Monday, February 21, 2011

The Tent

Having a thought today about survival.

Let us imagine a tent.  It is a research station in the Antarctic, visited only twice a year for supplies.  Living in this tent are five men.  Four are old friends, but the fifth is a recent arrival.  The other four are not fond of him.  He disrupts their work with questions, has a different sense of humor that bothers them and his habits are foreign to them.  They had mentioned at the last delivery that they were willing to take on another man here, but they had never expected someone like this.

One night, one of the group, the eldest, decides that he has had enough.  The newcomer has got to go.  He consults with his companions and they agree that they are not happy with their new acquaintance either.  One suggests that they could wait until the next supply run, but the eldest man will not hear of it.  "He's ruined several of my plans with his interruptions," he complains.  "The mere thought of him is upsetting!  He must go now."

The second in the group agrees: "He snores so loud I can't get any sleep.  He took three bites out of the sandwich I'd left in the fridge and I was the one who lost lab space to his stupid projects."

The other two are a bit taken aback.  They don't like the newcomer, but this is a bit extreme.  "It's fifty below out there. He'll die if we throw him out!" one protests.  "We have plenty of food and space, why not just wait until the next supply run?  We can make arrangements to get him shipped out of here by then."  They argue for a while, but they can't hide that their frustration with their companion.  He has disrupted things. Within a few hours, the third is swayed by the promise that everything will return to normal and nobody need ever know.  The fourth, fearful of damaging their friendship, consents as well.

After the newcomer goes to sleep, the four men pick up his bunk and place it outside.  "It's not murder," says the eldest, seeing the fourth man is still very uncomfortable.  "It will be peaceful.  He'll freeze, but he won't wake up while it's happening.  This way, he won't have to deal with us and the insult of not being wanted here and we don't have to deal with him."

Is what these men did wrong?  They didn't hurt the newcomer, aside from removed him from an environment where he could survive.  They constituted a majority in a place that could be considered sovereign.  They felt they eliminated all acceptable options and the only one left, though it was one they did not particularly like, was the one that they did.  He wasn't wanted.  So what, if anything, was wrong?  Just a question...