Thursday, September 1, 2011

Intellectual Activism in the Gamer World

I am involved in an exchange with the writer and senior editor of Top Tier Tactics in response to his article, "Gamers need to keep giving back, and not just to Child’s Play":


WiNG,
Thanks for taking the time to respond.  This is an important discussion and I thank you for taking my response seriously.  I'd like to take up the major point of your reply in the form of a hypothetical: 
Are you suggesting that any time a child anywhere in the world starves to death, you bear the responsibility for it unless you give some money (or time) to some kind of charity?  That no matter what else you do in your life, you are guilty if you do not "give something back"?  This is the main question I will explore.
Here's a counter hypothetical for contrast.  Consider a person like Steve Jobs.  He probably put himself through some amount of school to learn.  He probably spent a lot of time dickering around with electronic things that didn't help any homeless people.  He probably saved every cent that he made, diverting none of it to charity, to start his own business out of his garage.  And in the process of pursuing his dreams about gadgets made products of uncompromising integrity and vision, employing thousands of people who are able to be productive and creative and live lives of purpose.  Is he to be considered a worthless human being if a child anywhere in the world dies of hunger?  No. 
Charity is a personal choice - not a personal responsibility.  We are responsible for our choices, but only to ourselves and what those choices mean for our lives and our goals.  We are always responsible for our actions and the contents of our character.  No one else can do that for you.   
Charity is not an unqualified good.  An easy counter example is the act of giving money to an alcoholic.  In that case, you are merely enabling his self-destructive behavior.  If you send money to help a person living in a dictatorship, your help will only be siphoned off to enrich the dictator.
Whatever the case, you can't just act blindly and promiscuously because you believe your intentions are noble.  Outcomes matter.  And the reasons why poverty exist matter.  And it doesn't come down to people not giving enough away for nothing in return.   
The poor in the world are poor because they lack liberty - because they lack any kind of protection of their individual rights.  And much as I might feel for their plight, there is little I can do to help them unless they already have the right ideas on the ethical principles on which to structure society to enable their flourishing as living beings.  Those people, empowered by a rational ethical ideology, might be able to stage a revolt and make the next America as our founding fathers did here. 
I don't feel bad for saying that I'm too busy fighting for the right kind of ideas here in America to preserve our liberty, which is eroding year over year, to be concerned about the poor in Manila.  And the core of what is eating away at our premises of liberty is Altruism.  The idea that man has no right to live for himself.  That self-sacrifice to others is his moral purpose and the basis of all virtue. 
Under Altruism, what right does Steve Jobs have to keep pursuing Apple corporation and NeXT and Pixar?  The capital invested there would be much better if it went to the people with the greatest need, right?  Investing in hokey pokey technologies to make interfaces and images prettier seems like a petty concern compared to a child who is starving to death.  His investment capital would have been sacrificed and we would never have experienced the good things that Apple has brought to the world. 
We thrive in this country because our founding principles aim to leave us free from arbitrary force.  Each man has a right to his life and to pursue his happiness.  That's in the Declaration of Independence and it stands in the face of Altruism, which says the opposite.  It doesn't mean that you'll never help other people, but it doesn't make it virtuous or important either.   
The less we recognize and acknowledge the importance and the goodness of individuals using their independent judgment to act on goals of their choosing and not feeling bad if they make a profit while doing so, the poorer we all will be.  Those profits may be reinvested into productive efforts, or spent on rest on relaxation so that the creativity  and productiveness can continue.  In any case, those profits are noble and good.  The vision of what you want to do with your life and bring into the world and trade with others comes first. 
WiNG: If you've read this far, I thank you for your patience and interest.  I come back to your blog because you have found a very good niche that I hope that you continue to explore and refine and make into what it ought to be.  I consider gaming to be one of *my* chosen forms of rest and relaxation which serves to recharge me for my productive activities and I am glad for your previous postings.  This one just seems like a horribly indulgent and digression and one which compromises *your* vision.