Kill or be Killed

The rules of war and the law of the jungle stipulate that we live in a dog eat dog world, where every man must look out for himself, and in desperate times anything goes, as this is a survival of the fittest and the strongest, where you will eat or be eaten.  Death can visit in many forms and from death, new life can form. It is thought that a shock wave from an exploding star likely helped trigger the formation of our solar system, which coalesced from a giant rotating cloud of gas and dust known as the solar nebula about 4.6 billion years ago.  Our instinct to survive is a powerful drive ever since animals climbed out of the primordial muck and our early ancestors rose off the ground to walk upright, evolution has guided us to survive.  Only the strong will remain, all the weak will be consumed by fire.

Does war make us lose our humanity?  If you were ordered to kill, could you do that?  Just about everything that humans have become, how we think, what emotions we experience, and the ways we behave and interact with others, serves the essential purpose of survival.  If we perceive stress, danger or an imminent threat to our survival, a biological trigger known as instinct, which is made up of a series of chemical releases and nerve cell responses will get us ready for the impending scenario.  Adrenaline will be released into our blood stream, our heart rate will increase, blood will pump more quickly into our muscles and limbs improving our reactions.  Our awareness, sight and impulses will all intensify and quicken when we face danger.  Our ancestors experienced fear of annihilation and death and this developed their instinct for survival, which translated into adaptation and conditioning.  Our instinct for self-preservation was cultivated from encounters that we had in our environment.

The survival instinct resides in most animals, contained in the most primitive parts of their brains and this controls their fight or flight mechanisms.  When danger presents itself, this area of the brain activates and produces the chemical reactions necessary to prompt the brain and body into action for the sole purpose of survival.  When this is happening in an animal the response tends to end once the threat is removed or expired.  Once the threat of danger is passed the animal relaxes and goes back to its daily activities.  The human brain is a bit more complex and so the survival instinct tends to take on a different level.  In humans the survival instinct can be tied into other emotions that are produced and these mix in with the fight or flight response.  Even when the danger is over, these side emotions can continue to carry the energy of the danger response into daily life.  Emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, fear, grief and others can come into play with the chemical mix of a danger response.

All men are born with the instinct to protect themselves and the instinct to survive is human nature itself, as every aspect of our personalities is derived from it.  Anything that conflicts with our survival instinct will sooner or later act to eliminate the individual and thereby fail to show up in future generations.  A scientifically verifiable theory of morals (which could be self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race) must be rooted in every individual’s instinct to allow them to survive, and resolve conflicts.  Morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to an individual.

According to Darwin, everyone is born with survival instincts and it is not possible to turn it off, or overpower it, or out-think it, or circumvent them in any way.  Darwin developed a theory that human beings were not placed fully formed onto the Earth, but instead they evolved, and their biological descendants extend from a line that stretches back through apes and to ancient simians.  Homo sapiens emerged on the Savannah Plain some 200,000 years ago, yet according to evolutionary psychology, people today still seek those traits that made survival possible when they are threatened.  Human beings are hardwired, as you can take the person out of the Stone Age, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.  Genetic mutations may occasionally crop up and if these genes produce better characteristics, then they will survive environmental and sexual selection to be passed on to succeeding generations.  The characteristics that help a species thrive and propagate will survive the process of natural selection and be passed on to their decedents.

In order to survive, we would all turn into thieves or scoundrels, or so says the fox, with her villainous coat, her white knife of a smile, who knows that she is going to steal something that doesn’t belong to her, perhaps some chicken, and she hopes that maybe she will get one more chance to survive.  In a post apocalyptic future weird, strange, twisted, surreal and bizarre things may hold the key to humanity’s survival.  It is thought that in the impending apocalyptic future, the lucky ones will be those who died in the blasts, because they were spared the fate of deadly disease, starvation, cannibalism, rape and slaughter in a society where a man could be killed over half-eaten can of corn.

Written for August 30, 2017 Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday prompt – It’s Surreal

12 thoughts on “Kill or be Killed

  1. Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” is an attempt to find moral foundations scientifically. He thinks they are innate. I agree with that part of his book. However, part of the problem is seeing the survival of the fittest in terms of individuals who are labelled as either “selfish” or “altruistic”. If one breaks out of the isolated individualist perspective and dump the selfish/altruistic labels, then one can deal with groups. Although I don’t think Haidt would completely agree with this, I think *all* selection is group based. It is groups on which natural selection operates. They compete for survival not individuals.

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  2. Interesting post but with a rather bleak vision of mankind’s future. How do those who take their own lives, like suicide bombers for instance, manage to overcome their ingrained survival instincts?

    By the way, you don’t have to use Linda’s topic (in this case, “surreal”) as the topic for you One-Liner Wednesday prompt. It just has to be one sentence and, as Linda suggests, “funny or inspirational.”

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    1. I may have this all wrong, as my one liner ‘Kill or be Killed’ is just one sentence. After I wrote my One Liner, then I wrote a story about it. I included that part at the end about the post apocalyptic world, because that can be surreal. I actually like this contest or writing competition because it does not limit the amount of words that you can use. If I am only allowed to write one sentence, then this will be the last time that I will be involved in this.

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      1. Oh no, you can write as many sentences as you want. In my replies to Linda’s prompts, after stating the once sentence I’m using for the one-line prompt, I almost always go on to write about why I chose that one sentence and what it means to me. What I meant in my comment to you was that your
        response doesn’t have to relate in any way to what Linda wrote about. I thought maybe you were under the impression that because Linda’s post was titled “It’s Surreal,” that you had to write something using the word surreal in it. If that’s not what you thought, I apologize for my incorrect assumption.

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      2. I like the One Liner Wednsday, as restricting my words hampers my style. I am never sure if my posts are inspirational or funny as I need to leave that determination up to the readers, if I get any. I appreciate any knowledge that you want to pass along to me, as I think that you are a great writer.

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      3. Thanks for the compliment. I don’t know that I have any great tips to pass along, other than I try to keep each post to between 250-400 words at most, since many readers have a short attention span. That makes doing things like Twitter Tales (140 characters) and Bikurgurl’s prompt (100 words) challenging for me.

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  3. Hey Jim. I think you are a fabulous writer. I do hope that your kindness and hope along with your objective stand also gets reflected in your writing. Great post Jim..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Technically I am not back since my email is registered on wordpress I can still comment. I am like a ghost. I will linger until I find a new body (or site). I will tell you when the new site will be there. It will be a different account though.

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