Altruism, alterity, effective altruism or just duty itself

At the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the emotions of the civilised world were at one with the Ukrainian people and the countless lives exposed on world televisions struck all hearts in a genuine way.

Help came from all sides and some help was little, but sometimes, as always happens with emotional and sentimental avalanches, the ability to manage what comes, even if it was little, given the circumstances, became too much, due to disorganisation and the cost of receiving it being greater than the value of the aid.

Even so, structures were put in place to maximise the outcome of those who gave themselves to those in need. We also had that pressure in our company. We resisted the first impulse. We couldn’t stand still, but we had to hit the target. Our help should not result in an altruistic action, or rather, only altruistic. Nor should we be concerned with an alterist participation where we focused on giving or stimulating, as well as controlling what we gave or stimulated with our encouragement. We were not moved by the effective altruism of utilitarians. What existed in us was a willingness to do what was right for the sake of doing what was right – for the duty itself.

We did not want to be “paid” in any way or kind for what we would have to do. We did not intend to be a light that would soon go out, a cry that after being externalised would shrink, much less that fatigue of compassion would lodge in us and the entrance of new tragedies would overcome and replace this one – we did not want to get tired of this evil that is happening, this ugliness that disrupts the way of living in the community. We did not want to obtain spiritual forgiveness for our sins. We did not want any compensation, nor did we want social valorisation. We did not want to be just social and religious leaders, scouts or volunteers.

What this tragedy of the Middle Ages, this barbaric invasion of the 21st century, deserved from us as a response was something connected to the root of our existence, to our essence, to our common home, something connected to our ancestry, to the opportunity to coexist in difference. We wanted to fulfil our duty in itself, to help and to create opportunity for a certain segment, of those who suffer and who live, in these cases, of extreme needs of general solidarity, behind a folding screen, the workers of culture, the cicadas, who allow there to be ants carrying the life supports to the barns. It was the solution we found to provide a little help.

What moved us in this case, as in other cases, was the duty to help as a kind of categorical imperative – which implies doing what must be done without any sort of adversative. And what should be done, in the case of the Ukrainian artists, would have to include their dignified reception. It wasn’t just having a monthly grant to have the minimum freedom that money allows. It wasn’t just about giving artists and their families a space to live. What we had to ensure, in this Kantian duty, was to give them the opportunity of dignified work in their creative fields. It was to allow them to exhibit and sell their art, seeing the product of their work recognised. This is not altruism, the altruism of the utilitarian, alterism, charity or compassion. It’s about doing the right thing. It is about doing what is fair. It’s about relying on beauty itself.

It is of beauty that we are speaking here in this exposition, as it was in seeking to do well, beautifully, the process of our Kantian duty, our Samaritan duty. It is with beauty, and it is thanks to this opportunity that we have given, that we receive back a greater opportunity, offered by these artists who exhibit here their work, produced in their artistic residencies on the dstgroup campus.

I am hopeful that this exhibition will help our artists cast out the demons of the vile invader that torment them and give them some peace to rearm themselves, until they win.


José Teixeira

Chairman of the Board of Directors of dstgroup