I love reading Peter Singer’s books; he inspires me to be a better person.
The Most Good You Can Do is about the concept of ‘effective altruism’; basicI love reading Peter Singer’s books; he inspires me to be a better person.
The Most Good You Can Do is about the concept of ‘effective altruism’; basically it’s about interrogating your own philanthropic choices to ascertain whether it’s money, time or other forms of altruism well spent.
All of us are influenced to some extent by emotion when we give. There’s some rather dismaying research that shows that we are more likely to give to one child with a photo and a name than we are to photos of more than one child in need even when we know that we could save more lives for the same amount of money. We respond to cute and lovable, or tragic and sad, and we respond to personal appeals from someone we know. Too many of us give small amounts to lots of charities even though the cost of administering these small amounts often outweighs the donation. This is why charities pursue us for regular monthly deductions from our credit cards, because it’s the most cost-effective way of collecting the money and it’s money they can count on.
From this book I learned that there are organisations such as Charity Navigator in the US and Give Well that exist to evaluate the effectiveness of the charity dollars we donate. But it’s not as simple as it looks: a charity with lower administrative costs may not be using some of its money to monitor due diligence or the effectiveness of what it does. There must be effective checks to ensure that the money is being spent properly, but research into effectiveness needs to take into account that some programs are long-term and others are short-term. Provision of clean water to schools (my favourite Oxfam Christmas gift) has an immediate impact on health outcomes (and school attendance) but adult literacy programs may take longer to take achieve results and the effects on community health or the local economy may be indirect and harder to trace.
**spoiler alert** It doesn’t take long to read this novella – only an hour or so – but it certainly leaves an impact, especially so soon after the Vic**spoiler alert** It doesn’t take long to read this novella – only an hour or so – but it certainly leaves an impact, especially so soon after the Victorian bushfires on Black Saturday.
Luke and Anna are thirtysomethings from Sydney who make a tree change, settling in the coastal hamlet of Garra Nalla. There they leave behind the pressures of city life and mild envy of more successful friends with large mortgages and share portfolios to monitor. They were relieved to be free of ‘dinner parties [where] people spoke solemnly of their renovations; with the air of diplomats renegotiating the Geneva Convention they discoursed on the problems of installing a second bathroom.’ (p8)
Lohrey deftly sketches the housing affordability crisis: these two work hard but they can’t afford Sydney and they can’t even do the bush on their own. They need the help of both sets of parents to buy the old Federation house, affordable only because it lacks sea views. They learn to love the simple things, like bird-watching; they plant a vegie patch. They make friends and play tennis with friends on a simple backyard court, with nary a Nike to be seen. Here they discuss drought-proofing their properties with appropriate solemnity for it has barely rained for seven years and every drop is precious. Two showers a week – that’s a very arresting image!
The ease of their lifestyle compared to the stress of city life is offset by this fear of the drought, the hard physical labour of planting, and the aymmetrical patterns of their sleep.
There is a moment, towards the end of this biography when the subject, Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) is in his nineties, when any thoughtful reThere is a moment, towards the end of this biography when the subject, Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) is in his nineties, when any thoughtful reader will pause. Commenting on the Archbishop’s decision to buy his first electric razor at such an advanced age, his friend, Father Hackett said that Mannix didn’t like to be touched. I think that is terribly sad. No matter what you may think about the priesthood and its scandals, it seems to me to be a dreadful thing not to have the comfort of human touch in old age. This one small snippet from the book really brought home to me what a lonely life is imposed by the Catholic priesthood…
Daniel Mannix was a man associated in my mind with destructive authoritarian power wielded from the pulpit to interfere with Australian politics. He died when I was a child, but his protégé B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) was active long after that, and the name of Mannix used pejoratively often made its way into the newspapers and books when I was old enough to take an interest in politics. But elsewhere in the book Niall comments on the man’s loneliness, and this, I think, is her achievement in this book – not only does she tell the story of his life to correct so many of my erroneous impressions, she also shows the human price he paid for the way he lived it.
Mannix was born in Catholic Ireland to a family of six at a time when it was customary for a son to be gifted to the priesthood. Daniel was the clever one and in time off he went to the seminary at Maynooth. He was ordained in 1890 but never had a parish: he became an academic at the seminary instead and remained there until – in his forties, and without consultation – he was despatched in 1912 by the Vatican to be Coadjutor (archbishop-in-waiting) to the Archbishop of Melbourne. Niall begins her book by noting that Mannix had his personal papers destroyed after his death, so there is no record of what must surely have been dismay. He was passionately interested in Irish nationalism, and to the consternation of some in the church had been to some extent intemperately involved. He was – publicly – a supporter of Sinn Fein, an admirer of the then radical Eamon de Valera and an opponent of making the Irish language compulsory for Matriculation. Mannix was an Irishman, with a keen interest in Irish politics. But off he went to Melbourne…
Catholics in Melbourne then, were almost exclusively Irish Catholics, disdained by the Protestant majority as a matter of course and automatically considered suspect in the matter of loyalty to Britain. Nobody was expecting a local man to replace Archbishop Carr because all the archbishops were Irish then, just as all the Governors-General were Brits. But the Irish Catholics were delighted with their new coadjutor who was tall, handsome, beautifully spoken and an impressive orator, and the rest of Melbourne looked on with apprehension.
As you could tell from the Opening Lines of Anchor Point that I posted on my blog, I was thoroughly impressed by this debut novel. It’s an absorbing,As you could tell from the Opening Lines of Anchor Point that I posted on my blog, I was thoroughly impressed by this debut novel. It’s an absorbing, satisfying book that suggests a promising future for Melbourne author Alice Robinson.
What precipitated ten-year-old Laura’s swollen eye in that opening scene was that she had broken a pot created by her mother, an amateur artist. The drama that ensues has lifelong implications for Laura who ends up becoming mother to her five-year-old sister Vik and a helpmeet for her father, who is a simple but single-minded man, devoted to the hardscrabble land on which he hopes to develop sheep pasture. She is a mere child when she helps Bruce to clear-fell the land and help with the lambing…
The writing is vivid:
More months passed. The palms of Laura’s hands, like the surface of the land, were changing. Blisters rose like pearls of water, breaking, bleeding, running dry. Then the skin hardened – so much so that it started cracking as the weather grew cold. Blood and then pus marked the fissures in the tissue along the lifeline and along the one for love. The cracks took ages to heal, but she couldn’t very well not use her hands. Fixing the ute’s engine, covered in grease, head pounding through the fumes, she thought her skin might come right off. (p.63)
Habits of guilt and self-sacrifice define Laura’s life, compromising her relationship with Luc, the man she meets at Agricultural College, and with her sister.