Life Boat Ethics vs Shooting an Elephant: Compare & Contrast

Life Boat Ethics vs Shooting an Elephant: Compare & Contrast
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Garrett Harden’s short story the Life Boat raised many questions and counter statements based on his harsh arguments. It is rather hard to believe the arguments put forth in this story, but the facts lie right within them. It is self-explanatory to every critical thinker and development-oriented receptionist of the world myriads. When he asserted the famous capitalistic statement  “To be generous with one’s own possessions is quite different from being generous with those of posterity”, it did not go well with the communists, the lifetime dependants. The facts, however, hash and arrogant stood their explanations. The ground was established, and a base of the argument affirmed. This article has been opposed by the supporters of communists’ writers such as George Orwell and the appellants for democratic rights and affairs on the grounds of seeking justice through compensations and sharing of the world resources. In this paper, I will draw the lines of divergence and connection in the works of Garrett Harden Life Boat Ethics, George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, and Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. These shall be related to Garrett’s statement “To be generous with one’s own possessions is quite different from being generous with those of posterity”.

The world resources such as air, water, and land are common to all and every person is free to use them as Garrett argues. Who, however, is concerned with their acute need for protection and effective utilization by the world populace is a question of no effect. This question remains unanswered across generations and is the reason behind the arguments of the tragedy of the commons as argued by various scholars. While we have poor and rich nations in the world, effective utilization of the word resources is a key reason for such classifications. The resources are common to all yet bear different beneficial uses to all. The irrational and inequitable use of these resources has therefore resulted in conflicts and the tragedies spoken by Orwell and Le Guin. The need to help the world’s desperate populace whose resources have been used, on the basis of their commonality (Garrett), to develop other regions is of great importance. Imperialism has, however, made it rather difficult for the poor nations and poor people in these nations to trudge up the ladder of development despite their precious resources being used to develop other regions. It is like the protest against killing the killer elephant as Orwell puts it, like keeping the poor and mesmerized child a living reality among the rich societies in Omelas as Le Guin notes.

Garrett’s appeal in his statement “To be generous with one’s own possessions is quite different from being generous with those of posterity” is imperialistic rather than advocacy for hard work by all men across the globe. Even though all people are equal as Garrett puts it and bear equal capabilities to develop themselves and their regions, the developed nations, the elephants in Orwell’s ‘Shooting the Elephant’ still feel above the poor nations. It is for this fact that they squander the poor man’s resources to aid in their own development, and in the process trample over them to death. Imperialism according to Le Guin and Orwell is the greatest enemy to the development of the poor nations around the globe. The rich nations stray into the poor man’s nation, trample them under feet, and inflict poverty over them by depriving them of the suitable resources they require for their own developmental purposes. In return, they expect the poor nations to keep quiet and assume their stray. The absurdity of the whole affair is here with us ‘when the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys’ (George). It is like shooting the elephant that has strayed into the locals’ farms. The result of such excessive exploitation and scramble over the world’s, poor man’s, resources is the sole presenter of the global problems and an impediment to the imperialist’s freedom. The global watchdog, the UN, has, however, sympathized with the rich nations over their irrational use of the poor nation’s resources. This is because, as Orwell notes, the UN herself is an imperialist in disguise, not wanting to issue sanctions on the rich imperialist nations, her own people. Unlike the narrator in Orwell’s Shooting the Elephant sympathizing with the wounded and dying elephant, nature will slowly kill the rich nations and shrink their development prospects.

Immense global pollution on water, air, and land are among some of the bullets, according to Orwell, that is slowly laying trajectory towards the developed nations and in mere time, the bullet shall be shot and the imperialists’ economies shall die gradually but surely. The ones who walk away from Omelas as Le Guin presents are compared to the imperialists, the rich, nations whose development prospects will constantly, but surely walk away from the face of the earth (Ursula). The death of these nations shall come about after the world resources shall have been exhausted and extremely polluted through their own means. The poor child, nations, though greatly affected remains in his anguish, unperturbed by the environmental changes and deteriorations. Contrary to Garrett’s arguments, it is time the imperialists’ worlds realize the facts that “To be generous with one’s own possessions is being generous with those of posterity” and the contrary is like shooting the elephant, slowly walking away from Omelas.

In conclusion, the increasing world poverty is a result of imperialism and neocolonialism as Orwell and Le Guin notes. Failure to focus on future generations in totality will result in future anguish.  Excessive utilization of the world resources today, by the rich nations result in slow changes in the global aspects. Pollution and environmental degradation are the prime results consequently hindering the development prospects in various regions of the earth. Economic anguish of the excess users, developed nations, will be the immediate results. Adoption of collaborative approaches in coming up with integrated support systems to the developing nations will however help the straying aspect of the developed nations and accord justice to the world through the equitable utilization of the world resources.  

Works Cited:

Garrett, Hardin, . “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor”.” Psychology Today (2006).

George, Orwell. Shooting the Elephant. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1936.

Ursula, K. Le Guin. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. United States, USA: Prentice-Hall, 1973.