Daily Post: What would you do to survive?

The prompt for today was to read the story of Richard Parker and Tom Dudley. Is what Dudley did defensible? What would you have done?

There are many stories of people in desperate situations resorting to cannibalism to survive. An Argentinean rugby team crashed in the Andes in the 1970s, and there were two books written about their experience, followed by a movie based on one of these accounts. The Donner Party is another famous case, in which a group of pioneers was crossing the Rockies and became stranded in winter.

Andes-flight-disaster-memorial

DonnerParty

I always read these accounts with a somewhat gruesome fascination. It is difficult to say what one would really do to survive in such situations, without it actually happening. In each of these cases, including the Richard Parker and Tom Dudley case, the decision to eat another human being is understandable when one considers the alternative. The difference, however, is that Richard Parker wasn’t actually dead when Dudley and Stephens decided to make him the sacrificial victim. They had already discussed having one of the four be sacrificed for the other, and from their point of view, it did make sense to choose the one closest to death, or least likely to survive. In desperate circumstances, “survival of the fittest” reigns supreme.

Possibly Parker would have come out of the coma and survived, but in the moment, he was the one who was easiest and most justifiable to kill. In different circumstances – such as if the others had sufficient food and water – his life might have been spared. Harsh as it might seem, I agree with the difficult decision they were forced to make. It is not a decision that anyone would want to make or a situation anyone would choose to face. Would it have been better to refuse to consider cannibalism and face almost certain death of all four by starvation and thirst? It was either the survival of three at the expense of one, or the death of all four.

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