A number of people have been there: Choosing to survive or protect someone else. Humanity may tell itself that it’d prioritize others, but human urges are not something to escape. It’s easy to lose sight of values while in grave danger, so risks are taken in the sake of being self-preserving. This is a story of many human behaviors, but more than anything, it’s a story of empathy becoming a choice; an optional privilege. In the novel “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, the young boys trying to survive on a remote island struggle to remain empathetic with each other due to the pressures of survival. It’s a story that proves, despite all socialized training to be kind to each other, humans are ultimately selfish and willing to do anything to survive.
On said island, Roger, a troubled boy, is loyal to Jack, a reckless and spontaneous leader. There’s a conflict between Jack and the other, more reasonable and rational leader, Ralph. During a clash between the two separately led groups, Roger murders another child. The narrator describes the scene as follows: “High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever… The rock struck Piggy… ” (180-181) In a moment of panic, Roger has no hesitation to murder. Roger might not have the intention of murdering Piggy, yet he leans “all his weight” onto the lever that pushes a boulder on Piggy. The narrator describes Roger to be acting in “delirious abandonment,” loosely translating to him acting in a state of disturbed incoherence that allows him to have an out of body experience. Roger’s previous behavior shows hesitance to hurt others due to fear of repercussions, but in a position where he’s unsure of how his group will survive, he loses his sense of empathy altogether and is willing to kill.
The Milgram Experiment was a psychological test done in 1963 by Stanley Milgram that displays a similar loss of empathy. According to a review done on “Milgram’s Progress,” during the experiment, strangers were told they were testing shock therapy on another stranger, and that they had to press a button when told to shock someone. They couldn’t see the person being shocked because they didn't exist. The scientist in the room with them would urge them to keep going, even though the participants heard recorded screams coming from the other room that they believed to be real. The scientist resembled authority that people were willing to respect. More people than expected continued to “shock” the person, even after they thought they killed them. These people were not put in a place of danger, but they believed that what they were doing was necessary for improvement of some kind. Stanley Milgram said himself, “It is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” Roger, a young boy who’s experiencing trauma and pressured survival, may not be a “bad” boy, yet when pushed to his limits of what he “must do,” he’s willing to become an emotionless savage. Jack, his leader, is an authority that Roger wanted to please for validation.
There is a similar act of violence later in the novel with yet another savage death. The boys, convinced there’s a beast hiding on the island taunting them, see a fellow member of their tribe struggling to come out of the forest. Somehow, they confuse young Simon with the beast, even though he issn’t doing anything but walking. The scene is described as follows: “The beast struggled forward… At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt onto the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.” (153) Not only do the boys murder Simon, a peer, but they do it in a way that makes them appear more like beasts than him. No one could tear someone to pieces with such violence and dedication while being empathetic. The fear of the beast is what causes them to react to Simon coming out of the trees with such aggression. The fear is what causes them to lose their empathy, because the beast is an imaginary threat to their survival. If the symbol of the beast didn’t exist, then the stress of survival wouldn’t be so strong, and the boys wouldn’t have murdered their friend.
Much like the boys’ struggle with the dynamic of fear and power, the Stanford Prison experiment demonstrates how quickly people can deteriorate into a state where they can remove empathy for survival. According to the official Stanford Prison Experiment website, a group of college students were split up, where some roleplayed guards and others, prisoners. With them all locked in a basement, the prisoners went insane, and the guards felt as though they had to protect themselves from said prisoners. This led to psychological and physical abuse of the prisoners due to fear. If the guards didn’t feel threatened, they wouldn’t have been able to hurt the prisoners as badly as they did. After all, each of the participants started as normal, innocent, college students. One could say the same about the boys stuck together on the island.
A point to be made just as important as the result of fear in a person is the result of the absence of fear. Eventually, after an unknown amount of time, the boys get discovered by an officer. Ralph, one of the leaders of the group, realizes the terrible things they did. It is not until he feels relatively safe, or at least not in immediate danger, does he feel remorse for his empathetic actions. After they are found, the narrator says, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” (202) All of the things listed that Ralph wept for are included in an empathetic category. The end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the death of Piggy would not be present if there wasn’t a threat for survival. Now that Ralph is not in danger, he recognizes the lack of empathy that he now feels guilt for. One could argue that each thing mentioned, was purely out of fear to survive, yet one couldn’t say that any of it was done with empathy.
Fear is the strongest force in humanity. None are immune or can deny its lasting effect. In the case of the boys in the novel and the participants of the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments, it leads to the loss of empathy. This lands true for most occurrences where survival is required. It is not at fault of the participants, seeing how Ralph responded to the experience once he felt safe. Humanity cannot judge the kids or those that fall victim to danger. Survival instincts are stronger than those to protect each other. It is not a choice, it’s human nature. With that being said, humans are no better or worse than those mere children, willing to do the same things the boys did if they experienced any of the same.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006
Levine, Robert. “Milgram's Progress.” American Scientist, Way Back Machine Internet Archive, 2015, web.archive.org/web/20150226125705/http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/id.2948,content.true,css.print/bookshelf.aspx.
Zimbardo, Philip G. “The Story: An Overview of the Experiment.” Stanford Prison Experiment, Social Psychology Network, 2018, www.prisonexp.org/the-story/.
In America, death is something to be afraid of; something to avoid. But my father was not afraid.
In fact, my father spent a lot of his life longing for death. He was sick, and people with mental illness often have this mindset. When he finally died, my head felt like a balloon. Everything was moving fast, and I didn’t feel the same way as my other family members. The funeral was dark but still bubbly. My lightheadedness continued.
“Jon was my best friend.”
“Jon was an angel.”
“It was such a tragedy.”
Their voices still make me grind my teeth. They were so wrong. Just because he was dead, people refuse to take him at face value. This becomes aggravating when they wouldn’t acknowledge his cause of death, or even worse, say that it wasn’t his fault he killed himself. That is what he wanted. He was none of those things and his death was not a tragedy. A tragedy for some of us, but it seemed like his last hope. Thus, he was the one at fault. If someone is so sick, and at a point in their life where they can’t bear to be alive, why can’t it be their decision to leave? Why is death seen as a negative consequence instead of an ending of one's story?
The sky was gray that morning. I was eight years old and I hadn’t seen my grandmother in four years, and I woke up to see her sitting on the edge of my bed talking to my mother. I immediately knew that something was wrong. They were both holding mugs, with two hands, as if it was cold outside. It was only early September. A friend came over to play and I ate sweets for breakfast. When my mother called me upstairs to tell me that my father died, I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about it. Even now, I can’t tell you that I knew what the rest of my family was feeling, but I still managed to pretend I felt the same. It wasn’t until a few years later that I came to terms with how I actually felt.
Death should be celebrated as a passing; a completion of someone’s story. While people are busy being selfish over losing someone that never belonged to them, they forget to celebrate the life that person lived and their wisdom. My father was never around when I was little and I was raised solely by my mother. When he was there, he abused my mother and himself. Because my dad was never a father to me, I learned to appreciate those that support me, as well as come to terms with why I was better off without his presence. This gave me insight on my childhood and accepting loss. When he died, I learned more about my family, for better or for worse, and I’m grateful for that.
I understand that a lot of people are suicidal, have mental illness, and self harm. I also understand that there are people that use these things for attention, which cause people who need help to suffer. That is where I find the selfishness, not with the people who actually kill themselves. The people who end up killing themselves often didn’t have access to the help they need. It seems that others that aren’t as high risk take up those opportunities. I understand that a lot of people need help, but I’ve noticed, especially among teenage girls, that many exaggerate mental illness for attention. Take all the help you need, but many should be aware of making space as well.
I am grateful that he took his own life. I would have been more grateful if he had found other options earlier on, but I don’t think that would have changed the impact he had on my life. What other people do doesn't matter to me, as long as they aren’t hurting others or themselves. The pure fact that he was alive was causing him to suffer. He couldn’t afford medication and was at wit’s end. By the time he came to the last straw, I had accepted that I was better off without him in my life anyway. Knowing that his hurt could come to an end was worth more than the pain I would go through as a result of his death. I was willing to take that hit if it meant he could finally be free. Now he is.
The Daughter of Jon Weir
Mis bisabuelas son de Italia y Irlanda
Mis tías son de Grecia
Vivo en Filadelfia con mi madre
No tengo padre
Pero no necesito
Nada más que nosotros
Veo cemento agrietado
Saboreo casero hojas de uva
Huelo humo del tubo de escape
Tocó ciudad sol
Busco mi alma
Usando mi recuerdo
Tarde o temprano voy a encuentralo
Yo inhalo ayer el humo
Jamas observar un sudor
Yo soy buena
Si yo estoy aquí
Doy piezas de mi mismo así que entenderás
Ellos son de
No importa porque estamos aquí
A través sus experiences
Y su comida
Y sus cuentos
Y nosotros mismas
My L.A.N expands to a ton of devices. Basically, if you’re in the front area of my house and know the wifi password, you can use it. There are nine devices regularly connected to the internet including the Roku, WiiU, my mom’s iPad, Dave’s Nook, Mom’s iPhone, Dave’s iPhone, my iPhone, my 3Ds, and Dave’s computer.
While doing this project, I was kind of surprised by the shadiness of Comcast. I’ve always known the were unreliable from overhearing my mom deal with them, but I never realized the extent of it. Since we’ve done this too I’ve had a a lot anxiety about the fact that everything I do on the internet will always be there. It’s terrifying, and there’s not really a way to get around it.
If I could tell people anything based on what I learned, it would be to be more self conscious about who or what has access to your home network. Once they’re in, they’re in, and there’s a ton people could be doing with your internet proccess without you even knowing.
My name is Serenity and I’m a Freshman at SLA. About a year ago, I created a radio commentary with a program called Mighty Writers. It was about my thoughts along the path of trying to find out if I had Asperger’s syndrome. We put it up on Soundcloud, hoping for a few listens or likes, and that’s it. Many months later, it really started circulating. I then got contacted by a youth radio station based in California. From there, WHYY picked it up and aired it on NPR about a week ago. I was amazed at how much attention it was getting, and started letting go of the insecurities I have about the possibility of having Asperger’s syndrome. I am currently working with a foundation that helps publish books writing a short memoir based on the radio story. If you’d like to listen to it, here’s the link: