Today I was confronted with a story that really got me thinking. It was a hypothetical situation and I had to make a decision. It’s still bugging me and I can’t really say what I would do in such a situation. Well, I can, but you know what it’s like. When you’re watching the news and you hear about a robbery and you see somebody pointing a gun at a storeowner or an employee. People always say things like,’ Yeah, I would have done this and that (usually accompanied by some bad language and violent movements and gestures), if I were him.’ While in real life they’d probably do something totally different: sit in a corner and cry. Anyways, I was told this story (well, more or less, I’m telling you what I remembered).
There you are, in a hospital, when a fire breaks out. In one room there’s an old man attached to some machines and in the opposite room there are six teenagers who are also attached to some machines. They need those machines to stay alive and get well again. Due to the fire their lives are in danger. At this moment the fire is threatening the lives of the six teenagers and the old man is safe. By throwing a switch you can rescue the six teenagers but the old man will die in the fire. If you don’t throw the switch the six youngsters will die in the fire. What will you do?
Mr Owen brought this up during English class and we were supposed to discuss it in groups. Somebody once came up with the idea that teamwork would be a neat idea. ‘I am bored of teaching, you know what, I’ll just put them in group and let them figure things out themselves, that’ll teach ‘em,’ he/she must have thought. Well, I think it stinks. Teamwork irritates the (bad word) out of me. Also, for some reason each and every kid in class always says it ended up in the worst group. How can everybody be in the worst group? And the best part is that they always say things like,’ I’m in the worst group, because I am doing all the work and nobody else does anything!’ So, we’re all in the worst group and that’s only because we all seem to be working harder than the other group members.
Back to the story. Of course it’s a hypothetical situation. Still, it got me thinking. The old man has as much right to live as the six teenagers. Who am I to judge their lives? I know nothing about these people and there I am, deciding who gets to live and who gets to die. God has got a hell of a job and I figured that I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. In the end I also decided not to throw the switch. I figured that if the switch was like that, somebody put it that way for a reason and who am I to interfere with fate, karma, God’s plan, or just bad luck?
My group members nearly got into a fight over this, shouting and screaming their ideas and thoughts. Mr Owen had to jump in to keep two kids from hitting each other. Apparently one of them had a granddad who was in hospital and he wouldn’t want his grandpa to die and then one of the kids said something about being egoistic, egocentric and something about mothers. I think that’s when the kid snapped. I just sat back and enjoyed the show. Mr Owen jumped in and clamed them down. Then he asked for my opinion,’ Arthur, whose life or lives do you think we should save?’ I stared him deeply into his deep dark eyes and in a very monotone voice I said,’ Life? Don’t talk to me about life*.’ Which confused him a little. He shook his head and walked away.
Evelyn was in another group and they were dead silent. They were all staring at each other blankly, waiting for somebody to speak its mind. Mr Owen tried his best to get them to talk, but they all refused. In the end they started discussing the situation as if the old man was Mr Owen himself. They said in that case the decision would have been a lot easier. Luckily Mr Owen didn’t hear it. As you can see, teamwork is not only hell on earth for us kids; even teachers can’t deal with it. Luckily the year is nearly done. I’m looking forward to my holidays even though I have no idea what we’re going to do or where we’re going to go. Everybody who’s got big plans, please, raise your hand and see me tomorrow.
*Marvin the Paranoid Android – the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.