I had meant to post this yesterday but I had gotten so distracted I just plain forgot. Sorry.
Some years back I was (note “was”) on a web forum on the subject of firearms. One discussion arose on what people would do with pets in the event of “Shit Hits the Fan.”
What disturbed me was how quick and how numerous, were the answers “abandon them.” There were plenty of reasonable sounding excuses. The pets would make noise, drawing potential looters to you. The pets would require feeding and care, which would take time and and resources from seeing to your own survival. And, you know, I get it. Sometimes in a really harsh situation you have to make hard, uncompromising choices. It wasn’t that people were saying that they might have to abandon pets.
It was the rapidity and easy with which people made that choice that disturbed me. It said a lot about how seriously they took freely undertaken responsibilities and how trustworthy they were.
Consider the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. We saw played out there two different approaches to dealing with not just “Shit Hits the Fan” but “The End of the World as we Know It”: The “Rick Approach” and the “Shane Approach.” Conflicts between the two (well, aside from conflicts over the woman) generally revolved around Rick wanting to use the group to protect members of the group that were in danger and Shane wanting to abandon anyone in danger to “protect the group” (which, it soon became apparent, actually meant “protect Shane”).
In a real crisis you have to find a balance between those two. A group that abandons any member at the first hint of trouble soon stops being a group. A group that will expend itself on hopeless causes in a vain attempt to save one lost member will likewise soon cease to exist.
We see the same kind of thing in other apocalyptic fiction. in “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle much discussion revolves around who to allow into the compound and who to turn away. John Ringo’s “Black Tide Rising” series is very much a “Rick approach” series.
Humans have evolved two primary means of survival in the world. One of these is the making and using of tools. Early man did not have claws like a lion so he made them out of wood and stone. The other trait is organizing into social groups. One individual for all his tools can be stopped by something as simple as a severe sprain preventing his ability to hunt for food (good description in “Wolf and Iron” by the late Gordon R. Dickson). Groups, however, take care of their weak and injured. They come to the aid of those in danger. They survive as a group not by abandoning members, but by defending them.
I have seen a lot of “survivalist” types (I believe they prefer the term “prepper” today) who forget this. They stockpile food, arms and ammunition, maybe medicines. Some might even keep a supply of toilet paper on hand. They plan to “fort up” in the event of a severe crisis and “survive”. And that’s fine as far as it goes but then what? Eventually the food is eaten. The ammunition runs out. And they’re all alone. Or maybe it doesn’t even take that. They head down to the creek to get water and slip on a patch of mud. Crack. Compound fracture of their left leg. Now what? Can they even get back to their camp? There were a lot more corpses then there were Hugh Glass’s making their way back to civilization after severe injuries and insurmountable odds.
Humans look after each other. It’s what we do. Sure, there are exceptions. There are looters running around in the Houston area as I write this. But there are also hundreds of people spending their own time and effort and expense going to help for no other reward than because that’s just what people do. They see people in trouble. They have the ability to help in a clear situation of what they can do. So they do.
This is not a new thing. Consider the finds in Shanidar Cave, Iraq. One of the skeletons there was a man who had certainly been beaten and battered in life, “Shandihar One.” Severely deformed. Blind in one eye from a blow to his face that crushed the orbit of his eye. Withered right arm that had suffered multiple fractures, probably from birth or early childhood. Leg deformities leading to prounounced, painful lip. And he survived to what, for a Neanderthal was a ripe old age. He could not have hunted in that condition. He could not have escaped predators. The others of the group had to have provided for him and protected him.
Getting together in groups. Protecting and caring for each other within those groups. the groups may be large or they may be small, but they are ours.
That’s what humans do.