[Guest blogger Kaden]
This was supposed to be a comment on Dana's latest Dojo post below, but it was too long so I decided to make it a post of its own. Because, you know, why cut my word count short? That doesn't make any sense.
Without further ado...
Dana, I was going to speak to you at length about this (and I still would like to) but I thought I'd throw my two pennies into the pile
Per Nicole's comment, I think that writers might deal with the full depth of the philosophy more than the average person, or at least on a larger scale than most. We can decide the fates of individual lives, whole civilizations, and the fact that it doesn't exist doesn't change that we have to make it happen in that world. We have to actively choose to write it like that.
However, as real as writing is, and I'm all about the voices in our head Nicole, I also work closely with police officers and dispatchers who have to make these kinds of life choices regularly. If the choice to kill off billions of fictional people is this hard for us, but knowing that perhaps our story will make a difference and thus, that may be our justification, where does that leave those who make those choices every day?
In my home town, officers faced off against a young man who was charging, downhill, holding a knife, and shouting "shoot me". What do you do? They are faced not just with the 'criminal underworld', but with people who are mentally or chemically unstable, possibly not in control of their own actions. How do they justify theirs?
What about politics? How do you justify your orders in a time of war? In a documentary about WWII, it is estimated that about 75% of the fighter pilots never saw the end of their campaign of 25 missions. Yet when the brass digs in their heels, when they look at the scene at hand and declare, "Hold this line, at all costs", and countless lives are lost in the name of country soil, they declare success at the end of the day. The mission was "Successful".
Take the scenario: You are tasked with the choice of killing a man, or not. If you do not, a man in a suit presses a button and 10 people die. You know none of the individuals involved. Now, because I'm a writer too, I understand the arguments (and the loopholes - we're not trying to think outside the box in this case. Sabotaging the button is not an option). That said, two of my characters would like to explain their sides.
Amara: It is morally wrong to kill a another human being, end of story. The ends never justify the means. If the suit pushes the button, he is making that choice to do so, and the blood is on his hands. I won't justify my actions like that.
Meg: At the end of the day, it's no comfort to the victims who's hands are stained. The husbands, wives, children and friends of the 10 people you killed will not forgive you for not choosing, because you don't think its your fault. Proving a murderer's guilt or innocence has no impact on the fact that someone was killed. Ignoring inequality among the individuals, if each of these 11 lives are to be held equally, I would kill one to save 10. Because when the day is over, it doesn't matter who feels guilty, or if my conscience is heavy. The point is that when the sun rises tomorrow, 10 people will get to wake up to see it that wouldn't have otherwise.
Who's right? I don't know. How do you weigh one life against another? These are the very questions we seek to answer.
To touch on an earlier topic, of reducing these lives to nameless numbers, that's what we have to do every day of our lives just to get by. When you see a man on the street, cold and hungry and alone and hope only to rustle up a warm meal, we have to emotionally detach ourselves. Or justify it to ourselves. "I won't give money to them because they'll just buy booze" "They're abusing the system" whatever you want to say. But we survive by putting ourself on another level from them. Dana, if you walked down that same street tomorrow, and you saw one of those special people you were thinking about up there? Your mom, your intrepid companion, maybe me. Could you still say those same things? Could you still go about your day? We're not only socially but genetically wired to want to help our kin.
These are the questions we, as writers, readers, as politicians, as teachers, as students, as fathers and mothers, these are the questions we must ask.
Even if we can't answer them.