The Self Preservation Mindset

This essay took two weeks longer than expected. I was extremely behind on all of the checkpoints and I struggled with this essay's topic. The worst part was coming up with a question and finding out how to expand it. After all of that, I am relatively pleased with the outcome, but It would have better for me and my grade to have finished it earlier.  

When humans feel threatened, it is  instinctive to strive for survival by any means necessary. “At the deepest – some would say most primitive – level of brain function, each human being is incontestably driven to preserve his own life. There may be three rarely engaged exceptions to this rule: to absorb a danger in order to preserve the life of a loved one, to end one’s own suffering as in old age or terminal disease, or to escape from some apparently overpowering force or problem or situation that seems to render continued life intolerable. Aside from those rare occurrences, continuing to stay alive is our prime directive.” Along with individuals, this mindset is apparent in forms of government. The level of complication for maintaining the overall safety of an entire system of people versus a singular being is extreme. From this I have derived the argument of how far should a community act in the same mindset as an individual.

In a speech titled ‘Self-Preservation the First Law of National as well as Individual Nature’, the speaker believes that a community should always act as one being. “It is, that the preservation of the country is more important than that of any Constitution that was, or is, or ever will be. We have grown accustomed to speak of the Constitution as if, instead of being a human work, it were a divine revelation, like the Bible, or something more than the Bible; as if, in short, the people were made for the Constitution, and not the Constitution for the people.” He mentions the god-like status of our Constitution, and how people forget that the men of our past created it. In the event of a national emergency can we not also create a functioning society that benefits the people of now? The benefit of working together as a nation is creating a series of systems that suits the majority of the population. On the other hand, those who do not fit into the main group excluded from the same privileges, purposely or otherwise.

War requires our best and brightest to fight those we deem a threat, and to gain the highest percentage of possible survival. We use whatever is at our disposal to guarantee our safety and the continuation of our existence. A New York Times writer, Michael V. Hayden, published an article on the advantages and disadvantages of using drones in warfare. He mentions ‘the greater good’ as a way of gaining more by sacrificing a smaller percentage of the assets. “Throughout the campaign, civilian casualties were a constant concern. In one strike, the grandson of the target was sleeping near him on a cot outside. The Hellfire missiles were directed so that their energy and fragments splayed away from him and toward his grandfather. They did, but not enough. The target was hard to locate and people were risking their lives to find him. The United States took the shot. A child died, and we deeply regret that he did. But his grandfather had a garage full of dangerous chemicals, and he intended to use them, perhaps on Americans.” In this situation the grandson of the target was the sacrifice. He had no knowledge of this and no choice in the matter. This child’s life was deemed disposable in the face of a possible terrorist attack. He was killed a drone with a pilot hundreds of thousands of miles away, because a country felt that the possible threat to their own citizens was worth more. While the writer claims regret, the entire situation is a prime example of what lengths a government will go to when using an individual mindset. Even the smallest country’s government has more power than the average person. This is how wars are instigated.

There is a clear moral dilemma with war. The government pushes for the greater good, the survival of a community. They argue for this greater good, and justify it with patriotism and acts of bravery. The fact of the matter is that not everyone is given any say whilst they are chosen as an offering. We reward those who chose to sacrifice themselves to promote a positive response and desensitize the idea. These people cannot appreciate a medal when they are dead. The people in power do not represent the entire community. They do not hold the experience of the soldiers or even the targets. They are not fighting viciously for a chance of survival, detached from the mundane world, living in a state of constant hell. They don’t stare at the sky, and watch their inevitable death streak down towards them. We don’t come back scarred and broken, or rotting in a long wooden box, chests weighted down by shining scrap that blinds the civilians from the horrific truth of war.


"Gov. Seymour's Speech--Self-Preservation the First Law of National as well as Individual Nature." The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 July 1863. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. The overall theme of self-preservation and humanity in terms of survival instincts.

Hayden, Michael V. "To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. This article discusses the benefits and sacrifices drones create in a war setting.

Gnagey, Thomas (Tommy). "Two Faces of the Human Self-Preservation Instinct." Two Faces of the Human s. N.p., 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. The exploration of human's primitive drive for self-preservation and the comparisons and contrasts in relation to the idea of war.