This really sort of rambling, now.
I was thinking about ethics, and a thought occurred to me. Usually, I tend to think of ethics the same way someone might think of the Ten Commandments: "thou shalt not." As a vegetarian, I am often thinking of where the consumption line should be drawn. For instance, it's safe to say that a bivalve mullosc like a clam or an oyster, while technically an animal, doesn't have enough of a nervous system to care whether it's eaten or not. The same goes for insects who, while I wouldn't eat them, I might swat. But then there's crab, and lobster, and squid, other invertebrates without central nervous systems. They probably can't "think" about pain in the way even a fish can by virtue of a vertebrate central nervous system. And even a fish doesn't have a whole lot of proccessing power in the ol' CPU. You'd have to get up to the level of birds and mammals before there's any animal emotion involved.
The point of this is that when I think about these things, I'm thinking about it from the standpoint of "Why shouldn't I eat animal X?" If I think about buying something expensive when I know the money could be used to benefit someone less fortunate, I think, "Why shouldn't I?"
I have been giving thought to a new way of looking at ethical dilemmas, and it's really pretty simple. Take whatever ethical system you follow (I'm a utilitarian; it might be the Bible, or your own ad hoc rules) and simply reverse the question. Instead of asking, "Why shouldn't I X?" ask "Why should I X?" For example, why should I eat an animal? I don't need it nutritionally. What it comes down to is that I just want to, and that's no reason to kill something. As I think about it, most situations in which this sort of question arises boil down to being simple desires. I just want to eat an animal, I just want to show off my fast car, I just want X.
I'm not saying any of these things are in and of themselves wrong. In fact, getting as much of what you want is positvely good, as long as it doesn't deprive anyone else of what they want. But "why shouldn't I" thinking leads us to rationalize our decisions after we've made them. "Why should I" thinking leads us to decide based on the merits. Maybe the sentient, conscious pleasure you take from eating a steak outweighs the suffering the simple-minded cow experienced. Maybe the increased income to construction workers, utility workers, auto workers, and sweatshop workers to produce your big house, fast car, and designer clothes outweighs a couple of starving Ethiopians.
Seriously, it might. The point is that you thought about it.