I really enjoyed reading Geek Ergo Sum‘s post concerning altruism. She outstandingly describes herself helping a stranger. Why should she do this? She found the reason why. She also describes altruism as being a basic of our society, a necessity to help others – also strangers – to ensure our species being surviving.
David Day wrote a biography of Australian South pole-explorer Douglas Mawson and suspects him of cannibalism.
There was a group of three starting their expedition in November 1912. After a few weeks and 500km away from the base camp, British Belgrave Ninnis fell into a crevasse (> Ninnis Glacier). And with him six sledge dogs and nearly all the provisions. Mawson who was an experienced explorer rationed the provisions. But did he know that their food will not be sufficient for both to reach the base?
Swiss Xavier Mertz, a strict vegetarian till these days when dog flesh was the only food, started complain about stomach pain, fell in delirium and died on January 7th 1913 when 150km away from base camp. Mawson was alone and before taking the route he noted in his diary “I cooked the whole rest of the dog meat”. However, Mertz killed the last dog two weeks ago so most probably there was no more dog flesh at this time. “Could it have been something else that he cooked?” Day asks.
David Day received some critics about this suspicion being easily done a hundreds year after and based on only a few evidences. However, there was another polar explorer, Captain Sir John Franklin, who disappeared during his last Arctic exploration and all his crew died. Some evidences and statements from Inuits suggest that cannibalism occurred during such rough conditions.
On the first moment I thought these two histories are conflicting. But they don’t.
In both cases, the person’s unconscious aim was that human species survives and that human DNA is not lost. You can bother about others’ wealth when your basic needs are satisfied. Thus, if your physiological needs are not met you won’t care about pollution or poetry.
First, you will search for something to drink, to eat, a warm bed and roof above your head. Then, you would worry about your family, your friends, your relationship, your financial security before helping a stranger. But if there is nothing you have but just fighting for your life, you will easily ignore some ethic principles. Even more if there is nobody watching you. So it might be less contemptibly to eat a man’s flesh if this will save your life than many of us might think. It is the will in our genes to survive.
I suppose most of us – like bloggers, you and me – have a filled fridge, kids at school, family, employment, sexual life, a roof about the head. And actually we can express ourselves through freely chosen means, have hobbies, and so on. We don’t worry about where, if at all, we’ll find our diner. At best, we have to decide between pasta and sushi. We do not have the need to eat a man’s flesh. Even, there is no need to eat animals, but this is another topic.
Our satisfaction we get when we receive a compliment, when somebody likes a post or starts following our blog. We worry about our self-manifestation. What looks better on me, the green or the blue bikini?
We can get satisfied and happy when helping a stranger and earning a smile. And we should highly appreciate this! Show more respect to environment, nature, animals, people, friends, family and yourself.
Helping a old men collecting up his fallen coins is not only helping him. It will make you proud of being a human that actually can help others in situations they need it. This will enforce your self-esteem and give you that good feeling knowing that you have done something nice without any intention in enriching or privileging your self.
Try it. Ask the old women if you can help her carrying the shopping bag up to her apartment. Give a bread and an apple to this poor beggar around the corner. Or take him to a coffee shop and treat a warm coffee for him. Who knows what story he could tell you.
Altruism isn’t a purely human ability.
For those interested in the pyramid of needs, read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
If somebody is into neuroscience of altruism, do not hesitate sending me a link to interesting articles.