The Exercise of Morality In Extreme Situations - What Would YOU Do?

Concentration camp prisoners.
Concentration camp prisoners. | Source

DIFFICULT LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES HAPPEN

There are so many people who have it EVEN WORSE than we do in life. Oftentimes, there are EXTREME occurrences in their lives, sometimes by their own volition and other times, through no fault of their own.  Mother and child in homeless shelter.
There are so many people who have it EVEN WORSE than we do in life. Oftentimes, there are EXTREME occurrences in their lives, sometimes by their own volition and other times, through no fault of their own. Mother and child in homeless shelter.
Many employees are in tenuous job situations where there is no job security and even any prospect of a feasible retirement plan. In addition to that, they are overworked and abused.
Many employees are in tenuous job situations where there is no job security and even any prospect of a feasible retirement plan. In addition to that, they are overworked and abused.
Long-term unemployed man without any form of socioeconomic support.
Long-term unemployed man without any form of socioeconomic support.
Homeless man not knowing where his next meal or living space is coming from.
Homeless man not knowing where his next meal or living space is coming from.
Unemployed people waiting and hoping for a job.
Unemployed people waiting and hoping for a job.

EXTREME LIFE OCCURRENCES

There were some people who endured and survived THE VERY WORST that no human being ought to tolerate. Ukrainian forced laborers in Germany during World War II.
There were some people who endured and survived THE VERY WORST that no human being ought to tolerate. Ukrainian forced laborers in Germany during World War II.
Concentration camp inmates in Germany during World War II. Life in such camps were oftentimes beyond horrendous. Very few people survived such camps.
Concentration camp inmates in Germany during World War II. Life in such camps were oftentimes beyond horrendous. Very few people survived such camps.
Jewish slave laborers in Poland  under Nazi rule during World War II.
Jewish slave laborers in Poland under Nazi rule during World War II.

SOME PEOPLE LOSE THEIR HUMANITY IN DIFFICULT/EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES

When many people encounter difficult or extreme circumstances in their lives, they go into shock and many become dehumanized, reduced to an instinctual and basic survival level.They will use and exploit others to achieve such ends.
When many people encounter difficult or extreme circumstances in their lives, they go into shock and many become dehumanized, reduced to an instinctual and basic survival level.They will use and exploit others to achieve such ends.
During the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, many people resorted to the lowest common denominator, stealing and performing other illegal acts.
During the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, many people resorted to the lowest common denominator, stealing and performing other illegal acts.
Many top officials in the Jewish ghettoes in Poland and Eastern Europe in World War II used their positions to further exploit and oppress their compatriots.They were unconcerned about the abject conditions in the ghettoes.
Many top officials in the Jewish ghettoes in Poland and Eastern Europe in World War II used their positions to further exploit and oppress their compatriots.They were unconcerned about the abject conditions in the ghettoes.

RISING ABOUT THE CIRCUMSTANCES

Maximilian Kolbe, a Roman Catholic priest who was imprisoned at Auschwitz gave up his life to save another  inmate who had children.
Maximilian Kolbe, a Roman Catholic priest who was imprisoned at Auschwitz gave up his life to save another inmate who had children.
Neighbors pitching in during disaster relief.
Neighbors pitching in during disaster relief.
Neighbors helping each other in time of need, pooling their resources.
Neighbors helping each other in time of need, pooling their resources.

LIFE 501

Life can be quite daunting and perilous at times. Everyone knows this. There are some situations which can be quite difficult and extreme. Many people experience such situations. Such situations are often endurance and moral tests to many people. The adage is that life is an education and learning process is true in this instance. There are people who survive such extreme circumstances, move on, and learn life lessons. These life circumstances can be quite a test of human character and morality.

The modern and postmodern world, although it is easier in ways, it is also harsher in many ways. Many people are working harder and longer hours just to put food on the table and to make ends meet. In addition to that, many people working in corporations and organizations where they have little or no benefits and inadequate union representation. There are those who socioeconomic situation can be described as extremely perilous. They are paychecks away from being homeless. Many more people have little savings or investments, hoping to eventually live on their 401k plans, pensions, and maybe social security. However, many of them are left in the dark when they realize that they have no 401ks nor pensions to think of. Soon, social security will be a thing of the past.

Yes, life is not easy for any of us. However, there are many people who have it far, far worse than we do. There is the homeless mother with her children who do not know where her next place of rest nor meal is coming from. This mother has a more daunting and harrowing situation than most. Maybe she is escaping from an extremely hellish abusive relationship and/or marriage and she has no other place to go. Maybe this mother was downsized, ran out of unemployment benefits, and/or there was no job available. Maybe she could not pay the rent and/or mortgage on her house and/or apartment so she was ejected into the streets. To make extra monies, maybe she is collecting soda cans and doing some odd jobs for some monies to keep her and her children's heads above water.

Then there is the elderly lady who only eats cat food because that is all her social security covers. She often has to go without nutritious foods because her social security check does not cover it. Oftentimes, she has to decide between paying food and paying rent.

There were people who endured even more hellish conditions than that. In World War II, millions of people were interned in infernal labor, concentration, and extermination camps in the Third Reich. Many more were consigned to slave labor factories. Life in such labor, concentration, and extermination camps were extremely horrendous. People become automatonic numbers. Their lives were solely dependent upon the SS and other factory bosses.

In the concentration and extermination camps, a prisoner's life expectancy was slated for three to four months. An SS guard of a concentration camp was purported to state that any prisoner who survived for more than four months was totally dishonest. Conditions in labor, concentration, and extermination were created with the purpose of destroying human dignity and value. These inhuman methods were the purposeful creation of unsanitary and crowded conditions. Architects who constructed the labor, concentration, and labor camps with the purpose of crowding as much people in one quarter as "humanly" possible. Unsanitary conditions were also created with the purpose of having the prisoners/inmates be revolted with themselves and others in addition to viewing themselves/others as less than human.

Prisoners/inmates in labor, concentration, and extermination camps were sometimes pitted against each other based upon nationality, religion, and political affiliation. There were cases in which some prisoners/inmates would do the very worst thing imaginable just to get extra food and/or to live another day. Some prisoners/ inmates consumed by hunger, stole from other prisoners/ inmates. Quite a few turned to even more extreme methods of satisfying their hunger though cannibalism.

There were prisoners/inmates who turned against their friends and family members in order to save their own lives. In labor, concentration, and extermination camps, many bonds were destroyed because some prisoners/inmates insisted that they were going to look out only for themselves and everyone else be damned! There were a few prisoners/inmates who elected to become kapos and/or other types of camp functionaries in order to have a better life and better conditions. Kapos and/or other camp functionaries had to do the bidding of their SS supervisors. Many kapos and/or other camp functionaries become crueler than the SS guards.

Many people in extreme circumstances often commit acts that they would not do otherwise. There are some people who actually become quite disassociative when they are in harshly unusual circumstances being it homelessness, extreme and dire poverty, and/or being in a labor/concentration/extermination camp. When they enter such a dire situation, they experience an intense psychological shock. This applies especially if people are new to a situation.

These harsh and perilous circumstances affect people in different ways. Some see the worst in a situation. They adopt a survival of the fittest and a me first mentality. They portend that there are no means which they will object to using if it means surviving just another day. They will use their family members, friends, and associates just to keep them afloat. Some will even betray their family members, friends, and associates with the ultimate purpose of extreme self-preservation in such circumstances.

There are others who also view the situation as dire but they intend to survive with a modicum of morality and decency. They also believe in self-preservation but they are also cognizant of others who are also in the same circumstances as they are. They portend that they will be the best person that they can be under such circumstances. They assert that they will be as nondescript and as unobtrusive as possible in addition to try to stay out of harm's way as much as possible.

Still others, even though they are suffering, also see the plight of others. They share what little they have with others in the same circumstances. There were instances of prisoners/inmates in labor, concentration and/or extermination camps who shared their soup and bread with other prisoners/inmates. Some even temporarily gave their soup and bread to a prisoner/inmate who they deem need the soup and bread more than they did. There were even some prisoners/inmates of labor, concentration, and/or extermination camps who gave up their lives to save other prisoners/inmates e.g. Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who volunteered to go to the gas chamber to save a live of a fellow inmate who had children outside of Auschwitz.

There are extremely harrowing and perilous circumstances in life. There are a few people who endure life in its extremes. Oftentimes, a person's true character is revealed by the circumstances he/she is in. Some people become stronger as a result of enduring tenuous circumstances while others become worse for it.

In conclusion, life is not exactly a rose garden. Everyone, without exception, has encountered some difficulties in life in varying degrees. However, quite a few people had a life beyond all human endurance. Some people are homeless and/or in other dire straights such as extreme poverty while others endured hellish conditions in labor, concentration, and/or extermination camps. While some people become shocked and dejected as a result of enduring such horrendous conditions, others become more resolute, determined not to let the negativity of being in such conditions adversely affect them. They portend on retaining their human dignity and some even see other's plight in the same circumstances and help to alleviate their suffering. They are determined that the circumstances at hand will not debase them and make them less than human!

© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams

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Comments 3 comments

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 3 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

Very good hub. It really made me think about how the world is turn in 50-100 years. Which way will it go? Up or down? If there's no social security, how will the elderly live? Not everyone has the luxury of 401k and other savings plans. I cannot imagine a world without it. That should be our thanks to our citizens for working for our country throughout their lives. How could we do away with it? Very sad.


shai77 profile image

shai77 3 years ago

This is fascinating. I too was really forced to think. I've thought about these issues before and I wonder sometimes how I and everyone else just goes on with daily life with all the injustices around us. Then I think about the pending disasters and I think to myself that I will act a certain way, but then I wonder what circumstances would drive me to the edge. I'm not a big horror show fan but the show the Walking Dead I've seen a few episodes and if you look beyond the zombies fantasy and violence it seems to deal with those kinds of issues. Great job on this hub.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you so much for your response. It is greatly appreciated.

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