All living creatures strive for survival. It is an innate ability that overrides all other physical and emotional needs of human beings. Many of us are conditioned by our culture, education, and spiritual beliefs in our decision making process. However, when our needs for survival come face to face in conflict of what we believe is just, we truly face the depth of our ethics and value systems.
Recently, I had an opportunity to participate in an interesting exercise that is popularly used in classrooms as well as the business teambuilding environment. In this exercise, the participants were divided into small groups of 3-4 people each. Then the fun part began. Each group was given the same list of people below with the scenario that they could only bring 7 out of the 10 people on the list to a desert island with them. The task of each group was to select 3 people to leave behind, and to provide explanations.
Here is the list: (Which 3 will you leave behind and why?)
2. Pregnant teenager with HIV
4. Native islander from a remote region
9. Cop with a gun
10. Business Tycoon
This was not an easy exercise as even among the 3-4 people in a small group, decisions were rarely achieved without disagreement among the group members. It was an interesting fact that all groups chose not to bring the pregnant teenager with HIV with them. Even though some felt very sorry for the HIV carried pregnant teenager, many argued that she would not be able to help the group to generate necessary resources and to sustain in the harsh desert island environment. Instead, she would have become a burden. Some also argued that the pregnant teenager with HIV would endanger the survival of their small groups, as procreation among the limited number of population on the island would very likely be affected by the disease. This was a harsh, but valid argument. In the meantime, many showed concerns and deep regrets that their group had chosen to leave a person with great needs behind.
Another top choice was the cop with a gun. Some wanted to keep the cop with the gun for safety on the island against the unknown. However, many felt uncomfortable with guns and would prefer to have nothing to do with a cop. It was remarkable to see how people viewed the same profession (cop) and the same object (gun) with such opposite values.
The value of this exercise was not the end result, but to truly examine our ethical values during our decision making process. So the question is: Who will you choose to leave behind for your desert island adventure and “why”?
***Also see the discussion forum for this article***