 1 billion people. And fertility clinics.
I can’t really care about those stray dogs suffering. There are so many. Unlimited. I have to separate that out if I'm going to get out of bed. I wish Peter Singer were here. It's like worrying about the suffering of pigeons. Or ants. Or the bacteria in my mouth when I brush my teeth. It’s vast an immeasurable and what is so much more important about the suffering I see than the suffering I know about but don't see? So I'll just push this suffering into the 'doesn't matter' category of suffering. That category is getting crowded. (See also: Boat Migrants, Guantanamo, Rwandan children 'outside the fence'.)
The danger of shifting the dogs, who I care so much about reflexively, into this category is that to get them over there, you rip a hole wide enough that pretty much everything could go. Seems like getting people over there might just follow naturally.
So I get up in the morning and I guess I can say I didn't create that situation, but then who did? Who exactly has to fix it? And if there's not one simple answer, and if there's not much likelihood that that a responsible governing body will fix it, then this is just the 'normal' we need to accept.
And we can take some comfort in saying we try to do our bit. So I take a pay cut and work for a social enterprise that is trying to improve health outcomes for all kinds of interventions for the underserved populations around the world. And maybe if I help this organization to achieve its mission then the gradual improvement of outcomes reduces suffering some other way… Like a suffering offset. Feels thin and hollow.
Then there's a suffering calculus. To live is to suffer. And how much do these stray dogs suffer. X amount? What does it matter if they suffer 2X or 10X? Or .01X? In the long range view the suffering will be gone. I know it hurt like hell when I tore my rotator cuff, but now that suffering seems not just distant but nonexistent. Pain in the past counts for nothing. Once I'm dead, will it matter how much pain I felt when I was alive? To who exactly? Ok so pain and suffering don't matter? Oh dear…