Most of us have beliefs that we hold closely which have developed over the years, shaped through our experiences in the world. These beliefs were handed down to us by family or have been framed in the context of laws or our religion. These morals are what we perceive as right and wrong and for most of us – outside of extreme circumstances; our morals are not really in dispute in our day to day lives. You can offer just about any scenario to someone and they can tell you if what you are describing is right or wrong but these aren’t always rules that have been made into law, they are most commonly internal and change with the person and circumstance.
Our morals offer an internal code of conduct that we abide by in almost every situation because in a given day, I would presume to guess that not many of us have any opportunities that arise that would challenge our morals or cause us to need to act in a way contradictory to those values. However, in a grid down world I can see many possibilities (in a worst case scenario) where any one of us could find ourselves confronted with decisions that directly challenge our morals in one way or another.
I was reading Todd Sepulveda’s post titled: “What question have you always wanted to ask but never felt comfortable” on his site Ed That Matters. Many of you know Todd’s other site Prepper Website, but his post is part of a series of questions he asked his Facebook followers. All of them are interesting and I recommend reading them. His latest question caught my attention with one of the answers being: “Will modern moral values survive SHTF?” We talk so often about survival situations and life after some collapse in society, that I thought this would be worth exploring further.
I think the subject of morals is one that we skirt around all the time, but never really delve into too deeply. Maybe that is because everything we discuss is hypothetical in large part. It is similar to talking back to the TV when your favorite survival show is on. I have done this myself – more times than I want to admit, arguing with the action going on in the show and spouting off with what I would have done in that situation. It’s harmless because it is make believe and my butt isn’t facing down two guys with shotguns who want to get into the house.
The survival scenarios we talk of with looters showing up at your door and gangs of marauders invading homes on your street and more importantly how we would act if faced with those situations are a theoretical exercise. We have the luxury of being able to discuss these possibilities and plan – visualize them without really having to act and putting ourselves in any moral dilemma. Looting is real without a doubt and people have been affected by both of these events in real life but even when it has visited the U.S. we still have some societal fabric of order that we can cling to. Even in the face of violence we still have the possibility of law and order to save the day or to punish us for our actions.
Ayn Rand wrote the classic novel “Atlas Shrugged” and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. Rand created a philosophy called Objectivism and while I don’t subscribe to all of her beliefs, I do find her work very interesting. Atlas Shrugged is essentially her argument for the greatness of man, wrapped in an interesting story of a dystopic world. The story parallels a lot of the oppression by Government in collusion with corporations we are seeing in current times. John Gault isn’t the main character, but he is probably the most important to the story. If you have ever heard “Who is John Gault”, it was this book that was being referenced.
In John Galt’s speech from the book he says:
“Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”
In a survival, grid-down scenario we could find ourselves faced with making a lot of choices we would never have to make in our current lives. Rather than going along with what life hands us, we would be forced to make choices daily for our survival. I believe in the worst type of collapse, these decisions will play out in ways we can only imagine now. That scenario I viewed on TV could happen in my own front yard and in my ideal vision of how that would go down; I would take actions that if necessary by someone else could make them question their own moral compass. Actually, that scenario is one of the easier for me to rationalize in my head because I would be protecting my family from men with intent to do us harm. People who believe killing is always wrong would have a problem.
But what if your morality choices aren’t life and death due to an eminent threat? What if have to turn people away who are sick and starving? What if you know that they will die or could be horribly treated outside the safety – however fleeting, of your doorway? What if you by your actions, don’t directly kill anyone but send them to their deaths just the same out of self-preservation? What if you are forced to reveal information that could directly endanger people who trusted you?
What tolls will a few actions like this or maybe years of actions like this take on your own morals?
Getting back to the question: Will our morals survive SHTF? I don’t know if our morals are a concept that is set in concrete and never change or can be irrevocably broken. The question assumes that what you believe is right and wrong now will always be the same. My gut tells me that we will always have an individual sense of right and wrong. Will our guidelines for what is acceptable on a larger scale be the same after SHTF? I think that will depend on the circumstances you face and what you choose to do in the moment. Going back to Ayn Rand, if you are choosing to do what you feel is necessary to sustain your life; I think you will be able to justify it eventually. If that means you do something to survive you would never do now, while all the lights are on and the internet is working; you will find ways to adjust your sense of right and wrong in ways that make you feel better. Your morals will adapt.
I think even now, our morals differ according to where we live and how we are raised. Different races and nationalities have different morals and I don’t expect that to change, but I think the underlying question this person is trying to ask is, will I be a monster(do things I know are wrong) or will I stay the same (only do what I believe is right)? I think we will do what we believe is necessary to live or else we will die.
I believe Prepping is one way to take steps now to ensure you can live by the same moral code you have now, before the SHTF. If your goal is to be in a place you don’t have to make decisions you will regret, then you should be preparing now. Prepping gives you options and with options you have a little more wiggle room. Instead of acting out of desperation, you can plan. Instead of lowering your standards of what is right in order to survive, you can act now so that isn’t necessary. Thinking through these situations is one way to prepare but so is gaining knowledge in the form of skills and stocking up on supplies. It’s all cumulative.
Yes, life is going to happen and all the prepping in the world can’t guarantee bad things will not happen in your world, but it is a start. In the end I don’t think our morals will come out of any SHTF event unscathed, but I think we will still be able to point to a right and wrong. I do think what is right and wrong could change for each of us though. What do you think?