Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Eat Your Neighbour

I was watching a documentary last night. It was exploring parts of the Pacific Ocean, predominantly an area of dead sea. It isn’t dead sea as in the Dead Sea, where, apparently there is so much salt in it that you can float and your newspaper doesn’t get wet, but dead in the sense that there is very little surface plankton. We all know that plankton is like the one ingredient of the food chain that nature, as far as the oceans go, just cannot do without. It’s what the small fish, and the big fish feed on, and then the even bigger fish eat the small and the big fish. Without the plankton, there’s no small fish, big fish or even bigger fish.

To grab the viewers interest the programme began by describing a whaling ship from long ago. Although the dead sea part of the ocean is not where lots of fish make their home, lots of fish have to pass through it to get to where they want to go, whales included. Where there are whales, there are sometimes whaling boats. The oil produced from whales was valuable and worth the effort taking a boat out into the middle of nowhere to get the whales. The whalers targeted the calves knowing that would draw the bigger ones in closer.

In this particular voyage, the whales retaliated. One big bull of a whale rammed the ship and sank it, leaving all hands on board to get into the life boats. There were three lifeboats that set off. There was land, not exactly close by but accessible, had the prevailing winds been in the right direction. They headed off for the coast of South America a few thousand miles in the opposite direction.

Had they not been in the dead sea part of the ocean, being very good fishermen, they might have been fine, except for a lack of fresh drinking water. But the dead sea bit of the ocean was fish-less, because it was surface plankton-less, so they caught nothing. Had they known more about that area, fish-wise, they might have known that at night time, what little fish life there was rose to the surface. We are talking about little fish…very little fish.

Only one boat eventually arrives in port ninety days later carrying just two people. It would seem that they came up with a solution to the food crisis. They cast lots to decide who to kill and eat. Yes, they resorted to cannibalism.

I would like to say that I am one hundred percent sure that when faced with inevitable death that can only be surmounted by eating someone, I would prefer to die. I can’t imagine me eating anyone. I am more likely to say “Kill me, Eat me”. I don’t mind being dead and getting eaten. Eaten alive? No. It’s probably the dying part of it that I wouldn’t look forward to. I wouldn’t want that bit of it to hurt.

Would anyone criticise the survivors for surviving in such a way? Under normal circumstances most people don’t eat other people, but these were not normal circumstances. The rule, “Love your neighbour…don’t eat them”, no longer applied in the conditions they found themselves in.

It is easy to look at the lives of other people from the viewpoint of the conditions that we find myself in, rather than the conditions that they find themselves in. We don’t always know their conditions, and yet make our judgements about people. We think, often wrongly, that with a little bit of hard work and effort they could change their conditions for the better. With a little bit of hard work and effort, we could be the ones that change their conditions, or at least help them to change it themselves.

No comments: