A question of altruism

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Feb 25, 2007.

  1. seward

    seward Former Guest

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    I've never been in close combat, but once on a mountain I was bombarded by continuous rockfall for nearly an hour, where the only escape was up and through it. Some of the rocks were the size of automobiles. My thought process was rational as far as actions for survival, but otherwise not at all. In fact I thought I would die laughing.

    As for Pistol's question, I liked what Click said; "who could truly say what motivates a man and his actions at the time and place at which they occur?"

    I think nobody can. Kierkegaard would say the only valid spiritual judgments we can make pertain to ourselves alone & then proceeds with the quote "Judge not, lest you... " K's critics say he paved the way for nihilism, but I hear that to the Lutherans, he's practically a saint.
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    Last edited: Feb 28, 2007
  2. Lead Lobber

    Lead Lobber Former Guest

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    I too discovered Heinlein as a boy and am a huge fan of his and other SF authors, Pistol. I read all of the above with great interest, searching for an emotion I did not see mentioned. Having never been in combat (except for a few dust ups in high school), I think the anger at being shot the first time would be a large part of the Private's response mechanism; I think he was just purely pissed off! Most admirable, IMHO. Some would curl up and cry, I suppose, but I think most would want to get back at their attacker, big time. I believe his actions fall within the defintion of altruism, even though anger may have been his major motivator.

    LL

    Oh, and I was cop for a while in the late 60's, but I don't think wrestling drunks qualifies as "hand to hand" combat, when it is live or die. One could die from the smell, I suppose - some had messed their pants, and so on - one reason I decided law enforcement, in spite my young idealistic desire to serve the community, was not for me.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2007
  3. Nighthawk

    Nighthawk New Member

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    Pistole you trying to force me to get educated :mad: (had to look up altruism)
    YES I think it's s very good example of it
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    I think one of the problems we have here is that each act of bravery, was an individual action.....and each one may have had different, individual, motivation.

    Perhaps some were just acting on an adrenalin rush. Perhaps some thought "Somebody's gotta do it, and I'm here". Perhaps some thought "I've gotta protect my buddies".....perhaps some were reacting as they were trained.....who knows?

    I don't really think that there's a "one size fits all" answer.

    BTW, you can another BIG Heinlein fan to the list! :)
  5. You make a very valid point I think, LL. Anger should not be discounted as a motive by any means, and indeed, it may have been at least part of what prompted his action. Anger is a dangerous emotion in combat though, for it can lead all too easily to foolish decisions. Yet it does become a factor at times. There is simply no denying that. I know that all too well. :(

    Excellent point, X. Have you ever noted in after-action accounts of troops who were decorated for "action above and beyond the call of duty" how often they state that they simply didn't consciously think about it at the time, they just acted? Figuring out the motivation often seems to be a thing that happens, if it does at all, after the event, rather than at the time it occurred.

    Another incident that might be mentioned here for comparison is that of Corporal (later Sergeant) Alvin C. York in the Battle of Meuse River-Argonne Forest on 8 October 1918. The citation for his Medal of Honor reads:

    After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 462 men and several guns

    What is particularly interesting about this action is that York, who was a deeply religious man and originally a contientious objector opposed to war, later claimed that he acted not to kill the enemy, but to save his own men.
  6. aholefireman

    aholefireman New Member

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    While we may never know exactly what was going through his mind you can almost certainly guarantee that the thoughts werent about himself.

    Barry
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