Why I Chose to Vote “Yes” on the Senior Cocks Proposal
A proposal was raised last week to cancel one of the Senior Cocktails events and instead donate the $15,000 – $20,000 earmarked for the event to relief efforts in Haiti. The idea met with strong support among the senior class, as well as some dissent. Some critics have pointed out that the proposal is illogical: if we wanted to pay for the party in September, why wouldn’t we want it now? There’s a crisis in Haiti, but there was no lack of urgent crises to support across the globe in early Autumn. And why can’t we do both? Certainly any of us who could afford to spend $160 on senior event tickets can scratch together another $20 on our own to donate, without dipping into the money we already decided to spend partying.
Part of me laughs because these critics are right; their logic is entirely sound. Another part of me cries because HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY say that having one more night on the town is MORE IMPORTANT than bringing food and water to thousands of people whose city was just destroyed? Really? I know I was presented with a very similar decision when I chose to buy my tickets. What has changed?
Logic isn’t all we’re made of. The ways that we are sheltered from, desensitized to, or put in intimate contact with certain world realities influences our priorities and actions. When I paid for my senior cocktail ticket, a certain (familiar) configuration of those perceptive filters made it feel like the best way to spend my money. At this moment, the vivid potential of collective action and the startling juxtaposition framed by the proposal ($15,000 for Haiti or a party for our class?) have shifted my direct experience of the situation at hand, and with it my priorities. One could suggest that our usual judgment reflects clear vision, whereas the intense juxtaposition presented in the Senior class survey causes distortions – but it’s just as easy to argue the opposite (everyday judgment is distorted by desensitization whereas moments like this are more lucid). Whether we like it or not, we are ethically and emotionally sensitive to context, and our valuations are conditioned by framing.
I am happy to jump on this opportunity to live in an ever-so-slightly more generous way, and hopefully add momentum to this way of living: So I vote yes on the proposal to convert $15,000 in cocktail funds to aid. I do so not because I am momentarily swayed by sensational news coverage or by peer pressure, but because, knowing that I am among the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population, a deep and sometimes dormant logic has always urged me toward a position of generosity and service. On days like today, when generosity actually presents itself as the obvious choice, I don’t second-guess it with a fine-tooth comb: I let this obvious attitude second-guess the rest of my life. I embrace the opportunity to remember that all I have is a gift, to humbly share the resources I can access, and to critically reevaluate the decisions I make every day. The crisis in Haiti does not present a new or special opportunity for charity, logically speaking. And neither does the chance to donate my ticket to senior cocktails. But if holding your next cocktail party or your latest iPhone up to a picture of thirsty Haitian families amid their toppled lives tugs at your heart in a new way, then maybe this moment presents a crucial contrast, an opportunity to crack open a kinder way of living as our priorities quiver beneath our feet.
Should we clench our pockets and shot glasses for fear that sharing is too slippery a slope, and resist this opportunity even if it feels right and good? I don’t think we need to. The worst we have to fear is interdependence.
I vote yes, hell yes, on this proposal and all of its messy moral and emotional implications. We won’t miss our chance for bonding. I bet we could organize a totally rocking, casual event in Beckham Hall on a shoe-string budget that would bring us just as close. If you were counting on those drink tickets, well, come to my house beforehand and we can get to know each other over a beer, or four.