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Self-Preservation in The Plague

hannahgisele's picture

Thursday’s conversation made me think in depth about inevitability. We talked about whether or not, with a greater understanding of science and medicine, the rats could have been exterminated before they infected the entire population. Even if the appropriate scientific measures had been taken, the people of Oran seem so enraptured by their monotonous lives that they most likely would not have reacted quickly enough to stop the spread.

This links directly into the townspeople’s blindness to their own crisis. Often times, people only acknowledge issues when they are directly affected by them. Currently, I am sitting at my computer, writing a post for a class. At the same time, children in Uganda are being abducted and forced to fight as soldiers. While I am aware of the issue, I am in no way actively attempting to save these children. This summer, when I move to Zambia to work in an HIV clinic and lab, I will be in much closer contact with the tragedies of a third world county. Surely, when confronted with the issue, I will be more active in trying to help.

This inherent blindness seems to be equal parts denial and equal parts self-preservation. If we emotionally broke down every time we heard sad news that alarmed us, we wouldn’t be functional as individuals. Part of being human is being selfish and being fit enough to survive. While this inability to act can result in our deaths (like in “The Plague”), it can also be the very trait that saves us evolutionarily.



alexandrakg's picture

Re: Self-Preservation...

 Going off of your point, I wonder how we as humans can determine when we need to involve ourselves in a crisis.  Certainly when one's own city is covered in dead rats, one should probably take some course of action.  But what do we do when there are child soldiers in Uganda, or genocide in Sudan?  Or mass flooding in Pakistan or nuclear meltdowns in Japan?  Do we fly over immediately and do all we can, do we send money and resources?  I think that the problem with not taking any action at all is the ensuing mindset.  When Hurricane Katrina happened, many Americans were at a loss to explain what had happened to them.  The most common thing that I remember hearing was "how could this happen here?"  People refused to be called "refugees" because it was so ingrained in their minds as a term that could only happen to foreigners.  People adapted to horrific events by removing themselves mentally, and unfortunately evolved to their imagined circumstances rather than reality.  Therefore, when people take a passive role in disasters, they are ultimately hurting themselves.

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