Dexter Dias is a human rights barrister. When I found out his book “The Ten Types of Humans”, even though I am suspicious of such titles, I thought it would be interesting. Given his experience, he probably knew so many interesting cases. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. There are just a few case examples and I didn't learn anything special about what goes on be it in human-trafficking or child slavery etc. However, I found one thing very intriguing. The question he put at the beginning of his book about the Kinsman.
The question is simple: What would you do if you found yourself in a position to choose over the life of your child or the life of 24 other children? He paints an example, -too much of a scenario if you ask me, but it probably would be considered quite valid in the US where such situations happen quite often. The scenario is this: You receive a call that there is a gunman at your daughter's school. You go there. Your daughter is in one room and there are 24 children in another room. Your choice is this: If you face the gunman, you all die. If you go in to the room where your daughter is, you save her life; the other children die. If you go in to the room with the other children, you save their lives; your daughter gets to die. What do you do?
I'm sorry... I'm saving my daughter.
He says “I know what you would do. I know what you'd do because I would do the same. Because virtually everyone we know would do the same.”
“Ah, good then,” I think. Not that I was feeling guilty about it. Still... it relieves you to know that you wouldn't seem selfish or cruel because of your choice and be judged.
Then he modifies the question some. What if there were 50 children versus your child? Would that change your decision? What if there were a 100?
I'm again sorry... I'm still saving my daughter.
Even 500 or 5000 or 5 million... I doubt it will matter. The world is crowded; I have but one daughter. (One who is alive that is.)
I had increased the number of my own accord but reading on, he increases it to a million and asks again. Writes it out in numbers: 1,000,000 so as for us to see the sheer magnitude of the lives at stake. That's how many lives you can save if you give up only one. But that 1, is your daughter.
He asks “Still not enough?”
No. Sorry, it's not. It's not enough. There is no enough.
Then he modifies the question in a different way. What if, among the 24 or a million, there was a young scientist who had found out the cure for cancer. The catch is, she hasn't shared her discovery with anybody yet. Would you save her or your child?
“Think of all the generations of unspeakable suffering and grief you will save.”
Actually, that doesn't affect me much. It doesn't have to be cancer patients. Losing your child is an unspeakable suffering and grief, I should know. If I were to think of that, I'd have saved the million children in the first place.
“Can you live with the condemnation of the generations if you choose your child? Can you live with yourself if you don't?”
Yeah I will. If someone has found a cure, someone else will find the cure as well. Until then, we live with cancer just like we have done all this time.
“If it's possible, step back. Think about what you're seriously considering. You're contemplating consigning generation after future generation to suffering the continuing blight of cancer, just to save one child.”
E yeah. But you are forgetting one thing, the most important thing: It is my child you are talking about. Oh, if it's somebody else's child, I'd sure save the scientist. That one is easy.
Why is the other one easy too? Because the one person you are talking about... She is my child. As Carnegie puts it, the boil on my neck, or on anybody's neck for that matter, is more important to me/to them than any other pain of other people.
“What would you do?
I know what you would do. I know what we'd both do. But why?”
Ah okay, so you'd do the same. Good.
Mr. Dias stops there. But I add other questions myself: What if I knew I'd be getting cancer, suffering and dying, or it could be that I already had cancer and was counting on this scientist to save my life... What then? Would I still save my daughter or the scientist?
I'd save my daughter.
What if it was my daughter versus the scientist plus a million other children?
I'd still save my daughter. I'm sorry for all the loss of life, but I'm saving my daughter. It makes you realize how important your/one's child is... how important my child is to me.
Let's make another twist to the question: What if I knew my daughter would be getting cancer and dying if not for this scientist? Then what would I do?
Yeah, then I'd save the scientist and give up my daughter. Only then... Only then I would.
I confess, again for very selfish reasons. For the sole reason that I wouldn't want to see her suffer and die. For the sole reason that I cannot bear to stand and watch her suffering, and find it better that she doesn't suffer and I suffer her absence on this earth.
My husband objected to this line of reasoning. He said “Just like you said beforehand, if not that scientist, somebody else will find the cure for cancer.”
Yeah, might be. But when? If I knew somebody would find the cure on time for my daughter, I'd for sure sacrifice the scientist again.
What about if the other children were the children of my best friends?
Not that I have best friends with so many children... But still it wouldn't matter. I'm saving my child.
My heart would break. My heart would go out to them. My heart goes out to all mothers who lose their child. But if I have to make a choice, I'm saving my child.
Mr. Dias calls this person the Kinsman. He says “It will sacrifice dozens or even hundreds of other children - even a thousand – for just one of its own.” Yes, it will. Yes, I will.
“We all want to protect our children. Everybody knows that. But do we appreciate the frightening strength of that drive? How aware are we of the ruthless extent that it chooses our child over others?”
Ruthless extent... Yes, I agree. It is a ruthless extent.
There is one thing though... I said I'd choose my daughter over all the other children. Yet... This is all in theory. This is when I am sitting in my couch, content with the knowledge that my daughter is healthy and fine and there are no child's lives at risk, that no other child's life depends on me.
When it comes the time, if I am faced with such a reality, it is quite possible that I cannot bring myself to sacrifice all those children. I might just sacrifice myself, my daughter, just because I'd feel it would be the right thing to do. I know I know... Generally it's the other way around. People know the right thing but still go ahead and do the wrong thing. Well, I am almost always opposite to the general trend. I have a strange reasoning. I mean I've found that out after so much conflict, misunderstanding, and arguing in my life. There must be something wrong with the way I am wired. Not that I believe I am wrong or bad. On the contrary, I believe it's all the other people who are strange ;)
“Did you 'break'? This is the term we've pretty quickly settled on when I've spoken to groups about this problem. Did you reach a point at which you left your child? Some people –very few- break at 24. Far more when it gets to 50 other children. Many more find their breaking point closer to 100. I have a friend who did not break even if the toll would be every other single children on the planet. Until she realised she wanted a child for her daughter to play with – so everyone else minus one, that was her number. That friend (she's still a friend) is a lawyer.”
Well... Obviously Mr. Dias feels the need to stress that this “horrible” person who sacrifices all other children over her own is still a friend! I wouldn't have deemed it necessary. To me, I wouldn't care about my daughter having someone to play with. There will be children born. In the meantime, she entertains the company of adults. The only thing I'd consider would be the trauma for her seeing all her friends die. That might be too much for her to deal. I have a 6 year-old.
Perhaps, I might break at five million children. Or maybe not. But if my child was to kill five million, I'd sacrifice her. I'm just sharing what I think honestly and openly here. In the hope that no one will make judgements. But in case anybody wants to, feel free.
“We all have a number. What's yours? What do these numbers say about us? By our numbers shall we be known?”
I leave these questions for you to think about and answer.
PS: I give the first answer in the comments ;)