Are You Seriously Saying You Slept With Her Because You Thought It Might Save The World?

I think I started thinking about this because of a line something like the title above, from In The Loop, which isn’t particularly relevant at all to what I’m about to say, but who knows how the mind works (well, me, or I should, because I’ve got an exam on the anatomy of the head and neck (which does include the brain) just over a week from now).

Anyway, here is a question that I am posing.

Say that for whatever reason, there’s some kind of apocalypse scenario. I don’t know what it is that’s happened, say we’re all wiped out by some hideous disease, society has collapsed, it’s all a bit shit really. Whatever has happened, though, has left the bones of the land pretty much intact. Sure, buildings are falling apart, society’s gone, but meanwhile, horses and sheep and cows roam the land freely, fields throng with birds and foxes and badgers, with crops run wild, gone to seed, verdant and lush and plentiful but without anyone to care for them or corral them into neat rows or fertilise them.

Communications are down and there’s no power and no-one to run anything. Nuclear power stations were all shut down as they became increasingly short-staffed and anyway, there were fewer and fewer people to use what power there was.

And there are you, seemingly all alone in the world, or at least all alone in as much of the world as you know about, which at this point isn’t much, it’s as far as you can see, as far as you can walk, or perhaps you’ve got a bike, so it’s a bit farther than that, but anyway, not far. And as far as you know, whatever danger it is that struck down the planet has basically gone – you were clearly immune to any disease that might have killed people off, radiation doesn’t seem to be an issue, and there’s still rain, sunshine, snow, and the rest, at all the appropriate times. Simply that there are, for whatever reason, no people. Perhaps no other great apes, even, depending on just how specific this disease, or whatever it is, is.

Firstly there’s the slightly boring question: if you’re alone in a world which can, with a bit of effort, feed you and keep you warm, do you keep going? If life is one long round of picking berries and harvesting potatoes and lighting fires and cooking things and looting houses for tins and saucepans, and finding and maintaining hte house in which you live, and possibly hunting food too, and clothing yourself, and occasionally you listen to old cassettes on a battery-operated cassette machine, maybe, if you find such a thing, and you read books and sing to yourself and play music (if you’ve got an instrument to play, that is), and there’s no-one to talk to and no reason to do any of this – would you just give up, would you some day just turn around and shoot yourself in the face? I don’t know if I would or not, I really don’t know. What do you think?

Then there’s the other question which I think is kind of more interesting. One day, someone else shows up. You’re pretty surprised, because you’ve been alone for a while, and for all you knew previously, you were the only person left alive. The statistical likelihood of this hasn’t particularly crossed your mind. Now there are two of you, in possibly the entire world, one male, one female.

Say you’re not attracted to this person at all. But you’re both young and fertile and you get on peaceably enough, they’re not actually a bad person, they’re just pretty average really. So, considering everything – your possible isolation on the planet, the fact that actually, you could make a pretty decent living out of it – do you sleep with that person in order to attempt to repopulate the planet, or do you decide that it’s actually better if you don’t, or pointless, or what – and what are your reasons, personally, either way?

And do you think there might actually be some kind of Stockholm Syndrome type response – do you think you’d end up falling in love with this person for no better reason than that they are the only other person in your world?

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7 responses to “Are You Seriously Saying You Slept With Her Because You Thought It Might Save The World?

  1. agletsandampersands

    I can imagine that attractions could develop. After all, the cod stock has been overfished, so to speak…

    I suspect that I’d be pretty rubbish at the day to day business of not dying. I’d drink fouled water, or break my leg, or get an infection, and then that would be the end of me. Perhaps I’m being optimistic: I suspect that I’d simply be utterly, soul-numbingly bored, and that I’d swiftly lose interest in the world. After all, I’m not very god at being quiet, and talking without the possibility of an audience or a reply is a little heartbreaking.

    But that rather misses the point.

    If we’re being strictly utilitarian about it, we’d have to decide whether the pleasure outweighs pain. Life is going to be pretty tough. There are couples making choices about whether a country run by Tories is the right environment into which to bring a child; this doomsday scenario rather puts that into perspective. Then again, there’s n argument for responsibility: survivors have a duty to ensure that there are human beings who may feel pleasure in the future, and the pain that may be suffered is rather less important in the long run.

    (There’s another point to consider here: childbirth is hardly risk-free at the best of times, which these would not be. And that’s without considering what happens to the next generation, reproduction-wise. Let’s hope, for sake of argument, that there’s no good reason why three won’t be more pairs of survivors scattered here and there…)

    Politicians and generals are utilitarians; most people, day to day, tend not to be. I doubt I’d be thinking about high principles of ethics; I suspect I’d be concentrating more on simply remaining the kind of person I could live with being, if I wanted to keep on living. (One answer to your question can be found in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, of course. But then McCarthys a bleak and dismal person at the best of times.)

  2. Antony

    “And do you think there might actually be some kind of Stockholm Syndrome type response – do you think you’d end up falling in love with this person for no better reason than that they are the only other person in your world? ”

    Yes. I think that would happen and conversely I think one person living alone would, whatever their level of survival skill, die prematurely simply because they are alone. Humans are social creatures; even introverted misanthropic neanderthals like myself need other human beings for company.

  3. This post reminds me very much of I Am Legend, because of the post-apocalyptic survival scenario. Very good book.

  4. killermia

    This reminds me of “The Swedish family Robinson.” Defintely worth reading.

    I don’t know if I would develop any longer term attractions to the guy or not, but knowing me, there would be sex involved. And yes, the issues arising in the event that there aren’t any other pairs of survivors are very valid. But personally, while I’d probably struggle with the more heavy labour tasks of, for example, building a house myself, I probably would not mind being alone in the world. And if someone else does show up, that would raise a lot of questions – where they came from, did they leave anyone behind or meet anyone on their way etc etc.

    Also, there would be the issue of differing languages…

  5. I honestly believe sometimes the only thing that stops people falling in love is that they believe there’s someone they’ll like more.

    So, yes.

  6. Jenny

    I suspect that if you did come across another person they would probably also speak the language of whatever country you were in – if you’re interested in the day-to-day business of survival you’re hardly likely to have traversed great distances, not on foot.

    For myself I’m not sure I would fall for my random stranger. I’m so picky that I doubt I’d fancy someone simply because they were the last man I thought I was ever likely to meet. And therefore I suspect we’d only have sex if he was equally uninterested in me – sex forcompanionship, not lust or love. Does that make sense? I’m also not sure that I think it would be more moral to procreate than to not. Does the earth really need humans? But then, what is so terribly bad about us – perhaps, given a chance to start over, we might do alright this time.

    I would certainly welcome a friend. I’m pretty self-sufficient but I don’t think man can be an island, not really. So, Antony, I completely agree with you. I also think I’d do okay at the basic survival thing. I’d have to loot for and hoard things like matches and bottled drinks and basic medicines at first but meanwhile I would learn how to light fires from scratch, I’d find springs (I think I’d migrate to Wales or Scotland, find an old, well-insulated house with a functioning chimney and fireplace, near a spring), grow potatoes, that would be a start. From that point I would know I could survive and I’d graduate to domesticating hens, I’d learn to shoot (find a gun), master that, then perhaps start on archery on the basis that presumably I’d have a limited amount of ammo. But loneliness would be a serious problem.

    As for army generals, politicians, and the finer points of ethics – without the rush and bustle of a normal life, and thrown into a whole new world, I can’t see that you could help but think about these things.

    So, which is the more moral choice – to repopulate, or to let the human race as you know it die out?

  7. kat

    On the repopulation front, if there was just you and him then well sadly you could have as many children as you wanted, the human race would still die out as there is simply not enough genetic variabilty around. Also moral dilema of incest arises if go deeper into the repopulation route. So ultimately without some major divine intervention the human race is ending with you two essentially.
    Now if you had say a small gathering of people maybe repopulation would work I’m sure there are scientific papers out there with near exact numbers and ratios too on what would work hum…
    you raise an interesting debate 🙂

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