? Most people have natural desires such as getting higher social status; making more money; travelling all around the world; or collecting specific objects like cars, shoes, watches, dishes or stamps. Often this desire becomes a reason why people wake up in the morning, work hard, deal with all their troubles, or patiently save money. Eventually when the person achieves their desire, he/she feels great happiness, and it remains in their lives as a pleasant memory. However, sometimes people have conflicts between their wants and their moral responsibilities. What should human beings put first in their lives?
Is there a method that helps human beings to find a balance among different values? My desire was to have designer bags. It started when I was a freshman in college. I had no knowledge about designer brands before I came to college because my parents have never put value on material things and have shown thrifty living is more meaningful than luxury living. I had had no issues with what my parents taught me, but starting in college I have struggled with my original values. My professor made fun of my clothing and accessories, which I bought at the supermarket, with obscure brand logos.
She said if I wanted to be a good designer I had to be aware of fashion trends and style, and I also had to use those items. Moreover, the professor advised me that I should treat myself like a professional designer instead of a naive country girl, so I should take more care of my outfit. What she said it made sense to me but it hurt my self-esteem first. After that I started to look at people around me and I realized I had to change from head to toe. I asked my parents to buy new clothes, shoes and accessories, and not at the supermarket. So we went to a department store and I saw the new world at age 19.
Everything looked fabulous and beautiful, but also very expensive, especially compared to what I used to wear and carry. That first shopping experience at the luxury department changed my entire value system. I used to give tithe and offering to church without thinking or counting. It was my duty as a Christian and I knew how the church would spend the money that I donate. The church I attended had a partnership with a local orphanage and a nursing home and I regularly went there to serve people with other church members.
It was such a significant experience which taught me the spirit of sharing and happiness from contribution to people who are in need. Since my entire values changed, I started to calculate the money I spent for donation and to fulfill myself. I tried to find a few reasons why I did not have to donate. First of all, I worked hard to earn money; second of all, I would sacrifice my short-term wants to save money for a new designer bag. Thirdly, there are many people who are wealthier than I who would give more. A few months after, I had money to buy my first designer bag, so I went to the department store to buy my long-term goal.
That bag made me feel happy and satisfied and I found myself showing off my pleasure to people around me.. I thought once I had a bag that I wanted to have it would be just enough, but soon after, I found a new bag that I hoped to have. This started my moral dilemma between satisfying my material greed and the spirit of sharing. I asked my parents to give me wise words about the situation that I faced. They said I should not stop donating money if I feel guilty from it, but I should stop donating money if not getting a bag made me unhappy. They also said I had to think about why I had a part-time drawing teaching job.
I said that I worked because I wanted to build my career and to take financial responsibility for myself, so there was no problem with that. I pointed out the amount of fulfillment was greater and longer when I carried out my moral responsibility for orphan children and seniors who were in nursing homes. Therefore I decided to put my moral duty first, but I also made special savings for myself which could afford my personal desire for bags. It seemed the problem was solved but it is not fully solved yet. As my eyes become more sophisticated, my desires grow bigger and more expensive and it will not stop.
The utilitarian philosopher, Peter Singer, emphasizes the scientific evidence on conditions of happiness, which shows that once human beings have enough to satisfy their basic needs, they cannot maximize their happiness anymore by gaining wealth. I do partly agree with his opinion because human beings need continuous stimulation, so they work and make progress in their daily lives.
The New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks believes that human beings need a reward as motivation in order to work harder and being productive, which means people are supposed to help each other but human beings have natural preference to put themselves as the highest priority, so self-satisfaction is more important than taking moral responsibilities.
Although Brooks’ opinion makes sense to me according to my experience, I am not 100% sure which opinion is right and I should follow. In my mind the most important matter is what makes people happier and brings no regret, while finding a balance between self-satisfaction and looking after people who are in need with a true heart.
Courtney from Study Moose
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