Do it, Sandy! I’d Do It For You!
There is a common misconception going around. The funny thing is, in the time of human life on our planet, this is probably the rule and not the exception. Wrong answers vastly outnumber right answers. The thing about the Darwinian process, though, is that right answers direct us toward survival, and wrong answers tend to snuff us out. So, it is pretty important to get the right answer as the number and severity of the challenges mount. One of Humanity’s major challenges today is a highly contagious disease. Right from the start, the problem is two-pronged. It is both potentially deadly, and it is highly contagious.
The contagion is the most troubling aspect of this problem because it limits our strengths and exacerbates our weaknesses. Our strengths include working together, as the invention of civilization intended. Our relevant weakness is the mere act of being together is part of the problem with contagion, and irritates what we dislike and mistrust about each other, encouraging a more self-centered focus. The self-centered aspect has at least two parts. First, it encourages the belief that success or failure falls primarily to ourselves. Secondly, it distracts our problem solving focus from objective fact based reasoning over to subjective emotions.
Civilization brings with it all sorts of problems. It has not been an easy process. And, the way we live within civilization makes some of these answers subjective rather than objectively true. For example, do we live better by living longer with more vulnerabilities to nature, and relying upon one another, or do we live better more as a part of nature, and not so reliant upon one another? That is a philosophical choice for which we are too far down the road of civilization to answer objectively. By now, with 7 billion people on this planet, and a global economy where we come in contact with one another to such a great degree, cooperation is necessary.
Complicating that, some of our notions of personhood, and fairness, and justice place emphasis on learning not to exploit one another for efficiency sake, and respecting one other for the sake of peace. This is a recent, not yet perfected part of our evolution. In a slightly different context, Benjamin Franklin once said, “we must hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” In this comment, Franklin was alluding to the discomfort that came with cooperating within a group that did not always want to be a group, but had greater chances for survival having the cooperation with discomfort rather than more comfort and less cooperation. Working to defeat a pandemic has similar trade-off aspects.
Today in the New York Times there is an article titled the “Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Defense.” The graphic from the page is included, and will hopefully print in a useful, understandable way. Simply put, it shows how the strategy involves individual responsibility and group responsibility. I’m not just blowing smoke when I say that there are actions that we take for the greater good. Some things we do help others more immediately, and we hope for reciprocity. This is civilization when it is functioning properly. We will have to count on some people that we really do not like to function in such a way that benefit us first, and then we will benefit them. Goodness knows we have our problems with one another. That is not going to change anytime soon. But, for a short period of time, we can sprint toward one goal in a coordinated way. This relay race can be won in a few months or slightly more. That does not mean that any of you/us are not aggrieved.
And to wrap up this already too long post about cooperation, I submit one of my favorite scenes showing cooperation and sacrifice in an otherwise average film. The film is “Flight of the Intruder”. I love the title for all of its possible meanings. Escape of an intruder, alluding to a group of people and an outsider. The film itself involves the use of the A-6 Intruder, a fighter/bomber from the Vietnam era. This last scene is about one pilot shot down and wounded. He calls in an air strike to his own location, which would kill him, because he is wounded and surrounded by the enemy. The dialogue is a bit over the top with machismo, but this is part of what is so good about it. As the injured pilot calls in the air strike, the other pilots, with whom he is not particularly friendly, say they prefer to rescue him rather than bomb the area and kill him with the enemy. The other pilots try to talk him out of it repeatedly. The wounded pilot (Willem Defoe) insists by saying, “Lay it on me, man. I’m popping smoke (location marker). Do it, Sandy. Do it now. I’d do it for you.”
The poignant and funny part of that last line is that these two men did not like one another. The injured pilot was a bit of a loner with a bad reputation. But he says, “I’d do it for you” meaning, I’d kill you.” It is both mercy and a sort of callous gallows humor.
That’s civilization for ya. I’d do it for you.
“…Lay it in on me, man.
I’m popping smoke.
Do it, Sandy.
Do it now.
I’d do it for you…”—-Flight of the Intruder
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