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Adem Dzananovic

Professor Green
EXPL 292
11 February 2016
Reflection Paper B
In the previous reflection we wrote for this class, we learned about the various forms of
service. The service I am speaking of is in regards to community service or service that an
individual will not require compensation for. When reading the articles for the first reflection,
I as well as many others were enlightened by the various forms, types, and reasons for
service. What came across as shock may be the theory of SINS, or service is not simple. This
short phrase refers to the idea that service is not always good. This ideology or theory that
service is not good for people being served is a central theme in the two articles, To Hell
with Good Intentions, by Ivan Illich, and Starfish Hurling and Community Service by
Keith Morton.
In To Hell with Good Intentions by Ivan Illich, the central theme of the article is that
the less fortunate members of society in Mexico, as well as other parts of Latin America, do
not need nor want help from Western Culture, or more specifically, the United States of
America. Illich speaks strongly about his disgust with American students sacrificing their
summer vacations and coming to Mexico to help out the less fortunate and less wealthy
members of society. The article is actually an addressed speech by Monsignor Ivan Illich to
the Conference on InterAmerican Students Projects (CLASP) in Mexico, on 1968. In the
article, Illich states numerous reasons for why Americans should not come to the Latin

nations in efforts to help them. Instead, Illich finishes his speech by telling that American
students to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come
to look, come to climb out mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come
to help. (Illich 4). With an concluding statement like that, anyone can see that Illich is
strongly against the intervention of American students in the communities of Latin nations.
These strong beliefs originate from the issue of who is serving and why. Some issues that
correspond with serving involve power, privilege, and relationships. These three key points
are where Illich gets his opinion on why Americans should not help others. The first point is
power. Illich believes that Americans serve others because they believe that it is their moral
duty as the most powerful nation in the world. As mentioned in the articles from the first
reflection paper, people serve for religious reasons. These religious reasons state that people
should serve others because that is what God wants them to do, as well as that is what is
required from every child of God. A twist Illich puts on that theory is that American middleclass citizens, usually the ones going out and conducting the serving, are vacationing
salesmen for the middle-class American Way of Life (Illich 2). Just as the objective of
missionary trips are to spread a religion, Illich states that these American volunteers are
spreading the American Way of Life to these Mexican peasants. This spreading of the
American way of life and middle-class is spreading how great life in America is. The more
people that buy into the idea that the American culture, way of life, and system is great, the
greater it becomes, which in turn gives more power to the United States. People feel joy when
they see how caring and considerate America is by helping others around the world.
The second point of how service is complex refers to the privilege of the one conducting

the service and the one receiving the service. Illich states that the idea that every American
has something to give, and at all times may, can and should give it, explains why it occurred
to students that they could help Mexican peasants develop by spending a few months in
their village (Illich 2). This statement as well as when Illich talks about the percentage of
people that earn a higher education college degree in the United States verses Mexico shows
how privileged Americans are compared to Mexicans, Latin Americans, and the rest of the
world. These students that have no idea of the culture, language, or life of the peasants in the
villages attempt to go there and develop a better community or society in one summer are
simply naive in the eyes of Illich. These students go to these small villages thousands of
miles away from their home because they can, while many of the peasants in these villages
struggle to get the basic necessities of life on a regular basis.
The third factor that makes service a complex idea is relationships. The fact that the
United States is sending thousands of students world-wide to help with the less fortunate
shines a positive light on the United States. Even though, according to Illich, many of these
service opportunities do not bring lasting change to the communities, the United States gains
fame, and good karma.
The second article, Starfish Hurling and Community Service by Keith Morton, shares a
similar theme to Illichs article. Morton writes about how people mindlessly help others
without thinking about the effects or consequences but instead simply act on emotions.
Morton refers this common issue with throwing starfish back into the ocean or sea after a
storm. Morton explains the situation with a very short story. There is a strong ocean storm
one night. The next day there is a little boy that sees all of these starfish washed up onto the

beach. So without much thought, the boy begins to pick up the starfish and throw them back
into the ocean, to, what he believes, save their lives. An old man walks by and tells the boy
what he is doing is nonsense and that he cannot make a difference because there is simply
way to many starfish on the beach, his efforts will make no difference. The boy looks at the
old man and replies, it makes a difference to this one. The point Morton is trying to come
across is that the boy in not thinking about the situation and the consequences of what he is
doing. His actions can and will affect the ecosystem. A couple examples Morton gave on how
the boy throwing the starfish into the sea and affect the ecosystem including taking away the
food of the birds that feast upon the starfish on the beach and that the starfish are predators
that prey on smaller organisms in the sea. The storm could have been natures way of
balancing the ecosystem and the boy would be throwing a metaphorical wrench in the plans.
Morton is suggesting that people cannot go around and try and help everyone and everything
that they see in distress. People often help others when they actually do not need nor want the
help. Also, sometimes people try to help others and actually harm them, just as throwing the
starfish back in the sea harms the creatures in the sea as well as the birds that do not have
food. Often times, when one of the two happen, the person being helped is actually offended
or harmed. That is why Morton explicitly states that people need to think more about the
situation instead of simply reacting on emotions and doing the first thing they think is right.
In conclusion, the two articles To Hell with Good Intentions, by Ivan Illich, and
Starfish Hurling and Community Service by Keith Morton state the unseen side of service.
They facilitate further evidence in the theory that Service Is Not Simple (SINS). The two
articles show that service is complex, rather than simple, by involving ideas of power,

privilege, and relationships. In To Hell With Good Intentions the power hunger of the
United States is trying to satisfy its hunger for power by gaining support around the world by
showing its sympathetic, compassionate, and caring side. The boy in Starfish Hurling and
Community Service the power to save the starfish as well as hurt the ecosystem. The
privilege is seen by the fact that the American students are middle-class and educated.
Something only the minority of Mexicans are. The boy is privileged by having the ability to
shelter himself from the storm. And the relationship in both is seen by what they think they
are doing to the less fortunate. They believe they are helping the less fortunate out and
building a better relationship with their conscious and maybe the ones they are helping.