Monday, June 15, 2009

SOUND OFF: IN A DISASTER THERE ARE MANY NEEDS

In an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 69 percent of the readers who responded said that, if a natural disaster hit their town, they would turn down relief if they were not as hard hit as others in the region. But my readers didn't find a simple answer to the question.

"Of course a person is not entitled to relief from a disaster that spared him/her _ at least not in terms of food, blankets and other physical materials," writes Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C. "However, assuming that person experienced the same dread as everyone else, empathized with his or her fellow citizens' pain and losses, and/or experienced a degree of inconvenience because of closed roads or businesses, say, I wouldn't fault him or her for accepting free tickets to events."

Cynthia Dodd of West Haven, Conn., agrees that "just being in a disaster area is traumatizing." She doesn't believe that "red tape" should be allowed to stop "the non-needy" from getting assistance if they deem it necessary.

"All in the town must experience mental stress as a consequence of the disaster," writes Paul Peacock of New York, "and clearly events to relieve that stress would be welcome."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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