One for All and All for One

The other day I got this fascinating Forward from a friend about decision making. It tells the story of a group of children playing on railroad tracks. One child is playing alone on the unused railroad track, while five children are playing on the active rail.

Suddenly, a rain is spotted on the tracks heading straight towards the five children. You have to decide what to do. 1) Do you divert the train onto the unused track to save five children while sacrificing the lone child on the other track? or 2) Would you let the train continue on its path towards the group of five children?

What would you do?

Most people would in an instant answer that they would sacrifice the lone child to save the group of five children. Sacrifice one in the name of saving many. It’s the rational and logical solution. It’s for the better “good” of society. One death is better than five.

However, there is more. There is a dilemma.

The great critic Leo Velski Julian (do you know who he is? I’ve been trying to find out..) says that we should not try to change the course of the train. He argues that the children playing on the active and operational track should have known better that the track was still in use, and would have run away upon hearing the approaching train. However, if the train is diverted, the child on the unused track would not have been expecting the train and would experience a most certain death.

In addition, since the tracks are not in operation, they would also not be safe. The lives of the passengers on the diverted train would therefore be at stake as the train may possibly derail.

Therefore, in a quick decision to save a group of five children and sacrifice one as a result, might end up with an accident out of proportions. Hundreds of passengers may be injured.

Not only that, if you think about it, the child playing on the unused track had been clever enough to choose the unused track to play in a safe place. Unlike his ignorant friends, he was aware of the dangers of playing on the active track.

He had the courage to play apart from the other children through his powers of judgment. He may have grown up to be an incredibly intelligent boy and invent the time machine. Who knows?

The question remains though, when do you sacrifice one for the good of all even when the majority may have been the one who made an error of judgement? This happens all the time in decision making. When deciding upon issues, the majority is always set to win, but are they always correct?

The minority who had the intelligence to play on the unused track was ignored and instead sacrificed for the “good” of society. What is often considered the “right” thing to do, might not always be the one that wins the popularity contest.

Just because everyone thinks a certain way, doesn’t mean that it’s always correct. Be yourself, and do what you yourself judge to be true.

No one can tell you what is “correct” or “wrong,” it’s all a matter of judgement. What was “wrong” might later be “correct.”

The world was once flat, now it is round.

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2 thoughts on “One for All and All for One

  1. Thank you! It is fascinating…upon restrospect, in reality it would be a split second decision so it'd be very hard to decide :S Staying on the path towards the five might also cause the train to derail, injuring the passengers and the five children. :S

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