Morality & Survival


Survival situations often bring out the very best and worst traits in people. Throughout human history, there are thousands of documented events confirming this. In some instances,groups of people comprised of individuals, risked everything to selflessly help others. An example of this would be the Underground Railroad during the tumultuous time period of the American Civil War. In more recent times, we’ve seen demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the Middle East where once peaceful protests, under the guise of freedom and basic human rights, end up exposing the dark side of humanity. Rape, murder, senseless violence, looting,etc.

So where do morals and survival intersect? Is an individual faced with a survival situation willing to compromise his or her beliefs to further ones on interest? Mind you, we’re not talking about wants, we’re talking about human needs such as food and water that are essential to life. What would happen if an emergency disrupted food or medicine supplies. It’s easy enough to sit back in the comfort of ones own home and wrestle with where he or she would draw the proverbial moral line, but if you were actually thrust in the middle of a dire emergency, what would it take for these morals to fall by the wayside? A starving family member or friend? An opportunity to better one’s own circumstance at the cost of someone else misfortune?

The whole point of survival and being prepared is to have the mindset, knowledge, and resources to make it through hard times.

These hard times manifest in many shapes and forms. We believe moral erosion would happen to most people in a very short amount of time if the circumstances were dire enough. Even in the US, with it’s social safety nets and vast infrastructure, we’ve all heard horror stories taking place post-hurricane Katrina. There was widespread looting, reports of murder and rape and everything in between. Some of these atrocities were committed by public servants and law enforcement officials, the very individuals sanctioned with upholding a sense of societal order. The point is, when you’re faced with the decision of either standing by your sense of morality and letting yourself, your child, or your spouse die a slow, painful death of starvation, or looting a store, the vast majority of individuals wouldn’t hesitate about looting the store (which probably wouldn’t have any supplies left at that point…). Sure, it’s an extreme example, but it could easily happen. The thin veneer of society could easily be broken, and at that point, it’s every man for himself.

Think about this, if a nuclear bomb, biological/chemical weapon, or something of that nature, were to be detonated in a major US city (or several major US cities), how quickly do you think panic and chaos would set in? On top of the potential tens of thousands of casualties, people in those impacted metro and surrounding regions would have to contend with food shortages, unclean drinking water, inaccessible medical care, etc. As soon as those people realize that all the stores are out of food or that people still drinking the water are becoming sick and dying, they’re going to join the mob mentality of thinking. They’re going to throw away any “morals” they may have had pre-disaster and do whatever it takes to obtain food,water, or shelter. At that point, any faint traces of “civilized humanity” will disappear, only to be replaced by primal fear and chaos.

So where does one draw the line? Is it just a waste of time to think about what you would or wouldn’t do if you were stuck in a survival situation with no way out?

There’s really no right or wrong answers to this one, more of a rhetorical question designed to hopefully promote the concept that when things get tough, those “civilized” people you live next to can quickly become your enemy if you have something they desire.

In the survival community, many individuals have stockpiles of food, water, weapons, etc.; all the things that would be desirable in a catastrophic event. These same people would also be likely targets of mobs, gangs, etc., if something were to ever happen that would disrupt our way of life in the West. Even those in rural communities would be at risk to some degree depending on the severity of the disaster.

If you were in a position to help a starving child or family with some of your stockpiled food reserves, would you? What if meant one less meal for you or your own family? But wouldn’t denying a child or individual in an unfortunate circumstance such as the one just described be immoral? Wouldn’t denying your own family a meal because you chose to help someone else out also be immoral? In the West, even the “poor” probably own a cell phone, are able to access the internet, have food they can obtain from local shelters and government agencies, and are much better off than in days gone by. In the past, if one wasn’t able to hunt or earn his or her meal, he/she simply wouldn’t eat.

There is no summary for this article. There is no right or wrong answer to the question,”how can survival and morality co-exist in a true survival setting involving entire nations and societies?” We can only look to history to gain an understanding that when the going gets tough, many individuals would trade their morality in a heartbeat if it meant the difference between life and death.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not advocating looting or murder to meet ones own basic necessities. We’re merely observing that for the most part, when people are faced with extreme odds, they’ll do whatever it takes to get by. After all, isn’t that the point to survive?

We’d love to hear your 2 cents on this subject, please drop us a comment!

5 thoughts on “Morality & Survival

  1. Think: drug addicts living in the street. Lie, cheat, and steal simply to survive the next day. No home, no food, no friends, no clothes. Only drugs and how to get them

  2. survival and morality are incompatiple concepts.
    morality indicates that you actually have options to consider what actions/decisions should be made.
    survival in and of itself means your choices have been made for you.
    these are the type of things which make people hesitate when action is required. this is why a large portion of western population will die, because their lack of will to act ,and their inability to overcome moral restraints will cloud their judgement in critical situations. the end results of all of this will be these people will not survive.

  3. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I think the answer is that we can have morals in a collapsed society. Just not what we consider morals now. Considering that we have for too long been forced to see a moral value in helping others at no cost to us, it comes from taxes. In our current situation it is fine because we have a high standard of living but it wasn’t in the past and they still had morals. They shared where the could and helped others but not to their detriment.

    Morals isn’t about sharing or helping others. It’s about doing what is right. If you can save someone you should. If you have a bountiful harvest then you can share food or aid, until it threatens your safety then you don’t. It is emotive giving examples of a starving child but this happens today in Africa and we don’t care because it is never just one meal, its for the rest of their life and its never just one person its whole villages and we have become immune to it

    In my view I would do what I think is right. Helping your fellow man as much as you can. Each example taken on its own merits and depending on the situation.

    So if you were to help a starving family for one meal do you seriously think that at the next mealtime they won’t be back. And if you say ‘No’ do you think they will walk away and say ‘Well, they helped us out once they did what they could’? They will be back, with others and they will fight tooth and nail to get what they can.

    As preppers we are actually planning to store food so that we are the only ones with it. So we may live while the sheeple die in droves. Do you have enough money to buy the same food for everyone?

    Human nature. You and your family comes first, close circle relatives and friends next followed by the rest of your relatives and not so close friends.

    You can still be moral though.

  4. This is a great article. It makes people like myself, a Christian, heavily weigh how far I would go to protect my own family. Then, on the flipside, it asks me to determine what my role would be in helping others to survive.

    The comment from Anne stated the dilemma very clearly: if I help someone, and they feel entitled to even more than I am prepared to give, then what?

    Thanks for writing this. I am going to link to it on my newsletter, simply because it makes people THINK.


  5. A very thoughtful, thought-provoking post. No matter what we might decide in our minds as to what we should do, or want to do, or imagine ourselves doing, when it came right down to the crunch, I don’t think very many of us could be absolutely sure of what we would actually do. Indeed, I think it is entirely possible that on one day, we might well be tenderhearted and share, and another day, deny help; one day courageous, and another day, cowardly. Living a morally directed lifestyle is a day-to-day process. Some days, we can go to bed and feel satisfied that we did “good”; other days, not so much.

    What some folks have done, and which seems a reasonable idea to me, is to put together “gifting” kits containing a few meals, or some staples, and a few other items appropriate to the emergency.

    However, the reality is that there is the real danger in some kinds of emergency that someone that receives help may feel entitled to have more than you are prepared to offer. So how can you help others without becoming a target of the immoral, and those whose morality was an easily shed veneer?

    In the end, we will only know what our answer will be when the time comes.

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