Morality on the Cheap

Ad Week has the details on MTV’s new campaign to get people to care:

Every day, our global community faces an endless list of serious issues, from famine to poverty to global warming. Now, evidently as part of an MTV campaign, Twilight star Nikki Reed is asking people everywhere to “give a ****”—both figuratively and, ahem, literally.

“I may be famous, but I actually give a ****,” the actress says in the sort-of-mock PSA below. The Give a ****movement, she says, is based on the Dalai Lama’s theory (heavily paraphrased) that “If enough people take the time to simply give a ****about the world’s problems, even if they don’t actually do anything but just give a ****about them, the world’s problems will cease to exist.”…

You know, it could be that merely saying we care is not as important as acting as if we care.  I know that being generous is difficult – it eats up time, money and resources which one can spend on the self.  I, myself, am not nearly as generous as I can be…C. S. Lewis put it best when he judged that if charity doesn’t pinch a bit, then it isn’t enough.  In other words, unless you are giving up something for yourself, then you’ve really given little (see Mark 12:41-44).  While it is at least somewhat of an advance to actually take thought for the sufferings of the world, if there is no follow-through to action, the thoughts tend to moral sterility.

My worry here is that we are falling ever further in to a morality on the cheap.  Sort of like the self-esteem nonsense in public schools where kids are taught to feel great about themselves even if they don’t accomplish anything.  The world is filled with suffering…and no amount of thinking about it and wishing others well will do the trick.  We actually have to get our hands dirty and help the less fortunate.  I am concerned with the lack of challenge here – the stroking of the modern ego where everyone wants to feel that they are swell, even though all of us are sinners – not one of us having the right to feel we’ve ever done enough, loved enough or helped enough.

A better program might have been to show someone getting off the couch, setting aside the video game and going out to find someone who needs help.  They are all around us…right now, probably not a thousand yards from where you sit reading this, there is someone who needs help.  But to ask you to do that requires more than just some sort of nebulous, half-morality…it requires an appeal to conscience; an appeal to the fact that we are all of us creatures; contingent beings who owe every last thing we have to Another, and thus have a moral obligation to do what is right, not just think about what is wrong and feel good about ourselves for so doing.