Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A bearskin rug.... or crocodile food?

I had an interesting exchange with a self described Objectivist (Ayne Rand style Materialist/Atheist) friend over the weekend.
We had discussed several of controversial aspects of our beliefs over some very good and very old Scotch.
Politics, religion and booze - not usually a safe mix. But for us friends since childhood, it is the norm.
We covered everything.
I was happy to learn he was against elective abortion, for example.
But as we discussed the future and possible events. We got to talking about culture, cohesion, and altruism during times of unrest. The role of Churches and charities, our current stance toward aggressive powers like China and the Muslim world etc.
He made a very interesting comment in relation to his 'strong will survive' position:
"Look, everyone knows that if a bear attacks your camp - you don't have to be faster than the bear, just be faster than the slowest camper."

I have heard this expression so many times over the years, and this was probably my first ever chance to properly respond. I mean by that: To respond face to face with someone I actually like and respect, outside of a forum or debate hall.
I know something about camping and bears.
So does my friend.
I also know something about group survival tactics.

So my response? In a nutshell:
"All that approach ends up with is a wrecked camp, an injured or dead camper, and an appeased and emboldened beast. Better to stand together and hold fast. Make loud  noise together and it will run. Even attack the bear with a weapon en mass - if need be.
Use your numbers and intellect to scare off or defeat the bear.
Then you will be left with at best a story of how you scared a bear off, or at worst a scar and a nice bearskin rug. Either way your dignity and the camp are intact, and the danger (the bear) has been dealt with. That is strength through morality. Running is not. The fleeing camper scenario infers the cowards survive."

This seemed to cause pause for thought, and my friend then switched topics - a sure sign I have made my point.
My point was rather simple. We gain nothing by losing our nerve, or our resolve and flee leaving our fellows to their fates.
We gain everything when we are willing to stand together and sacrifice for the good of the group.

I am reminded of another saying, far more recent and attributed to Sir Winston Churchill:
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' 

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