A question of altruism

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

  1. Expression of your views is one thing, Mike, stooping to personal inuendo and insult in the process is quite another. The former is well within the rules of TFF, the latter most certainly is not.

    Since I am involved in this dispute directly, I choose to take no action here myself. I feel a moderator should make decisions based on objectivity, and in this case that would clearly not be possible. I will therefore leave that decision to others. For the record, however, I consider your remarks both insolent and personally insulting.
  2. clmanges

    clmanges New Member

    Feb 2, 2007
    NE Ohio
    I agree.
    Another forum I visit has a system to deal with offensive posters. When someone gets out of line, the mods issue them a "pip," which shows up on the page below their avatar. Five pips and you're kicked off for some while, six months, I think. This forum may not have such a feature, and up until now, I haven't seen the need for one, but it's an idea worth considering. Too bad it's happened here, but some kind of sanction is in order in this case.

  3. armedandsafe

    armedandsafe Guest

    It might, indeed, be pointless babble to you. However, to those of us who have been involved in such, and can still think clearly, the lessons to be learned from such actions are not pointless. Nor is teaching our next generation that community action is often necessary and, sometimes, enobling, just babble.

    My life was saved by a gentleman who smothered a Bouncing Betty. I feel he was a noble man. Your denigrating his action will not change my opinion of him.

  4. Now, where we before an excellent and most interesting discussion was so rudely interrupted by arrant drivel? :D Oh yes, the issue was altruism . . .

    Cl, your analysis is a most excellent one in my opinion, and the issues you raise indeed relevant. It does appear certain from record that he was not under orders to undertake his assault on the pillbox, thus it would seem that upholding his duty to obey orders could not logically have been a factor in his decision. Obviously then, that leaves us right back where we started. We can never know with certainty exactly what did go through the mind of Pvt. Young that day in terms of his immediate motivation. Was his response merely automatic, based on training? That seems at least possible, yet it would imply that humans are mere automatons under combat stress and not thinking, emotionally motivated beings--in other words, that conditioning always prevails over reason. I find that hard to accept. It therefore seems quite reasonable that the simplest explanation--true altruism, the protection of lives more important to him than even his own survival--cannot be ignored as his most likely motivation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2007
  5. clmanges

    clmanges New Member

    Feb 2, 2007
    NE Ohio
    So do I. It seems to me that an automatic, unthinking response would not allow for moment-to-moment adjustments to a person's choice of action. Humans are very adaptable to immediate situations, and training alone can't cover every possible situation.
    At risk of getting a little bit off the issue, this leads me to think that a training regimen might be best designed if it includes some concepts of what may be termed meta-tactics, generalized guides such as how to look for cover, how to look for the enemy's weak spots, etc., beyond mere technique. I have no military experience, myself, so I don't know if this is already incorporated in the training, especially at basic level. I'm sure that this is covered in more specialized levels of training, such as for Rangers, Seals, etc.
    Anyway, back to the topic, I have read a little bit about the field of Evolutionary Psychology, and in among there are findings that altruism does exist. It was contested by those who felt that any organism had self survival as its first priority, but the EP theorists contend that an individual has the capacity for self-sacrifice when it would benefit the species as a whole.

    There may have been other things going through Pvt. Young's mind as well. The possiblities are endless, of course, but suppose that his drill sargeant in boot camp had endlessly berated him as a no-good. Throwing his last grenade, Young may have thought, "Here, Sarge, this is for you!" Not very altruistic, but it might have been a motive.
  6. seward

    seward Former Guest

    Sep 3, 2006
    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.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2007
  7. Lead Lobber

    Lead Lobber Former Guest

    Jan 3, 2007
    Central California coastal area
    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.


    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
  8. Nighthawk

    Nighthawk New Member

    Aug 22, 2006
    South Central Texas
    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
  9. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Feb 23, 2001
    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! :)
  10. 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.
  11. aholefireman

    aholefireman New Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    Waynesboro, MS
    While we may never know exactly what was going through his mind you can almost certainly guarantee that the thoughts werent about himself.

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