There are approximately 7.85 billion people in the world. I care about dozens of them. Maybe over a hundred, but certainly less than 500. Which means there are approximately 7.85 billion people in the world that I simply don’t care about. It sounds a little strange, cold even, to say it like that, but it’s true. I’m not a sociopath or anything. I have a general feeling of goodwill towards everyone and everything. If I had three wishes, I’d probably use one of them to grant everyone happiness or contentment or something. But, that’s different than actually caring.
I’d imagine most people are in a similar situation as I am. Basically, almost all of the other people on the planet are abstract to me. I know they exist only because I typed a question into a search engine and the search engine told me there are approximately 7.85 billion people. I believe the search engine. Computers are supposed to be very reliable when it comes to data, but I have no actual experience of these people. It’s hard, for me at least, to care about abstractions. To be clear, when I say I don’t care, I mean it in the strictest sense. There’s no real feeling one way or the other. I don’t like them or dislike them. They don’t affect my life in any perceivable way.
There are a few different ways to get from my lack of care about most people to my general goodwill towards all people. I’m just going to sketch them quickly. If anyone wants more detail, let me know and I’ll be happy to provide it. It starts with a kind of variation on the Golden Rule. (Fun fact, this is about as close to deontology as I get.) I have a basic belief that virtually everyone is the same. I don’t mean in terms of capacities or personality or anything like that. I mean in terms of moral worth. So, on pain of being inconsistent, I have to want for most people the same things I want for myself and those I do care about. Without relevant differences, I have no grounding for any other position.
Next, is the fact that I care about things as well as people. I have direct experience of my town, state, country, the planet, the environment, and a whole host of similar things. I have experience of schools and markets and jobs and society. And, I care about these things (I don’t always like them, but I care about them). I want what is good for them. It just so happens that the things that are good for the environment and society and all that are good for the people who live in and with these things.
Also, I care about ideas. I like justice. I hate injustice. As a result, I am interested in having more justice and less injustice. This probably sounds a bit funny. We are used to hearing, “Justice for [insert victim’s name here].” But, odds are I don’t know the victim, even if I know the victim’s name. I’m less interested in justice for the victim than I am in justice for the sake of justice. If I had to care about each victim to care about justice, I wouldn’t have the capacity.
Now, six paragraphs in, just to drive all of my writing teachers a little crazy, I’m going to start talking about the point I wanted to make. I don’t understand how anyone could be different than I am when it comes to caring. I’m not saying that as a rhetorical device to persuade others to be more like me. It’s a statement of fact. I don’t understand. How do people care about things and people that do not impact them in any way?
I guess I’m mostly asking conservatives this question. At least here, in America, they are the ones who make a big fuss over the things that don’t affect them at all. For example, they seem to care deeply about the private lives of LGBTQA+ individuals. I don’t get it. How? Why? I just don’t care about what any consenting, grown-up people do with each other or with themselves. Caring about who some stranger is kissing, what they are wearing, or where they are pissing makes about as much sense as caring whether it will rain in Hartford on May 8, 3126. It’s creepy. It’s like taking voyeurism to the craziest possible extreme. It seems pathological to me.
Anyway, that’s where I am. Strangely, I care about why other people care about things they shouldn’t. If I knew why, maybe I could help them stop caring. Then we’d have more room for everyone and everything I do care about.