How do we choose between our survival and our humanity?
I’m reading the fictional book Lucifer’s Hammer about the apocalyptic chaos created by pieces of a meteor that hit the Earth in multiple places. The gigantic chunks of meteor cause shifts in plate tectonics that trigger earthquakes. They displace ocean water and create mega-tsunamis that wipe out coastal regions and leave weeks of rain. And so on and so forth.
The book was written in 1977 so much of the context has to be viewed from that lens. However, some ethical dilemmas posed in that book remain valid today including the tension between your survival and your humanity.
In the book, most of the characters agree that, to survive in an apocalyptic world, you have to set aside your humanity. You have to leave struggling people behind. You have to hoard and to protect your food and other resources. In an apocalyptic situation, your resources cannot be shared because where do you draw the line when hundreds, thousands and millions will be in need for months, for years? If you want to be a survivor, you have to be selfish.
Humans have evolved to be survivors. Our bodies are designed to want to survive. Our will pushes us to survive. How far will that survival instinct go to survive? To choose to help our children, families and friends over others’ survival?
Are we willing to sacrifice the lives of others? To turn away or even kill strangers or friends to save our families? Are we willing to turn them away and say, “They’ll have to find their own food. Maybe they’ll be okay.” Can we sacrifice their lives because we need to survive to govern or because we have the skills needed to rebuild or because our children need us? Can we make those decisions and still retain our humanity
Until we are in such a situation (hopefully, never!), it’s hard to say what we would do. My hope is that my humanity will never leave me. Is survival, either my own or my children’s, worth staining my heart? Is it my heart or my ego that decides I must survive because I will be needed. Do I want to survive at all costs?
My hope is that my heart will help me to make the right decisions, whatever those should be. Hopefully, I will have the will and the courage to listen to my heart in the midst of chaos and survival.