Altruism : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Lenny Skutnik (and Roger Olian, and the unknown survivor who gave up his chance for rescue to save another ), jumped into an ice-filled Potomac to save survivors of AF Flight 90. They were just guys coming home from work over the bridge. That's always impressed me.

What makes people like that ?


-- Runway Cat (, December 07, 1998


They knew who they really were and why they were here. Most people don't.

-- Ann Fisher (, December 07, 1998.

"What makes people like that ?"

Why do you wonder RC? Wouldn't you jump in to help? You might surprize yourself someday, by doing something along those lines.

-- Uncle Deedah (, December 08, 1998.

We might all have an upcoming opportunity to surprise ourselves.


(Glad to see that you're still around Uncle, after your Yourdon Asylum thread post!)

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 08, 1998.

There is an instinct to help our fellow man. In the flush of the moment, we are back 1,000,000 years helping a fellow troop (troop is pre-tribe) member. It is instinct. Back then, it was valid? Today? Today the chances are you will sacrifice your life or limb for someone with values totally antithetical to yours. You have the emotional impulse, but HUMANS can evaluate the situation and make a rational decision NOT to help.

Say you had a chance to rescue a known congressperson and his/her family. I wouldn't walk across the street to do that. (The spouse chose the a**hole to attach to, and the progeny have likely been indoctrinated beyond redemption.

-- badsamaritan (, December 08, 1998.

I think that, in a crisis, most people would instinctively react to help others. It's not a myth that the most unlikely people can become heroes in the right circumstances.

Once had a guy in production team, an incompetent guy who didn't have a lot of friends in the team. Nobody had a very high regard for him. One show, we had a massive (several tons) sloped piece of scenery on stage, that the chorus (sixty-two people) did the can-can on (moving up and down and off and onto it). This guy was backstage; his job was something menial that I forget. Anyway, on the final perfomance this massive thing began to give way. Shaking, visibly creaking. Peripheral things are falling off This guy crawls under it, while 62 people are dancing on top of it, to pull off a board with a line of very sharp nails sticking out of it that has fallen off and would have otherwise been stepped on by someone.

Later I asked this guy why he did it: "I had to. I mean, I couldn't have NOT done it, right?"


-- Leo (, December 08, 1998.

I always think, when I hear a soul-searching question like that, "What kind of person would CARE about such an issue?"

Obviously, someone with the inner development and instincts to care enough to rise to the occasion, should they be faced with such a challenge.

Only people with integrity grapple with issues of integrity. Only people with a heroic soul contemplate -- and are impressed with -- actions of heroism such as the incident at the Potomac.

RC -- I think you must BE that type of person.

-- Sara Nealy (, December 08, 1998.

Let me tell you about a Marine I knew in boot camp (several million years ago) who I'll call G.K. (not his real initials).

G.K. was obviously very slow, probably borderline retarded, but he was motivated, he wanted to be a Marine, and some recruiter had a quota to make so. . . Anyway, he ended up at Parris Island in my boot camp platoon.

No one was cruel to G.K. At first, the DIs won't let you be cruel to anyone, and later, you come to realize that it isn't a smart move. G.K. was not well liked, because the rest of us had to "carry" him a lot, but he was a part of us, and we tolerated him. He was thought of a lot better, though, than some of the clowns who eventually went home to mama with a, "Sorry M'am, your son is not Jarhead material," discharge.

Each night, there was an hour on the training schedule that was labeled "Recruit Time", which was a euphemism for, "this is when you press your utilities, polish your boots and brass, clean your weapons, shave, shower, study the days lessons and if you have any time left over, write a letter home". There was a large table placed in the center of the squad bay for the letters, which the Duty DI would collect, examine and mail.

One night, during this hour, the Senior DI, who was the Duty DI for that day, called for G.K. G.K. had done (or not done maybe, I really don't remember which) something that day that had really got the SDI's knickers in a twist and it was time for the "show". The SDI placed a folding metal chair on the "letter table", removed his fair leather belt and sat in the chair. He then had G.K. drop his trousers and skivvies, kneel over his lap and proceeded to administer a "whipping" with said belt.

You could have heard a pin drop in that squad bay--until the belt whistled through the air and the adrenaline shot free in the body of each one of us and we all sucked wind. The noise the belt made on contact coincided with a pain that was felt by each of us.

G.K. didn't make a sound.

After three strokes, G.K. leaped to the position of attention and screamed at the top of his lungs, "STOP IT. . .SIR!"

I have never seen a DI speechless, before or since, but that one was. G.K. pulled up his trousers, and returned to his bunk. Shortly thereafter, we had our nightly ritual and lights out.

Sometime during the night, G.K. was taken away. No one knew what had happened to him, and the one guy who had the guts to ask was lucky to get off with a sharp reply and no information. But, guys disappeared during the night quite frequently during boot camp, and we eventually found out that they had been shipped home to mama, with the aforementioned discharge.

About a week later, we were at Sick Bay, getting another round of shots. As I was standing in formation, waiting for the rest of the platoon to finish inside, I spotted G.K., marching along at the rear of the POU (Pyschiatric Observation Unit) platoon. He was the only guy in that formation that looked like a Marine and it was the last time I ever saw him.

Years later, I had occasion to read the Citation that the Marine Corps gave G.K.'s family, along with a Silver Star Medal and his remains. G.K. had been in a "hooch" with about a half dozen other Marines when an attack had come. He had fallen on a grenade and there were at least six Marines who went on to other things because G.K. knew the secret of loving your fellow man.

Vonnegut holds that intelligence is not necessarily a positive survival trait, and I agree with him. We've got a Rhodes' Scholar in the White House, and I've never met a Marine who would piss in his mouth if his teeth were on fire.

G.K. though, had something that represents the best in Humankind. I know that G.K. would not have "got it" about Y2K were he here, but I'd unhesitatingly give my left you-know-what to have him with me during the troubles to come.

-- Hardliner (, December 08, 1998.

Surely Hardliner you're argument is flawed since you are describing a personality trait that does not necessarily have any relationship to intelligence or stupidity. Are you saying that he sacrificed himself for others because he was deemed stupid or because he had a noble character. I'm not making a criticism of said hero GK. Surely you have known stupid people who have been cowards (in active service).

-- Richard Dale (, December 08, 1998.


Actually, I wasn't presenting any argument at all.

If there is a point to G.K.'s story, it would seem to be that a lack of intelligence is not a bar to membership in the human family nor is its presence a guarantee of such membership.

Perhaps the anecdote would have been more properly posted to one of the threads about "sheeple", but I don't think it quite fits there as well as here.

-- Hardliner (, December 08, 1998.

About sheeple: GK was stupid, but he wasn't sheeple. Lots of mental midgets care about their fellow man, are willing to stand up for their principles, etc.. They do their best. And a lot of clever people "go along to get along," abetting even genocide, and they have a clear, sheep-like conscience. I find some of the most "book smart" people I know to be the hardest sell on the reality of Y2k. Mere intelligence is servicable for everything, sufficient for nothing.


-- E. Coli (, December 08, 1998.

Intelligence is a means to an end and no more.

-- Leo (, December 09, 1998.

I think it is thoroughly false to ascribe the myriad character traits that a person can possess with a inference merely to intelligence or lack of. I would say that statistically speaking it is more likely that a stupid person will be a sheeple. How can I put it you can be intelligent and heroic, stupid and heroic or whatever. Obviously the definition of intelligence is wide its not just being able to perform certain mental tasks. Intelligence has to be applied, it is an ability. The inference in these postings seems to imply that intelligence has no value, when it comes down to it we all rely on the intelligence of the very few throughout history. In my personal life many of the problems I encounter are simply due to people having limited thought processes, I don't mean merely not having intelligence but not being able to apply what they have constructively.

-- Richard Dale (, December 09, 1998.


From where I sit, it looks like everyone, including you, is mostly in violent agreement.

I read this this thread as being focused on altruism and see the intelligence aspect as a minor side issue. What you say about intelligence is correct, in my view, but unrelated to the discussion I thought we were having.

As to the notion that stupid people are more likely to be sheep-like, I disagree with you. I have had much the same experience as E. Coli with otherwise highly intelligent people who simply deny reality. I believe that "herd animal characteristics" are unrelated to intelligence.

-- Hardliner (, December 09, 1998.

From where I sit, it looks like everyone, including you, is mostly in violent agreement.

Yes well put.

-- Richard Dale (, December 09, 1998.

"I believe that "herd animal characteristics" are unrelated to intelligence."

I agree with that. Most likely it's related to courage and guts, or the lack of it.

-- Chris (, December 09, 1998.

OK, here's my theory on it:

Once I was sitting on the bus, commuting and zoned out, gazing vapidly out the window. The bus stopped, a very old lady started to get on. As she mounted the top step, she lost her balance and started to fall backwards. Now, there were about 10 or so people SITTING in the front, accessible part of the bus. Of those, a few jumped up IMMEDIATELY, I mean, so fast you might have thought they had seen a video pre-screening of the fall. One guy caught her, saving her from possible death, he was THAT fast. I looked around - who's standing, who's still sitting. All had clearly seen her start to fall.

My theory is, this kind of instinct, like Lenny Skutnik and the unknown crash survivor who kept passing the rope to others til he himself drowned, that's just born into some people and not others. Has nothing to do with intelligence or any other quality, success in life or a 'failure', educated or not - some people just "have it". Born. Like Mozart, he wrote the melody we know as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" when he was 5 years old - that kind of quality is born in.


-- Runway Cat (, December 09, 1998.

Hardliner, Magnificent !! "Uncommon valour was a common virtue "

Mick Sgt 7th Inf 68-69

-- Mickey (, December 10, 1998.

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